بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
In this connection it is said
that two rakas [motion of prayer] of prayer are better
than the world and all it contains.
This does not apply to every person.
The person to whom this applies is one
who considers it more serious
to miss two rakas than to lose the world and all it contains,
that is, one for whom it would be harder to miss
those two rakas
than to lose possession of the whole world. (Rumi – Signs of the Unseen)
Before I started to look into Islam, and long before I became Muslim I could never understand the idea of having to plan your day around five daily prayers. It is common for non-Muslims to feel that way, either through a disbelief in God ‘Why would you want to waste your time doing that each day?’ or seeing a fixed static prayer as non-beneficial ‘Why can’t you pray when you want? Why can’t you I pray how I want?’
They are all good questions, and honestly nothing I can say in this post will help you see the true beauty of prayer that is something you have to feel, taste, experience yourself. But what I will try to do is explain why prayer is so important to me and the benefits that come with Islam.
Why do Muslims pray?
The first point and a common misconception; Muslims don’t pray for the benefit of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى, He will not change nor will He benefit in anyway from our prayers. If not a single person prayed to Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى He would still be All-Glorious الماجد. In fact, if everyone insulted and mocked Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى even then, He would still be the Supreme One المتعالي. Rather, prayer is for our benefit. It is to remind us that Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى is the only one who can help us, most importantly it is to create a God-conscious to help us be aware and remember that Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى is the Creator الخالق of all. The Prophet بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم said of Prayer that:
Between a man and unbelief is giving up of ritual prayer.
Allah is All-Knowing العليم and All-Wise الحكيم and Muhammad بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم as his Messenger understood best. Our Prophet بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم understood and taught us that being constantly reminded of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى helps us remember why we are in this life and refocus (if you will) our moral code. Without prayer, without a consciousness of God it is easier to slip into despair and lose ourselves in this life.
Okay, so why pray at set times each day?
This was my second question, and it seems a common question for non-Muslims to ask. There are three main reasons to why we pray at set times in a day. The first is as above, to help create a God consciousness – So I won’t dwell too much on that. The second is (simply) because the Prophet بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم did so, Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى told his Messenger بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم to prayer five times a day for two reasons. It would be easy for us to do so, (which I will expand on in a moment) and it is an adequate number to aid the first reason. The final reason, is to do with community.
The second reason: To make it easy for us.
Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear… (Qur’an 2:286)
Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى tells us repeatedly in the Qur’an and through His messenger بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم that while He may test us, while He may challenge us, nothing He puts in front of us will ever be too much to bear or too hard for us. Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى is a teacher, and as His children he wants to challenge us, to help us develop and learn. The best way to learn is to be stimulated by challenge – but, you do not learn if the challenge is impossible. Teaching a seven year old child division in school for instance , it is good to keep pushing them – even if they might struggle – the teacher knows if they try they can work out the answer. But, if the teacher gave them an equation that would be impossible for a child of that age, say 47896 divided by 561 the child could sit there all day (all year even) and learn nothing from it – It would be a pointless learning experience because nothing could ever be gained from it.
Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى knew five daily prayers would not be too much for us to bear, after all billions of people have done it successfully over the last 1400 years (at least).
The third reason: To help create a community.
The most important part of Islam, is to have a compassion for humanity. Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى has made it very clear in the Qur’an and through the teachings of His Messenger بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم that community, and treating each other in a just, fair manner is above all else. He has shown us, and helped us to create this in numerous different ways. One of the ways in which Allah guides us to creating a community – a brotherhood of mankind – is through prayer.
Five times a day at the same time across the world, Muslims come together to pray. It is a beautiful and simple way of building a communal togetherness. Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى knows us best, and He knows that we are much more likely to help someone who we see five times a day, every day, rather than a complete stranger. It is not only that but, doctors, lawyers, shopkeepers, builders, nurses, people of all kinds of professions, wealth and wisdom come together under the same roof. What better place to be if you are in need of help!
Muhammad بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم makes it clear how important community is to Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى:
Nothing will weigh more heavily in the Balance of the believing slave on the Day of Resurrection than a good attitude towards others. (Tirmithi)
Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى confirms this in the Qur’an:
It is not righteousness that you turn your faces to the East or the West, but truly righteous is he who believes in Allah and the Last Day and the angels and the Book and the Prophets, and spends his money for love of Him, on the kindred and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and those who ask for charity, and for ransoming the captives; and who observes Prayer and pays the Zakat; and those who fulfill their promise when they have made one, and the patient in poverty and afflictions and the steadfast in time of war; it is these who have proved truthful and it is these who are the God-fearing. (Qur’an 2:178)
Community is a wonderful part of Islam, there is no better feeling than coming together as one community striving to help each other. This sense of communal spirit is strengthen even more during Ramadhan and I fully recommend, visiting a mosque during this period to get a sense of true Islamic brotherhood.
Why I love prayer
Our lives are becoming more and more hectic each and everyday. People work harder, longer hours, for less money and this trend doesn’t seem to be getting easier. The working class in the UK are struggling more and more each year (as noted by the rise of food banks). The average working hours in the UK are just under 50 hours a week. We waste so much of our time working jobs only to survive. People a rushed and lives are ever so busy, if you offered anyone a moments break during their working hours, they’d jump at the chance.
Prayer is a wonderful opportunity to step outside of our chaotic lives for a moment. To quietly reflect and take a moment to re-energise. It is a calming and beautiful experience. It is a moment to feel a closeness, a soothing of the heart you cannot experience anywhere else.
This is what Islam can bring to you. Many of us in the UK live a life for the weekend. Repeating the cycle work, work, work, drink the weekend away, work, work and repeat. Is there not more to life? What is the purpose? Islam brings a calmness, a happiness and once you have that nothing can ever change it.
Verily in the remembrance of God do hearts find rest. (Qur’an 13:28)
He it is who sent down peace of reassurance into the hearts of the believers that they might add faith unto their faith. (Qur’an 48:4)