The importance of salat (prayer) in the life of a Muslim

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The scrupulousness which a believer displays towards his religious observance makes his faith apparent. He enthusiastically establishes salat, fasts and performs ritual washing made compulsory by Allah throughout the course of his life. Allah has described sincere Muslims' enthusiasm for religious observances in many verses. One of these reads:

Those who are steadfast in seeking the face of their Lord, and establish salat and give from the provision We have given them, secretly and openly, and stave off evil with good, it is they who will have the ultimate Abode. (Surat ar-Ra'd, 22)

The salat is a religious observance that believers are commanded to perform throughout the course of their lives, the times of which have been stipulated. Human beings are prone to forgetfulness and heedlessness. If they fail to use their will and become caught up in the flow of daily life, they move away from subjects to which they should actually turn their attention and cling to. They forget that Allah enfolds and surrounds them in all ways, that He sees and hears them at every moment, that they will have to account to Allah for all they do; they forget death, the existence of Paradise and Hell, that nothing can happen that is not destined, and that there is something auspicious in everything and every event. By falling into heedlessness they can forget the true purpose of life.

The salat performed five times a day eradicates that forgetfulness and heedlessness, and keeps the believer's will and awareness alive. It ensures that the believer constantly turns to Allah and assists him in living in the light of our Lord's commandments. The believer who stands in the presence of Allah in order to pray establishes a powerful spiritual bond with our Lord. It is revealed in one verse that the salat reminds people of Allah and keeps them from all forms of evil:

Recite what has been revealed to you of the Book and establish salat. Salat precludes indecency and wrongdoing. And remembrance of Allah is greater still. Allah knows what you do. (Surat al-'Ankabut, 45)

Throughout history the prophets have communicated the salat made compulsory by Allah to their respective peoples, and have been role models for all believers by abiding by this observance in the best and most correct manner. Some verses on this subject read:

 - For Prophet Ibrahim (as):

[Ibrahim said:] "My Lord! Make me and my descendants people who establish salat. My Lord! Accept my prayer." (Surah Ibrahim, 40)

- For Prophet Isma'il (as):

Mention Isma'il in the Book. He was true to his promise and was a messenger and a prophet. He used to command his people to do salat and give the alms and he was pleasing to his Lord. (Surah Maryam, 54-55)

- For Prophet Musa (as):

I am Allah. There is no god but Me, so worship Me and establish salat to remember Me. (Surah Ta Ha, 14)

- For Prophet Isa (as):

He said: "I am the servant of Allah, He has given me the Book and made me a prophet. He has made me blessed wherever I am and directed me to do salat and give the alms as long as I live." (Surah Maryam, 30-31)

- Maryam, depicted as a role model for all women, was also commanded to establish salat:

Maryam, obey your Lord and prostrate and bow with those who bow. (Surah al 'Imran, 43)

 At what times has the salat been made obligatory?

In the Qur'an it is revealed that the times of the salat have been set out for believers as a religious observance:

 
When you have finished salat remember Allah standing, sitting and lying on your sides. When you are safe again do salat in the normal way. The salat is prescribed for the believers at specific times. (Surat an-Nisa', 103)
 
The timings of the salat are "dawn," "noon," "afternoon," "evening," and "late evening." The salat timings are clearly set out in several verses of the Qur'an. Some of these verses read:
 
So be steadfast in the face of what they say and glorify your Lord with praise before the rising of the Sun and before its setting. And glorify Him during part of the night and at both ends of the day, so that hopefully you will be pleased. (Surah Ta Ha, 130)
 
So glory be to Allah when you start the night and when you greet the day. Praise be to Him in the heavens and the Earth, in the afternoon and when you reach midday. (Surat ar-Rum, 17-18)
 
Our Prophet (saas) who, by the revelation and inspiration of Allah, best understood and interpreted the Qur'an, described for believers the times of day when the five salat prayers begin and finish. One of the best known hadith in which the timings of the salat are set out is that narrated by Jarir ibn 'Abdullah:
 
The angel Gabriel came to the Messenger of Allah and said to him, "Stand and pray," and they prayed the noon prayer when the sun had passed its meridian. He then came to him for the afternoon prayer and said, "Stand and pray," and they prayed the afternoon prayer while the length of a shadow of something was similar to the length of the object. Then he came at sunset and said, "Stand and pray," and they prayed the sunset prayer when the sun had just disappeared. Then he came at night and said, "Stand and pray," and they prayed the night prayer when the twilight had disappeared. He came again when dawn broke (and they prayed the morning prayer). Then Gabriel came on the next day at noon and said (to the Messenger of Allah), "Stand and pray," and they prayed the noon prayer when the length of the shadow of something was close to the length of the object. Then he came for the afternoon prayer and said, "Stand and pray," and they prayed when the shadow of something was twice as long as the length of the object. Then he came at the same time (as the previous day) for the sunset prayer, without any change. Then he came for the night prayer after half of the night had passed ("or," he said, "one-third of the night"). Then he came when the sky was very yellow and said, "Stand and pray," and they prayed the morning prayer. Then Gabriel said, "Between these times are the times for the prayers."
 
Establishing salat in awe means performing this religious observance in the presence of our Almighty Lord by feeling His might and grandeur, with fear and respect. A believer who wishes to properly fulfill this obligation must take measures against everything that might prevent this awed awareness and display the maximum scrupulousness to ensure the concentration and attention required in salat.
 
The correct performance of these prayers is a great opportunity to remember our Lord, praise Him, and worship Him as one god in the knowledge He is free of all imperfections. Indeed, in one verse Allah commands to do salat in order to remember Him:
 
I am Allah. There is no god but Me, so worship Me and establish salat to remember Me. (Surah Ta Ha, 14)
2007-05-08 15:56:46
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