By Dr. Muhammad Kamal Al-Shareef
Monday 7 May 2001
Last Update 7 May 2001 1:01 am
God says in the Qur’an: “Recite whatever has been revealed to you of this Book, and attend regularly to your prayer; for prayer restrains (man) from loathsome deeds and from all that is evil. Remembrance of God is indeed the greatest (good). God knows all that you do.” (29: 45)<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
When a believer humbly concentrates his thoughts on his prayer, with all that it involves of recitation of the Qur’an, standing up, bowing down and prostration before God, he or she lives a few moments of complete consciousness of God, who says in the Qur’an: “Indeed, I alone am God; there is no deity other than Me. So, worship Me alone, and establish regular prayer to celebrate My praise.” (20: 14) For certain, the recitation of God’s revelations, i.e. the Qur’an, helps a believer to concentrate more on his prayer and reduces the chances of his being distracted.
Through prayer, recitation of the Qur’an and other methods of remembering God, believers find within themselves all the motivation they need to resist and counterbalance their human inclination to indulge in sin. Such an indulgence remains a temptation which Satan and his assistants of humans and jinn continue to place before man.
Prayer, however, restrains man from giving in and provides him with controls to refrain from indecency (which normally refers to fornication and adultery) and all forms of evil. The same applies to the Qur’an, which the above-quoted verse begins with an order to recite, even before the order to attend to prayer. Both are means of inhibiting indecency, loathsome deeds and evil. Indeed the verse describes such a remembrance of God as the greatest good, which means that it is a highly effective way of preventing violation of God’s orders.
Before trying to determine the psychological mechanism by which such restraint is accomplished, we need to consider the fact that the Divine phrase mentions that prayer “commands restraint.” It does not speak of prayer as a means to dissuade a person from indulgence in sin. It is far stronger, because it provides a command that must be heeded. However, a believer who attends to prayer and recites the Qur’an continues to be in danger as the temptation to indulge in sin may be very strong. Such indulgence may be painted to him in very attractive colors, and the lure of the pleasure attending it may be shown as highly tempting. Thus, he may yield to the temptation, overlooking the command provided by prayer and Qur’anic recitation. Thus, he may fall in the trap and commit an indecency or something evil.
The Qur’an describes God-fearing believers in the following terms: “When they commit a gross indecency or wrong themselves, they remember God and pray for the forgiveness of their sins — for who but God can forgive sins? — and do not knowingly persist in doing the wrong they may have done.” (3: 135)
That a believer occasionally weakens and commits an indecency, or wrongs himself by committing a sin, does not mean that he has not benefited by his prayer, or that reciting the Qur’an has not influenced his attitude. It is simply a matter of human nature. A person may find himself torn between different choices, struggling against conflicting motives pulling him in opposite directions.
Take the case of a physician who knows that smoking is injurious to health, but he has already fallen victim to tobacco addiction. Such a doctor will not enjoy smoking a cigarette unless he forgets or chooses to be oblivious to the harm it causes. Should he remain aware of its harm, his knowledge will command him to refrain from smoking. It cannot stop him totally, because his crave may be stronger and he may yield to it turning a deaf ear to the warnings of the impending harm it causes. This does not mean that people’s knowledge of the harm caused by smoking is without benefit. In fact, if people do not know the damage smoking causes to their health, they will face a greater temptation to smoke more. There will be no restraint to stop them from smoking. In fact they will have no incentive to refrain from smoking and they face no struggle to dissuade them from lighting up.
By the same token, a believer benefits a great deal by prayer and reciting the Qur’an. Both provide within him a strong pull away from any temptation or motivation to indulge in an indecency or in any evil act. With such a restraining factor, he continues to be free to either yield to the temptation to indulge in sin or to resist it and steer away from indecency and evil.
Both prayer and the Qur’an are important factors that help a believer to remain conscious of God, fearing Him. Neither, however, deprives man of his will and freedom. Nor can they suppress his inner motives, seeking to fulfil a strong desire.