“And seek help through patience and prayer, and indeed, it is difficult except for the humble in spirit,
Who know for certain that they shall meet their Lord and that they shall return to Him.” (Al-Baqara, 2: 46-47).
Prayer (Salat) is a spiritual purification through which Muslims are required to undergo five times a day. Prayer is an integral part of Islam and is thus incumbent upon every sincere Muslim believer. Prayer enables Muslims to affirm five times per day the Unity and attributes of Allah, and their belief in Muhammad (pbuh), His Messenger. Prayer is therefore a part of the everyday affairs of the Muslim – he has been commanded by God Almighty to pray in the morning before sunrise, prayer is also ordained for him just after midday, a third in the afternoon, a fourth just after sunset, and a fifth in the evening before going to bed. Prayer is thus the first daily preoccupation of a Muslim and also his last. Prayer enables man, even when at his busiest, to disengage himself from worldly affairs in order to remember his Maker. Whilst Islam emphasises the accountability of each and every individual to Allah, it allows for the weaknesses and imperfection of man.
Although one is supposed to pray five times a day, allowances are made for those whose work schedules are such that they cannot break off at the required times of day. Thus, certain prayers can be combined and said together. Furthermore, if one is ill or on a journey, concessions are made so that the number of prayers are reduced, or in the case of illness, the actual form of prayer may be changed. For example, Instead of standing for prayer, the sick person may sit down to pray and if he is unable to do even that, he can lie down on the bed to pray.
Congregational prayer is also an important social institution. It is a time when people, rich and poor, of high rank and low rank, stand next to each other as equals to remember God Almighty. None is given any preferential treatment as to where they stand in the Mosque. The concept of specific reserved places is unknown. Any differences between individuals in terms of rank, wealth or colour vanish in an atmosphere of equality before Allah.
Prayer is definitely a very strong and effective means for the purification of the heart. God Almighty says in the Holy Quran :
“Recite what has been revealed to you of the Book and establish prayer: for prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds; and remembrance of Allah is the greatest (thing in life) without doubt. And Allah knows what you do.” (Al-Ankabut, 29 : 46)
“And establish prayer at the two ends of the day and at the approach of the night. Surely good deeds take away evil deeds. This is a reminder to the mindful.” (Hud, 11: 115).
Therefore believers are told to purify themselves:
“He indeed is successful (the one) who purifies it (his soul)
and he fails (the one) who corrupts it.” (As-Shams, 91: 10-11).
And the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said:
“The key to Paradise is prayer, and the key to prayer is ablution (i.e. purification or the act of purification).” (Tirmidhi).
Abu Dhar (ra), a close companion narrated that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) went out in winter, when the leaves were falling, and took two branches of a tree whose leaves began to fall. Then he turned towards him and said, “A Muslim observes prayer for God’s sake and his sins fall from him as these leaves fall from this tree.” (Ahmad).
Abu Huraira (ra), another close companion of the Messenger of God (pbuh) reported the latter as saying, “If one of you has a river at his door in which he washes himself five times a day; do you think it would leave any dirt on him?” The companions said that it would not leave any dirt on him (and that he would be clean). The Prophet of God (pbuh) said, “This is an example of the five prayers with which God wipes out all the evils of man.” (Bukhari, Muslim).
Thus, the concept of purification (both physical and spiritual) is central to Islam. There are many sayings of the Holy Prophet which clearly state that prayer is a means of purifying the worshipper from evil tendencies, from within himself and also outside, at physical level (i.e. body hygiene) and the accomplishment of good deeds (i.e. spiritual hygiene which cleanses his soul). And the Holy Quran describes the state of such people in these words:
“In it (i.e. the mosque) are men who love to be purified, and God loves those who make themselves pure.” (At-Tauba, 9: 109).
Undoubtedly a true Muslim must be pure in body, mind and soul, and daily prayers help him to achieve this degree of purity and goodness. This is because prayer (Salat) is a perfect form of remembrance of God and the latter is a very effective means of suppressing evil and thereby purifying the heart of unhealthy tendencies. The Holy Quran clarifies it in the following two verses:
“Surely I, Ever I, am God (Allah); there is no god except I; so worship Me, and keep up the prayer for My Remembrance.” (Taha 20: 15).
“And remembrance of Allah is the greatest (thing in life) without doubt.” (Al-Ankabut 29: 46).
The real object of prayer (Salat) is that people should not neglect their obligations to God, Who is their Lord and Master and they are all His servants. The daily prayer is prescribed to remind them of the presence of God and their duties and obligations to Him. This remembrance suppresses evil tendencies in man and leads him to his moral advancement. The effective sanction of the presence of God in the prayer acts as a restraint upon his tendencies to break Divine Laws. The greater and the stronger the feeling of the Divine Presence in the prayer the greater and the more effective is the restraint upon his tendencies to break the Divine Law. Thus prayer by suppressing the evil tendencies of the worshipper, purifies his heart and soul of evil and leads him on the straight path to the growth of his inner self; he leaves the darkness of the self to the Light of God Almighty.
The daily prayer is prescribed to strengthen this belief in the heart of the worshipper. Without daily prayer, it is physically impossible to consistently maintain the strength of this belief and, consequently, adherence to goodness and piety. If the heart of a worshipper is deprived of this feeling, how can he possibly adhere to goodness and avoid evil for fear of God in his daily life? The obvious recipe is the practice of daily prayer: to evoke and revive fear of God in the worshipper and strengthen his belief in the Omnipresent God so that he may walk in ways of goodness and piety and avoid evil.
May Allah enable each one of you my disciples and followers, as well as all Muslims worldwide to develop the excellent taste for prayer. Without prayer, we are like a fish out of water. We are bound to spiritually die without this constant rendez-vous with God which reassures us the opportunity to have the door of God’s Mercy, Love and Compassion ever open for us. May Allah accept all our Salat (prayer) and count us ever among His elite servants. Ameen.
----Friday Sermon of 04 November 2016 ~(03 Safar 1438 AH) by Khalifatullah Hadhrat Munir Ahmad Azim Saheb (atba) of Mauritius.