Prayer constitutes one pillar of Islam and is considered the foundation of religion. But why do we pray?
Any Muslim who fails to observe his prayers and has no reasonable excuse is committing a grave offense and a heinous sin. This offense is so grave because it is not only against God, which is bad enough, but is also against the very nature of man.
It is an instinct of man to be inclined to adore the great beings, and to aspire to lofty goals. The greatest being and the loftiest goal of all is God. The best way to cultivate in man a sound personality and actualize his aspirations in a mature course of development is the Islamic prayer.
To neglect prayer is to oppress the good qualities in human nature and unjustifiably deny it the right to adore and love, the right to aspire and ascend, and the right to excel in goodness and achieve noble aims. Such oppression and denial constitute a very serious and destructive offense. Here lies the significance and vitality of prayer in the life of man.
It should always be borne in mind that God does not need man’s prayer, because He is free of all needs. He is only interested in our prosperity and well-being in every sense.
When He emphasizes the necessity of prayer and charges us with any duty, He means to help us; because whatever good we do is for our own benefit, and whatever offence we commit is against our own souls. Here, too, man is the center of gravity, and his common interest is the main concern.
Why We Pray
The benefit which man can derive from the Islamic prayer is immeasurable and the blessing of prayer is beyond imagination. This is not just a ‘theory’ or conventional assumption; it is a fascinating fact and a spiritual experience. Here is an explanation of the effectiveness of the Islamic prayer:
1- It strengthens the belief in the existence and goodness of God and transmits this belief into the innermost recesses of man’ s heart.
2- It enlivens this belief and makes it constructive in the practical course of life.
3- It helps man to realize his natural and instinctive aspirations to greatness and high morality, to excellence and virtuous growth.
4- It purifies the heart and develops the mind, cultivates the conscience and comforts the soul.
5- It fosters the good and decent elements in man and suppresses the evil and indecent inclinations.
When we analyze the Islamic prayer and study its unique nature, it will reveal to us that it is not merely a physical motion or a void recital of the Holy Book; the Qur’an. It is a matchless and unprecedented formula of intellectual meditation and spiritual devotion, of moral elevation and physical exercise, all combined.
It is an exclusively Islamic experience where every muscle of the body joins the soul and the mind in the worship and glory of God. It is difficult for anyone to impart in words the full meaning of the Islamic prayer yet it can be said that it is:
1- A lesson in discipline and willpower;
2- A practice in devotion to God and all worthy objectives;
3- A vigilant reminder of God and constant revelation of His Goodness;
4- A seed of spiritual cultivation and moral soundness;
5- A guide to the most upright way of life;
6- A safeguard against indecency and evil, against wrong deviation and stray;
7- A demonstration of true equality, solid unity, and brotherhood;
8- An expression of thankfulness to God and appreciation of Him;
9- A course of inner peace and stability;
10- An abundant source of patience and courage, of hope and confidence
This is the Islamic prayer, and that is what it can do for man. The best testimony to this statement is to experience the prayer and avail oneself of its spiritual joys. Then one will know what it really means.
A Professor and Islamic Lecturer, Syracuse University
The article is an excerpt from a book by the author titled ‘Islam in Focus’.