Committing to five appointments a day sounds like a difficult task for anybody. Imagine if every day you had to visit the dentist multiple times, or had to attend a five minute meeting with a work boss, seven days a week. It would seem impossible, and not to mention enormously inconvenient. So how is it that millions of Muslims around the world are not only consistent and committed, but even enjoy taking time out five times a day, every day, to attend an appointment with their Lord?
Well, the answer is quite simply, because we need to. Just like we don’t question taking time out to eat multiple times a day, our souls are hungry for prayer just like our bodies are hungry for food, even if we don’t always realise it.
“Truly it is in the remembrance of God that hearts find peace.” (Qur’an 13: 28)
A Spiritual Cleanse
How many times does the average person wash their hands in a day? If you wash your hands once in the morning, does that mean you don’t need to wash them again until tomorrow? Of course not – washing our hands is a simple act of common hygiene that most people perform several times between morning and night in order to remove impurities before or after other various tasks in our day-to-day.
Prayer is kind of similar.
The Prophet Muhammad (may the blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) is reported to have said “If a person had a stream outside his door and he bathed in it five times a day, do you think he would have any filth left on him?” The people said, “No filth would remain on him whatsoever.” The Prophet (PBUH) then said, “That is like the five daily prayers: Allah wipes away the sins by them.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
Prayer is a means of cleaning away the spiritual dirt and impurities that gather as we go about our worldly lives. The gossip and distractions we hear, the negative influences we might see or come across, and inevitably the numerous minor sins that gather upon us throughout our day are all cleaned away with each sincere salah.
There are actually numerous examples of how salah can be a means of expiation for our sins, but I will mention just a couple of them:
Firstly, before we pray, we make sure we have wudhu by washing in the prescribed manner. The Prophet (PBUH) is reported to have said, “When the Muslim makes wudhu, when he washes his face, every sin that his eyes have committed is washed away. When he washes his hands, every sin his hand has committed is washed away. When he washes his feet, every sin his feet walked towards is washed away” (Muslim).
Then, during our salah, when we bow in rukoo and sujood, our sins fall away from us. This is described in the hadith in which the Prophet (PBUH) is reported to have said, “When the worshipper stands up in prayer, all his sins are brought and placed upon his head and shoulders, so whenever he bows and prostrates, they fall from him.”
And lastly, after we have finished our salah, for as long as we remain in the same position at which we prayed – for example, sitting on our prayer mat – and maintain our wudhu, the angels continue to pray for us, saying“O Allah forgive him, O Allah have mercy on him.” (Bukhari).
“I will certainly accept their repentance: I am the Ever Relenting, the Most Merciful.” (Qur’an 2: 160)
While salah is a means of cleansing our sins and washing away the impurities of our worldly distractions, consistently praying five times a day is an effective means of keeping focused on our spiritual goals and increases our motivation and ability to resist being tempted towards sin in the first place. Standing before Allah during several appointments throughout the day means that our mind is never too far from the One we hope to please.
“Keep up the prayer: prayer restrains outrageous and unacceptable behaviour.” (Qur’an 29: 45)
Our lives are often so busy, and we may think that prayer gets in the way of our other tasks, but we are forgetting that Allah is in charge of everything we do, and it is only by His permission that we succeed in anything. We are reminded of this when reciting al-Fatihah in every salah when we say “Iyyaaka na’budu wa iyyaaka nasta’een” (You alone we worship and You alone we ask for help).
By standing in salah five times a day, we are able to realign our focus and keep ourselves fixed upon a mindful presence as actively practicing Muslims who are consistent in seeking Allah’s pleasure. At each turning point in our day where our focus might shift from one desire or commitment to another, our salah is there to remind us that regardless of what we are doing, our religion comes first.
“Prosperous are those who purify themselves, remember the name of their Lord, and pray.” (Qur’an 87: 14-15)
Fulfilling & Maintaining Our Purpose
As each of the points above relate, there is one, and only one reason we humans exist: “I created jinn and mankind only to worship Me” (Quran 51: 56)
Allah does not need us, and nor does He need our salah. The five daily prayers are prescribed purely for our benefit, and the best way to understand this concept is to perform them consistently and feel the effects for yourself. Performed sincerely and mindfully, the five daily prayers have an incredible influence on your overall patience, contentment, and inner happiness.
“Truly it is in the remembrance of God that hearts find peace.”(Qur’an 13: 28)
A life with purpose is a contented life, and what better purpose than serving the One Who created us? Our lives are full of temptations and distractions. Earning a living, taking care of family, studying, and generally just living and finding your way through life, are all necessary elements of our existence, but are also often very exhausting and time-consuming.
Many times, we may feel overwhelmed by the demands or responsibilities upon us, and it is easy to feel lazy towards our commitments in religion. However, we begin every salah with the words “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest), which stands to remind us that it is Allah Who has power over everything; He is our Helper, our Sustainer, and as long as we have Him, we have everything we need. However, it also serves to remind us that without Him, nothing has any purpose or meaning. We may be rushing, trying to finish a task or run to another appointment, but with everything running entirely according to Allah’s command, He truly is Greatest, and far superior to any worldly activity.
It is easy to claim that we believe in Allah by our speech, but it is much harder to prove our sincerity in this by our actions. Praying five times a day is not difficult, but it is a commitment. It is perfectly balanced between achievable, and yet challenging enough to prove that if you can commit to this, you are a true believer of Allah.
“God does not wish to place any burden on you; He only wishes to cleanse you and perfect His blessing on you, so that you may be thankful.” (Qur’an 5: 6)