The Arabic word salaat (commonly translated prayer) literally means supplication. It is the connection a Muslim establishes with his Lord and Creator and comprises the loftiest manifestations of total submissiveness to Allah, turning to Him and seeking His assistance and support. When a Muslim stands in prayer before his Lord, invokes and remembers Him, his mind becomes serene. He realises his true and deep sense of nothingness, the worthlessness and transitory nature of this life, and recognises the greatness of his Lord and the immense mercy He has shown him. This prayer then prompts him to adhere to the principles of the divine law and to shun injustice, indecency and wrongdoing, as the Qur’an states, “The prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds.” (Soorat Al-‛Ankaboot,29:45)
Position and Virtues of Salaat in Islam
The prayer (salaat) is undeniably the greatest and most exalted act of worship. It is an act of worship which engages not only the body but also the heart, the mind and the tongue. Its immeasurable significance can be perceived in a number of aspects including the following:
It Occupies theLoftiest Position in Islam
- It is the second pillar of Islam, as the prophet ﷺ said, “Islam has been built on five [pillars]: Testifying that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, performing the prayers, paying the zakaat, making the pilgrimage to the House, and fasting in Ramadaan.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree: 8; Saheeh Muslim: 16) These pillars are the foundations upon which Islam is firmly established, and a pillar is a post that is used to support a building, without which it will certainly collapse.
- Textual evidence from the Qur’an and the Prophet’s traditions considers performance of the prayer to be the act which distinguishes Muslims from non-Muslims. The prophet ﷺ said, “What makes a person become an unbeliever or a polytheist is his abandonment of the prayer.” (SaheehAl-Bukhaaree: 8; Saheeh Muslim: 16) He also said, “The criterion between us and the polytheists is performance of the prayer. Thus, whoever abandons it is an unbeliever.” (Sunan At-Tirmidhee: 2621; Sunan An-Nasaa’ee: 463)
- Allah ﷻ commands the believers to perform it under all circumstances—whether travelling or residing, in times of war and peace, and whether one is sick or in good health, according to their ability. The Qur’an says, “Strictly observe the prayers.” (Soorat Al-baqarah, 2:238). Almighty Allah describes His faithful servants as those “who consistently observe the prayers.” (Soorat Al-Mu’minoon, 23:9)
It Has Numerous Virtues
Allah ﷻ commands the believers to observe the prayers under all circumstances, even in times of war and disasters. .
Textual evidence from the Qur’an and the Prophet’s traditions attest to the numerous virtues of the prayer. The following are some of them:
- It wipes off the minor sins, as the prophet ﷺ said, “The five daily prayers and the Friday prayer to the next Friday prayer wipe off whatever minor sins may be committed in between, so long as the major sins are avoided.”(Saheeh Muslim: 233; Sunan At-Tirmidhee: 214)
- It is a light that enlightens a Muslim’s life, guides him to all that is good and keeps him away from evil, as the Qur’an states, “The prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds.”(Soorat Al-‛Ankaboot, 29:45) The prophet ﷺ also said, “The prayer is a light.” (Saheeh Muslim: 223)
- It will be the first act people will be questioned about on the Day of Judgement: If it is accepted, the rest of their acts will be accepted; if, however, it is not accepted, none of the other acts will be accepted, as the prophet ﷺ said, “The first act that the servant of Allah will be accountable for on the Day of Judgement will be his prayers. If they are good, the rest of his acts will be good. But if they are bad, the rest of his acts will be bad.” (At-Tabaraanee’s Al-Mu‛jam Al-Awsat: 1859)
For Whom Is It Obligatory?
It is obligatoryfor every adult, sane and responsible Muslim, male or female to offer the prayer. However, menstruating women or women in their post-natal bleeding are exempt from offering the prayers and are not required to make up for the prayers they have missed after their bleeding ceases and they have purified themselves
Maturity or puberty can be determined by the following indicators:
- Turning fifteen
- Appearance of pubic hair
- Seminal discharge while sleeping or when awake
- Menstruation and conception (for women)