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5 Degrees of Prayer, From The Invocation of God by Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah

Five Degrees of Prayer, by Ibn Qayim al-Jawziyyah

With respect to prayer, there are five levels of people.

  • The lowest is a person "who wrongs his own soul"[1], who is remiss, who curtails ablutions and the times of prayer, the limits and the essential elements of prayer. This person will be punished.
  • At the fourth level is he who keeps the times, rules and essential elements of prayer, who keeps its ablution but is taken away by distractions, which he lacks the inner strength to resists. This person will be admonished.
  • At the next level of prayer is a person who keeps the limits and essential elements of the prayer, and struggles against distractions. This person is preoccupied with striving against his Foe, "lest he rob him of his prayer". In prayer, he is in sacred combat (jihad). This person will be redeemed.
  • At the second level is a person who, while standing in prayer, completes it requirement, its essential elements and its limits. This person's heart is absorbed in safeguarding the rules and requirements of the prayer "lest he miss any of them". In fact, this person's entire concern becomes performing the prayer as it should be, completely and perfectly. In this way, his concern for the prayer and for worshipping his Lord absorbs his heart. This person will be rewarded
  • The highest is a person who, while standing in prayer, performs it in the manner of the fourth, but in addition places  their heart before His Lord. With this he beholds God-ever vigilant before Him, filled with His love and glory-as if, seeing Him, he were physically present before Him. Therefore the distraction vanish, as the veil between him and his Lord is lifted. The difference between this person in his prayer and everyone else is as vast as the distance between heaven and earth, for he is occupied [only] with his Lord Almighty in prayer, in which he finds his source of gladness. This person will be gladdened by nearness to his Lord in this world and the next. 
  • He who finds gladness in God, gladdens others [in turn]. But whoever does not, leaves this world a loser.
It has also been said that when the servant stands up to pray, God says "Remove the veil between Me and My servant." But when the servant turns away-which is taken to mean from God toward something else-He says, "Replace the veil."

When he turns toward something else, the veil descends between him and God; and the Devil enters to show him all sorts of worldly things, appearing as if a mirror. But when the servant turns his heart towards God, and does not turn away, the Devil cannot find a place between that heart and God. The Devil enters only when the veils are raised. So if the worshipper flees towards God, and makes his heart present, the Devil flees; if he turns away, he returns.

Such is the lot of the worshipper and the lot of the Devil with respect to prayer.

[1] This is an expression which Ibn al-Qayyim frequently uses to refer to the states of the human heart. It is derived from the Qur'an, 35:32. "Then we caused to inherit the Book those We have chosen of Our servants; and among them is he who wrongs his own souls, and among them is he who is moderate, and among them is he who is foremost in good deeds by permission of Allah . That [inheritance] is what is the great bounty."

The Invocation of God by Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah, pp.29-30.

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