By Fatma Bayram
Who establish worship and spend of that We have bestowed on them. (Al-Anfal 8:3)
Concerning the guilty: What has brought you to this burning? ) They will answer: We were not of those who prayed. (Al-Muddaththir 74:41-43)
The Qur’an defines the first attribute of sincere believers as those who
“establish worship properly” (Al-A`raf 7:170)
. Verses such as
“Tell My bondmen who believe to establish worship…”(Ibrahim 14:31)
are indicative of the precedence of Prayer in the faith of a believer.
Prayer had been ordained during the first days of prophecy, albeit not in its final form. The fact that Muslims, beginning with Prophet Muhammad, performed Prayer from the first day Islam shows that Islam is not a religion that deals with the essentials of belief alone.
Prayer is important; it is a fundamental act of worship because it represents the turning into action of belief in the Oneness of Allah and confession of servitude towards Him. Scientists who study human behavior note that a feeling and awareness that is not exhibited through behavior will weaken with time and then eventually fade. Thus we need to place Prayer in the center of our lives in order to demonstrate our loyalty to Allah and maintain consistency in our Prayer.
The proper placement of Prayer is only possible through the maintenance and uninterrupted regular performance of it. The Qur’an refers to believers as
“Those who are constant in their Prayer.” (Al-Ma`arij 70:23)
It is fundamental that we maintain an uninterrupted consistent performance of Prayer so that we may experience the benefits which our Creator desires for us and they adorn the lives of servants until they die.
“Men whom neither merchandise nor sale distracts from remembrance of Allah and performance of Prayer and paying to the poor their due; who fear a day when hearts and eyeballs will be overturned.” (An-Nur 24:37)
Due to its performance, Prayer has been called the “column of Islam,” by the Messenger of Allah. Our Beloved Prophet has stated that Prayer is a form of worship that separates belief from associating partners with Allah and denial of Allah’s existence. He even drew attention to the fact that abandoning Prayer leads to distancing one’s self from belief and even likens one to the Pharaoh.
Prayer is very beloved to us as it gives us the opportunity to consciously remove ourselves from the daily occupations of life and give ourselves a break. In one particular hadith, it is stated that,
“If there were a river passing by the front of your house and you were to wash in this river five times a day, would there be any remnants of dirt and filth on you? This is precisely how Prayer is, it washes away sins.”(Muslim)
Prayer cleanses the human soul, making one’s heart pure, impeccable and clean. A person who prays five times a day will have washed their soul many times and purified their heart of any kind of evil.
At this point we may recall people who, despite their five daily Prayers, do not have pleasing manners or personalities. If Prayer elevates the manners of man so much, then we think, how is it that these individuals are not affected for the better?
I think this seeming contradiction bothers us because we don’t pose the question accurately. The proper question should be, “What would these people have done if they didn’t pray?” Because we know that maintaining worship, in the end, plays a role in the spiritual development of a person. Because most of the time we may not able to monitor each others’ spiritual development in terms of where it began, how far it has progressed and what sort of potential it possesses. But we are sure that every Prayer we perform increases our care and awareness towards the Almighty.
Cleanliness is a mandatory requirement of Prayers, which is the greatest form of worship of all. In Islam, cleanliness comes in two forms: the first is physical cleanliness and the other is spiritual cleanliness. Because physical cleanliness is mandatory our body and the area in which we’ll be performing worship must be cleansed of things that are considered impure, and all acts of worship that are performed without this cleansing are not acceptable.
In addition to the physical and true cleanliness in Islam, there is also a symbolic cleansing. Performing ablution before Prayer and the complete cleansing of the body (ghusl) following the state of being junub (unclean) are part of this symbolic cleansing.
A person without ablution may be physically clean, however, they are not considered physically clean. And for this reason they cannot face Allah in this state; they cannot pray. In order to be accepted in the divine presence, they must perform a symbolic cleansing. This is why ablution is not just a simple washing of the face and hands. It contains both a physical and spiritual cleansing. The requirement of those who are not able to find water to cleanse through tayammum (dry ablution) (An-Nisa’ 4:53) is proof that the purpose of this cleansing is not just physical, but also spiritual
Prayer is a fundamental pillar in the daily life of a believer. A day is programmed around Prayer. During five different times throughout the day, our day is spent in a state of awareness towards Allah as we declare his Almightiness in the Prayer saying,
“You (alone) we worship; You (alone) we ask for help.” (Al-Fatihah 1:4)
Man, who faces Allah the Almighty through the words “Allahu Akbar,” leaving all of his worldly concerns and material matters behind, is never as close to Allah as he is during Prayer. For this reason, the Prayer is a believer’s ascension to heavens. It is meaningful that the tahiyyat that is read at the end of Prayer is a memoir of Prophet Muhammad saluting his Creator and the inclusion of excited angels in this salutation.
Prayer is the intensified and systematized version of supplication.
Prayer is a form of worship which contains and gathers all other forms of worship such as declaring the Oneness of Allah, remembering and honoring Him, expressing gratitude to Him, praising Him, asking for help from Him, asking for forgiveness and repenting from sins, supplication, invoking Him, showing humility, reverence and remembrance of Him and contemplation of His creation.
Movements within Prayers, such as standing, bowing, and prostration, encompass the forms of worship employed by all of creation in addition to containing and symbolically convening all of the forms of worship that exist within Islam.
All creations, from the minutest to the largest, all remember Allah in a way that is conducive to their form of creation. When we think of this as a choir that sees participation from the smallest particle of matter to the largest galaxy and all of creation, we may feel as though we are taking part in this universal activity when we allow for our worldly actions to be set aside and face Allah in Prayer. It is at every instance when we catch this feeling that Prayer will cease to be a mandatory responsibility for us and become a source of joy.
The universality of Prayer can also be felt through the scheduling of Prayer times according to the worlds rotation around the sun, which in turn causes for every moment to become a time for the commencement of Prayer and there always being people prostrating to Allah at every second. And again, the fact that there is no need for a special venue or religious leader and that Prayer can be performed in every clean area on an individual basis also speaks to its universality.
Prayer is not just a form of worship that effects the internal phases of an individual. Contrarily, it is the most important determinant that shapes all of his relations, beginning with his immediate environment and his outlook on life.
Prayer takes on the role of a measure in determining the direction and form in relations with humans.
“Your ally is none but Allah and [therefore] His Messenger and those who establish Prayer and give zakah, and they bow (in worship).”(Al-Ma’idah 5:55)
In its essence, Prayer comprises sincere tranquility in the presence of Allah (a complete respect and reverence), the remembrance of Allah on the tongue and utmost respect of the body towards Allah. Prayer that is performed without peace in the heart and honoring in the body, although appearing to be Prayer in shape and form, is not truly and completely Prayer.
The Qur’an refers to Prayer as “dhikr,” in other words, remembrance. The more a person remembers Allah during their Prayer, the more authentic their Prayer is. If a person is able to gain hold of the fact that they are in the presence of Allah even for one second in their prayer, then that is a great accomplishment for that person. It is most appropriate for this second to take place at the initial takbeer (saying Allahu Akbar) leading into Prayer. This moment can serve to ferment the whole of Prayer, spreading throughout it, transforming the remainder of Prayer to its own attributes. The reference to the spot of worship as the “mihrab” alludes to the fact that Prayer is a battle against the one’s self and the Satan. In this case, “giving the mihrab its due right,” means making the self triumphant.
Despite the fact that Prayer has been made mandatory during certain times (An-Nisa’ 4:103), the Qur’an has not clearly stated the number and rak`ahs (units) of Prayers explicitly, only touching on the times for Prayer briefly. As is the case with many other religious applications, the details of these have been left the instructions of the Messenger of Allah, which are based on the divine education he received.
The religion of Islam places a great deal of significance on the unity and convening of a religious community. To facilitate this, praying with a congregation and the places in which congregations convene, mosques, have special importance.
Muslims are encouraged to perform their five daily Prayers in congregation at mosques, while the Friday Prayer performed once a week at a mosque has been made mandatory, the two annual `Eid Prayers have been made supererogatory and similarly the annual convening of Muslims in Mecca has been made mandatory.
The facing of the direction of Mecca, regardless of where you are on the planet, is an attestation to the universal unity of Islam. The selection of an imam to lead the Prayer, the following of the imam by the congregation, the precision of straight lines formed by the congregation, the performance of all physical activities and recitation within the Prayer in synchrony and unity carries both spiritual and physical significance. The rows of the Muslim, whether rich or poor; worker or administrator; young or old, that is based on whomsoever arrives first, side by side in order of arrival, mentally prepares Muslims right before Prayer for espousing the notion that they are equals in the sight of Allah.
Taken with kind permission from: www.lastprophet.info.