Salah The Muslim Prayer is the second of the five Pillars of Islam.
After announcing of Shahadah, which is the declaration of the Islamic Faith, comes the Salah, the Muslim Prayer.
Shahadah is the first part of Iman, which is the first of the five Pillars of Islam. It represents the theory of the Islamic belief, while Salah is one of the practical Pillars of the Islamic Faith.
There are two concepts of the Islamic Faith:
(1) Iman—The acceptance and belief in God, His Angeles, His Messengers, His Books and the Last Day, the Day of Resurrection.
(2) Ritual Actions—The implementation of God’s Commandments.
Iman and Ritual Actions complement each other. Iman must be supported by Ritual Actions and deeds.
As Prayer is one of the actions required of Muslims, so it must be performed at its fixed times. Prophet Muhammad said:
“The performance of prayers at its time is one of the actions dearer to God.”
Muslims pray towards Mecca and perform the Salah, the prayer, five times a day at appointed times. This is in the early morning before the sunrise, at midday, in the afternoon, in the evening after the sunset and at nightfall. The Qur’an states (20:13o)
“…And celebrate the praise of your Lord before sunrise and before sun setting, yea, celebrate them for part of the hours of the night, and at the sides of the day…”
Each prayer is approximately two minutes. This is done to remember God and to be thankful for all He gave us. This continuous reminder keeps the conscience alive and functional. This is achieved in part by the recital of a passage from the Qur’an, kept by heart, which is forming a part of the daily Muslim prayer.
These recitations of different passages from the Qur’an bring to mind the basic Islamic teachings and remind Muslims of their obligations to God with regard to their attitude and behaviour towards other people.
The expression of submission to the will of God, with the individual’s entire being, is also shown through the bodily postures of the prayer, which consist of standing, bowing, prostrating and sitting, repeated in the appointed times of each prayer.
Salah also teaches self-discipline through performing it regularly, purifies the heart and prevents temptation toward wrong doings and evil. Qur’an says:
“…And be constant at prayer, for prayer restrains man from evil and wrongful deeds…” (29: 45)
All the Messengers of God and their descendants were commanded to establish the ritual of Prayer.
After Abraham settled his wife Hajr and their son Isma’il in Mecca, he prayed for them as the Qur’an says:
“Our Lord, I have settled a part of my offspring in a valley without cultivation by the Sacred House, in order, O our Lord that they may keep up prayer …Our lord, make me keep up prayer and my offspring too.” (14: 37-40)
The Qur’an tells us that Isaac and Jacob were asked to establish prayer:
“We made them leaders who guided people by Our Command, and We revealed to them the doing of good and the keeping up of prayer.”(21: 73)
And to the Children of Israel came the call from God to worship Him:
“Remember that We made a solemn covenant with the Children of Israel: you shall serve none but God. And do good to your parents and keep up prayer.” (2: 83)
“And certainly God made a covenant with the Children of Israel… and God said:
Surly I am with you, if you keep up prayer.” (5: 13)
Isma’il commanded his people to observe prayer as the Qur’an tells us:
“And mention Isma’il in the Book. Surely he was truthful in promise and he enjoined on his people prayer.” (19: 54-55)
Luqman advised his son to establish prayer as Qur’an stated:
“O my son, keep up prayer and enjoin good and forbid evil.” (31:17)
Moses heard the voice of God saying:
“O Moses, surely I am your God… I am Allah, there is no deity but I, so worship Me, and keep up prayer for My Remembrance.” (20:11-14)
Mary was asked to worship God as the Qur’an tells us:
“O Mary, worship your Lord devoutly and humble yourself and bow down (in prayer) with those who bow down (in prayer).” (3:43)
Jesus told his people:
“I am indeed a servant of Allah. He has given me the Book and made me a Messenger- and He has enjoined on me prayer and almsgiving as long as I live.” (19:30-31)
Mohamed, the Prophet of Islam, reminded the Muslims again and again of the importance of prayer and called it a pillar of the religion.
Prayer is considered as the foundation of the Islamic Faith. It is obligatory for all adult Muslims, men and women. It is the direct link between the believer and God. It should be performed with attention, concentration, clear mind and a present heart.
The worshipper can perform the Salah alone or with one’s fellow worshippers. But Salah al Gom’ah, Friday prayer, and prayer on feasts, must be performed with the other members of the congregation.
An Imam, leader, from among the present worshippers, whose function is to synchronize the recitation and movements of the worshippers, leads the congregational Salah.
Any Muslim may lead the Salah as Imam, provided his recitation of the Qur’an is correct. The Imam, standing on the pulpit, also delivers a sermon before the congregational Salah on Friday, in addition to the leading of the prayer and the other duties.
So, performing prayers regularly serves as a repeated reminder to the Muslims of their relationship with the creator. Its purpose is to remind us that we belong not only to ourselves but also to God. No matter how faithful or conscientious we may be, such reminder is still essential.
(Continued in Salah – the second of the five pillars of Islam Pt 2…)