Islam considers Praying (Salat) five times a day  as one of the most important practical principles. The more times one does something, the more it becomes part of him/her and his/her character; so does prayer. Also, if there were just one prayer a day, people would be more at risk of skipping it by telling themselves: it is only one! Let’s do it tomorrow! But, essentially, why should Muslims perform the daily prayers? Here are some of the answers to this question.
Of the prerequisites of the prayer is the purity of the body from major impurities [i], minor ones [ii], and the purity of clothes and place. These conditions need a state of physical and spiritual cleanliness to stand before God. So, praying five times a day bounds Muslims to take a bath regularly, wash the face and hands at least five times a day.
These are the practices of personal and public hygiene. According to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), the prayers act like a river passes nearby one’s house: “If there was a river at your door and you took a bath in it five times a day, would you notice any dirt on you? That is the parable of the five prayers by which Allah removes sins from one’s soul.”.
Moreover, several narrations recommend wearing perfume and brushing the teeth before ablution (Wudu) and prayers (Salat) [2,3,4]. These and other narrations, emphasize the importance of appearing clean in public and private.
Muslims, all, should pray in the same uniform way, and manner, facing the same direction. No matter what their social position is, where they are on this planet, and what language they speak. This, particularly, means that all human beings are the same before God. Moreover, all the identical acts and words during prayer and positioning towards the same direction, are the practices of promoting solidarity among Muslims, especially when repeated at some times every day.
Praying five times a day at certain intervals is an important tool. Since it allows a Muslim to organize his/her day, be aware of time, practice and take the control over his/her daily life.
Much of what we say in our prayers is actually asking for divine help to be righteous in our decisions and actions. And, God has promised in the Quran to respond to whoever that calls him (40:60). This gives a good feeling. Knowing that a kind, wise and superior power hears us and will help us through the hard moments. He also makes us more confident and determined in our decisions.
Just as we need food to meet our physical needs, Islam teaches us to pray and worship to get the food for our souls. That is inner peace and tranquility.
One of the main objectives of daily prayers (Salat) is to remember God. It also helps to purify ourselves and keep away all the evil thoughts and actions. "Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing ... And Allah knows that which you do." (29:45).
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) said that Satan is afraid of the faithful Muslim who performs the prayers (Salat) in their right times. Once a Muslim forgets to do the prayer at the right time, Satan becomes encouraged to tempt him/her to do great sins .
If we once do wrong to someone, we will be ashamed of him/her, or we do not even dare to face him/her the next time we meet. Prayer has the same effect. It is the confrontation of one's conscience, knowing that nothing can be hidden from God, whether manifested or concealed. Then, it becomes more difficult to commit evil deeds when we have to stand five times a day in front of God who knows every detail about us.
Another purpose of prayer for a Muslim is to remember. At fixed intervals, no matter how busy a Muslim is, he/she might ask himself, “OK, why am I here, what do I do in this world?” Also, prayer helps Muslims to be accountable for their daily actions which greatly change their perceptions of life.
On top of everything, worshiping God is the purpose for which the humankind was created: “And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” (51:56).
Last but not least, what do we usually do to one who has done a favor to us? The answer is: try our best to compensate, or at least to thank him/her even several times. Now, how can we compensate the blessings that God has given us? It is not possible! Then, we pray to thank Him for all the wonderful, beautiful blessings that He has given us. Although we do not deserve many of them.
[i] Can be removed by ritual bathing (Ghusl)
[ii] Can be removed by ablution (Wudu)
- Ibn Babawayh, “Man la yahduruhu al-Faqih”, vol.1, p. 316.
- M. al-Kulaynī, “Al-Kafi”, vol. 5, p. 511.
- M. al-Kulaynī, “Al-Kafi”, vol. 5, p. 515.
- Ibn Babawayh, “Al-Khisal”, p. 481.
- Ibn Babawayh, “Uyun akhbar al-Rida”, ch. 30, T. 21.
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