Institution of Prayer in Islam – Part 1
by Abdul Razak
The Light (Pakistan), 8th/24th December 1983 Issue (Jalsa Issue) (Vol. 63, No. 23–24, pp. 45–47)
Extracts from a speech delivered at Bombay on 9th October 1983
Prayer and Self-development:
Prayer is one of the fundamental religious duties recognised by Islam. Prayer is the first duty enjoined on Muslims and is frequency repeated injunction of the Holy Quran. It is the first step for the inward progress of man which helps him to attain highest spiritual ascent (Miraj). Prayer keeps man away from evil and helps him realise the Divine within him and induces him to do selfless service to humanity. Prayer helps us in levelling all differences of rank, colour and nationality and thus creates unity among human beings which is the basis of a living civilisation. According to the Holy Quran, self-development can be achieved by accepting,
- Existence of God,
- His revealing Himself to man, and,
- The Hereafter.
Communion with God is sought through prayers and by spending one’s wealth in the service of humanity. The call to prayer “Come to prayer” is followed by “Come to success”. The Holy Quran says,
“Successful indeed are the believers who are humble in their prayers” (23:1–2).
Belief in God is the fundamental principle of every religion. The object of religion is to realise God as a Living Force in the life of man, and prayer is a means to achieve this great end. The Holy Quran says,
“Seek assistance through patience and prayer, and this is hard except for the humble, who know that they will meet their Lord and to Him is their return” (2:45–46).
The Holy Quran makes it very clear that prayers should lead our lives to the service of humanity or else our prayers are useless:
“Woe unto those who offer prayers unmindful of their prayers, who do good to be seen and refrain from acts of kindness” (107:4–7).
In every age and every nation, there have been men who have realised the greatest Truth of the Divine existence within their hearts through prayers and have laid down their lives for the service of humanity. Prayer brought a complete change in their own lives and enabled them to transform the lives of entire nations. Belief in the existence of God becomes a greatest moral force realised in the heart of man through prayer offered to the Divine Being. The experience of these great personalities is a beacon light for the human beings and induces them to make God a moral force in their lives.
Existence of God:
Rationally, prayer to God is a natural sequel of the acceptance in theory of the belief in the existence of God. The aspiration to rise to moral greatness is deeply implanted in human nature, which can be realised by being in touch with God through prayer. Prayer is the only way to become imbued with Divine morals and to abstain from evils. Prayer to God is a source to drink deep at the fountain of Divine morals. The Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, says:
“Prayer is the confidential intercourse with the Lord.”
He is also reported to have said that one should pray to God as if he is seeing Him. The Holy Quran says,
“He is indeed successful who purifies the soul” (91:9)
“Surely prayer keeps you away from indecency and evil” (29:45).
Prayer is a means of purification of the heart. Prayers are compared by the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, to the washing of oneself in a river, and Allah blots off all the evils of a man who offers prayers. Prayer is a means to suppress the evil tendencies in man. The Quran says,
“The remembrance of Allah is the greatest restraint upon sin” (29:45).
The right development of human faculties, therefore, depends upon the purification of one’s inner self and the suppression of evil tendencies.
Institution of Prayer:
By instituting form of prayer at regular intervals all differences between human beings are brought to nought, and love, concord and true union of humanity are inculcated. All human beings gather together in a house of prayer at the stated times, stand up reverently, bow down, and prostrate shoulder to shoulder in the presence of the Beneficent God. The idea of holding communion with his Creator and realising the Divine within him, is essential for his moral elevation that will be kept alive by the outward form to which all human beings should conform.
There are two types of prayers. Private prayer and public prayer. The development of the inner self is achieved through the private prayer and the mighty force of the unification of humanity through the public prayer. Persons living in the same vicinity gather five times a day in the mosque which helps them to establish healthy social relations. These relations are confined to a narrow circle of neighbourhood and are widened to the Muslims of the locality who gather for Friday prayers and are more widened in the gatherings of Eid prayers. The levelling of social differences is achieved through the congregational prayers. Every Muslim feels the atmosphere of equality and love once he enters the mosque. Even the king, the rich, man and the white man has to stand shoulder to shoulder with a beggar, the poorest in rags and a black. The world has failed to produce such a levelling influence of brotherhood, equality and love as created in the precincts of the mosque, eradicating differences of rank, wealth and colour. This lesson of brotherhood, equality and love serves as the foundation for unifying and civilising the human race. However much Islam may have preached equality and fraternity of man, it would have been a dead letter if it was not put into practice through the five daily congregational prayers.