Taken from “Discourses On Islamic Way of Life” By Justice Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani (Hafidullah) [Darul-Ishaat]
How May We Pray
He then said: “Offer Prayer”
When they reach their homes they must pray as they had seen him pray(salalahu alayhi wa salam). It is worth considering that the Prophet salalahu alayhi wa salam did not merely ask them to offer prayers but he asked them to pray as he prayed. Prayer is a pillar of religion so we must be particular in observing it in the manner known from the Prophet salalahu alayhi wa salam. It is very imperative that our people pay attention to it. Although many people offer prayers, yet most of us merely discharge their duties without caring to observe the correct procedure. We hurry through the prayers merely to get it off our heads and we do not pay attention to the Prophet’s (salalahu alayhi wa salam) command that we pray as he did pray.
Observe The Sunnah When Praying
If we pray in the way the Prophet (salalahu alayhi wa salam) prayed, neither do we have to give more time to it nor does it call for extra effort. In the same time and with the same effort as we are used to in our inadequate prayers, we will offer our prayers according to sunnah; only a little attention is necessary. However, if we persist in offering prayers as we do now, we may be discharging our obligation and keeping away from the sin of omitting prayers, but we miss the inner light associated with prayers according to sunnah. We miss the blessings and other advantages. I had once spoken on the subject and a booklet, readers are cautioned against the mistakes that are made generally. This booklet must be read and prayers must be offered in the correct method it outlines. We will find out that it does not take much time to observe prayers in the method outlined in this booklet.
The Attention Paid by Mufti A’zam
My respected father, Mawlana Mufti Muhammad Shafi rahimahullah lived for eighty three years. He received religious education at a very early age in his life, and all his life he imparted religious education and issue fatawa (rulings) on religious questions. He was appointed Mufti Azam (The chief Jurist) at Dar-ul-Uloom, Deoband. In pakistan, too, he was known by that name. He answered queries and issued hundreds of thousands of fatawa, once he said, “I have spent my life learning and teaching but it happends even now when I offer prayers that I feel unsure of what I should do. So, after I have offered the prayer, I look up in the books whether I was correct or had committed an error.” But, I see that people do not even care if they have observed the etiquette’s of prayer or not, whether they have observed prayer correctly or not. it is enough for them that they have gone through the formality of prayer.
Prayer Becomes Invalid
We often see worshippers showing unconcern in prayer and they scratch their heads or stroke their faces with both hands. They must know that if they activate their hands and they are engaged in that for so long as it takes to recite subhana rabbi al-ala’ (Free from imperfections is My Lord The Most High) three times then their prayer becomes void. The obligation is not discharged, but they are unconcerned about that. Sometimes, they use both hands to set their clothes right or wipe sweat but if they spend a little more time doing that, their prayer is invalid. Also, if we adopt a posture during prayers, which makes an onlooker wonder whether we are engaged in prayers or not, then our prayers are not valid. If anyone uses one hand to do something three times, in a single posture and an onlooker think that he is not engaged in prayers then the prayer is invalid. Similarly, some people do not rest their toes on the floor when they prostrate. If their feet do not touch the ground even for a little while during the prostration and remain air-borne then that prostration is not performed, and if a prostration is not valid, the whole prayer becomes invalid.
Correct Intention Alone Is Not Enough
There are few examples. We do not pay attention to them and do not care to rectify the shortcomings. We spend our time to offer the prayers but we do not pray in the correct manner with the result that the effort bears no fruit. To cap it all, there is a tendency these days that when the shortcoming is pointed out to anyone he retorts promptly:
“Deeds depend on the intention behind them.”
This answer is on our lips to offset our shortcoming and silence our critics. Indeed, Allah looks at the intentions behind efforts but if that was enough then why should we be required to undergo the exercise. We could have done everything in the comfort of our homes by merely forming intentions. The fact is that our deeds should also comform with our intentions. Suppose, anyone intends to go to Lahore but he boards a train that is bound for Quetta, will his intention take him to Lahore? In the same way, mere intention will not correct anyone’s prayer. We have to offer the prayer in the correct manner shown to us by our beloved Prophet (salalahu alayhi wa salam). This is why the Prophet (salalahu alayhi wa salam) said when he bid farewell to the young men, “Offer prayers as you have seen me pray.” May Allah make us observe the niceties of prayer. Aameen!