What is the Philosophy behind the Prayer in Islam (Salat)? Part 1

Prayer in Islam (Salat) is the most important practical principle such that no one can be exempted from [i]. Soldiers involved in a war, patients in hospitals, passengers on airplanes or ships, all should perform the prayers (Salat) even with some modifications based on their circumstances. Of course, Islam has placed a lot of emphasis on prayer for some reasons. These reasons are reviewed in this article. 

 


Prayer, A Practical Principle of Islam

 

According to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH): “The prayer is the pillar of religion, and its parable is that of the prop of a tent – when the prop remains upright, the pegs and ropes remain straight and upstanding, but when the prop bends or breaks neither the pegs nor the ropes remain upright” [2]. This statement highlights the importance of the prayer in Islam.

 

The inclination toward goodness and avoiding evils are of the outcomes of practicing the prayers. "Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing ... And Allah knows that which you do" (29:45). In other words, the prayer in Islam is the base, and every other act of a Muslim is influenced by that.  

prayer in islam, practical principles in Islam, Salam Islam


Two Major Roles of the Prayer in Islam


There are two main roles for the prayer in Islam: the spiritual promoter and the permanent reminder. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The prayer of a person is (in reality) a light in his heart, so whoever desires, can illuminate his/her heart (through the prayers)” [3].

 

Doing the prayers every day, one repeatedly remembers God in intervals, renews his\her promise of servitude to God, purifies him\herself and tries to keep away all the evil thoughts and actions [1]. According to Imam Ali (AS), Evil will be jealous of the person who stands up for the prayer because he sees the Mercy of God encompassing that person [4]. Hence, the prayer as a repeated reminder stops from sins and develops Infallibility. 


The Prayer, a Repeated Call


Some discuss that why one should perform the prayers five times a day? Is it to show up every day and remind God that we are there and we are His servants? Of course not! As stated earlier, it is to remind us of God unceasingly and to remember that we are His servants. If one forgets for an instant that He is present everywhere and observes us (“Neither drowsiness befalls Him nor sleep” (2:255)), he\she might be easily at the risk of committing evil deeds. These evil deeds might be harmful to either oneself or even others. So, the prayer has both the individual and social consequences.

prayer in Islam, practical principles in Islam, Salam Islam

  
Real Prayer Brings about Great Accomplishments

 

A real prayer has some prerequisites; cleansing through ablution (Wudu), standing in the presence of God with the whole heart and body, not wearing usurped clothes or not performing the prayer in a usurped place, etc. According to Imam Ali (AS), the prayer will not be accepted if the clothes of a person and where he\she does the prayer are not lawful (Halal) [5]. Moreover, Imam Ali (AS) said that whoever performs the prayer and perceives what he\she is doing and saying, his\her sins will be forgiven once the prayer ends [6]. 

 


All these demonstrate that the attempt for performing a true prayer results in several accomplishments such as respecting the rights of others, purity of the appearance and the inner self, etc. Having fulfilled all these conditions, one could meet the divine requirements and reach the happiness promised through performing a “complete prayer”.   

 


No Substitute for the Prayer in Islam


Some people suppose that they do not need to perform the prayers. They say that serving the human beings who are the creatures of God equals worshipping God. They claim that there is no need to do the prayers as an act of worship. Instead, they try to do good to other humans. To answer, the prayer is a support for the morals and social principles. As stated above, it reminds us of the ethical behavior, the social responsibilities that one has towards others, and prevents from doing wrong to others [1]. Hence, the prayer can never be replaced with any other good deed. 

 

Notes:

[i] The only exception is about women during menstruation. 

References:

[1] Shaikh al-Hur al-Aamili, "Wasail al-Shia", p. 214.

[2] A. al-Hindi, “Kanz al-Ummal”, vol. 7, T. 18973.

[3] Allama Majlisi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 82, p. 207.

[4] H. Harrani, "Tuhaf al-Uqul", p174.

[5] " Makarim al-Akhlaq", p. 300.