Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim.
What is Salaah? It is our is our connection with Allah swt, our daily conversation with Allah swt. Allah swt tells us about the person who is performing their salaah, when they are reciting surah Al- Fatihah for example, we may be thinking that when we recite surah Al- Fatihah, we think we are just saying these ayah and that it’s a one way conversation- but this actually isn’t true. We are told that when we are reciting surah Fatihah, after we recite each verse, Allah swt is actually responding to us. So when we, the servant is reciting for example, when we are praising Allah swt in surah Al- Fatihah by reciting, Alhamdu lillahi rabbi alAAalameen, Allah responds to the ayah saying ‘my servant has praised me’.
So when we are praying, we should realise that it isn’t a one way conversation, and that we are speaking to Allah swt, we are standing in front of Allah swt and that Allah swt is actually responding to us.
Now, when we want to understand the importance of salaah, one of the things we can think about to realise this importance, is by looking at how the commandment of salaah actually came down to the Prophet (saw). The commandment of salaah came during al-’Isrā’ wal-Mi‘rāj. Which was the journey of the Prophet (saw). Here’s a little bit of background on the events that concurred on al-’Isrā’ wal-Mi‘rāj; it was the journey of the Prophet (saw) from Makah first to Jerusalem, to al Quds and then to the heavens to meet Allah swt.
We often learn about this story, as an isolated incident so we probably would not understand the context behind this incident- which is extremely important to learn about. The context of al-’Isrā’ wal-Mi‘rāj is that when it happened, it happened during the hardest times of the Prophet’s (saw) life, which was during the year of sadness. It was in the year of sadness, that the Prophet Muhammad (saw), lost both his wife Khadija (r) and his uncle Abu Talib; they were the two who supported him, so in one year he lost 2 of his greatest supports. At the same time he had the incident in Taif, where he went to Taif and they threw a mount on him, in a humiliating and an insulting way, so it was a very painful time for the Prophet (saw).
It was at that time, Allah swt did this. First, the Prophet (saw) went from Makah to al Quads. What happened in al Quads, was something really special; one of the things we’re told about in Jannah, one of the gifts of Jannah, is being a part of the righteous company, being with your family etc, that’s a big part of Jannah. This is because we as human beings like to be in other peoples company that we love, it is a natural part of us, hence Allah swt gives us this in Jannah. What the Prophet (saw) got in al Quds, is the best company- he was able to pray with all of the Prophets! This was a part of his comfort. Now imagine what that would have been like? All of the prophets in one place praying together and the Prophet (saw) leading the salaah. He was given this gift during the hardest time of his life.
After that, (this is al-Mi‘rāj), he was taken up to the heavens, to Allah swt, it was in this time, this utmost special time, that the commandment of salaah was given. At this point, salaah was not mandatory, but at this time, when he spoke with Allah swt, Allah told him at first that salaah was mandatory for 50 times a day. And when he came down, and spoke with Musa (as), who had experience with bani- Israel, who liked to argue a lot, they were difficult to deal with, so he Musa (as) knew that it would be too difficult for us to pray 50 times a day. Musa (as) therefore told the Prophet (saw) to ask Allah swt to reduce it, because we human beings are not going to do that. So the prophet (saw) kept going back and forth and eventually it was brought down to preforming the salaah 5 times a day, but with the reward of peforming it 50 times a day.
Reflecting on this, what could have been the wisdom behind this? Of course Allah swt knew He would make it 5 times a day. So why begin with 50?
One of the reflections is this; imagine if you prayed 50 times a day? Would you be doing anything else? Basically your entire life would be your salaah. Yet, this is the first commandment Allah swt gave in that way. It’s almost as if to say, this is all you should be doing, this is really all you have been created for.
“We have not created jinn and man except for one purpose that is to worship Allah.”
That is actually why we were created. So praying 50 times a day would be fulfilling our actual purpose of creation, of course this doesn’t mean that the only form of worship is through salaah; we can make our entire life an act of worship, (which you will read about later on inshAllah) as Allah swt Himself did turn it from 50 to 5. So in between those 5, we can all be doing acts of worship, but it depends on what is our focus, what is our intention and how is it we are living our life.
But the question here is, every other commandment given to the Prophet (saw), came down to him, through Jibreel (as), except for one- that is salaah.
For salaah, it’s something so important, that Allah swt brought the Prophet (saw) up to Him and gave him that commandment, at that very special moment. From this, we should be able to see the importance of salaah. The importance salaah should have in our lives. So when you think about this, 50 times a day and how we think of salaah in the wrong way in our lives. The way we think about salaah, is something we do, when we have time. We have our life, our meetings, our education, our parties, so the things we do in our life, then when we have time, or even if we have time, we fit in salaah.
The focus needs to be completely the opposite, our life needs to revolve around salaah and not the other way around. The way we live our life, if we even pray, is that salaah revolves around our life- so we have our life in place, our ‘pillars’ in place, the pillars being a class at this time, a meeting at this time, so all of these dunya things, and then, if I have time, I shall pray.
Salaah is actually the purpose of our creation, that is what needs to be our pillars for each day, the pillars of our existence, the rest of our life is involved in filling in the blanks. We ask Allah swt that ‘the rest’ is actually an extension of our salaah, an extension of our worship. So salaah needs to be that thing which we do not compromise.
There is another reflection we need to realise, in terms of the importance of salaah. There are many sins considered major sins, such as stealing, drinking alcohol, fornication, etc, yet there are no scholars that say, if you steal you are no longer a muslim. There is no scholar who says, if you drink alcohol, you are no longer a muslim. There is no scholar who says, if you commit fornication, you are no longer a muslim. Yet there are scholars who say, if you don’t pray, you are no longer a muslim.
So when we look at the heaviness of salaah, we need to see it in this context,
“the covenant between us and them is the salaah. So if anyone abandons them, he has become a disbeliever”. [Ahmad Tirmidhi]
The Prophet (saw) is stating clearly, that it is salaah that distinguishes us from being a disbeliever.
Sometimes, as we go through our day, say if we’re outside, we’re out shopping, we’re at a gathering, we feel las though we’re too busy and we pray when we get home, or we may combine the prayers when we get home. What we’ve just done, is we’ve put aside our purpose of creation for the sake of a party, for a sale, or for whatever it is…
This is a serious problem.
It means our priorities are completely upside down. It is also a major sin to pray outside of its given time. The salaah has a certain time, as Allah swt tells us in the Qur’an, that it has a certain appointed time and there is a reason for that.
When a doctor prescribes you with medication and instructs you to take it at 12am and then to take it 12 hours later. Meaning you need to take the medication at certain times throughout the day. Suppose you say, ‘no, I’ll take it whenever I feel like it.’ What is going to happen? Firstly, the medication will not work properly. You have to take the medicine at a certain time and the doctor tells you this, because that’s the only way it will be effective. If you don’t do that, not only will it not work, oftentimes, you can hurt yourself. Imagine if you took the 2 doses right next to each other? Now you’ve overdosed. Or, you miss a dose altogether? Now it won’t work. And if it is an antibiotic, you can even become susceptible to antibiotic resistance. So now you’ve hurt yourself, so next time you’re going to have to take a stronger antibiotic, whilst you’ve bred antibiotic bacteria in your body. Because you didn’t follow the prescription as it was given to you.
Allah swt says the salaah is at a fixed appointed time, there is certain reason for that. When we don’t follow the prescription of Allah swt, we’re the ones who suffer, because we never hurt Allah swt by not following His commandments, His commandments are for our sake only. So when we worship Allah, we are only helping ourselves. We are not helping Allah and when we don’t worship Allah, we are not hurting Allah, we’re only hurting ourselves. This is something we should keep in mind.
Now, one of the things when you think about salaah being 5 times a day, salaah being spread out through the day, what are some of the things that happen, if you follow that prescription properly? One, no matter what you’re doing in your life, no matter what you’re doing throughout your day, so you could be at work, or at school, you could be involved in an argument, you could be shopping, whatever it is you’re doing, 5 times a day, you have to pull yourself away from what you’re doing and you have to refocus. Without this, it becomes very easy to become completely consumed with dunya. And this is what happens right? We can become so involved in our dunya related activities, that if we go a long time without praying, it becomes easy to forget about Allah swt. Because you haven’t taken yourself away from the dunya, to refocus. Allah swt gives us a way to remember Him, those 5 opportunities to refocus.
What does that tell you?
Firstly, that human beings are very forgetful. Even the word insaan (mankind) comes from the root word meaning ‘the one who forgets’. It is within our human nature to forget. Why then do we have reminders? Because we are so forgetful.
One of the names of the Qur’an itself is ad- Dhikr, the Reminder. So we need constant reminders of: what are we doing here? Where are we going? What’s is our purpose? So 5 times a day we’re reminding ourselves of what it is we are supposed to be doing.
Salaah is also the first thing we are asked about on the day of Judgement.
The Prophet (saw) said, “The first thing which will be judged amongst a man’s deeds on the day of judgement, is the prayer. If this is in good order, then he will succeed and prosper, and if it is defective, then he will fail and will be a loser.”
Allah swt tells us in the Quran that on the day of judgement the people of paradise are going to ask the people who have entered hellfire a question, “what made you enter hellfire?” the first reasons the dwellers of the hell-fire will give is that “we were not among those who prayed”. Chapter 74, vs 42 and 43.
Now how many of us, are going to be amongst those who will say that “we were not among those who prayed?” Or “we were not amongst those who prayed on time”, or “we were not amongst those who gave salaah any importance in our life”?
Why is it when we’re at work, or in class, or we’re asleep and it’s Fajr time, say we need to use the bathroom; no matter who you are, whether or not you believe in God, whether or not you’re a practicing Muslim, you’re going to get up, to use the bathroom- then you’re going to go back to sleep. So we will wake up to use the bathroom but we won’t wake up to pray.
What we do as human beings, is we put the needs of body, over the needs of our heart and our soul, even though the body is something which is passing away. Our body is not something we are going to keep. Nobody can argue with this fact. That the body will eventually pass away. And what’s going to be left? The soul; yet it is the soul we are neglecting. SubhanAllah, we feed our body, we feed it food. Who starves themselves? We feed our body food, if we did not, we would die. Because we are scared of dying, we are scared of our body dying, but we are not scared of our soul dying. This is something we allow to happen. Even though the soul is the thing which lasts and the body is the thing that goes away. The soul is that which goes away into ‘forever’, either in Jahannam, Audhubillah, or Jannah. Yet the soul is the thing which we neglect.
When you think about the example of having to use the bathroom, it’s a very good example; because you could be in the most important meeting of your career, but if you need to use the bathroom, guess what? You’re going to go. This is the same if you’re taking the most important exam of your school, when you need to use the bathroom, you’re going to go use the bathroom. Why do you do that?
It is not physically necessary for you to go do that, because technically you could wet yourself, as this is physically possible. But, you make a decision. The consequences of getting up and not using the bathroom, far outweigh, whatever consequences there are from telling my professor/ exam invigilator, or telling the people in the meeting, or even waking up. So you are making a conscious decision. Do you see what I mean? Because it isn’t physically necessary to leave the setting, yet you go and use the bathroom. You do that because it would be too mortifying, or too humiliating to not get up and use the bathroom. Yet with salaah, we consider that the consequences of missing salaah, is less important, than the consequences of leaving that meeting, or leaving that shopping spree, or whatever it is you’re doing, or wherever it is you are.
With regards to the purpose and the benefits of salaah, I firstly mentioned the two-way conversation with Allah swt and how salaah connects us to Allah swt. The salaah also has other purposes. Allah swt tells us in the Qur’an, “that salaah prevents/ protects man from shamefulness (fahshaa) and evil deeds (munkar).” When you have the salaah, it’s as though you’re wearing armour, a protective coat. When you take away the salaah, now it become much easier to fall into sin. And fahshaa (shamelessness) becomes easier. Munkar (evil deeds) becomes easier. Because salaah was your protection and you took it off. Taking it off means, either not praying, or not praying on time, abandoning the salaah, therefore not giving the salaah it’s required and proper importance, so now it’s much easier to fall into sin. And you will find this in the situations amongst people…
So, this path to Allah swt, involves struggle, right? You know there can be some people, who might be on the right path and then at one point in their life, they’ve fallen off the path. So somebody was very practicing, and something happened and then they ended up somewhere completely different. These things happen. So the question arises, how does stuff like this happen? What are the steps that lead to something like that? It doesn’t usually happen overnight. It happens in steps, which in actuality, is the way saytaan works. Saytaan works in steps with us. He doesn’t come to you and tell you as a believer, “disbelieve in Allah swt”, for you to respond saying, “Okay”. Because saytaan knows you’re not going to say “okay”. He’s smarter than that. So he works in steps. Where does saytaan want to start?
If you want to get to someone and say you want to shoot that person, but they’re wearing a bullet proof vest. How are you going to get to that person? You have to be able to take off their bullet proof vest first. So the first thing saytaan wants to do, is make us take off our vest. Make us remove the salaah, so now it’s much easier. It’s like open fire.
So the way saytaan can work, if say you’re somebody who’s very strict on your salaah, he won’t come and say “just miss salaah altogether”. But perhaps he’ll say “delay it.” that’s the first step. When I say delay it, I mean even within the time. As salaah has an interval, Dhur salaah for example, can start at say 1pm and can finish at 4pm or so. You can either pray right at the beginning of the time, or at the middle of the time, or at the end of time. Well the first thing saytaan will want to do is encourage you to push it as far as possible, procrastinate your salaah as much as possible. “You don’t need to pray now, you have plenty of time”. We all get that wasawasa, that whisper. Do this ‘thing’ first, and then pray. Procrastinating salaah is the first step. What happens with this, is that you should realise that the benefit and the reward; how much you actually benefit from the salaah; how much khushu’u (concentration) you have in the salaah; how much focus and humility you have in the salaah, is not the same as it is at the beginning of the time, at the middle of the time, or at the end of the time. They’re not the same. You benefit more and can achieve more, when you pray earlier within the time interval.
So the first thing saytaan will do, is get you to push your salaah to the middle first and then to the end; he’ll say “do this thing first, but you’re still going to pray, just do this thing first”. Now all of a sudden, you’re not as focused. Then once you’re there, he’ll say “oh just do this other thing first, why do you have to pray now?” Or if you’re going somewhere, he’ll say “just pray when you get there, you don’t have to pray before you leave”. Etc.
Until eventually, you’re praying, but its right before its end. You’re praying within the time, but it’s in the last few minutes. At this point, salaah is something you’re trying to get rid of. Something you’re just trying to finish. It becomes a task, a burden that you just need to do. Because you pushed your salaah to the end, it’s become a heavy burden you just have to finish, before you actually end up missing it. Khushu’u at this point is out of the window, usually. And as you’re trying to complete it, it isn’t something you’re enjoying, not something you’re wanting to do, just something you’re trying to finish. That was not the point of the salaah, but delaying it, took the meaning of salaah away from it. One of the characteristics of the hypocrites is this, they’re lazy to get up for salaah. Another characteristic, is they leave their salaah till the very end. These are signs of hypocrites, bear in mind, they receive more punishment than even the disbelievers. So delaying the salaah is something we most definitely should want to avoid.
Know for sure, that when you do this, eventually you’ll be praying it outside of its time, as this is what often may happen. You push it all the way to end, until something comes up. Emergencies, they come up right? “oh no, I have to take care of this thing right now”. Then the time is gone. And that’s how saytaan works.
So what you need to do, is rush to the worship of Allah swt. Those that rush to the worship of Allah swt, are not the same as the those who lag behind. Allah swt says, “People who are racing to be in the front, those are the ones who are going to be closest to Allah swt.” So they’re not the same as the ones who lag behind.
What’s interesting is this; when it comes to dunya, we’re all racing. Nobody says “I’m okay with making the minimum amount of money.” We are all trying to maximise the amount of money we’re making. We are all trying to maximise how beautiful we are. We are all trying to maximise how big our house is, how nice our car is, how prestigious our status is, etc.These are the things we compete in.
When it comes to ibadaah however, we are like, “It’s allright, I’ll just be in the bottom of Jannah, it’s okay…” in the journey to the akhirah, we are not looking to race. With our salaah and our ibadah, we are not looking to race.
So what we want to do, is have an attitude of racing and competition, which we should realise is the attitude that will bring us closest to Allah swt. We should understand that even when we pray within the acceptable boundaries of salaah, it’s not the same praying earlier compared to praying later on…
Another benefit of salaah is noted in this hadith…
Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “If there was a river at the door of anyone of you and he took a bath in it five times a day, would you notice any dirt on him?” They said, “Not a trace of dirt would be left.” The Prophet said, “That is the example of the five prayers with which Allah erases evil deeds.”
Source: Sahih Bukahri 505
See, everyone of us are sinning. We are not angels, we are humans that are forgetful and we sin. We need that bath. Can you imagine a person who goes days, weeks, or months without taking a bath? That wouldn’t happen, because we don’t want to smell bad. We don’t want to be dirty. We don’t want physical dirt on us. But when you’re not praying, you are covered in dirt. Because you’re not taking the bath the prophet (saw) said we need to take to remove the dirt of our sins.
One other thing to reflect upon is really interesting. When you think about saytaan, what was it that saytaan did wrong? He didn’t bow down to Adam (as). Saytaan was commanded to prostrate, to make a sajdah. And he refused. Saytaan refused one sajdah, how many sajdahs so we refuse to make? That’s something we should think about.
With prayer, it can become mechanical. Where we are praying, but we don’t even know what we just did. Even in the way that we pray, it’s wrong, because, one time the Prophet (saw) saw a companion praying and when he finished he said, “go back and pray again, for you haven’t prayed.” So he goes back and prays again. Then when he’s finished, the Prophet (saw) tells him the same thing and this happened a couple of times. This is because sometimes people can pray so fast, that it’s as though they’re ‘pecking the ground’, it’s not the proper salaah. When you’re zipping through your salaah and your sajdah isn’t a proper sajdah, it’s like a chicken pecking at the ground. This isn’t proper salaah, because each moment in salaah, is supposed to be a time of stillness. You hold and you’re still, which is a part of khushu’u.
So then the next question comes. We have the salaah in place. But then we struggle with the khushu’u. My body is the only thing praying, my mind isn’t there, my soul isn’t there, it’s just my body. How can we change that? How do we work on this aspect?
See whatever occupies my mind all day, whatever is the most important thing to me, what’s the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about before I sleep, what I stay up at night worrying about, will be the same things I’m thinking about in my salaah. So if that thing that occupies my mind the most all day is Allah swt, that’s what I will be thinking about in my salaah. So sometimes the problem as to why we cannot focus in our salaah, is because we are not focused outside of salaah. We can’t focus on Allah swt in salaah, because we don’t focus on Allah swt outside of salaah. We focus on, our children, our spouses, our cooking, our cleaning, our jobs, our school, our money, our business, our cars, our homes, our phones, our messages, our friends, our siblings, etc, these are the things we are focused on. They are the same things we will be focusing on in our salaah. We need to change our focus outside of salaah, so we can change the focus inside of our salaah.
This is a transcript and/or reference of: Salah: Life’s Forgotten Purpose by Yasmin Mogahed.