Significance of Rites in Salaah
By: Sheikh Abdus-Samad Abdul-Kader
(Member of IRFI. Sheikh Abdus-Samad Abdul-Kader, based in Lenasia, South Africa, is an eminent Qur'an-translator, an Arabic grammarian, a broadcaster (propagating the Qur'anic ideology), and a scholar of Islam.)
Actions of Ibaadah (worship) are on two planes: a physical plane and a higher, non-physical plane. Postures and rites of the Salaah, and the Hajj in particular, have a symbolic significance at a higher level.
The Wudoo (pre-Salaah ablution)
Why do we wash the arms, face and feet when we perform Wudoo after passing wind (flatulence) or answering the call of nature? It is a psychological preparation before standing in submission to Allah (SWT) in Salaah. The washing of each part of the body has a special symbolical significance.
When removing the physical dirt or pollution from one's hands or arms, one has to commit oneself to the fact that as much as one was removing the dirt from one's hands or arms, one was also keeping the hands and the arms free and clean from any evil, wrong or injury the arms may cause to others. Similarly, when one is washing the other parts of the body (in Wudoo), one should be mindful of not only the physical cleanliness of that appendage, but also of the "dirt", "evil", and "injurious" actions that may be performed by them.
Postures in Salaah
Let us examine the three main postures. When in Qiyaam (the standing position), one is reminded of a little schoolboy standing in complete awe of his headmaster. However, the Musallee utters: "I turn my face in the direction of One Who has originated the firmaments and the earth, being upright, and not among those who subscribe partners unto Allah."
An arrogant person who walks insolently and boastfully is frowned upon in Islam (Qur'an, 31:18). In order to express our humility, we bow (make rukoo'), reducing ourselves to half our size, and declaring "Glory be to the One Who is Great". In the same way, in order to show Allah how "High" and "Supreme" He is, we descend to the lowest, placing our head on the ground, and declare: "Glory be to the One Who is the Highest." Merely performing these postures without understanding and being mindful of their symbolic significance would be a great shortcoming in our Salaah.
Saum, or Siyaam, means to abstain. The physical abstinence from the Halaal things like food, drink, etc. is just the foundation. The actual Saum is, while using physical abstinence as a basis, to abstain from all forbidden actions, deeds and utterances, e.g., lying, swearing, backbiting, etc. Otherwise fasting would just mean plain starving of the stomach, without achieving any spiritual gain whatsoever!
The Rites (Manaasik) of Hajj
Most of the rites of Hajj will be fully appreciated only if one understands their symbolic significance. Allah declares: "Lo! Safa and Marwa (the two hills at Makkah) are the SYMBOLS of Allah (2: 158)
The Concept of "BAIT" of Allah
Consider the following: "O our Lord ! I have made some of my progeny to dwell in a valley without cultivation, by Thy Sacred House." (14:27). The question which is natural to ask is: "Was there a House (the Ka'bah) in this valley - a valley without cultivation - when the Lady Hajirah and the young Isma-eel were made to dwell in it?" The Qur'an further tells us: "Behold! We pointed the SITE of the House to Ibraaheem…..(22:26). We conclude that the cube-shaped Ka'bah, as we are familiar with today, did not exist in the days of Ibraaheem (A.S.). Perhaps the SITE was marked by a few pieces of rocks.
So what did Allah mean when He commanded Hazrat Ibraaheem (A.S.) and Isma-eel (AS) to "purify and cleanse" His House (22:26 and 2:125)? Was there an old dilapidated building full of dirt, spiders' web etc., that needed to be replastered, repaired or repainted? Obviously, this would apply to a few pieces of rocks placed to mark the SITE of the House.
The House of Allah as the Cynosure of Mankind
Allah commanded Ibraaheem (AS) to: "Proclaim among mankind the Hajj…. That they may witness the benefits provided for them. (22: 27-28). The purpose of the Hajj (not pilgrimage) was, and is, for mankind to assemble, debate (study the root letters to obtain the actual meaning of Hajj) and find solutions to their problems (i.e. the benefits), e.g., the Farewell Sermon (Khutbatul Wadaa' ) delivered by the Prophet (S) during the Hajj. Thus one has to have a SITE as the CYNOSURE (the center of attraction, focal point). Purifying the cleansing the HOUSE means purifying, cleansing and sanctifying the ideology, Commands and injunctions of Allah as symbolized by the Ka'bah.
The House is to be cleansed and purified for those who shall make Tawaaf (circumambulation, going around it), standing in anchor, tarrying, bowing and prostrating in it. Physically going around the cube-shaped Ka'bah (the symbol of Allah's House) means that one must make a solemn pledge of revolving one's life around the purified symbol of Allah- a symbol that man has vitiated and stultified by additions and unscriptural accretions that are latched to the institution of Hajj: accretions that are at total variance with the Manaasik of Allah as enunciated in the Noble Qur'an.
Further pledge is made standing, anchoring oneself, of tarrying, bowing and prostrating to and before Allah's Will.
Thus we note that the symbolic significance, and appreciation of the TRUE meaning of postures and rites, are very important. When they are properly understood and observed, one will derive the utmost benefits from one's Ibaadah and devotion.
Courtesy: Al-Balaagh Vol. 28, No.1, FEB/MARCH 2003 Lenasia, South Africa.
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