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How and Why do People Pray ? - The Muslim Prayer - Words, Body and Mind

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Stephen Trevathan

on 13 December 2012

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Transcript of How and Why do People Pray ? - The Muslim Prayer - Words, Body and Mind

Mind, Body and Spirit The Muslim Prayer What is prayer ? Is prayer only a verbal act ? If you really want to communicate
something - what do you do ?
Do you just talk ? How would you interpret this position? How do you interpret this position ? ..and this one? What about this one ? This is the oldest prayer position known and is called the 'orans' position from the Latin word 'to pray'. For religious people praying like this communicates their feeling that God is above all things. This position is usually used to show thanks but can also be despair.

This position is still used by Christians mainly in the Orthodox Church but can also be seen used by Jewish people in the Synagogue and Muslim people in the Mosque. In the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches it is a position taken up by the priest at the altar. This was the traditional position to take when asking the Queen or King to grant someone a favour.

For Christians from the Orthodox Church kneeling still has this meaning - begging God for something.

What do you think someone might beg for ?

For other Christians from the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church and many other types of Christians kneeling is the body language that means being humble before God and is the most common position held by most Christians in prayer. This is said to be the traditional position of a prisoner of war that is dragged before the conquering Queen or King. The hands are held up as if in chains. The eyes look downwards as in olden days it was very rude to look directly at the Queen or King, especially if they had you in their power !

For praying, this position is used to show how far and greater God is from human beings and also a position of asking something of God in a very humble way. This was said to be the traditional position that was taken up by someone begging a very special favour from a Queen or King. The person sees themselves
as being very not worthy of any favour from anyone, much less a Queen or King. So it is a very heartfelt type of begging.

This prayer body language is still used mainly by Muslims, Jewish and Orthodox Christians. Before people never used to sit in Churches but in the Middle Ages the Roman Catholic Church started to put benches in their Churches. Other Churches later did the same especially as the talks that the Priest gave were quite long so it was difficult for people to stand for all that time.

This is now one of the main body positions used in Churches and Jewish synagogues today.

Do you think that people would sit in the same way in the Church or Synagogue than they would sit in their living rooms or in class ? What would be different in how we sit in different places ?

Can people still pray sitting like this ?

Buddhists, Muslims and Sikhs do not sit on chairs in their places of worship. How and where do you think they would sit ? Some traditional Muslim stories about the salah Some verses of the Quran to do with the things mentioned:

And be regular in prayer at the two ends of the day and at the approaches of the night: because good things takes away bad things’ (Qur’an 11:114) A lot of the positions people take in
prayer have always been described
since olden days as positions you might
take up if you came before a Queen or a King Why do you think
it was described like
this ? Why might this be difficult
for us to understand today ? Do people act like this
with the Queen today ? How do you interpret the fact
that the Queen is standing and the
other person is kneeling ?

What is the body language ? What does the body language in
the following pictures tell us ? What about this body language ? Muslim Body Language in Prayer The Muslim Prayer Before any prayer takes place
in the Mosque two things happen First of all people are called to
the prayer at certain times of the day.
This call is made from tall towers
which are part of the part of the Mosque.
The tower is called a Minaret This is the call from the Minaret..... After the call people come to the Mosque
and prepare themselves for the prayer by
doing a special washing ceremony which is called wudhu. This is how the wudhu is done... Next is a Jewish person praying. Notice the body language and try and listen to the sound of the words even if you can't understand them.

What message do you get from the sound of the praying together with the body language ?

Does it look similar to any other prayers from other religions that you might know ? Next is a run through of the muslim prayer
Try to focus on the body movements and positions
or the body language of this type of prayer. What do you think is the meaning
of :

the hands up to the ear ?

standing straight with arms folded across the stomach ?

bending down halfway with hands on the knees ?

kneeling on the ground ?

sitting in a kneeling position ?

turning the head to both sides ?
Now try to understand (or interpret) what the
body language of the prayer you have just seen

There are no wrong or right answers.
The most important thing is that you
read the body language.

The muslim answers to what the positions
mean can be told to you after. The most common meaning to the body positions
as understood by muslims world are these :

Takbir - Hands up to the ears - it is a pushing behind of the everyday world so that the person can concentrate only on communicating with God and to forget all of their own cares and worries.

Rukhu - Bending over halfway with hands on the knees - this is the beginning of putting God above all else and being in a pleading position.

Sujud -Kneeling with the head on the ground - this is a body position showing how the person is moving deeper going into realizing how unimportant they are and how important God is. The person shows his understanding that the sun, the moon, the rain and everything in the world depends on God, whereas the individual person can do very little and even that, Muslims believe, is with the help of God.

Talim - The turning of the head to the left and right - the person shows through this body action that he is coming out of his communication with God and coming back into the everyday world and the turning
to right and left is a greeting of peace to everything and everyone. The story is told that one day the Prophet was sitting with some of his companions, when he said 'I will give ten of the best camels to the person here who can pray the whole prayer through without being distracted once by their own thoughts about everyday things.'
One of the close companions, Ali, said 'I'll try to win this bet.'
So he got up and started the prayer then and there. The Prophet and the companions watched as he went through the whole ritual.
When Ali finished, he came and sat with them again and with a sad face said, ' I lost the bet. I concentrated in communicating with God but then, just at the end, I thought to myself how wonderful it was going to be to win the ten best camels.' Another story:

There was once a man called Nasrudin who was considered to be mad as he did and said strange and crazy things most of the time. In the Muslim world people who are considered to be mentally unwell do not have to do the prayer so he never prayed. But sometimes Nasrudin would act very normal for days on end. One day after he had gone through quite a long period without doing anything considered to be strange, people came to him and said, 'Nasrudin, come and pray in the mosque with us. You seem to be much better now and do not do the crazy things you used to do before.'

Nasrudin agreed to come and pray. The prayer started behind the Imam, (the prayer leader in the Mosque) and all was silent as the prayer went on. However, all of a sudden, in the silence of the prayer, Nasrudin made terribly loud noises that sounded suspiciously like a braying donkey. After this, he ran out of the mosque before the prayer had ended. When the prayer eventually ended people got up discussing what had happened many of them saying that they thought Nasrudin was better but was most assuredly not and was as mad as ever. When they looked over at the Imam to ask his opinion he had his face in his hands.
'What's the matter?' they asked.
'I am ashamed', he said, 'all through the prayer I was thinking about my donkeys.' What do you understand about the
washing called 'wudhu' ? Some people see it as washing away
bad things or sin before praying. But most muslims understand it
as clearing away all thoughts of
the everyday world - so that they can
communicate solely with God. The next thing to see is not the prayer as it is performed properly in the mosque or anywhere else but a sort of series of movements which are based on the prayer.

If you are muslim, you may find this clip a bit strange but maybe it could give you some new ideas about the meaning of the prayer. The standing is called qiyyam

What is your interpretation of
this position ? Putting the hands up to the
shoulders or ears is called takbir.

What is your interpretation of
this position ? The bending down halway with
hands on knees is called rukhu

What is your interpretation of
this position ? The bowing down with the face to the
floor is called sujud.

What is your interpretation of
this position ? The sitting at the end and
turning the head to both sides
is called the taslim.

What is your interpretation of
this position ? Why do you think some Muslims
might have found this strange ?
Or might not even have liked it ? What do you think it
shows about the Muslim
Prayer even though it is not
about the salah ? The Body Language of Prayer There are many more
things to learn about
(and there are other types of
Muslim prayer ! ) When and how
many times a day do muslims pray ? Is there any verbal communication
used in the salah ? Is there any difference in the salah
done at different times ? Are there any other types of prayers
carried out by muslims ? Recap of Body Language and Prayer Another type of Muslim prayer

Du'a From these pictures how would you
interpret the body language of these people? Howis it different from salah ? All of these movements
put together are
called a rakat. Sometimes there
is more than one rakat
in a prayer. ‘…be patient with what people say against you, and pray constantly to God... so that you may have joy" (Quran 20:130) ‘..there are those who think about God standing, and sitting, and lying on their sides’ (Quran 3:191) ‘…give to the poor and bow down your heads with others who bow down in prayer’ (Quran 2 : 110) Some final questions : Do you think the person praying salah could have thoughts that might be different from the actual spoken words ? Why might that be? What sort of things might take their mind off the prayer ? Does this make them dishonest ? What are your thoughts about the importance of body language ?What are your thoughts about body language in prayer ? What are your thoughts about body language in the Muslim prayer ? If you do any type of prayer, do you use body positions in that prayer ? What do you think they mean or what do they mean to you ? Is there any difference between what you think they mean and what they mean to you? So, there you have something on the..
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