WHY DO WE PRAY?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 cozy bed, how difficult it is to get up at the call of Mu'adhdhin: "Come to prayer, come to success." The famous doctor and philosopher Ibn Sina (Avicenna), recalls such a moment in his life. Once cold and icy night, he and his slave were resting in an inn in a remote part of Khurasan. During the night he felt thirsty and shouted out to his slave to get him some water. The salve had no desire to leave his warm bed, so he pretended not to hear Avicenna's call. But finally after repeated calls he reluctantly got up and went to fetch the water. A little while later, the melodious sound of the Adhan filled the air. Avicenna began to think about the person calling the believers to prayer. My slave Abdullah, he mused, has always respected and admired me. He seizes any opportunity to lavish praise and affection on me but tonight, he preferred his own comfort to my needs. On the other hand, look at this Persian slave of Allah. He left his warm bed to go out in the chilly night, he made ablution in the icy water of the stream, and then he ascended the high minaret of the mosque to glorify He Whom he truly serves.
"I bear witness that there is none to be worshipped except Allah." "I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah."
Tonight, Avicenna records, I learned the essence of true love; that love which results in complete obedience. The love of Allah demands total and unconditional obedience.
Allah almighty says:
"Say (O Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) to mankind): 'If you (really) love Allah then follow me (i.e. accept Islamic monotheism, follow the Quran and the Sunnah), Allah will love you and forgive you your sins.' And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." (3:31)
PRAYER: A CRY OF THE INNER SOUL
His arrogance and pride has often led man to behave as an oppressor and a tyrant. Some men have been so carried away by their own self-importance that they have even claimed divinity. Pharoah (Firaun), the ruler of Egypt, was among those who announced:
"I am your supreme lord."
With his sense of greatness and pride, Firaun subjugated the Israelites and made their lives wretched and miserable.
But is man really as strong and great as his ego tells him? The Quran tells us the reality of man's nature.
"Allah is He Who created you in (a state of) weakness, then gave you strength after weakness, then after strength gave (you) weakness and gray hair. He creates what He wills. And it is He Who is the All-Knowing, the All-Powerful (i.e. Able to do all things)." (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, gray 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 persons' home.
"Weakness in the beginning, weakness in the end." 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, is 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 one's 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. 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. so what about thanking Allah, Who in His infinite Mercy has provided for every single one of our needs. Just observe the beauty and perfection of the earth around you, and fall down in gratitude to you Lord.
PRAYER: THE ASCENSION FOR A BELIEVER
After Allah's Messenger Peace Be Upon Him was commissioned for Prophethood, the first thing he was commanded to do by Allah was to pray. The angel Jibrail (Gabriel) came to him, and a spring of water gushed out from the rocks in front of them. Jibrail then showed the Prophet Peace Be Upon Him how to do ablution. He then showed him how to offer prayers to Allah. The Messenger Peace Be Upon Him of Allah began to pray two Raka twice a day; once in the morning and once in the evening. He then went home and showed his wife Khadija what he had learned from angel Jibrail. Since that time, the Prophet never went through a day without praying. Just before his migration (Hijrah) to Al-Madinah, Allah's Messenger Peace Be Upon Him was taken by night to Jerusalem and then to the heavens (Miraj). during this journey, Allah almighty commanded him to pray five times a day. This prayer was a gift given to every believer to enable him to experience a spiritual ascension five times in every day. The Prophet Peace Be Upon Him explained that " The prayer is the Miraj of the believer." It gives every Muslim the opportunity to communicate with his Lord.
During each prayer, the worshipper recites Surah Al Fatiha. 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 Peace Be Upon Him reported that Allah Almighty says:
"When My slave says (in hi sprayer): '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 have been set at five by Allah almighty. The believer has no choice in the matter but to obey. To reduce the number of prayers would not only be disobedience, it would also lose the benefits of prayer.
For example, a room is only good for residence if it has four walls and a roof. If only one wall or the roof were to be removed, what use could it be? Similarly, the prayer will only achieve its purpose and be of use on the Day when nothing except one's deeds will be of use, if it is observed in the prescribed manner.
PRAYER: A PILLAR OF ISLAM
Allah's Messenger Peace Be Upon Him once said:
"Prayer is the pillar of religion." (Al-Baihaqi)
The Prophet Peace Be Upon Him 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.
The prayer is of such vital importance that the Prophet Peace Be Upon Him said: "Verily, between man and between polytheism and unbelief is the negligence of prayer." (Muslim)
How true is this statement! If you look at people walking down the road, it may be difficult to distinguish Muslims from non-Muslims. Islam is not marked upon a believer's forehead, and neither is Kufr stamped on an infidel's face. But at the time of prayer, you can separate the two groups with ease. The believer will abandon his work, his business to join the rows of Muslims in prayer, while the disbeliever will carry on with his worldly affairs.
Surah Al-Muddathir narrates an interesting dialogue which will take place on the Day of Judgement. The believers will ask the people of Hell-fire:
"What has caused you to enter Hell?" They will say: "We were not of those who used to offer their prayers. Nor we used to feed the poor; and we used to talk falsehoods (all that which Allah hated) with vain talkers, and we used to belie the Day of Recompense. Until there came to use (the death) that is certain." (72:42-47)
The rejecters of truth are silent in this world, but in the next world they will themselves speak the truth.
PRAYER IS LIKE A FORTRESS
Prayer is the basis of all good actions. Below are quoted two passages of the Quran, both of which list a number of good actions. Prayer comes before and after all good actions:-
A. Surah al-Muminun (23:1-11)
"Successful indeed are the believers. Those who offer their Salat (prayers) with all solemnity and full submissiveness. And those who turn away from Al-Laghw (dirty, false, evil vain talk, falsehoods and all that Allah has forbidden). And those who pay the Zakat. And those who guard their chastity (i.e. private parts, from illegal sexual acts). Except from their wives or (the captives and slaves) that their right hands possess, -for then, they are free from blame. But whoever seeks beyond that, then those are the transgressors. Those who are faithfully true to their trusts and to their covenants. And those who strictly guard their Salat (five compulsory congregational prayers at their fixed stated hours). These are indeed the inheritors. Who shall inherit the Firdaus (Paradise). They shall dwell therein forever."
B. Surah Al-Maarif: (70:19-35)
"Verily, man (disbeliever) was created very impatient; irritable (discontented) when evil touches him; and niggardly when good touches him. Except those devoted to Salat (prayers), those who remain constant in their Salat (prayers), and those in whose wealth there is a known right, for the beggar who asks, and for the unlucky who has lost his property and wealth, (and his means of living has been straitened). And those who believe in the Day of Recompense, and those who fear the torment of their Lord. Verily! The torment of their Lord is that before which none can feel secure. And those who guard their chastity (ie, private parts from illegal sexual acts), except with their wives and the (women slaves and captives) whom their right hands possess, -for (then) they are not to be blames. But whosoever seeks beyond that, then it is those who are trespassers. And those who keep their trusts and covenants, and those who stand firm in their testimonies, and those who guard their Salat (prayers) well; such shall dwell in the Gardens (i.e. Paradise) honored."
In these passages, the believers are said to have certain characteristics, the first of which they concentrate on their prayers. Other signs of believers are:
-They avoid vain and vulgar activities.
-They pay their Zakat regularly.
-They guard their chastity and avoid illicit relations. Their marital lives are confines to their wives and salve-girls (assuming such a situation exists in which the presence of slaves is justified).
-Those who do not betray covenants and trusts.
-Those who stand by their testimonies (as in Surah Al-Maarij.).
After mentioning these five characteristics, regularity in prayers is once again commended.
The quotation from Surah Al-Maarij is similar to the one from Surah al-Muaminun. It shows that prayer is like a fortress which protects and preserves other good deeds. To guard one's prayer helps guard one's other virtues. The Prophet Peace Be Upon Him said in a similar way:
"Prayer is the pillar of the religion" (Al-Baihaqi)
Allah's Messenger Peace Be Upon Him also said:
"The first thing about which a mans is going to be questioned on the Day of Judgment is prayer. If it is found to be sound all his other reactions will be sound as well. If his prayer is not sound all his remaining actions would be spoiled." (Al-Tabarani)
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 Shaitan (Satan) is the most bitter 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 Rakaa or four. This is how Shaitan steals the prayer.
The Prophet Peace Be Upon Him once said that only a tiny portion of the prayer, maybe as little as a tenth or an eighth, is accepted by Allah. The rest is lost because of the whisperings of Shaitan.
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."
Surah Al-Maun also makes a reference to lifeless prayers:
"So woe unto those performers of prayers (hypocrites), who delay their Salat (prayer) from its stated fixed time, " (107:4,5)
A worshipper is neglectful of his prayers either when he delays the prayer to the last possible minute, or when he does not concentrate fully on what he is doing and saying.
Allah's Messenger Peace Be Upon Him was once sitting in the mosque at Al-Madinah when a bedouin entered and began to pray. He prayed so quickly, that when he had finished, the Prophet Peace Be Upon Him asked him to repeat the prayer. His second attempt was just as hurried, so the Prophet Peace Be Upon Him asked him to repeat it again. After a third hurried prayer, the bedouin said: "O Messenger of Allah. I cannot pray better than this." The Prophet Peace Be Upon Him then showed the man how to pray. He instructed him to recite Surah Al-Fatiha while in the standing position, then to say Tasbih in the Ruku position, to stand upright saying Rabbana lakal hamd, to go down with Sajdah and recite Tasbih, and to sit between the two Sajdah and recite a Du'a. The Prophet Peace Be Upon Him advised the bedouin to do this in each Rakaa. (Musnad Ahmad)
Allah's Messenger Peace Be Upon Him used to spend a lot of time on each prayer, so that each movement of the prayer could be offered slowly and properly. He once said: "A man's lengthy prayer and short sermon shows that he has a good understanding of the religion." (Muslim, Abu Dawood)
This refers to the Friday Khutbah which should not be too long while the prayer should be lengthy.
PRAYER AS A WEAPON
Allah Almighty says in the Quran:
"O you who believer! Seek help in patience and Salat (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. A hasty response or an unwise remark will only cause more problems. Allah's Messenger Peace Be Upon Him used to look for solace in prayer whenever he experienced difficulties. In prayer one seeks help from Allah, and who can be a better helper than Allah?
The Prophet Peace Be Upon Him used to say to Bilal:
"O Bilal! Provide us with rest with prayer."
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 is the primary objective of prayer. The Quran 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, the it is even more necessary in today's hectic world. On the one hand, education and work keep people occupied constantly. And when it is time to relax. Shaitan (Satan) has found many new channels to operate through, such as television, the cinema and videos. 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 modern 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 Quran:
"...Verily, As-salat (the prayer) prevents from Al-Fahsha (i.e. great sins of every kind, unlawful sexual intercourse etc. ) and al-Munkar (i.e. disbelief, polytheism, and every kind of evil wicked deed etc.)..." (29:45)
The following incident will help understand this point:
In the time of Allah's Messenger Peace Be Upon Him lived a man who drank alcohol, gambled and committed thefts habitually.. He came to the Prophet Peace Be Upon Him and asked for some advice which would help improve his character. The Prophet's advice was simple; "don't tell any lies." The man then left, after having been told to report back the next day. he was feeling very pleased, as the instructions given to him seemed very easy to obey. At home the man poured himself his usual glass of wine. As he lifted the glass to his lips, he suddenly remembered that he had to report back to the Prophet Peace Be Upon Him the next day. he would be asked about that day's activities, and if he admitted in front of all the Companions that he had been drinking, it would be terribly embarrassing for him.
If, however, he did not admit to having drunk wine, it would be a lie. So he put the wine away. The same thing happened when he was about to start gambling and go on his robbing expedition. And once this man had taken the first positive step towards fighting his evil habits, he was able to reform very quickly.
Prayer can have a very similar effect. If a person remembers five times a day that he will stand on his prayer-mat and address his Lord, it will prevent him from committing the sins that Shaitan has been encouraging him to do.
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 that can a weak body.
"Allah the Almighty has said: 'O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me, and hope in Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds in the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I shall forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with an earthful of sins and were you then to face Me, without having associated anything with Me, I shall grant you an earthful of pardon.SUBHANALLAH