Thursday, 5 September 2013


Yamin Cheng

Through Solat or Prayer, we connect with God. In connecting with God, we connect with other things in life. Prayer acts as a light connecting us to other things, serving as the blueprint for life’s direction, linking divine guidance to reason and passion, and functioning as an umbrella for all of life’s action.
Once someone told me that his colleagues were asking him why he was spending so much time trying to make sense of religion and his other activities in life. His colleagues told him to just do the basic requirements of religion, such as prayer, and get back to work. I told him that every moment of our life, every act that we do, is a religious moment, a religious activity, a religious life. He was holding a cup of water at that time and I said to him, ‘Look at this cup of water. What springs to your mind as you are drinking it? Does it occur to you about where the water came from? Does it occur to you about the blessedness of water that without it, your life will be a hardship? Does it occur to you that you only drink what is good for your body and for your health? Do you give thanks to the source by which the water becomes possible for your well-being?’ I then told him that, in prayer, these are the same questions that are brought out into the surface of our conscience. The same way, these are the questions that we ask ourselves when we are drinking the water. These same questions connect drinking the water and prayer. Drinking water is, in fact, an act of prayer. As Clifford Geertz, author of Islam Observed, says about what planets and pendulums have in common: ‘Look them in the proper light, their very differences connect them.’
For Muslims, the masjid, or mosque, is a meeting point between man and God. At the mosque, a person’s awareness of God is most intense, as his main activity in this place is prayer. Prayer is an indication that one remembers God. Remembering God is a very important activity as God himself has said, in surah al-Baqarah verse 152, ‘Remember Me, I will remember you. Be grateful to Me and do not deny Me.’ Remembering God is meant to rekindle a person’s connection with God; to refresh his mind of the purpose of his existence; to purge him of the defiles that he has accumulated from what his heart intends, what his tongue has said, and what his hands and feet have done; to fill his spirit with all the qualities of goodness; but most of all, to remove kibr or egoism.
The mosque, as a meeting point between man and God, is also the centre of the Muslim space. The meaning - that the mosque brings to a person - is equally applied to other places. In short, the mosque serves as the centre by which the meaning it carries is extended into other places, and these other places are connected to one another through a common source and their meaning comes from the centre. Thus, when a person walks out of a mosque and steps into a restaurant, or a shop, or a school, or a washroom, that person brings with him the meaning of the mosque and extends it into his other environments. This way, his connection to religion is a continuous one, unbreakable from one place to another, from one environment to another. The mosque is thus connected to all other places, from restaurants, to schools, to shops, and even to washrooms, like the sun that shines on everything through its rays.
In the restaurant, for instance, the person remembers God by telling himself that the food he consumes is God’s gift of life to him. He is grateful to God for the food he gets without which, his body will be deprived of the nourishment that it so dearly needs. He is thankful to God because he knows that God loves him and is ever watching over his sustenance. The person therefore knows that God wishes the best for his health and well-being, and he will avoid consuming food that are harmful to his body. The restaurant is thus a place to cultivate noble character - not only the mosque or the school. The restaurant, in this regard, is an environment where worship is carried out, so that worship should not be understood as only confined to the mosque. In short, for a Muslim, worship is everything and everywhere, so that the Muslim is doing an act of worship even in a restaurant and in eating, because, in everything that he does, remembrance of God is his point of departure as well as his point of return for his thought and action. Thus, the mosque and the restaurant are mirror reflections of one another. So too are the mosque and the schools, shops, and homes. They are all mirror reflections of each other.

No comments: