(Reflections of Imam Ghazali’s Book 4 of the Ihya The Secrets of the Prayer)
Jobs forces us to be responsible. They are means by which man is disciplined. Michel Foucault astutely notes that the industrial revolution has made man into machines: waking up early, going to work, following instructions, application ad infinitum, go back home…and repeat. Over time, the process becomes second nature.
There is something within that makes us undertake such rigors. Perhaps it is our desire to survive, or to fulfill our wants; maybe it is to look after our families, or to ensure good in society or maybe to achieve prestige. Perhaps it is all of them. More often than not, however, our occupation is separate to our vocation. More often than not we work for the sake of earning money, without too much regard to the broad consequences of our production to the world.
For many, the Prayer is like a job. It appears to have little objective beyond fulfilling God’s desire. We have been ordered, and therefore we must do. We see it as a means of securing heaven. More often than not, we see it as separate to what we do to earn money.
This is unavoidable as prayer is deemed a punctuation to the day. That is one way of looking at it. In another way, prayer is gratitude for the time preceding the prayer. Each prayer commences at a certain pivotal point of the sun’s movement. Fajr welcomes the sun’s rise; Zuhr delights the sun at its zenith; Maghrib sighs when the sun starts to set; and Esha reclines when the sun has set. Only Asr time occurs at a point that cannot be deemed a pivotal part of the day, at least so it seems.
For prayer to be tied so closely to certain moments of the day shows the importance of man to be aware of how the earth and the sun interplay. Our consciousness, so consumed by our actions, finds it difficult to look beyond them and see ourselves as part of one holistic phenomena.
When we work, we are creating something new in order for our lives to have value; when we pray we are reflecting at how the mere act of living is the value. Man will be a part of the cycle, just as the Earth will continue to circumvent the sun. Our occupations makes us forget that we are part of the organics of this world. The Prayer is intended to remind us of our indelible part of the entire whole. As Rumi says “Do not feel lonely; the entire universe is inside of you”. Its a sobering yet magnificent thought.
(To view and listen to more lectures on Imam Ghazali’s Ihya, please visit http://www.nursari.com/classes)