On the importance and status of the second pillar of Islam: Salah.
What is Salah (Prayer)?
Salah is the first act of worship that was made obligatory by Allah (SWT). It is the second pillar of Islam and the most apparent aspect of Iman (faith). It is an inward and outward expression of our faith in Allah, our fear and love of Allah, our sincerity (Ikhlas), and God-consciousness (Taqwa).
The Prophet (SAW) said to Muadh ibn Jabal (RA): “Shall I not tell you of the peak of the matter, its pillar, and its topmost part?” Muadh said, “Yes, O Messenger of Allah.” He said: “The peak of the matter is Islam; the pillar is prayer, and its topmost part is jihad.” (At-Tirmidhi)
Status of Salah
“Verily, I am Allah! La ilaaha illa Ana (none has the right to be worshipped but I), so worship Me, and perform As-Salah for My remembrance.” (Surah Ta-Ha: 14)
This is indeed a call from Allah (SWT) to which we must respond and an obligation that must be fulfilled. Imam Ibn Qayyim’s saying readily comes to mind: “What a wonderful thing to know Allah! But how can one know Him and not love Him? And how can one love Him and not respond to His call?
Performing Salah is an indication of our belief; it is the distinguishing factor between a Muslim and a disbeliever as said by the Prophet (SAW), “The covenant between us and them is prayer, so if anyone abandons it, he has become a disbeliever.” (Ahmad)
Of the many different types of worship obligated by Allah (SWT), Salah is the first act of worship that we shall be questioned about on the Day of Judgement and if it is accepted, then the rest of our good deeds will be accepted too and if the prayer is not sound, the rest of our deeds would not be accepted. May Allah save us from this – Ameen.
Importance and benefits
Just like abstaining from food and drink leads to hunger and thirst and eventual death of the physical being, leaving the Salah leads to spiritual corruption, decay, and eventual death of the soul. The importance of Salah is so great that we are obliged to observe it, no matter what situation or condition we find ourselves in – while traveling or not, while one is safe or in fear, in sickness or in good health.
The importance of Salah cannot be overemphasized. It is the source from which we derive strength. It is a mercy that Allah (SWT) has bestowed on believers, a means of praising Him, glorifying Him, asking for His help, seeking His guidance and forgiveness, and a way of showing gratitude for the blessings Allah has bestowed on us.
- 1. The best of deeds. It is the noblest of deeds. Ibn Mas’ud (RA) reported: I asked the Prophet (SAW), “Which action is best?” He said, “As-Salah at their fixed times.” (Bukhari)
In fact, there is nothing more beloved to Allahthan obligatory acts as proven in the following Hadith Qudsi: “…My servant
does not draw near to Me with anything more beloved to Me than the obligatory duties I have imposed upon him…” (Bukhari)
- 2. Salah purifies. Salah is a form of purification of the soul and a means of wiping away sins. Uthman ibn Affan narrated: “I heard the Prophet (SAW) say: “There is no Muslim person who, when the time for prayer comes, performs wudhu properly, concentrates on his prayer and bows correctly, but the prayer will be an expiation for the sins committed prior to it so long as no major sin has been committed. This is the case until the end of time.” (Muslim)
- 3. Salah protects. It creates an overwhelming awareness of Allah which in turn keeps us away from sins and evil deeds. “Verily, Salah (the prayer) prevents from Al Fahsha (i.e. great sins of every kind, unlawful intercourse) and Al Munkar (i.e. disbelief, polytheism, and every kind of evil wicked deed).” (Surah Ankabut: 45)
- 4. Salah is a means of relieving distress and seeking mercy from Allah “And seek help in patience and prayer…” (Surah Baqarah: 45)
Salah is a means of support and assistance in times of distress and grief. When anything distressed the Prophet (SAW), he would pray. In fact, he used to tell Bilal (RA), ”Give the call for prayer. Bring us relief with it, o Bilal.” (Ahmad)
Many of us are burdened with worries and we often forget to turn to Allah in prayer. What a perfect inspiration Prophet Yaqub (AS) was! When his heart was heavy from the loss of his sons, what did he say? He said, “…I only complain of my grief and sorrow to Allah.” (Surah Yusuf: 86)
- 5. Life lessons. Salah inculcates in us different qualities and characteristics that are essential in life such as patience, humility, cleanliness, punctuality, sincerity, perseverance, and self-discipline, to name a few.
Perfecting Salah according to the Qur’an and Sunnah
“Successful indeed are the believers. Those who offer their Salat (prayers) with all solemnity and full submissiveness…” (Surah Al-Mu’minun: 1-2)
“Indeed, the prayer of one of you is not complete until he makes an excellent ablution as Allah has commanded him to… then he celebrates Allah’s greatness, praises and glorifies Him, then recites the Qur’an as much as is easy for him from what Allah has taught him and allowed him, then says takbeer and makes rukoo’ (and places his hands on his knees) until his joints are at ease
and relaxed.” (Abu Dawood)
Let’s take a good look at our Salah and ask ourselves, does our Salah meet the requirements described in the Qur’an and Sunnah? Do we feel replenished spiritually after each Salah? If the answer is ‘No’, then, the problem is probably the way we view Salah. Our Salah has become a routine ritual characterized by bowings and prostrations that do not reach the heart. We often see Salah as a chore that needs to be done quickly to our own detriment. We are constantly distracted during Salah – thinking about everything and anything, from what to cook to what to wear! SubhanAllah, what a waste of this precious ibadah!
We must start to take more care with our salah, to perform the prayer at the right time, with full attentiveness and humility (Khushoo). All the Pillars of Islam including Salah have rulings, conditions, and mannerisms (ahkam wa adab). It is crucial that we know these rulings and ask questions about the aspects we don’t understand in order to reap the many benefits of the salah.
A Muslim should never be complacent or too pleased with their efforts: our motto should be “strive til you drop.” How excellent is the advice of Mu`adh bin Jabal to his son, when he said: “My son! Pray the prayer of he who is just about to leave and imagine that you might not be able to pray ever again. Know that the believer dies between two good deeds, one that he performed and one that he intended to perform later on.”
Tips on Performing Salah
- Create the right ambiance – Try to find a quiet spot to pray, free of distractions.
- Remember you are before your Lord – Allah, The Almighty, and The Highest.
- Dedicate more time and lengthen your Salah
- Take care of your bowings and prostrations
- Concentrate and reflect on your recitations
- Make supplications in your sujood (prostration)
If your mind wanders, remember the advice of the Prophet (SAW) – Uthman ibn Abi l-‘Aas said: “O Messenger of Allah! The devil comes between me and my prayer and confuses me in my recitation!” So the Messenger of Allah said, “That is a devil called Khinzab, so when you detect him, seek refuge with Allah from him, and spit lightly on your left three times.” He said, “So when I did that, Allahcaused him to go away from me.” (Muslim)
Originally posted on sistersmagazine.com, written by Lateefa Binuyo. Modified for Muslimi.com