Please read the disclaimer before reading the post!
Without further ado, I will begin this series with the importance of Salah.
Salah is one of the central elements of being a (practicing) Muslim and an integral part of Islam. It is the Second pillar out of the Five pillars of Islam, after the Shahadah (Testimony of Faith), along with Saum (Fasting in Ramadan), Zakah (Giving charity) and Hajj (Annual pilgrimage to Mecca). These five are the core of Islamic worship and what defines us as Muslims.
Observing Salah is a daily ritual and forms the framework of every Muslim’s day from the Fajr (Pre-dawn) prayer till the ‘Isha prayer.
The Importance of Salah in Islam.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) called prayer “the pillar of religion.” No fundamental element of Islam has been stressed as much as prayer in the Holy Qur’an. Allah mentions Salah in over 700 verses of the Qur’an and it is also mentioned in countless hadiths mentioned by Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). A few are mentioned below
And when you have completed the prayer, remember Allah standing, sitting, or [lying] on your sides. But when you become secure, re-establish [regular] prayer. Indeed, prayer has been decreed upon the believers a decree of specified times. (Surah An-Nisa 4:103) (1i)
And enjoin prayer upon your family [and people] and be steadfast therein. We ask you not for provision; We provide for you, and the [best] outcome is for [those of] righteousness. (Surah Taha 20:132) (1 ii)
Recite, [O Muhammad], what has been revealed to you of the Book and establish prayer. Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing, and the remembrance of Allah is greater. And Allah knows that which you do. (Surah Al Ankaboot 29:45) (1 iii)
Salah is an obligation upon every adult and sane Muslim, which is performed five times a day. According to Islamic Laws and Jurispudence, there are a some obligations and conditions that are required to be fulfilled by us before we stand to pray.
In the Holy Qur’an, Allah says:
I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship Me. (Surah Adh-Dhariyat 51:56) (2 i)
In Surah Al Baqarah, Allah says:
Maintain with care the [obligatory] prayers and [in particular] the middle prayer and stand before Allah , devoutly obedient. (Surah Al Baqarah 2:238) (2 ii)
Establishing prayers in the form of the daily five or the du’a (supplications), then, is a willful, directed action by the believer, seeking direct, unmediated communication with Allah. Prayers are a responsibility carried out by every Muslim and hence, it depicts the manifestation of Islamic freewill, that even if you are submitting yourself to Allah, the decision to pray lies with every individual. In this way, prayer is a uniquely “human” form of worship.
The Holy Qur’an says:
The seven heavens and the earth and whatever is in them exalt Him. And there is not a thing except that it exalts [ Allah ] by His praise, but you do not understand their [way of] exalting. Indeed, He is ever Forbearing and Forgiving. (Surah Al Isra 17:44) (3)
History of Salaah
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was given the glad tidings of Prophethood when he was forty years old. The very first order he was given by Allah was to pray. There are a number of hadiths which are quite lengthy so the excerpt below is the concise version of the events that occured which is called Isra wal Miraj, or the Night of Ascension. (The hadiths are referenced below, if you’d like to read it yourself)
“It is related that the archangel Jibrīl came to him, and a spring of water gushed out from the rocks in front of them. Jibrīl then showed the Prophet how to perform the ablution that is a prerequisite of the ritual prayer in Islam. Jibrīl then showed the Prophet how to offer the ritual prayer to Allah. The Prophet (PBUH) then went home and showed his wife Khadījā ¯ what the archangel Jibrīl had taught him.
After that, the Messenger of Allah began to pray two cycles (rakahs) of ritual prayer twice a day – once in the morning and once in the evening. From that time forward, the Prophet never went through a day without praying. In the ninth year of the Prophet’s mission, he was taken by the archangel Jibrīl on a miraculous journey by night to Jerusalem and, from there, ascended to the heavens on the Buraq and the Divine Presence.
During this tremendous journey, Allah commanded the Prophet and his followers to observe the ritual-prayer fifty times a day. Returning from the Divine Presence, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) met Prophet Moses who said, “Seek a reduction for your people can not carry it.” The Prophet did so and it was granted. After many such dialogues the command was reduced to observe five prayers, which would be the equivalent of the original command to observe fifty. For this reason, Muslims feel a great debt to the Prophet Moses for this intercession on their behalf.” (Ritual Prayer, Islamic Supreme Council; 4i, 4ii, 4iii)
PS: For a more in-depth reading of the events that occured during that night, I’d suggest you read the following links.
Next week: The Conditions of Salah, and an intro to Taharah.