December 24, 2020 Category: Religion


A penta-partite CPR (circadian prayer routine; a daily regimen of propitiations) is emblematic of traditional Islamic practice. {13}  It was most likely derived from antecedent pagan rituals in Arabia.  The Mandaeans (a.k.a. “Sabians”) prayed five times each day, and recited, “There is no god but god” in their Semitic tongue.

A CPR is typically not a contemplative activity–as with, say, “dhyana” / “dharana” in Eastern traditions.  As we’ve seen, it is an alternately ecstatic and solemn supplication–more a matter of supplication than contemplation.  To wit: It is something to perform according to a prescribed choreography, in conjunction with reciting some sort of scripted incantation.

Prayer as meditation is actually, in many ways, the antithesis of “salat”, which is fashioned as more of an overt act of tribute to the godhead.  Indeed, “salat” is conducted as pleading (nay, groveling) rather than as an introspective act.

As we’ve seen, ritualized prayer ends up being more a matter of mental reflex than of contemplation or critical reflection.  It serves as a spiritual prosthesis, creating an illusion of a communion with the divine (what Muslims refer to as “wasilah”).  The “catch” with “wasilah” is that it is not so much a COMMUNION as it is what Islamic theologians call “taqwa” (a recognition of the Abrahamic deity as the ultimate authority; a cast of mind based on FEAR).  Thus: Rather than “vipasyana” (which involves a one-ness with the divine), “salat” is more a matter of placating a master (i.e. groveling).  In Islamic theology, worship (“ibadah”) is done largely out of fear (“khashyah”)–a matter that I explore in Appendix 2.

A CPR is part of an ersatz “dharma”.  As we saw earlier, Eastern thought and the Abrahamic traditions have very different conceptions of “awareness”.  (In Islamic liturgy, “ilm” is often translated as “knowledge”, though it actually means “awareness of the Sunnah”.)

In Sikhism, communion with the divine is known as “sach khand”.  As with “moksha”, it is a state achieved through liberation, not through subjugation.

“Salat” is just another variation on an idea that goes back to pre-history…and is found in cultures around the world.  The regimen of numerous daily prayers is not unique to Islam.  There is a Judaic analogue to the Islamic “salat”.  The Judaic “tefillah” / “amida” is also a CPR in the Abrahamic tradition.  While “salat” is performed five times per day at appointed times, “tefillah” is performed three times per day at appointed times (“shachar[it]” at sunrise, “mincha” in the afternoon, and “ma’ariv[it]” at sunset).  Both “salat” and “tefillah” are examples of a scripted CPR.  (The Jewish version is performed according to the “Siddur”.)  The dawn and dusk CPR goes back to the Vedic traditions of the Iron Age–with the propitiation to Agni at sunrise and the “savitu” at sundown.

In Syriac Orthodox Christianity, there are SEVEN daily prayers (per Psalm 119) based on the “Beth Gazo”.  Being a relic of the Syriac tradition, it is plausible that such practices were known in the Hijaz during MoM’s lifetime, when the lingua franca of the region was Syriac.

Note that this is not limited to the Abrahamic tradition.  Jains, for example, have the daily recitation of the “Namokara” [alt. “Nav[a]kar[a]”] mantra.  Sikhs recite “nitnem” (hymns) on three occasions each day: at sunrise, sunset, and prior to slumber.

The “pillar of Islam” that mandates five “salat” per day (three for Shia) is not Koranically-based. {14}  As mentioned above, the penta-partite CPR was likely adopted from the Mandaeans of Nabataea and/or the Sabaeans / Himyarites of Yemen, who often prayed five times each day: sunrise, noon, afternoon, sunset, and at night before going to sleep.  Meanwhile, as is still the case today, Orthodox Judaism mandates three daily prayers (the aforesaid “tefillah”): sunrise prayer (“shacharit”), afternoon prayer (“mincha”), and sunset prayer (“ma’ariv”).  Thus the imperative presumably dates back to pre-Islamic tradition–some of which were surely present in Yathrib when Mohammed of Mecca arrived.

There are only two–possibly three–occasions during a day that the Koran exhorts supplicants to glorify (“subhan” / “tasbeeh”) and/or praise (“hamd”) the Abrahamic deity:

  • 20:130 exhorts votaries to pay tribute at sunrise and at sunset
  • 30:17-18 exhorts votaries to pay tribute after waking up in the morning and before going to sleep at night.
  • 40:55 exhorts votaries to pay tribute in the morning and evening.
  • 52:48 exhorts votaries to pay tribute upon awakening in the morning.
  • 52:49 exhorts votaries to pay tribute at dawn (“when the stars fade away”) and at dusk.

Obviously, the discrepant specifications for the timing of salat are attributable to the disparate sources of which the Koran is comprised.  It seems that only two occasions are explicitly specified: dawn and dusk.

This is corroborated by 24:58, where it is stated that believers can allow children and slaves to temporarily take leave (of attendance) at three times during the day: prior to morning prayer, at noon when one is inclined to disrobe in the mid-day heat, and after evening prayer.  (Never mind those who live in cold climes.)  If there were a noon prayer intended, surely THAT would have been the most auspicious manner to specify occasion (rather than the time of disrobing for siesta).

In any case, these verses are all in keeping with antecedent Sabaean, Nabatean / Syriac, Madaean, and Judaic prayer traditions.  They offered nothing new; just a reiteration of extant practices.

Also note that there is no “rak’ah” (choreography) for “salat” specified in the Koran.  As we see, not even the specific number of times to perform it each day is made clear.  Such a routine was a post-hoc invention (and a very useful one at that, as it serves the desired purpose: the reinforcement of a particular mode of dogmatism).  Put another way: Worship is the ultimate vehicle for indoctrination.  Habits of action often translate to habits of thinking.  

“Salat” is more about CONDITIONING than it is about communing with the divine. {15}  For it serves as an occasion for self-indoctrination (a primitive sort of neuro-linguistic programming).  In its scripted / choreographed form, “salat” is more about gushing than about introspection.  Serious critical reflection becomes increasingly untenable the more one feels obliged to grovel.

Today, there is much fuss made over the sequence of proper physical gestures: “wudu” (pre-prayer ablutions) and the “qibla” (the proper direction to face) {16}, as well as “ruku”, “l’tidal”, “sujud”, “taslim”, “kiyaam”, etc.  Such stilted choreography comes from the Sunnah, and has no Koranic basis.  In fact, the routine is entirely contrived.  (In addition to a prayer mat, Shiites incorporate a small stone tablet in their repertoire.)

Touching one’s head to the ground in full prostration is the ULTIMATE exhibition of subservience; a gesture that has probably had meaning since homo erectus walked upright and opted to establish social hierarchies–especially involving submission OF the slave TO the master.  (Of course, slavery is not required for expressions of submission.  Throughout history, prostration has served as an expression of fealty BY the rabble TO the elite.)  Since Islam is, by definition, about complete submission to the cosmic overlord, propitiation is ENTIRELY about “ibadah” (supplication).

Interesting fact: Of the five daily prayers in Sunni Islam, how many take place between sunrise and noon?  Zero.  (The first is to be completed prior to daybreak; the second is to be performed starting at high noon.)  As mentioned elsewhere, the sunrise / sunset specification poses problems for those dwelling in Nordic regions.  It would seem that certain peoples are obligated to engage in “salat” only twice per annum.  Of course, such an exigency would not have occurred to anyone who was under the impression that the Earth was flat, and experienced diurnal patters homogenously–as was obviously the case with those who composed the “Recitations”.

Generally speaking, choreography has no place in genuine prayer.  The notion that certain motions must be performed in a certain sequence in order to pray properly is patently absurd–be it shuckling, genuflecting, or sujud.  It is just as fatuous as the notion that one can mobilize supernatural powers by uttering a certain sequence of phonemes.  (It is actually the combination of actions and sounds that creates the desired effect.  Participants are left with the impression that–in doing so–they are going to magically make things happen.)

The only time one should be prostrate with one’s forehead against the floor is in “child’s pose” while doing yoga.  This gesture goes back to the Hindu “panchanga pranama”; and is commonplace in virtually all instances of idolatry.  Arguably the most flagrant example of idolatry is prostration toward the Kaaba–a ritual based on Bedouin pagan precedent.  (It is comically ironic that Muslim supplicants, in doing “salat”, decry “idolatry” even as they engage in the most idolatrous propitiation routine of all…on a daily basis.)

Authentic spirituality is not choreographed–in thinking OR in action, let alone in speech.  The spurious notion that getting in touch with the divine must be scripted / choreographed can only be taken seriously by those who insist spirituality is something to be DICTATED.

A bold assertion that things are / were a certain way, when repeated ROUTINELY, will constrain one’s ability to think about things in any other way–severely circumscribing one’s scope of tolerable propositions.  Daily recitations are an extreme example of this.  One needn’t appeal to claims of neuro-linguistic programming to recognize that regular affirmations can have a strong influence on one’s mental attitude.  One will find that one can convince oneself of almost anything–no matter how harebrained–if one asserts it with sufficient fervor. {12}

Consequently, those in a position to write the script for this process can have a profound influence over pliable minds (i.e. those craving some sort of guidance).  Those open to the powers of suggestion are especially susceptible to being manipulated in this way.  When they see others being swayed in the same way, they feel validated.  Groupthink serves as its own validation to those engaged in it.  It requires formidable mental discipline to overcome such debilitating predilections.

The procedures prescribed for “salat” in Islam have an important purpose: Pavlovian conditioning (read: indoctrination).  Take, for example, the (compulsory) repeated tributes to the Dear Leader in North Korea.  George Orwell understood the utility of such routines when he posited the daily ritual of the “Two Minutes Hate” mandated by INGSOC in his dystopian novel, “Nineteen Eighty-Four”.

In sum: Prayer means different things to different people.  There is a difference between meditation (which a contemplative activity) and worship (which is a matter of idolatry).  The former is about reflection; the latter is supplication.  The question, then, is: Is getting in touch with the divine more about contemplation or propitiation?

Prayer-as-reflection is about tapping into something within us; whereas prayer-as-supplication is a sop to the cosmic overlord.  There is a fundamental difference between Eastern-style meditation (which is contemplative) and Abrahamic propitiation (which is not).  The former involves introspection; the latter involves groveling.  With the former, one seeks communion with the divine; with the latter, one importunes a deity for favor.

A conscientious avoidance of deluded-ness is endemic to clear thinking, and thus a prerequisite for AUTHENTIC spirituality: lucid, noetic, and autonomous.  Mindfulness does not involve following instructions.  Liberation, not mental prostration, defines communion with the divine.  All the obsecrations, rogations, invocations, adjurations, and propitiations in the world will not for a moment help one to get in touch with the divine (though such things work wonders for those satisfied with the ILLUSION THEREOF).  If anything, a subservient mental posture precludes the possibility for any such communion, as only pro-active thinking can achieve it.  And so it goes with genuine prayer: sober, deliberative, and unscripted.  

To conclude: The contrived affectation and formal choreography of ritualized prayer is a memetic residue from Islam’s archaic past…and should be seen as such.  Only within a constrained mindset does such antiquarian rigamarole seem to make sense.  Outmoded conceptualizations of veneration needn’t dictate how one communes with the divine.  In the final analysis, incantation is incantation is incantation.  And buffoonery is buffoonery.

If you are Muslim and you want to truly think for yourself, the first step is to stop doing “salat”; and never memorize–then recite by rote–a passage ever again. {4}

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