SURAH Al-FATEHA (The Opening) starts with the words, “Praise be to Allah, Sustainer of the worlds”. This presents a very simple yet powerful picture of reality. That there are many worlds; multiple worlds and these are then sustained by one ultimate reality.

Intuition, intellect and direct observation all corroborate the existence of multiplicity and plurality of creative expression of life in tangible and intangible realms. There exist multiple human cultures, languages, habitats and ecosystems. This multiplicity drives one to appreciate the inherent beauty and creativity of life. A sustainer is necessary for life. Because of this complex presence of the Sustainer in the texture of existence, praise and appreciation are indispensable. The Rab or Sustainer is to be praised because of sustenance and nourishment of multiple and complex worlds.

Prayer is thus the subtlest form of praising, thanking and appreciating the Rab. The entire spectrum of existence is somehow bound to pray to their Rab. The complex and multiple life forms are interdependent on their respective sources of nourishment and sustainability.

Praying to the Rab thus creates a unique consciousness in each and every life form. Each and every particle is aware and conscious of its entwining with the Rab. Each and every system of life is conscious of its Sustainer; its Rab; its Nourisher.

Each one of us cries out for succour and harmony.

We may be unaware of different forms of praising, thanking and praying by different forms of life. Yet they pray and prostrate and cannot escape this necessity.

We may not know their ‘language’, yet they pray and communicate with the Sustainer. Each one of us cries out for succour and harmony from their Nourisher. No wonder Maulana Rumi invoked the sound of the flute as a ‘revealer of ultimate reality’. The pain and agony of its lamenting and moaning guides our hearts to become aware of our Rab.

The Quran has described extensively how prayer leads to self-liberation and eternal consciousness of One Truth, of our Rab. The prophets mentioned in the Quran invariably cling to praying, praising and thanking the Rab.

For example, the midnight and early morning lamentations of Hazrat Daud are uniquely mentioned in the Quran. He had a lamenting and moaning voice filled with awe and humility; even birds, animals and mountains would respond to his lamentations. They would praise their Rab side by side with Hazrat Daud.

Hazrat Yunus cried out to his Rab from the depths of the oceans and from inside the abdomen of the fish. He thus prayed: “There is no one beside You, Pure One, surely I am amongst those who are in pain”. Allah relieved him of his pain.

When Hazrat Musa was sent by the Lord of the Worlds to stop the pharaoh from oppressing the tribe of Israel, he prayed to his Rab: “O my Sustainer (Lord), open up my chest, and make easy my work, and make me eloquent (in delivering), and let (people) comprehend my speech.”

The prophet Ibrahim would ask his Rab to show him the secret of life and death.

The prophet Nuh prayed to the Ultimate Nourisher, and thanked him for his mercy to free him from the disobedient and the sinners.

At another place, Hazrat Ibrahim and his eminent son Hazrat Ismail jointly praised the Lord of the Worlds for His mercy and generosity. They prayed to their Rab for accepting their sacrifices as well as showing them inspirational modes of praying and praising.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) also invoked the name of his Rab in different contexts as stated in the Quran. For example, he famously prayed that: “O Lord, increase my knowledge”.

Every act of his daily life was deeply rooted in the deep consciousness of the One Truth and the Creator’s sublime presence everywhere. Eating, drinking, speaking, dressing, giving charity and helping others, feeding and supporting the hungry and poor, every action — secular and sacred — was entwined with the fabric of remembering the Lord of the Worlds (Rab-ul-Alameen).

It is in continuation of the living prophetic tradition of invocation, prayer, piety and remembrance that Muslim Sufi silsilas emerged everywhere in the Muslim world. From North Africa to Arabia, to Persia, Central Asia, India and the Far East; everywhere one can witness even today khanqahs where the seekers of truth and knowledge huddle together and explore the terrain of the inner spiritual cosmos.

The social impact of the practice of zikr (invocation, prayer), that is organised in individual and social forms, is a unique and remarkable contribution towards discovering the ultimate truth, and experiencing multiple levels of reality. Through repetitive lamentations and invocation, one becomes conscious of the innermost presence of the Rab. One can then witness that in a unique way everything is grounded in the universal truth.

The writer is a cultural psychoanalyst.

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