In this brief article, Dr. Akram revealed some of his insights into the timings of prayer and how they relate to the profound Ibrāhīmic call: I love not the things that go down!
God the Exalted so loved the statement of His beloved friend Ibrāhīm—“I love not the things that go down,”—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, 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 first arises in the early morning to the very 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 does go down. Love for those 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 begins to incline towards its setting, and here its weakness begins to become 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 mountains. 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 something that 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 God’s 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.
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!
Imlā al-Khāṭir Series
In this series, which he names Imlā al-Khāṭir (literally, “dictation of thoughts”), Dr. Mohammad Akram Nadwi follows in the tradition of the Ḥanbalī scholar Ibn al-Jawzī’s Ṣayd al-Khāṭir and shares with the world his reflections on a variety of topics ranging from theology to law, history to heart softeners, philosophy, education and more. Composed in a casual, conversational style consisting of questions followed by their brief answers (each portion predicated by qālū/qultu, “they said”/”I responded”), he utilizes therein the highest level of Arabic, reflecting his love of the language and his extensive expertise in Arabic grammar and rhetoric. These short but poignant reflections are part of the balāghah genre and tradition of Arabic literature. It should be noted that these translations, done by his senior students, serve as a guide and can never fully match the style, tone and eloquence of the original Arabic. Also note that Dr. Akram does not necessarily review each translation and is not responsible for any errors, improper word choices, or the likes, that are an inevitable part of the translation process.
سلسلة إملاء الخاطر| Imlā al-Khāṭir Series
A Centre for Arabic and Islamic Sciences
Oxford . London . Online