Even in non-Muslim homes, when growing up, many people are taught to pray and this is usually thought to be a way of asking God for what we need or want. Children are often taught to pray before going to sleep and before the main meal of the day. Most people, even atheists, will utter something resembling a prayer in times of danger or disaster.
In Islam, there are two words that describe the concept of prayer.
One is salah which is the set prayers that Muslims perform five times a day. There is a set method of praying that Allah revealed to His last Prophet (peace be upon him).
Prayer in Islam symbolizes submission and surrender to Allah. It also is a moment for remembering and glorifying Him.
This prayer is more of a state than a simple act. When Muslims begin to pray they focus entirely on Allah. They envisage Paradise on their right hand, Hell on their left hand, the angel of death behind them, and Allah in front of them.
In this state of heightened awareness, Muslims recall the greatness of Allah and their whole lives come into context. When they remember Allah’s mercy, they repent for their sins. When they remember that Allah is All-Powerful, any problem seems insignificant and easily overcome.
There are set words that are uttered at the various positions of the prayer, each of which is meaningful. When prostrating to Allah with their forehead on the ground in an act of great humility, the worshipers are very close to Allah and can open their heart and ask for the things they need. Many tears may flow as forgiveness and guidance are sought.
There are specific dua that Prophet Muhammad used to say, and Muslims can say these because their meaning is all-encompassing and following the words and actions of the Prophet is obedience to Allah’s command in the Quran. But Muslims can also glorify and praise Allah with all the beautiful words and meanings they can find.
The Obligatory and Extra Prayer
Muslims can pray salah individually or in congregation. When it comes to the five set prayers, it is preferable for Muslims to pray in a group, with two people being the minimum requirement of a group.
The extra prayers, or Sunnah prayers, are done individually. So Muslims have the chance to enjoy the unity and solidarity of praying in unison behind one leader and also to enjoy and experience their own pace of prayer, taking their time in glorifying and praising Allah and seeking His guidance, forgiveness, and mercy.
Sometimes the imam, or leader of the prayer, will make the congregational prayer short because there may be old people or women with babies in the congregation and he does not want to inconvenience them.
So the others who might like to prolong their prayers can pray the extra prayers after the congregational prayer. Often you will see a person praying and prolonging each movement of the prayer, completely absorbed in worshiping Allah.
A Source of Tranquility
As mentioned previously, prayer symbolizes a state of devotion to Allah. It is a form of worshiping Allah and is also beneficial for the worshiper.
When Muslims pray with concentration and sincerity, they leave all their fears, worries, and insecurities to Allah. Any problem or situation is entrusted to Allah, and this naturally gives the worshipers a sense of peace and calmness. These feelings of tranquility are hard to find in life and therefore become even more precious because of their rarity.
This means that the worshipers enter this state of peace, assurance, and tranquility five times a day. This can help in lowering their stress level and keeping their life in focus.
Also five times a day, Muslims get to pour out their souls to Allah and seek answers to their problems. How could a person ever feel hopeless under these circumstances?
Muslims are aware that any problem or difficulty is a test from Allah and that they must be patient, enduring, and actively engaged in trying to solve the problem while seeking Allah’s help. Worshipers never feel that they are facing difficulties of life alone.
Muslims are sure that if they maintain their prayer, strive to do what is right, and sincerely seek Allah’s pleasure, Allah will be with them every step of the way.
(This article is from Reading Islam’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.)