Transform Your Prayer: Secret 13
Salute of Submission (SOS)
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When you're ready to begin the prayer, what's the very first thing you do?
You raise your hands up with palms facing forward (just above your shoulders, nearly in line with your ears).
But have you ever asked yourself...
- What is the purpose of this action? What am I actually doing?
- What am I symbolizing and intending by raising my hands up in this particular way?
In my experience, most people have never even thought about these questions, not to mention the answers to these questions...
"This is just the way salah is done. It's what we've been taught."
But remember, the purpose of this step-by-step email series is to infuse all the actions, movements, positions and words in prayer with meaning and substance.
And think about it... the salah could have started with us simply folding the hands and beginning (without raising them).
Why do we raise the hands first and then fold them?
There are different opinions about it, but the most common understanding is that raising the hands in this way indicates:
A respectful salute and submission before our Lord.
I call it: Salute of Submission (SOS).
Here's a modern example to better understand this:
Picture this scene...
Criminals are robbing a bank. Someone calls the police, and they arrive on the scene.
They come with their weapons and what's the first thing they say to the criminals?
"PUT YOUR HANDS UP!"
And, if the criminals are compliant, their hands go up...
The hands going up in this particular way is almost an identical gesture to our raising of the hands at the beginning of the prayer.
What does it mean, in the context of the robbery, when the criminals put their hands up?
It indicates that: I have nothing. I pose no threat. I surrender.
In the context of the salah, when we are doing this in front of our Lord, in many ways we are indicating a similar thing...
I have nothing. Respect is to you. I submit.
We are saluting to the grandeur and to the majesty of the One before whom we are standing.
So the next time you raise your hands to begin the salah, I invite you to think about this symbolism.
And in order to really internalize and feel it, you can't just go straight up and bounce / flap your hands back down...
You have to give it a moment. Allow yourself to hold your hands in this raised position for a little while.
Feel the emotion. Feel the submission that this raising indicates before folding your hands.
And that's the next step - folding your hands...
What does it mean? What does it symbolize?
Ibn Abbas reported: The Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“Verily, we company of prophets have been commanded to delay our pre-fasting meal, to hasten to break our fast, and to place our rights hands over our left hands in prayer.”
[Ṣaḥīḥ Ibn Ḥibbān 1770]
So folding the hands was from the good character / manners of prophets i.e. when a prophet stood before his Lord to worship / speak to Him, he would stand with his hands folded as a gesture of respect.
And we follow their example and do the same when we pray.
You can also think about the folding of the hands in this way:
We are so overtaken by the moment, standing before our Lord in salah... that we are holding ourselves together given the magnitude of the occasion.
So both of these actions, raising the hands and folding the hands, have their meaning and significance.
Internalize them, and remember them the next time you stand for prayer, God willing.
I hope this makes a positive difference in the quality of your prayer.