Establishing Salaah

The commonly held concept of worship is that it is the performance of a set of rites and rituals of veneration at certain times or occasions for a deity. For example, a Hindu performs rites of devotion to an idol, or a Christian sings a hymn. Apart from pleasing the deity, the rites are irrelevant to one’s life outside the ritual itself.

This concept of worship is so pervasive and strongly entrenched that many Muslims have adopted that concept of worship by default. Those who have this ritual mindset tend to view the Pillars of Islam from the same perspective, though pillars of Islam are radically different in their reality from this Shaytaan-inspired, man-made concept of worship. They view Ŝalaah as a rite of worship which, if performed routinely in a machine-like manner, satisfies the requirements of religion and after which you live like any other human being does.

Contrary to this understanding, Ŝalaah is much more than a ritual act of worship. In fact, Ŝalaah is a very profound act of worship that, in addition to pleasing Allaah, has far reaching impact on the individual character of a Muslim and the social and political setup of the Muslim society.

That is why the expectation is not just offering it five times a day, but more than that – establishing it. The word Iqaamah (aqaama, yuqeemu, iqaamah) means making something stand perfectly straight, giving an upright structure, establishing and implementing.

Still influenced by the man-made view of worship, some people limit the interpretation of Iqaamah to offering the prayer regularly, timely, in humility and following its rules regarding positions and forms meticulously. However, the Holy Qur-aan uses this word much more profoundly.  The fact that Allaah used the word Iqaamah for implementing the Towraat and Injeel (Al-Maaidah 5:66-68) and implementing Islam as a Deen (Ash-Shoora 42:13) alludes to its proper meaning which is to establish, implement and maintain the systems of life inherent in Ŝalaah, commanded in Towraat or prescribed by the Deen.

This comprehensive meaning of establishment implies that Muslims must organize themselves into a cohesive community/state which is organized on the basis of and through the system of Ŝalaah where the head of the political unit is also the imam of the Ŝalaah and he must be elected with that criteria in mind.

Consequently, we can say that Ŝalaah’s role in a Muslim’s life is two-dimensional. It is both a vehicle for establishing a close personal relationship with Allaah as well as structuring and implementing political and social organization of Muslims as one united Ummah on the basis of the system of Ŝalaah.

As a vehicle for building a close relationship with Allaah, establishment of Ŝalaah requires attentive remembrance of Allaah, heartfelt intimacy with Him, and utmost humility and submissive surrender of one’s whole self in front of Him. It is a wholesome vehicle for Allaah’s remembrance that combines glorification, thanksgiving, Du‘aa and obedience – from the heart (khushoo’), in words and by actions (positions in Ŝalaah).  In this dimension, establishing implies that it must be performed regularly, timely, sincerely and ardently.

As the foundation for organizing Muslims into a dynamic and vibrant socio-political entity, establishment of Ŝalaah requires that it be offered in Jamaa‘ah (Congregation) with all the disciplines that go with it: timeliness, straightening of lines, changing positions in unison, listening and following Imam, not pre-empting Imam, manner of behaving when Imam makes mistake, etc. In this regard, Ŝalaah is the drill of the soldiers of Allaah that trains them in social discipline, communal etiquettes, organizational regimentation like a military unit, acting in unison in an integrated manner, co-ordinating activities, obeying commands and becoming a cohesive group of functionaries dedicated to the establishment and maintenance of the Islamic state. Thus, the congregational Ŝalaah becomes the single most important instrument of knitting Muslims into an Ummah (Jamaa’ah). This drill performed five times a day joins the hearts and minds of the members of the community and serves as the mortar that binds the community of believers together.  Most importantly, it provides the basic set-up to politically organize the community at local, municipal, regional and state level through daily Ŝalaah, Ŝalaatul-Jumu‘ah and Ŝalaatul-Eed and Ĥajj, respectively.

It is for these benefits and its role in the establishment of a Muslim community (Jamaa’ah) that the Messenger ŜA‘WS emphasized congregational Ŝalaah so highly that individual Ŝalaah is deemed to be unacceptable where congregational Ŝalaah is possible. In fact, the Prophet severely warned those who miss congregational Ŝalaah. Also, the reward for the congregational Ŝalaah is raised to 27 times the reward for individual Ŝalaah.

Thus, the organization of the community as a single entity (Jamaa’ah) and Ŝalaah are mutually intertwined. One cannot happen without the other. The elected Ameer of the local ward is supposed to be the Imaam of daily Ŝalaah. The Ameer elected to lead the town is responsible for establishing and leading Friday Ŝalaah and delivering the sermon. The regional Ameer is the one responsible for establishing and leading Eed Ŝalaah.  Hence, the person chosen to lead the community (as the Ameer) must also be the person best suited to lead the Ŝalaah. In Islam, as you know, life is not segmented but is treated as a whole. There is no division between secular and spiritual life. Similarly, there is no separation between religious leader and socio-political leader. Imam of the Ŝalaah and the Ameer (Leader, President, Chairman, etc.) of the community must be one and the same; and, thus, must be capable of fulfilling both roles.

In North America, where it is not yet possible for Muslims to participate in congregational Ŝalaah all the time, Muslims should still make every effort to attend their Masjid as often as possible. It still does not, however, absolve them from the responsibility of setting up their community structure on the system of Ŝalaah. The current system we see in our mosques where president is different from Imam is the product of un-Islamic Western system that requires separation of church and state and of religion and politics. Similarly, the current political system in Muslims countries that are not based on a unified concept of Ameer on the basis of Ŝalaah and Jamaa‘ah are totally un-Islamic in their nature. Both of these systems must be changed as a prerequisite for establishing unity of Ummah.

Ŝalaah is established if and only if all of the above mentioned dimensions of its establishment are fulfilled.  Without Ŝalaah being the main vehicle for the political structure of the Muslim society as a united Ummah, the commandment of establishing Ŝalaah is not truly carried out.

Commitment to establish Ŝalaah in this comprehensive sense is the fourth sign of true faith in Islam, as given in Soorah Al-Anfaal 8:2-4.

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