The excellence of Prayer

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The Prayer is the first pillar of Islam that the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) mentioned after that of uttering the Testimony of Faith, by which one becomes a Muslim. It is a form of worship consisting of specific statements and actions. It begins by pronouncing the words ‘Allahu Akbar’ (Allah is the Greatest), and concludes with the salutation As-Salamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullah (May the peace and mercy of Allah be with you).

The Prayer was the only order that was commanded by Allah directly to His Messenger  may  Allah  exalt  his  mention during his night journey. Allah Says (what means): {Exalted is He who took His slave [i.e. Prophet Muhammad] by night from Al-Masjid Al-Haraam to Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing} [Quran 17: 1] Prayer was also obligatory upon all the prophets, may Allah exalt their mention, and their nations.

Additionally, it was the first act of worship that was made obligatory by Allah on every believer.

The status and virtue of the Prayer:

The Prayer has a great status in Islam; a status which no other act of worship holds. It is the spinal cord of the religion, without which the religion itself cannot be established. The Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) said regarding it: “The head of the matter is Islam, its spinal cord is the prayer, and its highest pinnacle is ‘Jihaad’ in the way of Allah.” [Muslim]

In the Quran, Allah ordains us hundreds of times to establish the Prayer. Allah Says (what means): {…Indeed, prayer has been decreed upon the believers a decree of specified times…} [Quran 4: 103] And (what means): {Establish the Prayer, and give Zakat (poor-due) and bow with those who bow (in worship and obedience).} [Quran 2: 43]

The Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) said: "Islam is built upon five pillars: Bearing witness that none is worthy of worship but Allah and that Prophet Muhammad  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) is His Messenger, establishing the Prayer, paying Zakah, observing Fast in Ramadan and performing Hajj.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

The significance of Prayer is so great that one is ordered to observe it whether traveling or not, in safety or in fear. Allah Says (what means): {Be guardians of your prayers, and of the midmost prayer, and stand up with devotion to Allah. And if you go in fear, then (pray) standing or on horseback. And when you are again in safety, remember Allah, as He has taught you that which (heretofore) you knew not.} [Quran 2: 238-239]

Moreover, it is the first act that the person will be held accountable for on the Day of Recompense. The Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) said: “The first act that the slave will be held accountable for on the Day of Judgment will be the Prayer. If it is good, then the rest of his deeds will be good. And if it is bad, then the rest of his deeds will be bad.” [At-Tabaraani]

The Prayer is the best and most noble of deeds. It is the link between the believer and his Lord. Through the Prayer, the slave communicates with his Lord five times a day. To demonstrate the greatness and virtues of performing prayer, the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) said: “If the time for a prescribed prayer comes, and a Muslim performs ablution properly, (and then offers his prayer) with humbleness and bowing (to Allah), it will be an expiation for his past sins, so long as he has not committed a major sin; and this is applicable to all times.” [Muslim]

The Messenger of Allah  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) beautifully gave a similitude, to the one who performs the Prayer in the prescribed manner and time, by these great words: “The five daily prayers are like a deep river flowing by the door of any of you, in which he bathes five times every day.” [Muslim]

The Prayer is the last thing that the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) reminded his nation with before he  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) died, saying: “Keep your Prayer, keep your prayer and fear Allah regarding what your right hand possesses (i.e. slaves).” [Imam Ahmad]

The impact of praying:

The relationship with Allah is demonstrated and put into practice, as well as improved and increased by the prayer. Therefore, if the prayers are sound and proper, the rest of the deeds will be sound and proper; and if the prayers are not sound and proper, then the rest of the deeds will not be sound and proper.

The spirit of the Prayer should be sincerity, devotion and contemplation. It is meant to strengthen the faith, purify and chasten the soul, qualify the believer for salvation in this life and the Hereafter and to make him shun immorality and evil deeds. Allah Says (what means): {Recite [O Muhammad] what has been revealed to you of the Book and establish the Prayer. Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing, and the remembrance of Allah is greater. And Allah knows that which you do.} [Quran 29: 45]

Moreover, its aim is to generate within the subliminal self of man such spiritual power, light of faith and awareness of Allah as can enable him to strive successfully against all kinds of evils and temptations and remain steadfast at times of trial and adversity. The Prayer is so effective and soothing to the heart that the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) would resort to it whenever anything grieved him  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) and would say to Bilal  may  Allah  be  pleased  with  him: “O Bilal! Comfort our hearts with it (i.e. call Iqamah for Prayer).” [Ahmad]

The overall effect that the properly performed prayers should have upon humans is described by Allah in many verses of the Quran. For example, Allah Says (what means): {Indeed, mankind was created anxious. When evil touches him, impatient, and when good touches him, withholding [of it], except the observers of prayer —those who are constant in their prayer.} [Quran 70: 19-23]

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