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.
Fasting (Sawm) in Islam is not a very complicated task- just like many other tasks in this holy religion. However, having a general knowledge of its rules and regulations is essential for all Muslims. Fasting is generally defined as the act of voluntarily preventing oneself from eating and drinking during a particular period in the day – from the time of dawn prayer(Salat al-Fajr) until dusk prayer (Salat al-maghrib). According to the Sharia of Islam, there are seven types of fasting that are obligatory for Muslims to perform ; one of the most important of which is fasting during the month of Ramadan. lets see how to fast.
The process of fasting is quite an easy one; first, you will need to make your intention (Niyyah) clear for your fasting: “I will fast today seeking Allah’s contentment and closeness to him.” Note that you should make your intention- whether in your mind or by saying the actual words- before the time of dawn Prayer (Salat al-Fajr). The next step is to avoid doing certain actions during the time of fasting. Basically, there are nine actions that would void your fast:
Eating and drinking (if you forget you are fasting and ate or drank something unintentionally, your fasting won’t be voided)
Having sexual intercourse
Insulting Allah and his holy prophets
Inhaling thick dust
Immersing your head completely in water
Not having performed the obligatory ablutions before sunrise
Doing enema using liquids
To vomit intentionally 
In certain cases, fasting would lose its obligation. If you are a traveler, you won’t need to fast, if you have become temporarily ill and by fasting your illness would worsen, fasting will be forbidden for you, and if you fast you have committed a sin.
Nevertheless, you will have to fast before the coming of the next Ramadan, instead of the one(s) you have missed. However, if you have a chronic sickness – e.g., diabetes- and according to your doctor’s view fasting is harmful to you forever, instead of fasting you will have to pay a certain amount of money in order to be given to underprivileged people in society called atonement (Kaffareh) .
Muslims celebrate Eid-al-Fitr, Feast of Fast-Breaking, at the end of Ramadan which falls on the first day of the Islamic month of Shawwal. This religious Eid is a single day during which Muslims are not permitted to fast.
Many Muslims attend a particular congregational prayer (Salat al-Jama'ah) to thank the Almighty who enabled them to fast and to remember the needy and the destitute. It is also compulsory for Muslims to pay Zakat al-Fitr (Fitrah) during Eid al-Fitr, preferably before offering the Eid prayers.
Zakatul-Fitr is a mandatory religious tax paid by those who can afford it as a kind of charity at the sunset of Eid al Fitr night (i.e., the night preceding Eid day). Whoever is an adult, sane, neither unconscious, nor poor, nor the slave of another, should give, on his own behalf as well as all those who are his dependents, about three kilos of wheat, barley, dates, raisins, rice or millet, etc. per person. It is also permissible if he pays the price of one of these items in cash. Fitrah should be given to deserving believers whose income is not sufficient to spend on their families for one year .
It is noteworthy that fasting is not a mere act of depriving oneself of foods or drinks; in fact, the most important aspect of fasting is its spiritual impact upon man. It makes human's soul kind, strengthens his determination, and moderates his instincts. Trying to avoid foods and drinks in Ramadan, which are allowed on normal days, fasting helps people keep away from forbidden deeds (Haram) more easily.
Fasting is a special act of worship that is only between humans and God since no one else knows for sure if this person is actually fasting. Imam Ali (AS) explains the philosophy of this act as below:
“Allah ordered the observance of fasts for fostering (the attribute of) sincerity within the people” .
Fasting is also a practice for human beings to be more observant of their actions and to experience, even for a very short period, what poor people go through in their lives. God has obliged humans to fast to convey the message of equality between the rich and the poor; the rich experience the pangs of hunger and thus fulfill their obligations to the destitute.
If the wealthy nations of the world were to fast for just a few days in the year and experience hunger, pain and trouble poor people suffer from, they would probably exhibit mercy upon them, and there would not still exist any hungry people in the world .
The miraculous effect of abstinence (from food) in curing various diseases has been ascertained in modern as well as ancient medicine. Lots of articles have been written on the medical and therapeutic effects of fasting.
In a well-known tradition, the Noble Prophet (PBUH&HP) says:
“Fast, in order that you become healthy.”
It is a fact that the cause of a great number of diseases is extravagance in the consumption of various types of food.
The prophet (PBUH&HP) also says:
“The stomach is the house of all maladies and abstinence (from food) is the best of all cures” .
When we eat or drink, we inevitably enter many toxic substances into our body; consequently, organs should always be working to get rid of these harmful materials. The detoxification process of the body will be considerably accelerated during the time of fasting.
Since our body does not receive any substance externally, the materials that had been stored in the body will be used to produce sufficient energy; thus, the infections and microbes that were accumulated in our body will be released along with those materials and our blood will be purified noticeably. It has been claimed that fasting will balance the hormones in our body and will result in better functioning of our organs  & .
To conclude, the ultimate goal of fasting in Islam is to redirect our attention toward our inner selves. In addition, it serves as a reminder for us of our superiority to other creatures in respect to our power of will, our capacity to choose to fight against evilness and to refuse to be driven by our desires. In consequence, we would finally be prepared to reach the summit of humanity and become the perfect human who is worthy of God’s attention and reward.
May Allah bless you and accept your fasting as well as all your other good deeds.
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