THE PRAYERS IN ISLAM
The Islamic salat (prayers) is not merely a ritual of standing erect, then kneeling, then prostration of man or a woman before the Creator and Lord with required recitations and supplications. Rather, it is an act of worship, during the course of which the slave becomes overwhelmed by the grandeur and majesty of his Lord Creator. While devoting himself to Allah the worshipper becomes so much absorbed in his worship that he almost forgets his own existence and enters into a state of trance. In this state of spiritual ecstasy, the worshipper forgets the surrounding world and its pleasures. The pleasure of being in the presence of Allah releases him from all other worldy pleasures. Gradually one attains a deeper state of devotion and gets totally engrossed in worship and remembers nothing but Allah.
This is the reason why Islam has accorded so much importance to salat. The prayers are a mirror which truly reflects the oneness and omniscience of Allah, the Almighty. At the same time, through various gestures and movements it also signifies the prophethood of the holy Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). As soon as the worshipper stands before Allah, he finds himself in his imagination, standing in the Holy Ka’ba, replying to the call of His Lord. As soon as he becomes attentive towards Allah cutting himself off completely from his surroundings he enters into a state of fasting. As soon as he prays to Allah seeking His forgiveness for sins committed by him so that his body is purified, he is deemed to have paid the zakat [purification tax] for his body and thus purifies himself. Thus salat is the most inclusive form of worship and represents a commitment and covenant to obey all the commandments of Allah Almighty.
In the scheme of its rituals, the Islamic faith accords the pride of place to prayers. Salat is the pillar of faith. It is the coolness of the eyes of the holy Prophet (ﷺ). It is a gift from Allah Himself which the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) brought back to human beings on earth from his Journey of Ascension [meraj]. It is a medium of approaching and communication with Allah. In the first instance, Allah had prescribed prayers for 50 times. This would have been very hard upon the worshippers. So on intercession of the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), Allah reduced the quantum to five-times a day while maintaining its reward at par with 50 times. (Al- Bukhari and Muslim).
Salat in Arabic means supplication. The holy Quran uses this term in this sense. In the words of Allah:
وَصَلِّ عَلَيْهِمْ إِنَّ صَلاتَكَ سَكَنٌ لَهُمْ وَاللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ (التوبة : 103)
(Translation of meaning)” and pray for them. Lo! thy prayer will bring comfort to them. Allah is Hearer, Knower.” [al-Taubah: 103].
In another place it is proclaimed:
إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَمَلائِكَتَهُ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا صَلُّوا عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمُوا تَسْلِيماً (الأحزاب : 56)
(Translation of meaning) “Lo! Allah and His angels shower blessings on the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). O ye who believe! Ask blessings on him and salute him with a worthy salutation.” (Al-Ahzab: 56).
As a theological term salat refers to repetition of certain utterances and recitations while performing certain gestures according to the prescribed rules. Every salat starts with the chanting of Takbir [Allah-o-Akbar] and ends with a salutation [Assalam-o-alaikum-wa-Rahmatullah].
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