Prayer in Islam (Salat) is one of the most important practical principles of Islam . It is a physical, mental and spiritual act of worship consisting of prescribed actions and words. Every action in the prayer in Islam (Salat) is meaningful and if you want to know the Philosophy of Prayer in Islam, we will see what each movement in the prayer means and represents.
The prayer in Islam starts with standing. That is to appear in front of God gently and courtly with your whole heart and body; that is how one demonstrates the respect for others. Having the gaze down in Qiyam demonstrates the modesty towards God. It makes one forget about his\her superiority and helps to overcome his\her arrogance . Also, knowing that one should stand five times a day in front of a superior power, who knows every overt and covert act and behavior, will eventually prevent from evil deeds and sins .
We do many things every day, some of which are repetitive and by habit, and we are not even aware of why we are doing them. Prayer in Islam, one of those works, seems to be a physical practice. That is why the prayer must have a Niyyah to prevent the prayer from becoming a daily habit and to help the Muslim to recall the reason behind that. Hence, a prayer without Niyyah will be a set of physical movements, and it won’t be accepted.
Niyyah reminds one that he\she is showing up to demonstrate the submission to the divine orders. Having a pure intention in the prayer teaches to avoid duplicity. It is not necessary to repeat the words of the Niyyah. That is enough to recall it and to consider it throughout the prayer. Indeed, this should be considered during any other act or practice in daily life; firstly, to purify our intentions for God; then, to stick to that intention until the end.
The sayings in the prayer in Islam (Salat) start with Takbir. Takbir means to regard God as great. By saying Takbir, we express our belief that God is great. There exists nothing similar to Him. He cannot be perceived or touched by our physical senses and understanding . Takbir reminds us of the Monotheism (Tawhid) which is the first pillar of Islam .
Bowing (Ruku) is a perfect demonstration of the gratitude and respect that a human being has for God, as a divine source and a higher power. And, this is a unique posture that a Muslim will never have in front of anyone else . In Ruku, every individual, in whatever position and grade, bows to God which consequently reduces the arrogance and pride within him\her. Lady Fatima (AS) said: “God has ordered […] the prayer to purify you from arrogance and pride” .
According to Imam Ali (AS), holding the neck straight during Ruku shows that one believes firmly in Islam such that he\she won’t give up even if he loses his\her life (to have the neck cut) for this belief. Another point in Ruku is that it is a unique posture that only exists in the Islamic ritual and distinguishes the Islamic prayer.
Prostration (Sujood) is exhibiting the maximum humility and dignity for God. Imam Sadiq (AS) describes that one is closest than ever to God in this posture . According to the Quran: “to Allah prostrates whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth of creatures…” (16:49). This means that in that posture, the human being is in harmony with the whole universe and creatures.
Imam Ali (AS) explained that the first Sujood means that God has created us from the earth. Coming up from the first Sujood is the symbol of this worldly life. The second Sujood represents the death and returning to the earth. Finally, rising from the second Sujood symbolizes the afterlife . According to the interpreters of the Quran, this refers to the fact that: “From the earth, We created you, and into it, We will return you, and from it, We will extract you another time” (20:55).
There have been some attempts in the recent years to analyze and justify the physical benefits of performing the prayer. Those discussions might be true, but they are not the whole reason behind this practical principle of Islam. The prayer is a means of worship that engages the body and soul and is beneficial to both. The reasons above are a small part of the philosophy behind the acts of the prayer. One might refer to the advanced references for more details.
- Shaikh al-Hur al-Aamili, "Wasail al-Shia", p. 214.
- J. Maleki Tabrizi, “The Mysteries of the Prayer”, vol. 1, p. 323.
- Ibn Babawayh, "Man la yahduruhu al-Faqih", Book Salat, Chap. 17
- Monotheism Tawhid
- A. Hosseini Khamenei, “The Prayer in Depth”, p. 5.
- M. Majlisi, "Bihar al-Anwar", vol. 29, p. 223.
- Shaykh al-Kulayni, "al-Kafi", vol. 3, p. 324, T. 11.
- Ibn Babawayh, "Man la yahduruhu al-Faqih", vol. 1, p. 311.
Unity between Muslims is considered as a crucial matter in Islam. Thus, the Quran compares discordance and disunity among Muslims to “a pit of the Fire”: "And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided...And you were on the edge of a pit of the Fire, and He saved you from it." (3:103). Looking at the former nations, we find them honored and glorious when they were united, but disgraced and vulnerable when they fell apart . Hajj, as one of the obligatory rituals in Islam, is one of the ways which encourages unity among Muslim nations. Let’s see how.
There is no other ritual, social, or political program in Islam greater than Hajj, where every Muslim from any corner of the world finds the chance to approach others and communicate with them freely.
Besides, it provides the opportunity to strengthen the emotional, social, and religious bonds with other Muslims. Hajj is a social kind of worship that represents the glorious Islamic unity through its numerous participants of various nationalities, skin colors, languages, and sects who are like brothers (49:10). They have left behind the religious conflicts, and follow the same intention, perform the same actions, and wear the same outfit.
In Surah Ma’idah, it is stated that coming together around Ka’aba makes Muslims powerful (5:97). In other words, the aim of Hajj for Muslims is not just performing some physical actions. It is to bring Muslims of different races and origins together to get acquainted, communicate with each other, initiate political, economic and cultural relations, and find themselves closer to each other despite their many differences.
Besides, Islam calls “every” Muslim to Hajj, which means that everyone, regardless of origin and skin color, is invited to the land of Allah. It reminds us of what the Quran says; that there is no superiority except rightfulness and the most righteous, is the noblest in the sight of Allah (49:13). This is an important message, especially for the less powerful Islamic nations, causing them to feel more confident and encouraging them to communicate with other Muslims, which ultimately results in a more united Muslim society.
In a discourse that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) has given during one of his Hajj pilgrimages, he described Muslims as brothers, and like a single hand (a united community) when facing the enemies . Emphasizing brotherhood among Muslims during Hajj shows that this ritual was a good representation of unity. Thus, Muslims are expected to support each other and be close to each other as they are during Hajj.
During Hajj, Muslims can exchange ideas with Muslims of other sects. In the early years of Islam when non-Muslims also went to Mecca for their religious rituals, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) took this opportunity to introduce Islam to them and exchange ideas with them to spread his message and find followers in other cities, too. In Hajj, many misunderstandings and ideological conflicts can be discussed among Muslims, and the real beliefs of different sects about the others can be clarified. Hence, the wrong prejudgments and hostilities can be rectified. According to Imam Sadiq (AS), Hajj is a means to gather all Muslims from east to west to let them get acquainted with each other and achieve consensus .
Through the communications that Muslims have during Hajj, they find out the social achievements and national advances in other Muslim nations and might decide to follow their path. They also learn about the social problems and deficiencies of others and might find solutions by further cooperation. Moreover, they become aware of the real political situations of other Muslim countries, especially the difficulties that sometimes other countries impose on them. For instance, one of the goals of Hajj is to announce the support of Muslims for Palestinians and those oppressed in the world. This helps Muslims to become more united against common enemies of Islam.
To summarize, Hajj is a time that a Muslim finds him/herself in the accompaniment of millions of others who wear as simple as him/her and who repeat the same words as him/her as they move around Ka’aba. This is where “one” is transformed into the totality of ‘people’, establishing the universality of the Islamic community with the goal of approaching Allah.
- Imam Ali (AS), Nahj-ul Balaqa, Infallible 192
- M. B. Majlesi, "Bihar al-Anwar", vol. 21, p. 105.
- Shaikh al-Hur al-Aamili, “Wasa’il al-Shi’a”, vol. 11, p. 14
The word Kaaba means cube in Arabic, and it refers to the square-like building in the holy city of Mecca, which is covered with a silk and cotton veil. It is the most sacred site for Muslims, and millions of people travel to visit that as a pilgrim each year.
Many people think that Kaaba was built at the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) and with the advent of Islam. However, history has a different narration about which we are going to talk in this article.
The first person who built Kaaba was Adam (PBUH), and it was remained unharmed until the great flood at the time of Noah (PBUH) , which caused it to be partially damaged. Afterward, the structure of the Kaaba was reconstructed by prophet Abraham (PBUH) and his son, Ishmael, under the command of Allah. The Quran has narrated this story in this verse:
As Abraham raised the foundations of the House with Ishmael, [they prayed]: 'Our Lord, accept it from us! Indeed, You are the All-hearing, the All-knowing. (2: 127)
The son of prophet Abraham (PBUH), Ishmael (PBUH), and a tribe named Jorohom were the guardians of Kaaba after the demise of prophet Abraham (PBUH). This magnificent building stood upright until that Jarhim tribe, and then a tribe named Amaaleh rebuilt the square-shaped holy place . Years after, one of the predecessors of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) named Qusai Bin Kelab, made a wooden structure to protect the building and neighbored it with another building Called Dar-ol Nadvah, which was the governor's state. Then he asked each Quraysh tribe to locate their houses mirroring one side of the Kaaba, to build a circle around it. Some say that Kaaba was once ruined in flood before the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), but that again is not proven .
When Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) was chosen as the Messenger of Allah, Kaaba was considered a holy place. Some reference books say that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) took part in the reconstruction of the Kaaba after the flood. Also, there was a fight between the Arab clans about where to locate the Black Stone, and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) was chosen as the trustee of all clans to locate the holy stone on the eastern side's edge. (4) Kaaba was filled with idols and statues when Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) left Mecca because of the severe tortures and problems the Arab clans made for him and his followers. Even years before, Kaaba was a place to worship the idols.
When Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) gathered his followers and returned to Mecca, he ruined all those idols with the help of his first follower and friend, Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib (AS). Kaaba became a center of performing Hajj and the Qibla [i] of the Muslims. The Dome of Rocks (Qubbat al-Ṣakhrah ) was the first Qibla of Muslims, but Allah inspired Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) to change it toward the Cubic Kaaba.
Kaaba has been reconstructed many times after the demise of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), but the cubic shape of the building has never been changed. Now, the Saudi Arabian Government is responsible for preserving this sanctuary, though it belongs to all Muslims and all nations. There are many different parts and holy sites around Kaaba, like the Black Stone, the Iraqi corner, the Kiswa, or the black covering, which we are going to discuss in our next articles.
[i] Qibla is the direction to which all Muslims say their prayers.
- Arzaghi, Abu Valid Kaaba News and What happened to that, Vol. 1, P 68.
- Seyyed Hashem Bahrani,Tafsir Al-Burhan Vol. 1 P 301 Hadith 36.
- Rasouli Mahallati, Hashim Analytical History of Islam (2), (1991) Tehran, Iran.
- Guillaume, A. (1955). The Life of Muhammad. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 84–87.