A Lesson About the Timings of the Five Prayers

By Dr. Mohammad Akram Nadwī and translated by Dr. Abu Zayd

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God the Exalted so loved the statement of His beloved friend Ibrāhīm: “I love not the things that go down,” [6:76] that He made it the symbol of upright Ḥanīfiyyah and the separation of faith and disbelief. He wanted the Muslims to keep this statement before their eyes night and day, silently and with loud voice, and despite the busyness of their preoccupations, allure of their enjoyments or overriding nature of their distractions. He made the timings of their prayers testament to this very call: with it they awaken, and with it they go to sleep, and with it they move from one motion to another and from one stage to the next.

The Muslim arises in the early morning to the first of his prayers, after the stars, planets and moon have announced their departure and the sun has not yet risen. What an appropriate time and perfect hour, to mourn the things that set! The Muslim rises and performs ablution, directing himself to his Lord saying, “I love not the things that go down,” and everything in creation goes down. Love for the things that set is dirt over the heart and pollution of the mind. The believing slave declares his innocence from the love of the stars, moon, sun and all these open realities, and comes instead to the Lord of all the worlds, singling Him out alone in worship and seeking assistance.

And then the sun rises. It dazzles those who are affected by its brilliance. Its sheer power humbles its subjects. Its pride astounds and amazes.

At exact mid-day, the sun then inclines towards its setting, and its weakness becomes apparent. This is the time following the zenith of the sun. The Muslim leaves his preoccupation or rest and comes to the Ẓuhr prayer. He says: The sun is about to decline, and it deserves to do so, but my Lord has no decline. He is ever-Living and never dies, the Rector of the heavens and the earths. So the time of Ẓuhr came to remind him again of the Ibrāhīmic call: I love not the things that go down!

The sun then stays in this state for only a little until it begins to retreat behind the mountain. When the hills, mountains and elevations begin to cover the rays of the sun, the Muslim stands to rush to the ʿAṣr prayer. Now the sun and its light is weakened, and the manifestation of its power and might is broken. But the Lord of the worlds is never weakened. Nothing can cover Him. He is the Manifest as well as the Hidden. The believing slave is again reminded of the Ibrāhīmic call: I love not the things that go down!

Then occurs what surprises the hearts and minds: the same sun which rose in the day with its dazzling light and its piercing rays to become the most obvious physical reality in existence—which even the blind or those asleep cannot deny—begins to set, and takes along with it all its power, pomp and splendor. The believing slave now purifies himself and stands in humility to worship He who has no decline nor setting. He proclaims: I love not the things that go down!

After some time, all the traces of the sun are gone. Complete darkness now envelopes the earth. The submitting slave now stands to proclaim: I love not the things that set! He performs the ʿIshāʾ prayer. His day had begun with a reminder of the Ibrāhīmic call and now his day ends with the same. In fact, every stage of his day was a reminder of the same. This is the meaning alluded to by His statement, among many others in His Book:

Establish Prayer from the declining of the sun to the darkness of the night; and hold fast to the recitation of the Qur’an at dawn, for the recitation of the Qur’an at dawn is witnessed. [17:78]

Indeed the Muslim slave—whom God reminds every single day, in their best worship, of the Ibrāhīmic call: I love not the things that go down!—can never be seduced nor charmed by anything in the earth nor in the heavens. Neither food nor drink can make him truly happy. No desire or pleasure can hold his heart captive. No office or occupation, no wealth, and no treasures of gold and silver! The prayer stops him from longing for anything other than the Lord of the worlds. O person of faith, submit to the Lord of all the worlds, prostrate to Him and draw near!

Disclaimer: Translations have not been checked by the author and represent the work of the translator