By: Ahmed Rehab
Why Do We Pray 5 Times a Day?
For many reasons, but one simple reason is this: prayer is the sump pump to our sins. Since the sins are invariably guaranteed to keep coming, so must the sump pumps keep working. Groundwater is a consequence of rain, and sin is a consequence of life. Regulated sump pumps protect, and so does regular prayer.
Allah states that when you perform your prayer, it erases all sins accumulated since your last prayer. Kind of like how the sump pump eliminates the dirty water, your sins are erased.
Our first precaution against sin is to try our best to shelter ourselves from it, no doubt. My home’s first line of defense against rain damaging its valuable contents is the roof and walls that provide shelter. I could not have a roof-less, wall-less house and then expect the sump pumps to keep my home nice and dry. That’s just basic logic. I need both strategies. But since even the best of roofs and the sturdiest of walls won’t change the laws of physics, I need the sump pumps if I wish to avoid groundwater accumulating and flooding my foundations.
Regular prayer, which contains istighfar (or repentance) pumps out that harmful, unavoidable seepage which, if left to its own devices, will trickle slowly but surely into a flood that will, in time, leave you struggling to breathe under water.
Life, like rain, is good. You can’t and shouldn’t turn against it. How else will the grass grow? But like rain, life comes with liabilities. It can sustain and purify you, and it can leave you breathing mold toxins, or even drown you. The difference is whether you control it, or you do nothing – and thus be controlled by it.
Sin is the tax of life much like groundwater is the tax of rain. It can threaten your spiritual foundation if left unchecked much like groundwater can threaten your home’s foundation. Your nafs (soul) is the lowest point, the basement. It needs to come armed with prayer, with sump pumps.
Sump pumps must work at regular intervals in order to guarantee a dry basement. Once a week won’t cut it. Why do you pray at night, they might ask? Well, why do sump pumps work at night? Why do you pray at dawn? Well, why do sump pumps work at dawn? Is my nafs less valuable – less worthy of protection – than my basement?
Sometimes when it rains, it pours. At such times of higher risk, sump pumps are triggered to work extra hard to keep up with the need. And so, while we have the regular prayers 5 times a day, we also have the nawafel, or voluntary prayers, as a tool for us to trigger as needed.
But remember, you can have sump pumps, and still get flooded — as I did. Until you realize that low horsepower plastic sump pumps offer a false sense of protection. Such is the case with distracted, mindless prayer that might as well be aerobics. Make sure your sump pumps are cast iron and of a high horsepower: that is, keep your prayers sincere, focused, meditative, and contemplative.
Stay dry my friends.
“Recite, [O Muhammad], what has been revealed to you of the Book and establish prayer. Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing, and the remembrance of Allah is greater. And Allah knows that which you do.” (Al-`Ankabut 29:45)