The book is a very helpful guide to understanding how Salat is the most significant mode of attaining divine proximity.
The most significant of all needs in man is his need of reaching closeness to His Creator and His Source of existence. It is for this reason that the Holy Qur'an points out that man is in a constant struggle to meet his Lord. The most essential guide granted to us in this aspect is the daily ritual prayer or Salat, each act, every expression, and invocation of which exemplifies the nature of God.
The book Soaring to the Only Beloved by Abu Muhammad Zaynu'l 'Abideen is a very helpful guide to understanding how Salat is the most significant mode of attaining divine proximity. The book is particularly beneficial to the common readers who may not be able to comprehend high level of spiritual discourses. The author has divided the topic into six interesting sections that will be briefly discussed in this review.
The first section deals with the necessity of attention in prayer. According to a well-known tradition, if a person's Salat is not accepted by Allah, then none of the other deeds will. The author comments on this further that all other deeds of a person are shaped according to his Salat. The foundation of every good action is monotheism, and this base is strengthened by Salat performed with attentive heart. On the other hand, the absence of heartfelt sincerity in Salat is a facet of polytheism and further leads to a more practical version of polytheism called "sin".
Once it has been confirmed that attention in Salat is an absolute necessity, the question arises: is it possible for one to concentrate throughout Salat? This is exactly the subject of the author in the next section. First of all, if a person really wants to converse with His Creator, then concentration in Salat comes about effortlessly. The Qur'an restricts people to enter Salat while in the state of intoxication, as they might not pay attention to what they say (4:43.) In other words, this verse demands attention in Salat, and as per the reminder of the Qur'an, none of the commands of Allah can go beyond the capacity of human beings to accomplish (2:286).
After resolving the misconception that perfect attention is an unattainable reality, the next section of the book delves into how this attention should be reached. The attention in prayer is of two types: attention to worship, and attention to the Worshipped One, the former being relatively easier. One thing that a worshipper must keep in mind is that the interpretations of the acts or invocations of Salat are not just limited to his/her knowledge and understanding!
The subsequent section explains about the obstacles in worship: both internal and external. It is good to ask certain questions to oneself in this regard: what could be the reason when a person overlooks the fact that he is communicating with Allah – the sole Knower of his inner thoughts and feelings? Why does a person think about worldly affairs in his Salat whereas Allah Himself is the Controller of every blessing of his life? Is it only that little freedom (of will) which Allah granted man that indulges him to forget Allah? The bottom line to all these thoughts is that the lack of attention is a side effect of the deep-rooted love of the world. One has to realize that this world is only a means to achieve a higher goal (Hereafter) and should not be treated as a goal itself!
The last section of the book deals with some suggestions and advice to increase attention in prayer. The author uses examples from lives of other scholars (Ayatollah Khomeini) in this regard to give better help and understanding of the subject.
The joy of communication with Allah is indescribable; Allah says in the Quran: "You remember Me, I will remember you." (Quran, 2:52) How fortunate is the one who is remembered by the Almighty! Let us always pray to constantly reach higher over the infinite path of perfection.
The book is available online.
Rabab Jaffery is a premedical student from Chicago and a Sunday school teacher. She is a new member of the Islamic Insights team and will be periodically doing book reviews.