It’s always a concern that many of us have: How can we reach a spiritual state where we are no longer bothered by worldly concerns and pestered by sensual thoughts? Obviously, the path to such a lofty end cannot be simple. It’s a tortuous path with many pitfalls and demons lurking in the shadows ready to ambush the wayfarer when he is off-guard.
Yet, a very effective means that can dramatically increase one’s spiritual impetus consists in diligently performing the mandatory diurnal prayers as well as the supererogatory diurnal prayers (nafilah).
Here is a well-known report related in all the major sources of Islamic tradition from the Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him and his sacred household) on this subject.
Imam Sadiq (as) relates that the Prophet (s) said:
“There is nothing whereby My slave draws near to Me that is dearer to Me than what I have made incumbent upon him. And verily My slave draws near to Me by means of nafilah [here meaning the supererogatory diurnal prayers] until I come to love him. Once I love him, I become the ear whereby he hears, the eye whereby he sees, the tongue whereby he speaks, the hand whereby he grasps; when he asks Me, I shall grant him.” (Kafi, vol. 2, Kitab al-iman wa al-kufr, Bab man adha al-muslimin, p. 352, no. 7)
Obviously, one whose eyes, ears, and limbs are in the command of God cannot be mired in material thoughts. Thus, by remaining persistent in performing the diurnal supererogatory prayers in addition to the diurnal mandatory prayers, one can advance on the path of liberation from ungodly desires and thoughts.
Islamic devotional canon prescribes five mandatory diurnal prayers: the morning prayer, which is performed after daybreak and before sunrise; noon prayer, which is performed following the ascent of the sun to its highest point in the sky; the afternoon prayer, which is performed in the afternoon and before sunset; the sunset prayer, which is performed following the sunset; and the night prayer, which is performed in the later part of the night when the sky is engulfed is darkness.
For each mandatory diurnal prayer there is one or more supererogatory diurnal prayers. (Each supererogatory prayer is no more than two rak’ahs, that is, two segments.) The morning prayer has one supererogatory prayer, which is to be performed before the morning prayer itself. There are four supererogatory prayers for each of the noon and the afternoon prayers, in both of which cases the supererogatory prayers must be completed prior to the mandatory prayer. For the sunset prayer, there are two supererogatory prayers, which are performed after the mandatory prayer, and for the night prayer, there is one supererogatory prayer, which is performed after the mandatory prayer in the sitting position rather than the standing position, which is the standard position of most prayers.
Last, but not least, are the midnight supererogatory prayers. Their designated time begins at midnight (calculated by dividing the time between sunset and daybreak in half). These are arguably the most spiritually efficacious prayers after the mandatory diurnal prayers. Sheikh Saduq in his ‘Ilal al-sharayi’ relates the following report on the significance of the midnight prayers: Jabir ibn Abdullah al-Ansari (a companion of Prophet Muhammad and five of his successors, Imam Ali (as), Imam Hasan (as), Imam Husayn (as), Imam Sajjad (as), and Imam Baqir (as)) recounts that the Prophet (sawa) once said,
“God did not take Abraham as His friend [khalil] save for his giving out food to fellow human beings and his praying in the middle of the night when everyone else was asleep.”
This has been adapted from ShiaMystic.com whom Islamic Insights has a syndication agreement with. For any questions, the author may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.