Reflections : Altitude in prayer

Imagine a fiction of a nation on a mission to uncover some secrets in a dungeon. This mission is expected to take years of effort to be accomplished. Periodically new officers are recruited to replace the fallen or substitute the injured ones. Upon their recruitment, the chief commandant of the mission has a complete profile of all intakes. The profiles are constantly updated, including but not limited to the bio-data, psychological make-up, strength and weakness, history, background and every other information we can think of a human being. These pieces of information enable the mission’s board to pre-determine the potential needs of each officer throughout their stay in mission camp. Provision is readily made available according to the needs of individual soldiers. Based on these profiles, precise predictions can be made of when and how an officer’s needs should be fulfilled. The profiles can also help predict the potential cravings of each member – while the provision is available for such, the commandant determines what part of the officers’ cravings will be made available after considering the pros and cons of life on camp.

These new intakes will be taken to orientation camps on their first week of arrival to fully orient them and adapt them to the mission. Necessary information, rules, guidelines and protocol of the camp are laid out. Part of the information provided is that all requests for any form of needs or provision must be directed to the camp’s management. There will be a building to be named NEEDS AND COMPLAINTS LODGE (N&C), where everyone MUST log in their needs and complaints. Consequently, the N&C lodge is the most important and popular arena in the camp, especially because there is a potential reward and award for all requests or complaint(s) logged provided that proper etiquette is being followed. The etiquette includes;

1- Visit the building for needs and complaints during the stipulated period.

2- Speak respectively or write legibly.

3- Do not accuse the management of not responding to needs because the needs of every member and the appropriate time to provide the needs are already predetermined.

For the officers, visits to the N&C lodge to request needs guarantees some form of reward or award. Every visit and request are rewarded even if the same request is made a thousand times. Even when it is known that the use of the N&C Lodge does not necessarily guarantee that requests will be granted – since the management is more aware of all needs and provides for them as earlier pre-determined. It is, however, necessary to make requests regularly as a fulfilment of responsibility. In fact, failure to seek an obvious need will be counted as being arrogant, and it bears a negative consequence for that particular member. Also, through the N&C Lodge, officers seek closeness to the top officers and commandants in order to raise their ranks.  For instance, if a senior officer or someone close to the commandant logged a request on behalf of a junior officer, this act of the senior officer can boost the recognition of the particular junior officer before the commandant. For this reason, officers will lobby with their colleagues and seniors to log needs and complaints on their behalf and vice-versa. This act causes an increase in popularity and respect before the commandant, and it makes staying in the camp pleasant. Also, this gesture potentially continues after the transition from the camp. More so, some officers, out of genuine generosity, help other officers make requests without being asked to do so, and it is seen as good practice in the camp. Asking for needs is also a form of security and insurance in the camp. So, there is no need to panic nor worry in the face of adversity due to the assurance that the commandant is aware of all needs and the trust that all complaints have been logged. Officers also need to be thankful to the management for timely provisions that were based on accurate predictions. So, whatever officers face or will be facing is not beyond the awareness of the camp management who are trusted to have already made sufficient and appropriate provisions to ensure that stay at the camp is pleasant.

In reality, the above fiction is the depiction of our relationship with Allah. The essence of our prayer and why we must continue to seek Allah’s assistance and aid for every one of our needs even though He is Al Khabeer – The Acquainted, the All-Aware. “He is the one who is acquainted with everything, inner and outer. He is the one who has perfect knowledge and understanding of the real condition, internal qualities, and meaning of all that is created!” But He, in turn, commands us to ask in our prayers to be given, in other words, he wants us to play our role, to acknowledge our destitution and Him being Al Ghaniyy. “The Self-Sufficient, The Independent. He is the one free of need, free of dependence and rich, “while all of His creatures stand in need of Him!”.

And your Lord said: “Call Upon Me, I will answer you…” Quran 40:60. And the Prophet (saw) said: “There is nothing more honourable with Allah (swt) than supplication.” (Tirmidhi). And Nana Aisha (ra) said “Ask Allah for everything, even if it is only a shoelace, because if Allah does not make it easy, then it will not be possible. (Tirmidhi)

Therefore, learn the etiquette of prayer, know how to please your Lord and the manner of seeking His assistance. And generously pray for everyone and ask your brethren to do the same on your behalf. These are your colleagues in the mission. This concept is famously reported in the Sahih Muslim: “The supplication of a believer for his brother in his absence will certainly be answered. Every time he makes a supplication for good for his brother, the angel appointed for this particular task says Ameen! May it be for you too”.  And “No-one makes a dua without one of these three happening; Either it is answered, or it is stored up for him, or wrong actions are atoned for by it.” (Muwata Imam Malik). 

I once asked a wise teacher of mine to tell me at what point should a man stop persisting on a particular need or hope for something. The meaning of what he said is, that as long as the need is valid and good, he continues to ask with a positive thought about Allah. But to understand the concept of hope as it relates to human being, he reminded me of a hadith collected in Bukhari, “Sitting with his companions, the Prophet (saw) drew a square (in the sand), and then drew a line in the middle of it and let it extend outside the square, and then drew several small lines attached to that centre line, and (pointing to each line) said; “This is the human being, and this square is his (inevitable) death, encircling him from all sides, and this line which is outside (the square) is his HOPE, and those small lines are the calamities and troubles (which may befall him), and if one misses him, another will befall him (i.e. overtake), and if that misses him, a third will befall him (i.e overtake).”

And be careful not to compare yourself with others perceived to be better than you in provisions. Your thumbprints are enough as a reminder, that you are not the same and your needs cannot be proportionately assigned in the same way while trusting the one in charge of the provision who knows it all.  The importance of prayer is many although it is seen as “the very essence of worship” (Hadith). So, let your prayer make you get to work knowing your Lord will never forsake you. And, be thankful to Allah who enables and reminds you to lift your limbs while asking for His assistance.  Glory be to Him and we send salutation to His messenger, the one sent to illuminate us.

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