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Prayer is Not Only a Ritual

Prayer is Not Only a Ritual
Prayer is a kind of meditation for Muslims and an opportunity to relax the mind, which is one of the keys to stay productive the whole day.

Being the second pillar of Islam, prayer plays an important role in the life of a true believer. As Allah describes in the Quran, the primarily goal of praying is to create a constant consciousness of God: {Indeed, I am Allah. There is no deity except Me, so worship Me and establish prayer for My remembrance.} (20:14)

As children need the closeness of their parents and feel content when they have a harmonic relationship with them, the same way believers need closeness to their Creator – who described prayer as the best tool for communication.

Furthermore, we learn from the Prophet Muhammad that the status of a person’s actions in the sight of Allah depends on one’s prayer. He (peace be upon him) said:

“The first act that the slave (of Allah) will be accountable for on the Day of Judgment will be prayer. If it is good, then the rest of his acts will be good. And if it is evil, then the rest of his acts will be evil.” (At-Tabarani)

As prayer has such a high value in Islam, it certainly has many benefits for its performer too.

The Spiritual Benefits of Prayer

In recent times among Westerners, (esoteric) spirituality has been gaining more popularity by the various practices of yoga, meditation, and mantras. It is interesting (and heartbreaking) to see how frantically non-Muslims try to build a relationship with “the Universe’s Supreme Power” in order to find their coveted inner peace in this materialistic world while Muslims, who have the true guidance and the best tool to maintain a blooming relationship with the Creator, often show negligence toward prayer and perceive it as rather a burden than a blessing.

Prayer is Nourishment for the Soul

The fact that Ibn Qayyim included the benefits of prayer in his book, Zaad Al-Ma’aad, under the chapter At-Tibb an-Nabawee [1], in which he discusses medicines and nutrition, indicates its significance. While food is the nourishment of the body, prayer is the nourishment of the soul – which is even more important than food. That is because soul is the most essential element of life as it drives the physical body, its feelings, behavior, and volition. [2] Without spirit, the body might move physically, but in reality it is dead; it is unhappy, unsatisfied, and anxious. Even scientist proved that prayer “activates regions of the brain that make us happier and rid negativity.”[3] The Quran also confirms this: {Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest!} (13:28)

However, prayer won’t bring this inner happiness and tranquility, unless it is filled with Khushu’. Khushu is the soul of the prayer; that meditative state one goes into when s/he enters the prayer. The person becomes calm and enjoys the proximate relationship with Allah by moving slowly and pondering on every verse one recites.

Thus, prayer is a kind of meditation for Muslims and an opportunity to relax the mind, which is one of the keys to stay productive the whole day. Even the Prophet Muhammad used to say to the muezzin:

“O Bilal, give us our rest in prayer.”

It Keeps Away the Satan & Harmful Things

Prayer for the believer is like oxygen to the ozone layer; as long as one establishes his or her prayers and strives to stay close to Allah (oxygen), one maintains the protection (ozone layer) which Allah grants to the believer against the whisperings of Satan (UV-radiation). But when one neglects his or her prayers, the protection gradually weakens – just like the ozone layer that thins if it doesn’t get continuous supply of oxygen molecules. The further we are from the temptation of Satan, the happier, peaceful, and sinless life we can live.

{And if an evil whisper from Shaytaan (Satan) tries to turn you away (O Muhammad) (from doing good), then seek refuge in Allaah. Verily, He is the AllHearer, the AllKnower. } (Quran 41:36)

It Causes One to Receive Sustenance

Muslims usually neglect prayer because they feel it’s hard to pray five times a day, especially for one with a busy schedule. However, they forget that by praying, they actually do a favor for themselves, and not for Allah. Allah is free of any need, unlike humans whose all possession and enjoyment in life are provision and blessings from the All-Sustainer, and therefore we depend on Him. The Prophet reminds us:

“…If the whole nation were to gather together to benefit you they would only benefit you with that which Allah had already written [for] you…” (At-Tirmidhi)

Develops a Righteous Character[4]

In Islam, “rituals are the manifestation of righteousness in practical life”.[5] Rituals, if done sincerely with taqwah, or God-consciousness, develop certain moral characteristics that are demonstrated in the daily actions of a true believer. Allah says:

{Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing, and the remembrance of Allah is greater. And Allah knows that which you do.} (29:45)

As an example, prayer motivates us to speak and do good things: {But the ones who believe and do righteous deeds…} (Quran 4:122).

Bowing and prostration during prayer are the symbols of our humbleness and submission to Allah that demolish our pride. The Prophet said:

“The closest that a servant is to his Lord is when he is in prostration.” (Muslim)

This encourages us to deal with others as well in a humble and sincere way.

Prayer teaches us to be patient and trust in the decree of Allah when we face difficult times:

{Seek Allah’s help with patient perseverance and prayer. It is indeed hard except for those who are humble.} (2:45)

Finally, prayer is the best way to thank Allah for all what He blesses us with and to earn His continuous help and provision:

{So remember Me; I will remember you. And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me.} (2:152)

In addition, the more we train ourselves to be grateful to Allah, the more we will appreciate even the little things others do to us.

Other Benefits

Besides spiritual benefits, prayer is a natural source of mild physical exercises. Specialists recommend 30 minutes moderate-intensity training divided into two or three segments of 10 to 15 minutes per day in order to lower the risk for heart attack and stroke.[6] If each prayer of ours is only 6 minutes that equals the recommended 30 minutes.

It’s also interesting to know that “bowing stretches and tones the muscles of the lower back, thighs, legs and calves, and abdomen. Prostration can help maintain the lymph and skeletal systems and the prostrate, bladder and adrenal glands while the placement of the forehead upon the ground causes an increased blood supply to the brain and has been cited as having a good effect upon memory, vision, hearing, concentration, and other cognitive abilities.”[7]

Secondly, prayer sharpens focus. In order to gain khushu in prayer, our eye sight are always set on specific place. While praying, we also visualize that we are not only in our room but actually in front of Allah. This keeps our mind focused and relaxed, thus giving an excellent training to improve our overall ability of concentration.

For notoriously late Muslims, prayer done in its appropriate time can be the solution to get rid of their bad habit. Namely, the specified times of prayers (Quran, 4:103), around which we organize our daily activities, trains us to be “disciplined, precise, and conscious of our duties.”[8]

Finally, non-Muslims tend to criticize, but the fact that Muslims are required to perform the formal prayers in the same language and way has certainly wisdom behind, and that is unity and brotherhood. Prayer is an opportunity to not only meet our Lord, but to meet our brothers and sisters in the mosque, to strengthen neighborliness, and to create new friendships.

In addition, praying together the same way provides the feeling of belongingness, which is a basic human need just like the need for food or shelter. It further improves one’s motivation, health, and happiness.[9]

Hence, it should be clear by now that prayer is much more for the true believer than a simple ritual we perform negligently whenever we wish. Prayer helps establishing a harmonious relationship with our Creator and All-Sustainer, bettering ourselves, and becoming productive and successful members of the ummah.

References:

[1] Richardson, M., 18 Benefits of Prayer by Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah, Retrieved 4 December, 2015, from http://www.bakkah.net/articles/benefits-prayer.htm

[2] Dr. Hamdan, A., Basics of human nature, Islamic Psychology course, Module 5, slide 3, IOU

[3] Faris, M., (2014, May), The healing power of prayer, Retrieved 4 December, 2015, from http://productivemuslim.com/the-healing-power-of-prayer/

[4] Mababaya, N. D., The rationale and benefits of salat, Retrieved 4 December, 2015, from http://www.muslimconverts.com/prayer/prayer-benefits.htm

[5] Philips, B., The best character, module 3, Hadeeth 102 course, IOU

[6] AHA, (2015 August), Recommendations for physical activity in adults, Retrieved 6 December, 2015, from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/PhysicalActivity/FitnessBasics/American-Heart-Association-Recommendations-for-Physical-Activity-in-Adults_UCM_307976_Article.jsp#.VmNx_NLhBdg

[7] Stacey, A., (2013 November), The wisdom behind the postures and phrases of prayer, Retrieved 6 December, 2015, from http://www.islamreligion.com/articles/10272/wisdom-behind-postures-and-phrases-of-prayer-part-1-of-2/

[8] Mababaya, N. D., The rationale and benefits of salat, Retrieved 4 December, 2015, from http://www.muslimconverts.com/prayer/prayer-benefits.htm

 

[9] Hall, K., (2014 Marc), Create a sense of belonging, retrieved 6 December, 2015, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/pieces-mind/201403/create-sense-belonging

 


About Aya Timea

Timea Aya Csányi pursues her BSc. degree in Psychology and Islamic Studies at the Islamic Online University (IOU). She is a freelance writer and editor of the Ask the Counselor section.

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