By Aiman Reyaz, New Age Islam
22nd October, 2014
“The closest a person is to His Lord is when he is in prostration.”
Immediately after the testimony of faith, Prayer is the second pillar of Islam and that is why whenever somebody came to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to embrace Islam, after giving the testimony, the first thing that he asked others to help him or teach that man was Prayer.
The mention of Prayer in the Quran is quite plentiful and most often it is mentioned in conjunction with Zakat. And it is quite interesting because ‘Zakat’, literally means purification and growth and both Zakat and Prayer involve purification and growth.
When we look at the bulk of the verses of the Quran related to Prayers, almost all of them mentions Prayer in the form of plural- establishing Prayer in a group. Which means that while Prayers, in one sense, is an individual act of worship, in the Quran it is seen also as a collective act of worship? And this has a significant implication.
The Prophet said that the separating line between a believer and a non-believer is neglecting Prayer. He indicated that Prayer is the first thing that the person is held responsible for in the Day of Judgment. He said “If the Prayer is right, the deeds would be accepted”. Many times when people came to ask the Prophet as to which deed is best, he said- Prayers.
When we read the Quran properly we would come to know that Prayers is not actually new. While this applies to all prophets, Prophet Ibrahim is credited with great role in the history of monotheism, even though he was not the first monotheist, and his famous Prayer: O God make me among those who establish regular Prayers and also of my progeny.
The same sense of duty and attitude was upheld by his descendent, Prophet Ismail. The Quran describes him as one who used to enjoin Prayer and charity on his family. Actually when the Quran also speaks about the other sons of Ibrahim, Ishaq and his son Ya’qub, recounting God’s blessing on them. It says that We inspire them to do good deeds and establishment of regular Prayers.
The Quran also speaks about establishing regular Prayers even to non-Prophets and women. The Quran says to Mary, the mother of Jesus, O Mary, be obedient to your Lord and bow down with those who bow down.
Now let us discuss the question of ritualism. Often times we get to hear that Muslims are ritualistic and that their Prayers are a mere form of an exercise etc. There is only an outward show, the critics say. They say that Muslims focus only on the exterior part of the body and not on the interior. But I must add that some Muslims are not ritualistic, but that is not what Islam teaches. There may be rituals, in the Prayers, in the sense of following a certain guidelines but it does not mean ritualism that is obsession with anything.
Why perform Prayer? The Quran says emphatically to remember God at every time and at every moment. It is no Prayer that one goes up and down and does all the bad things. The second reason, as the Quran itself says, to negate ritualism, which is in a way negated by all acts of worship. Prayer indeed restrains the person from committing indecency and wrong. And that is what the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) emphasized that if the Prayer does not restrain the person from indecency, his Prayers are not accepted.
“Without doubt, in the remembrance of God do hearts find satisfaction”.