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Why Was the Prayer First Prescribed in Heaven?

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) suffered all kinds of hurt and all kinds of tribulations in his life, and in fact, from every aspect, when it comes to emotionally, his father passed away before he was even born, his mother, when he was only 6 years old, and then his grandfather only 3 years after that…

Prophet Muhammad lived the life of an orphan. He had a very rough life in terms of making his financial income.

He had a rough life even as a messenger, in fact his troubles, and tribulation that he faced were only increased when he received revelation. And then he was humiliated, he was tortured…

The only thing that he had which was his name was also dragged through the mud and instead of being the most honest, the trustworthy, he was called sorcerer, liar, poet and all kind of nasty names were being hurled at him.

His place was under economic boycott, and he loses his uncle Abu Talib, who is his source of physical protection, he loses his wife Khadijah, the woman that he first went to when he was first having those experiences with the revelation; she was always his source of comfort.

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And he thought that maybe at least this would open up for the dawah. And he went to Taif where he received the worst experience of his life. He used to tell Aisha that was indeed the worst day in his life.

A Special Gift

And in that context, Allah called the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) up through the heavens to give him a special gift and that was the gift of prayer.

Just as Allah called Moses (peace be upon him) to the valley and spoke directly to him and gave him that gift of speaking directly to him and of enjoying conversation with God, likewise Allah called Prophet Muhammad up and He gave him that beautiful command of prayer as a gift.

And in essence, the reason why He gave it to him in this context was He allowed him to experience all of the bitterness of this world so that he could fully appreciate the sweetness of the prayer.

And so the Prophet received that command of 50 prayers, and likewise as this was the only command that was given in the heavens and not on the earth, as the great scholar Imam Hassan al-Basri said that:

“Prayer is actually the ascension of the believer.”

Meaning if you want to ascend through the heavens the way the Prophet Muhammad did, then you ascend through that prayer. You speak directly to the one who spoke directly to the Prophet and we enjoy our conversations with Him.

The Prescription of Five Prayers

Prophet Muhammad actually met Moses and as he met many other Prophets on that journey.

And when Moses heard that the Prophet Muhammad was given 50 prayers, he said:

“Look, I’ve been through this before, we have similar nations. Your people will not be able to handle this, go back to God and tell Him to lighten it.”

And so it was lightened first to 25 and then to 10, and finally to 5 prayers.

Moses told the Prophet “go back and ask Allah for further reduction, they won’t be able to handle it” and the Prophet felt shy from Allah and then it was said to the Prophet that the nation of Muhammad would still get rewarded of 50 prayers just through those 5 prayers!


In essence, I want you to think about this for a moment. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:

“The coolness of my eyes was placed in my prayer.”

The reason why he says that is because Allah gave it to him as a gift, as an escape from this world so that he could taste that sweetness of that relationship with God.

So whenever anything happened, when anything troubled him, he would always run back to the prayer and he’d always find his comfort:

“Comfort us with it O Bilal.”

And we find that God actually breaks us away from the dunya (this world) at least 5 times a day so that we can also put things in perspective and understand that true happiness and contentment lies in conversing with the Most High, in speaking with Allah and turning back to the creator and ascending through the heavens and having that connection with Allah.

On a final note, I just want you to think about this: the scholars said very beautifully that god prescribed in 5 prayers the reward of 50 prayers, and the original command was 50, can you imagine if our lives were spent every single day we had to pray 50 prayers?

That is the essence to tell us the intent of our life, the reason why we were created. We were created to worship.

We ask Allah to make us amongst His pious worshipers and those who connect to Him through prayer and following the example of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

About Omar Suleiman
Imam Omar Suleiman is the President of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research and a professor of Islamic Studies at Southern Methodist University. He’s also the resident scholar of the Valley Ranch Islamic Center and Co-Chair of Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square, a multi-faith alliance for peace and justice.