I was lucky enough to receive a review copy of the new book Prayers of Occasions which is compiled and translated by Oxford based Dr. Talal al-Azem (Phd.) who has also studied Islamic Jurisprudence in Damascus with an number of prominent scholars. Ordinarily, I don’t review books as it is not something that I find easy to do, however, I felt compelled to write a short “review” for Prayers of Occasions as it is a wonderful little book that I think everyone should have.
Upon receiving the book through the post, I was immediately struck by its simple elegance and beauty. I am a stickler when it comes to books and their physical production, I find that a good book and the reading experience is exponentially enhanced by the production quality such as its typesetting, printing, binding, paper and other aesthetic and functional embellishments. A quick flick through the book did not leave me disappointed, it really is a thing of beauty, a joy to behold and a pleasure to read.
In his forward, Sheikh Nuh Keller tells us that “occasions” have been sent to remind us of the greatest realities of our existence and ultimately it is our journey to our Lord, whoever turns to his Lord upon such occasions will find un-looked for help, openings and one success after another and so the book sets out for the reader the means by which this is possible.
The book, lists various “prayers” which are additional [to the mandatory five daily ones] prayers of devotional worship (salah) offered at various times and on various occasions (hence the title of the book) and for specific purposes, as opposed to supplications (duas). The book wonderfully brings together in one concise handbook such prayers and makes them very accessible to ordinary Muslims seeking to enhance their devotions and their attachment to their Creator. In these modern times, it is difficult enough to offer and stumble through the 5 mandatory daily prayers and many of us get by on the bare minimum when what we should be doing is taking a time-out and topping up our account with our Creator with additional voluntary acts of worship. This book identifies such prayers and details them succinctly, offering brief but meaningful explanations as to why and what the prayers are for. Where needed, the book lists the Arabic text, standard transliteration and translation of the prayer and in the marginalia offers more serious students references to other works for more detail. Whilst the book is largely based on the Hanafi school of jurisprudence, the prayers contained therein are found in all the other schools thereby making this handbook indispensable and a must for every Muslim. Prayers of Occasions should be read, studied and acted upon, insha’Allah.
The last prayer the book lists is “A Prayer to Stave off Hypocrisy” which is an apt reminder upon completing the book to have one’s intention clear as to why such additional acts of voluntary devotions are offered.
The book is hard back 96 pages long, published by Oxford Traditional Knowledge Foundation, the book is in a small handbook size which is not quite pocket sized but small enough to carry around in one’s bag and so can be studied “on the go”.