What bliss and benefit come with the prescribed prayers?
In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate
O you people, worship... (2:21)
If you wish to understand the bliss and benefit that come with prayer,
and the grave loss and destruction that come from vice and dissipation, from
not carrying out the commands of God, then listen to this short symbolic
story and try to understand it.
Once upon a time, two soldiers are ordered to go to a far town. They walk
together till they come to fork. A wise man standing at that point tells
them: ‘The road on the right is risk-free and nine out of ten travelers on
that road meet with great advantage but no difficulty. On the other hand,
the one on the left offers no benefit and nine out of ten travelers on it
suffer great loss. Both roads are the same in length. But there is this one
difference—the traveler on the left road, which has no regulation and no one
in authority, travels without equipment or arms. He therefore appears to be
very comfortable and in an easy situation. The case for the other soldier is
just the opposite; the road he is taking is under military regulation. He
must carry a bag full of nutritious rations four kilos or so in weight and a
mighty army weapon of considerable weight which will defeat any enemy
After listening to the wise man’s advice, one of the two soldiers, the
fortunate one, takes the right fork. He lifts the considerable (but not
unbearable) load onto his back; but his heart and soul are at the same
moment freed of very burdensome debts and fears. The other man, the
unfortunate one, opts out of military service, he refuses to be under
regulation and takes the left fork. His body is free of that considerable
weight but his heart and soul suffer from innumerable dangers and anxieties.
He is constantly fearful and forever in need. At last, he gets into the
town. There, he is treated as a rebel and fugitive.
The soldier who accepts military regulation, keeping his bag and weapon
and going on the right road, goes in peace, without feeling any indebtedness
to, and being afraid of, anybody. He too reaches the town, but is treated
there as an honest soldier who fully performs his duties.
Now, O my undisciplined, carnal soul, pay attention: One of the soldiers
represents an obedient servant of God while the other represents the
rebellious and those who follow their own caprices. That road is the
life-line coming from the world of souls, passing through this world and the
grave and continuing towards the Hereafter. The weight (considerable but not
unbearable) and the weapon are the obligation of worship and piety. Prayers
seem to be a strenuous demand, but in fact, they give such peace and comfort
as cannot be explained in words. The one who prays recites in his prayers
ashhadu an la ilaha ill-Allah, that is, ‘I bear witness that there is no
god but God, Who is the Creator and All-Provider. Everything whether of harm
or benefit is in God’s gift. He is both the All-Wise, He never does useless
things; and He is the All-Compassionate; His mercy and bounty are abundant.
Having faith, the believing soldier sees in every eventuality a door to the
wealth of God’s Mercy, and knocks on it with his supplication. He realizes
that everything in the universe is at the disposal of his Rabb, his
Lord and Sustainer. He takes refuge in Him. Putting his trust in God in full
submission, he guards himself against all the evils of the world. His faith
gives him complete confidence.
As with every good action, the source of courage is faith in, and loyal
devotion to, God; and as with every bad action, the source of cowardice is
misguidance. Even if the earth explodes like a bomb, it would not frighten a
good servant of God with a truly illuminated heart. He may even observe the
event in admiration as a marvel of the Eternally-Besought’s Power—whereas a
rationalist and famous but non-believing philosopher might tremble at the
sight of a comet in the sky, fearful lest it should strike the earth. (Such
was indeed the response of some people in America to the recent sighting of
Man has endless demands, but his capacity to supply them is ever slight.
He is under the threat of many afflictions while his individual strength is
quite inadequate to withstand them. In other words, while his strength is
limited to wherever he can reach, his wishes and demands, his suffering and
sorrow, are as wide as his imagination.
Now anyone not wholly blind to the truth will understand that it is a
great benefit, happiness and bounty for so poor, impotent and weak a
creature as man to submit to God, to worship, believe and have confidence in
Him. As everyone will agree, the safe road is preferable to the dangerous
one, even if there is a very low probability of safe passage. The way of
belief which we are trying to explain is the safe way and leads one to
endless bliss with near certainty. However, the way of unbelievers and
transgressors, as agreed upon by innumerable experts and people of insight
and observation, and even admitted by transgressors themselves, is not
profitable with near certainty of endless loss.
In sum, we may put it in this way: just like the bliss of the other
world, the happiness of this world, also, depends upon submission to God and
being His devoted servant. Then, we should continually praise God, saying,
‘Praise be to God for obedience and success in His way’, and thank Him that
we are Muslims.