The “Embodiment” of Solat

I am an innately curious person. I’m always asking why and one of the things that I have always been curious about is the psychological effect of Solat or prayer and why Solat is done in the way that it is. With every religion or organization, every action or procedure is done with purpose.  There’s a reason why a salute is done in a certain way or drill is carried out in a certain manner. Solat is so ingrained in the execution of our religion that sometimes we take for granted or never took the time to understand what or why we do certain things. At times, no one explains it to us or brushes it off as “That is how it is done”.

I came to a realisation from the Khutbah last week about Solat. I was listening to the khutbah with my eyes closed. This allowed me to visualise the khutbah and thus create visual connections. The way certain imagery ‘popped’ in my mind; helped me view Solat in a different manner and was the impetus behind this post. Funnily enough, I also happen to be thinking about these questions again earlier that week. And Alhamdulillah the way Allah s.w.t. reaches us in mysterious ways. I’ll be exploring portions of the Solat through the lens of body language and how it influences our mental or emotional states.

Embodiment

We’ve heard and seen Ted talks about how our body language can impact our mood, emotions and mentality; such as power poses etc. This study of psychology is coined as Embodiment. The study of embodiment in cognitive science explores how the “cognitive processes may be grounded in the sensorimotor capabilities of an agent”. Adopting a powerful stance may make increase our confidence and reduce risk aversion. You may not be sleepy but odds are with the right sleeping physiology, you’re bound to nod off.

How does Embodiment help us embody our Solat?

So the Solat is made up of a set of actions which is repeated, based on the time of day.  Each set consists of 6-7 actions. Raleigh Masjid provides a guide for performing the Solat.

Narrated from Abu Hurairah that:
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) entered the Masjid, then a man entered and prayed, then he came and greeted the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) with Salam. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) returned his greeting and said: Go back and pray, for you have not prayed.” So he went back and prayed as he has prayed before, then he came to the Prophet (ﷺ) and greeted him with Salam, and the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said to him: “Wa alaika as-salam (and upon you be peace). Go back and pray for you have not prayed.” He did that three times, then the man said: “By the One Who sent you with the truth, I cannot do any better than that; teach me.” He said: “When you stand to pray, say the Takbir, then recite whatever is easy for you of Quran. Then bow until you have tranquillity in your bowing, then stand up until you are standing straight. Then prostrate until you have tranquillity in your prostration, then sit up until you have tranquillity in your sitting. Then do that throughout your entire prayer.”

Sunan an-Nasa’i 884 Book 11, Hadith 9
English translation: Vol. 2, Book 11, Hadith 885

From the above Hadith, based on the words, ‘achieving tranquility’, we can infer that Rasulullah ﷺ spent more time and placed emphasis on the bowing, prostration and siting up compared to the ‘stading’. Why did our Prophet do that? What can we deduce from this Hadith? What does it say about the significance of those components of Solat?

Tranquility in Solat. 

The three components of Solat where Rasulullah ﷺ reminded us to achieve tranquility in are;

  • Bowing – Rukuk 
  • Prostration – Sujud
  • Sitting up – Jilsa

Rukuk

  • Both bowing and the Rukuk display visible similarities. What is the significance of bowing?

In the Japanese culture, bowing is a sign of respect and vulnerability. When a Muslim is in rukuk, the act displays their sense of servitude towards their Lord.

He/She recites;

Subhana rabbiyal azeem
“Glory be to my Lord, the Almighty”

Sujud

  •  Sujud or prostration is a key part of Solat and one I personally look forward to. The act of sujud is one of total surrender. Your back is shown, your face is to the ground. You are incapable of defending yourself. Placing yourself low and close to the ground is also symbolic of your position. 
Image Source: https://islami.co/

In Sujud, he/she recites;

Subhana rabbiyal a’la  
“Glory be to my Lord the Most High”

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “A slave becomes nearest to his Rabb when he is in prostration. So increase supplications while prostrating.” 

Sunnah.com reference: Book 16, Hadith 21
Arabic/English book reference: Book 16, Hadith 1428

There is something poetic about sujud. The way the action is accompanied with supplication creates this beautiful space of humility, awe and freedom. While being in the position where your face is on the ground and your whole body is at the smallest and lowest it can be, you are reciting, “Glory be to my Lord the Most High”. That juxtaposition of high and low really speaks to me on a very deep level.

While some may view this as a  ‘humiliating’ act, I beg to differ. When I am in sujud, that act reminds me of who / what I am in the bigger scheme of things. I’m reminded of how small I am, and thus how small my issues are. It reminds me how great Allah is. That strengthens my faith. During sujud, I let go and let God.

Jilsa

  • Jilsa is the position after the first sujud where he/she goes into a seating position. The Jilsa position reminds me of a subservient stance normally seen in Asian based films. 
Mulan is seated in a submissive position. Image Source: Gifer.com
Muslim man praying on an empty dock
Image Source: https://thenewmuslim.co/2017/05/01/solat-flashcards/

In Jilsa, he/she recites;


Allahummaghfir li warhamni wahdini wa ‘aafini warfa’ni wajburni warzuqni
“Lord forgive me and have mercy on me and guide me and grant me security and raise me up and make good my shortcomings and provide for me.”

Embodiment of Islam through Prayer


Yahya related to me from Malik that Yahya ibn Said said, “I have heard that the first of the actions of a slave to be considered on the day of rising is the prayer. If it is accepted from him, the rest of his actions will be considered, and if it is not accepted from him, none of his actions will be considered.”


وَحَدَّثَنِي عَنْ مَالِكٍ، عَنْ يَحْيَى بْنِ سَعِيدٍ، أَنَّهُ قَالَ بَلَغَنِي أَنَّ أَوَّلَ، مَا يُنْظَرُ فِيهِ مِنْ عَمَلِ الْعَبْدِ الصَّلاَةُ فَإِنْ قُبِلَتْ مِنْهُ نُظِرَ فِيمَا بَقِيَ مِنْ عَمَلِهِ وَإِنْ لَمْ تُقْبَلْ مِنْهُ لَمْ يُنْظَرْ فِي شَىْءٍ مِنْ عَمَلِهِ ‏.‏

Muwatta Malik 
English Reference: Book 9, Hadith 92
Arabic Reference: Book 9, Hadith 424

“Islam” is derived from the Arabic word of “submission” and “peace”. A Muslim is one who submits to Allah s.w.t.. Our Solat, in its embodiment, urges us to submit ourselves to Allah s.w.t. When we understand this, we then understand the importance of Solat in establishing and developing our relationship with Allah s.w.t.. Solat is imperative for us to live up to our creed as people of submission to Allah s.w.t. I can’t explain enough how Meta this is!

حي على الفلاح

Hayya alal falah

Rush to Success

Extracted from the call to prayer

Peace and ease upon you,
Afiq Juan

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