A Systematic Study of the Holy Qur’an — Fundamental Duties
Prayer is an essential part of all religions. Worship of One who is in charge of everything in the universe is sure to attract His special attention. Prayer indirectly helps in many other ways. It diverts attention from the ennui of routine activities and provides an escape route for worries, at least for the time being. It revitalises brain, so one can start afresh. Imploring God imbues a feeling of immense satisfaction in the mind; one feels as if one has shared one’s worries with One who is Omnipotent. One feels confident that God will surely find a way for Him. Burdens do seem to have lightened; diffidence does appear to have evaporated. This helps mental peace in a big way. Depression and anxiety get a thrashing and are less likely to devastate an individual who pays regular attention to his prayers.
In Islam, prayers assume distinctive character in many ways.
- As stated before, prayers in Islam are directed to none but the Highest Authority in the Universe; no deputy stands between God and man. One therefore feels guaranteed that God has listened to his invocation. This direct relationship with Almighty generates a much greater degree of confidence than an indirect relationship through a devata, Son or Apostle.
- Prayers in Islam are more frequent and disciplined. At least five times a day a Muslim bows to God, glorifying Him, seeking His forgiveness and imploring his help in all the spheres of life. This means that he has a break from the routine at least five times a day. This not only disciplines his life but also has a much greater relaxing effect on brain than once a day prayer would have. Obviously, anxiety and depression will be far less likely to distract the person. Timings of prayers have been perfectly chosen: before sunrise, immediately afternoon , in the afternoon, after the sunset and in the night. Regular reminders of God’s presence and His injunctions have definite influence on his actions; he is less likely to engage in forbidden practices; the more sincere, attentive and regular he is the more the chances are of his leading a purer life.
- In Islam, prayer is not merely a ritual; it is a physical, mental, spiritual and social exercise. Every prayer is to be preceded by ablution (Wudhu) requiring washing of exposed organs in a specified manner. This involves rinsing of mouth, brushing of teeth, washing of face, hands and forearms, soaking of head and soaking or washing of feet. I had shown in a paper written about 25 years back that Wudhu involves an area of the body that represents about 80 percent area on the sensory map, present in brain. I had also shown that the sequence of the washing of the organs is in accordance with the sequence of the organs on that map. Five times Wudhu is sure to result in a marked reduction in the incidence of a number of diseases of teeth, gums and skin.
- The sequence of different movements in the Muslim prayer is also in accordance with their innervation. Salat, in addition, is a physical exercise of great value. Islamic prayer does not involve a mere sitting or standing, as is often the case in other religions; it is well-organised regime of a number of movements that involve almost all the muscles of the body. A person first stands, then bends on the hip, then stands again, then prostrates putting his hand on the earth, then sits, then prostrates again and then stands erect again, repeating this several times. Sajda is often referred to in medical sciences as Mohemmaden prayer position. In this posture, out of all other postures of the body, cardiac output is known to be maximum, the supply of blood to brain is optimum, breathing is in the best state and blood contains maximum amount of oxygen. Every Salat refurbishes all the important organs ridding them of fatigue. One finds a renewed enthusiasm to work; common problems like body-ache, headache, nervousness, fatigue, lassitude etc are less likely to set in.
- Apart from being a terrific spiritual, physical and mental exercise,Salat is an extraordinary socially beneficial exercise too. In Islam, congregational prayers are preferred to individual prayers. Almost all the mosques conduct congregational prayers regularly five times a day. People gather there to bow before God in the leadership of an Imam. This inculcates discipline, order and brotherhood. People know one another; they wish one another and inquire about their well being; they feel concerned when a regular fellow fails to turn up. Those who are in need of support or assistance often use a mosque as the forum for appeal; more often than not they get a positive response from the worshippers. Furthermore, Salat helps a person to avoid social evils; one gets regular reminder of what is liked or disliked by God. One is least likely to falling victim of alcoholism and gambling; the probability of indulging in unhealthy sexual practices markedly decreases. Salat is expected to have a sobering effect on all individuals; if there are some weaknesses of behaviour and character, these show, in almost all cases, a steady improvement; they are certainly better individuals praying than if they had not been praying at all. Persons are likely to become more honest, righteous and humble once they start to offer prayers; the more regular they get the more improvement they are expected to show in their behaviour. If one does not show distinct improvement in one’s behaviour, it indicates lack of sincerity in the prayer; there are persons who join prayers in order to deceive people; their prayers will be of no avail either in this world or in Hereafter.
Prayer (Salat) in Quran
For such prayers are enjoined on believers at stated times. (4: 103/A)
Guard strictly your (habit of) prayers, especially the Middle Prayer; and stand before God in a devout (frame of mind). (2: 238/A)
And establish regular prayers at the two ends of the day and at the approaches of the night. (11: 114/A)
Purification of body before prayer
O ye who believe! when ye prepare for prayer, wash your faces, and your hands (and arms) to the elbows; Rub your heads (with water); and (wash) your feet to the ankles…(5: 6/A)
If ye are in a state of ceremonial impurity, bathe your whole body…(5: 6/A)
But if ye are ill, or on a journey, or one of you cometh from offices of nature, or ye have been in contact with women, and ye find no water, then take for yourselves clean sand or earth, and rub therewith your faces and hands; God doth not wish to place you in a difficulty, but to make you clean, and to complete his favour to you, that ye may be grateful. (5: 6/A)
O ye who believe! When the call is proclaimed to prayer on Friday (the Day of Assembly), hasten earnestly to the Remembrance of God, and leave off business (and traffic): That is best for you if ye but knew! And when the Prayer is finished, then may ye disperse through the land, and seek of the Bounty of God. (62: 9–10/A)
Importance of prayers
Recite what is sent of the Book by inspiration to thee, and establish regular Prayer: for Prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds; and remembrance of God is the greatest (thing in life) without doubt. And Allah knows the (deeds) that ye do. (29: 45/A)