Recite what is sent of the Book by inspiration to thee, and establish regular Prayer: for Prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds; and remembrance of Allah is the greatest (thing in life) without doubt. And Allah knows the (deeds) that ye do.
(29:45) (O Prophet), recite the Book that has been revealed to you and establish Prayer. Surely Prayer forbids indecency and evil. And Allah’s remembrance is of even greater merit. Allah knows all that you do.
Why does man need to pray?
After a long and hectic day at work, how difficult it is for a tired person to stand on the prayer-mat and concentrate on his prayers to Allah Almighty. Snuggled in a warm and cosy bed, how difficult it is to get up at the call of Mu'adhdhin:
Allah Almighty says: "On the Day when every soul will be confronted with all the good it has done and all the evil it has done, it will wish there were a great distance between it and its evil. But Allah cautions you (to remember) Himself. And Allah is full of kindness to those that serve Him."
(3:30) The Day is approaching when every soul shall find itself confronted with whatever good it has done and whatever evil it has wrought. It will then wish there is a wide space between it and the Day! Allah warns you to beware of Him; He is most tender towards His servants. *27
(3:31) (O Messenger!) Tell people: 'If you indeed love Allah, follow me, and Allah will love you and will forgive you your sins. Allah is All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate.'
Prayer: A cry of the inner soul
The Qur'an tells us the reality of man's nature.
It is Allah Who created you in a state of (helpless) weakness, then gave (you) strength after weakness, then, after strength, gave (you) weakness and a hoary head: He creates as He wills, and it is He Who has all knowledge and power. (30:54)
Weakness in the beginning and weakness in the end, this is the essence of man. He is so weak and helpless at birth that his entire existence depends on his parents and family. If he were to be abandoned in these crucial first years, he could not survive on his own. He needs a gentle and loving hand, not only in his infancy but in his childhood and even in the teenage years. As this child enters the years of youth and independence, he begins to take control of his own life. He looks with pride at his strong physique, his handsome features and his many talents. He begins to despise those of lesser abilities, even scorning those parents who exhausted their own health to nurture him. He becomes unjust and cruel, using his strength and vigor to dominate others. He thinks he is a master, free to act as he wills. But does this youth, these good looks and this strength last forever? Only in a few decades he begins to lose his strength. His health begins to deteriorate, grey hair covers his head and slowly, his youth is replaced by old age. This transformation from young to old is slow, but it is there. The seconds of time are ticking away mercilessly, taking every young person towards their old age. The young dictator will one day be as feeble and weak as the day he was born. But this time there will be no parents to nurture him; if, as is often the case, he is rejected by his own family, his future will be a desolate one in some old persons home.
"Weakness in the beginning and weakness in the end is the reality of Human Being." The message is clear: the real Master is Allah. He Alone is Mighty, He Alone is Great. He Alone is never tired, never needs rest, never dependent upon anyone. Allahu Akbar - Allah is the Greatest. With this message clear in his mind, man realizes that he should show his humility to the Almighty Lord, the One Who created him. And what can be a better way to show ones humility than to stand like a slave before Him; to bow and prostrate to Him; to raise hands in supplication to Him.
Prayer is not a burden forced upon man but is the inner cry of every soul. Prayer is a cry of each heart to recognize its Creator. It is but a small token of gratitude for all the innumerable bounties bestowed upon mankind by the Creator. In our everyday lives, we smile and say a warm thank-you to the small acts of kindness which others do for us. Just observe the beauty and perfection of the earth around you, and fall down in gratitude to your Lord.
Prayer: The ascension for a believer
This recitation is not a dull monologue by the believer, but Allah promises that it is a conversation between Him and the worshipper. The Messenger reported that Allah Almighty says:
"When My slave says (in his prayer): 'All praise is for Allah, the Lord of the worlds', I say: 'My slave has praised Me.' When he says: 'The Merciful, the Compassionate, Master of the Day of Judgment', I say: 'My slave has praised and glorified Me'. When he says: 'You Alone we worship, and Your Aid we seek,' I say: 'This is between My slave and Myself.' When he says: 'Show us the Straight Path, the path of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, not of those who earned Your anger nor of those who went astray.' I say: 'This is for My slave, and I give My slave what he wants,"'(Hadith Qudsi)
The number of prayers in a day has been set at five by Allah Almighty. The believer has no choice in the matter but to obey. To reduce the number of prayers world not only be disobedience, it would also lose the benefits of prayer.
Prayer: A pillar of Islam
Allah's Messenger PBUH once said:
"Prayer is the pillar of the religion." (AI-Baihaqi)
The Prophet PBUH also said: "Islam is erected on five pillars: to testify that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger; to establish prayer; to pay Zakat; to perform Hajj to the Sacred House, and to fast in the month of Ramadan."(Bukhari, Muslim)
This Hadith makes the image very clear. Islam is like a building, supported by five columns. Remove just one column, and the entire building weakens. If strong winds batter the town, the building which will certainly collapse is the one with a pillar missing. In the same way, when a person stops praying, his Faith becomes weak and the mildest of blows can cause it to crumble.
“What drove you to Hell?” They will answer: “We were not among those who observed Prayer, and we did not feed the poor, and we indulged in vain talk with those who indulged in vain talk, and we gave the lie to the Day of Judgment until the inevitable event overtook us.”
Which prayer is acceptable?
"Those who offer their Salat (prayers) with all solemnity and full submissiveness." (23:2)
The emphasis, in this verse, is on humility and concentration in the prayer (Khushu '). There is no doubt that as Shaitdn (Satan) is the bitterest enemy of man; he always tries to disturb the believer's prayer. As soon as a person begins his prayer, he finds his mind suddenly engulfed with memories, problems, worries, work and his family. He may become so engrossed in his thoughts that he has no idea where he is and what he is doing. His prayer becomes a series of automatic actions, and he will often find himself wondering whether he has prayed three Rak'a or four. This is how Shaitdn steals the prayer. It is reported that a Successor saw a man playing with his beard while praying. He commented that: "If there had been Khushu' (concentration) in his heart, the other organs of his body would have concentrated as well
Prayer as a weapon
Allah Almighty says in the Quran' an: "0 you who believe! Seek help in patience and Saldt -(prayer). Truly! Allah is with the patient." (2: 153)
Man is, by nature, weak. He needs help at times of misery and hardship. And the best aid we can have is that of patience in adversity and prayer. Any difficulties, unhappiness and loss should be faced with calm and wisdom.
Prayer as a reminder
A non-Muslim once asked the following question during a discussion: "I can understand why Muslims were required to pray five times a day during the early days of Islam. They did not have many things to do in those days so the Prophet kept them busy with prayer. But our sophisticated and modern life leaves man with little spare time. He is much too busy to be expected to pray five times a day."
The answer given was what the primary objective of prayer is. The Qur'an says: "... and establish prayer for My Remembrance." (20:14).
As man is by nature forgetful, prayer reminds him of the allegiance due to his Creator and Lord. If prayer was needed fourteen hundred years ago when man did not lead such a busy life style, then it is even more necessary in today's hectic world. Man becomes so engrossed in this life that he has no thought for Allah and the Hereafter. The need to remind man of the realities of his existence has thus intensified, and not declined in modem times. Prayer is still of utmost importance and benefit in our high-tech lives. Prayer acts as a shield against evil. Allah Almighty says in the Qur'an:
The quality of the prayer is of utmost importance as well. Consider a house with solid foundations, concrete walls and a strong roof. This house will be able to withstand all forms of bad weather, be it winds, hail or storms. After all, the purpose of a house is to provide shelter and protection against these elements. If, on the other hand, the house is loosely constructed with leaves and grass, it will blow away at the slightest hint of bad weather.
This image applies very clearly to prayer. If a prayer is offered regularly, at the correct time, with sincerity of intention and concentration on what is being recited, it will strengthen the person's Faith and provide comfort and strength in times of trouble. Irregular and insincere prayers will be of little use to a person in times of distress. A healthy body can combat viruses with more ease than can a weak body.
Prayer: The first question on the Day of Judgment
Man was sent to this world for only one purpose: "And I (Allah) created not the jinns and men except them should worship Me (Alone)." (51:56)
Man is to live in this world as a worshipper of his Creator, and the best form of worship is prayer. On the Day of Judgment, man will have to answer for each and every deed committed on this earth. He will be asked about the bounties bestowed upon him in this life:
"Then, on that Day, you shall be asked about the delight (you indulged in, in this world)!" (102:8) But the first question to be asked on that Great Day will be about prayer.
Prayer cannot be an isolated act:
The Qur'an mentions the act of prayer about thirty-five times, but never alone. It always couples prayer with giving Zakat or spending on the poor and needy. The two are inseparable. Man is surrounded by external and internal problems. To deal with these; he has been given the two weapons of prayer and patience. Patience helps him withstand external hostilities and opposition. Prayer strengthens his internal relationship with Allah; another requirement alongside prayer is that of sacrifice. Prayer is an act of life, and sacrifice symbolizes death. 'Whether our actions are concerned with life or death, our sole purpose must be the Pleasure of Allah. No sacrifice may be offered to any being other than Allah, just as no prayer is valid except if directed to Allah.