SALAAH (Part one)

Assalaamualaikum warahmatulahi wbarakatuhu, Alhamdulilah, Rabbana zidna ilmaan.

The following article is part of a series of articles dedicated to one of the most important pillars of the Islamic faith- Salaah (Ritual physical, verbal, and meditative prayer). In this write-up, together with its attachments, we will be discussing and illustrating the purpose and importance of Salaah.

Whether you are male or female

Young or old

Rich or poor

In sickness and in health

Whether you live in a hut, tent, or mansion

Whatever you complexion

No matter your location:

Be it on the green-hued mountains.

Be it on the savannah plains.

Be it on the fertile valleys or the barren deserts.

Come rain, come shine.

From before the sun’s rise to its decline

Even in the still of the night

Whoever you are, wherever you are, however you feel.

Nothing should prevent you from performing the life-enriching Salaah…

Except that you are not a Muslim.

One of life’s great challenges is to make someone understand the importance of something or someone in a manner that will enable them to value, honour and respect it or the person. The greatest teachers and orators in the world were adept at doing this. They humanised and humbled themselves in a manner that created a strong rapport. When it came to their speech and writings, they decorated and illuminated them with truths, practicality, symbolism, simplicity, depth, metaphors and all manner of nuances. An example of this is how Cicero taught the importance of reading by saying in a few simple yet deep words:

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”

In conveying the principle tenets of the Islamic faith, God Almighty selected the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to convey their importance in a manner that would make people value and practice them. Such was the Prophet’s (pbuh) fortitude and excellence in teaching these tenets that to this day, one of the most important fundamentals of the Islamic faith- Salaah, is still held in high regard and practiced identically to how the Prophet (pbuh) did more than 1400 years ago. Few religious rites across the religious spectrum can attest to not succumbing to manipulation, erosion, or extinction due to man’s pride, rebellion, arrogance, desire to compromise or compromise under duress. With good reason, Salaah stands tall and unblemished through the sand storms of time and man.

Such is the importance of Salaah to a Muslim that one can equate it to water.

“As water is vital to life, so is Salaah vital to a Muslim’s faith.”

After taking the Shahada (proclaiming the Oneness of God and acknowledging the prophethood of Muhammad (pbuh), the most important thing to learn and practice is Salaah, Salaah is the essential component of Islam. It is the essential component of Imaan (faith). Numerous times in the Noble Qur’an, God almighty commands us to perform Salaah. Here are a few examples:

“And establish Salaah and give charity and bow with those who bow.” (2:43)

“Oh you who believe, seek help through patience and Salaah. Indeed God is with the patient.” (2:153)

“Maintain with care the obligatory Salaah particularly the middle prayer (Asr) and stand with God devoutly obedient.” (2:238)

Salaah is the primary way a Muslim shows that he/she worships God, obeys God and humbles himself/herself before God Almighty. Salaah is the road that Muslims take to purify themselves not only physically but, more importantly, spiritually. Salaah is the cleansing of the human heart and soul. As we require food and drink to survive, we require Salaah to sustain our hearts and soul. It is the meeting place of the Creator and His servant. It is where we proclaim His greatness and give Him His due glory. Salaah is the means by which we sustain and develop our relationship with God Almighty. It is how we communicate with Him. Salaah is our personal doctor, our therapist, our counsellor, our medicine and our healing. It provides premium facilitation and healing for free. Salaah is regular training that makes us physically healthy, mentally healthy, God-conscious, time conscious, disciplined, aware, and well-balanced.

God, the Wise, already knew the benefits of Salaah. Through His love for us and desire for us to attain our full potential as His vicegerents on this planet, God Almighty gave us Sallah and commanded us to perform it. Obeying the commands of God the Most high only brings others and us good. Salaah establishes a condition where we remember God regularly. Speaking on the benefits of this, the Noble Qur’an says:

“Indeed, in the remembrance of God, do hearts find peace.”

Salaah’s main purpose is to make us remember God, humble us, know God’s attributes and bring us closer to our Creator by acknowledging Him and all His glory. Ultimately, through this process, we become better versions of ourselves. We overcome detrimental addictions, sin less and do more good deeds. In respect to this, the Noble Qur’an says:

Surely Salaah restrains one from indecency and evil.” (29:45)

Closeness to God is multifaceted. Generally, one becomes close to someone if they get to know each other, share experiences, and help each other in a manner that gives birth to mutual benefit and appreciation. The caveat with God Almighty is we need Him and He is not in need of us.

Additionally, God Almighty already knows us. Thus the onus is on us to know Him. We get closer to God if we get to know His ways and make our ways incongruent with His by submitting to His will. Salaah facilitates the process of knowing God Almighty. It allows us to develop our devotion, respect and obedience to God Almighty. It makes us conscious of His many incomparable attributes and inspires us to try to emulate them to a lesser degree but the best of our ability. Every unit of Salaah is blessed with the recital of the opening chapter of the Noble Qur’an- Surah Fatiha. The reading of this chapter reminds us of God’s infinite grace, mercy and Lordship over the entire universe.

Furthermore, we are reminded that it is Him we turn to when we are in need of help. Through the reading of Surah Fatiha in Salaah, we see that we have to be proactive as we ask God to guide us and keep us on the straight path. Changes in posture after its recital and the recital of accompanying verses from the Noble Qur’an allude to this.

One cannot ask for guidance and stay on track if they are not willing to move. The different postures encourage us to be flexible and not static or stagnant. Good deeds, defined by God Almighty, are part of guidance and when we do them, we are moving in the right direction spiritually. In Salaah, we proclaim and acknowledge that God Almighty is the Judge and only Master on the day of Judgement. Salaah reminds us that life on this planet is temporary and we should strive to accrue good deeds and behave righteously. This will be to our benefit and serve us on the day of Judgement when the scales of our deeds are weighed. Through Salaah, we build upon our relationship with the Noble Qur’an. The different postures of Salaah and the recital of verses and chapters from the Noble Qur’an during Salaah will strengthen our faith, result in us gaining knowledge, gaining inspiration, seeking forgiveness, pardoning others, seeking more knowledge, doing good deeds and shunning evil.

Like most other creation, human beings are driven by desires, fear, the anticipation of reward, and the need for recognition. God takes away fear, gives rewards and gives acknowledgment. This requital of our desires and needs cannot be fulfilled beneficially, efficiently, successfully, sustainably and at such a gargantuan scale by anyone other than by the Sustainer and Bounteous- God Almighty. The Noble Qur’an says:

“…He is the Best for reward and the best in the end.” (18:44)

“…The lasting good deeds are the best in the sight of your Lord in terms of reward and best in terms of expectation.” (18:46)

“Those who have believed and performed good deeds and established Salaah and continued giving charity, for them is their reward with their Sustainer (God). Neither do they have any fear, nor will they grieve.” (2:277)

Often, to make Mankind practice a command that is beneficial to not just one person but families and communities, God Almighty attaches several rewards to obeying the command. An example of this is the universal command to honour our parents. Obeying this command results in us gaining rewards such as closeness to our parents, happiness, good meaningful lives and barakah (blessings) in our finances. God is aware of our often impatient nature and desire for the tangible. As such, some of these rewards are often given to us in the dunya (our worldly life). It is important to note that there are rewards in the hereafter (Akhira) and it is part of faith to believe this. Taking into consideration both the Dunya and Akhira, the greatest of all rewards is to gain entry into paradise (Janaat) and reside in the presence of God Almighty, His Prophets and the righteous people.

Few commands have as many rewards attached to their observance as the command to perform Salaah five times a day at its stipulated times. Some of these rewards, for example, the medical benefits of Salaah, were hinted at previously. Elaborating more, one of the most symbolic benefits of Salaah is that it improves our physical balance. Balance is the ability to control the centre of gravity (COG) within the base of support in a given environment. Research has shown that preparing for Salaah (intention and Wuthu), performing Salaah and partaking in some of its meditative portions stimulate the visual, vestibular and somatosensory systems, which provide the sensory information that influences human balance. Medical studies published by The Journal of Physical Therapy Science have shown this to be true. Salaah does not only serve to improve our balance in the physical world, as it also catalyses our ability to live out well-balanced lives. Other medical rewards that come with performing Salaah include a sense of well-being, increase in will power, stress reduction, reduced hypertension, reduced anxiety, improved muscle strength, improved blood circulation, among others. Performing Salaah makes you mentally, physically and spiritually healthier. A Muslim does not need Yoga because they have something much better and more rewarding in Salaah.

Other benefits include nurturing spousal, brotherly and sisterly bonds. Salaah cements the old adage, “A family that prays together stays together.” When it comes to Salaah, congregational prayer is heavily encouraged. This congregational prayer allows people to be abreast with each other’s well-being and nurture and solidify new and existing friendships within the community. Performing Salaah at the Masjid allows us to act out our deen, for example. We can greet the elderly people when we enter the Masjid. Salaah facilitates the practice of good deeds and good conduct. Speaking on the rewards of performing congregational Salaah, the Prophet (pbuh) said:

“Salaah, in congregation is twenty-seven times more rewarding than Salaah performed individually.” (Sahih Al Bukhari)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) was prolific in detailing the importance and rewards of performing Salaah. In illustrating how five times Salaah cleanses the body, mind and soul, the Prophet (pbuh) said:

“The five Salaah are atonement for the intervening periods. If there was a labourer and there were five rivers between his house and his workplace. When he goes to his workplace, he does whatever work God willed that he should do. Filth and perspiration attach to his body because of his work. On his return, he baths in each of the rivers that he has to pass through. Will, any of the filth and perspiration remain? Similar is the case of Salaah. Each time a person commits sin and supplicates to God Almighty and seeks forgiveness, the sins that he committed before Salaah are forgiven.” (Tabarani)

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) also described the importance of Salaah with regards to the afterlife. Jabir ibn Abdillah (May God be pleased with him) narrates that the Prophet (pbuh) of God said:

“The key to Paradise is Salaah and the key to Salaah is purity.” (Ahmad)

According to Abu Qatadah ibn Rib’l (RA), the Prophet also said:

“God says: ‘I made the five Salaah obligatory to your followers and I took a covenant upon myself that whoever comes to me having upheld them at their appointed times, I shall admit them into paradise. Whoever did not uphold them shall enjoy no such covenant from Me” (Abu Da’ud)

Salaah is an integral part of a Muslim’s deen and covenant with God Almighty. It is vital to perform it as its performance contributes to our salvation. The heart and the backbone propels us to flesh out our lives with righteousness and good deeds. In showing the significance of Salaah, the Prophet (pbuh) further said:

“The first thing that a person will be taken to account for on the day of Resurrection is Salaah. If their Salaah is in order, all of their affairs will be in order. If their Salaah were in disorder, all their other deeds would be in disorder.” (Tabarani)

As Muslims, we are meant to give Salaah the honour and respect it deserves. Some of us give greater importance and are more astute at following other commands within the Islamic covenant, like, for instance, not eating swine flesh. We proudly proclaim, “I am a Muslim. I do not eat pork.” And yet, we sideline the great command that cannot be compromised whatsoever. It would be a tremendous achievement and victory if more of us associated our identity as Muslims to performing Salaah five times a day. May we encourage each other to perform Salaah. May our Sustainer make us of those who establish Salaah. May He do likewise to our progeny. May God help us to engage in His remembrance, in being grateful to Him and in worshiping Him in an excellent manner. Oh, our Sustainer, accept our supplication. Ameen

Assallamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu

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