Salat or prayer, the second pillar of Islam, entails the worship of God five times a day in the prescribed manner. This mode of worship, laid down for mankind by God through His Prophet, is so all-embracing that one cannot imagine any superior way of worshipping the Almighty.
Besides this, the prayers include praise and remembrance of God, supplications to Him and the expression of goodwill towards the Prophet and all believers. The prayers then end with a message of peace to all mankind. Thus constituted, they are both an act of worship and a reminder of God’s commandments. They give solace to believers, while creating social consciousness and unity in their ranks. Prayer is not only a symbol of the Islamic life, but also inculcates self-discipline among Muslims. Although the most important aspect of prayer is its being the main point of prayer is a mode of spiritual contact with God, it also has valuable lessons for us on how to conduct ourselves in our daily lives.
What is Salat?
The Prophet has said: “Between man and unbelief is negligence of salat or prayer”.
Prayer begins with the utterance of ‘Allhu Akbar’ (God is greatest), and is finished with the utterance of ‘Peace and blessings of God be on you’.
Preparation for prayer primarily begins with ablution. Ablution is, in fact, a type of practical prayer. A man after washing some representative parts of his body prays to his God for the purification of his whole being with the water of His mercy.
After that, he, by declaring God’s greatness, begins his prayer. This is a humble acknowledgement of the fact that greatness and majesty only belong to God. Then he stands up respectfully. After that, he bows down and then he puts his forehead on the earth in prostration. All this is a practical declaration of the fact that God is great, and he is nothing. He confesses repeatedly that he is always ready to obey Him.
Finally, turning his face towards right and left he says: ‘Peace and blessing of God be on you.’ In this way, he expresses his feeling of peace and well wishing for all the people living on this earth. Making God a witness he solemnly promises to lead a peaceful life and not be a threat to any one’s safety. Every one’s life, property and honour will be safe from him.
Importance of Salat
Salat or prayer constitutes the second pillar of Islam. It should be borne in mind that Allah does not need our prayer, because He is free of all needs. Allah is only interested in our prosperity and well being in every sense. When Allah emphasises the necessity of prayer or charges us with any duty, He means to help us; because whatever good we do is for our own benefit, and whatever offence we commit is against our own souls. The benefit which people can derive from daily prayer is immeasurable, and the blessing of prayer is beyond imagination.
It is difficult for anyone to impart in words the full meaning of prayer, yet it can be said that salat aims:
• to bring people closer to Allah;
• to keep human beings from doing indecent, shameful and forbidden things;
• to remind people constantly of Allah and His greatness;
• to develop discipline and will-power;
• to show equality, unity and brotherhood;
• to promote patience, courage, hope and confidence;
• to train people in cleanliness, purity and punctuality;
The Purpose of Salat
When one believes in God, and His almightiness and grace, His omnipotence and mercy, he/she feels the need and aspiration to communicate with Him and pray for His guidance and help. Salat or prayer aims at nourishment and strengthen one’s consciousness of God – Faith.
This form of worship not only nourishes the spirit and faith but, it also keeps the body clean, healthy, and organized.
The submission to God in all human activities is the essence of worship. It brings all the humans to same ground no matter the king or the slave, black or white, young or old, men or women; everyone bows down to God, and prays for His mercy.
Prayers are connected with patience, endurance and perseverance. These factors naturally support one another and are cohesive with each other. Patience radiates stability, and thus provides a situation for communicating with God. This itself nurtures patience through the peace that it develops in the depth of their heart.
The believers have been commanded in the Quran to seek help through patience and prayer:
“You who believe, seek help through patience and prayer; surely, God is with the steadfast.” (2:153)
We come to know from the hadith that when faced with a difficult situation, the Prophet stood for prayer.
Salat and Time Management
It is obligatory for every Muslim man or woman to offer them in their prescribed times. It is offered five times a day.
Day and night of a observer of prayer has been divided into five parts:
1. from dawn to afternoon
2. from afternoon to late afternoon
3. from late afternoon to sunset
4. from sunset to dusk
5. from dusk to dawn
One of the most valuable things a man has is time. Proper use of time leads a man to success while the misuse of time leads him to failure. This lesson of time management is repeated daily in the form of prayer. This ensures the successful life in this world. If a man divides times of day and night into five parts in this way and becomes punctual in them he can make full use of his whole life. And the one who makes full use of his time in an organized way he will surely achieve success in life.
A Constructive Course of Life
On one hand, prayer is a divine training and on the other hand, it is a complete constructive course.
The preparation for prayer begins with ablution or wudu. It is a means of purifying man in a regular way. After the ablution, the first sentence of prayer is Allahu Akbar (Allah is great). This phrase is repeated almost three hundred times a day in adhan and prayer. The phrase Allahu Akbar (Allah is great) has the implication that man is not great. He is insignificant and helpless. In this way, prayer leads a man to modesty.
Prayer has been commanded to be observed in congregation. This is the supreme training of unity. In congregational prayer, all the people offer their prayer behind an Imam who leads them in their prayer. In this way, prayer teaches us that we should make one of us our leader to follow him.
Prayer ends with salam which means ‘peace and blessings of God be on you’. That is, instilled with the spirit of peace for all human beings, coming out of the mosque.
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan