The Basic Muslim Prayer


In this respect my choice falls on the prayer that Islam prescribes for a Muslim. It is the opening chapter of the Quran:

“(All) praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the worlds. The Beneficent, the Merciful. Master of the day of requital. Thee do we serve and Thee do we beseech for help. Guide us on the right path, the path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favours, not those upon whom wrath is brought down, nor those who go astray.”

It begins with words of praise and thanksgiving, but if both these actions do not go beyond the lips of the worshipper they are of no avail in Islam.

The opening words of the Muslim prayer are: al-hamdu li-llahi rabbi-l-‘alamin, meaning, “All praises and thanksgiving are for God”. The word hamd in Arabic is very rich in meaning. It conveys four ideas. First, the word has an exclusive use. It is reserved for the praise of the Lord. Secondly, it conveys the idea of perfection; the worship per sees in God all the best and most excellent attributes.

Thirdly, it expresses a longing desire on the part of the worshipper to possess all such attributes to the extent of his abilities, and hence his prayers for them.

Fourthly, it means thanks, that is, for his possession of capacity for cultivating such attributes in himself. In fact, the action of praise psychologically consists of the said four ingredients. Perfection in beauty, sublimity and goodness on the one side, and our lack of them with desire to own them on the other, move our admiration and praise for the owner of those excellencies; but we never desire to possess a thing unless we own the ability to do so, and hence our gratitude for it.

Thus the word hamd on the lips of a Muslim while at the everyday prayer is no empty word of compliment that may please the ears of the Deity, but a genuine expression of a genuine desire to mould his life on Divine lines; and to this end the Muslims recite, after the word hamd, four names of God which are the most beautiful among their class. They are: Rabb, Rahman, Rahim and Malik-i-yaum-i-din.

Each of them, if followed by us, would make a millennium for the world. Rabb means Creator, Nourisher, Maintainer and Bringer of faculties to perfection. Rahman means All-Beneficent Lord whose blessings go to all, unmerited, and undeserved, and not by way of compensation for any good action but of His own goodness. Rahim means One who rewards an action manifold. Malik means the owner or the king of judgment, whose sentence of punishment is only for reclamation and is not the fruit of anger on account of man’s disobedience.

The beauty of these four attributes is that in them God does not observe any distinction of class and creed among men. The God of Islam is the God of all nations, who is impartial in the dispensation of His blessings. I wish the rulers of the earth who hold sway over other races could show so broadminded and liberal an attitude, for then the burden of foreign rule would lose its curse.

A Muslim says his prayers five times a day, which reminds him of these four Divine moulds in which he has to cast his daily life. High morality in Islam consists in the reflection of Divine morals – a truth that has recently dawned on the minds of Western theologians.

Next, the worshipper speaks of his service to God, and the best religious service. According to Islam, this consists of doing actions in conformity with the requirements of the Divine Names.

The Prayer then speaks of things for which a Muslim has to pray to his God. He must not pray for earthly good, but for knowledge – knowledge of the right path that may bring him under the grace and blessings of God, and keep him away from wickedness and error.

No one can take exception to the logic and rationality of the provisions. They bring Divine forgiveness for our wrongs, but we must approach the Master of the Judgment for it in prayerful humility. The Quran for this reason has formulated the said three provisions in the form of a prayer.