The Islamic prayers are like a contract. As a Muslim, I have made an agreement with my Lord that I will uphold and maintain the 5 pillars of Islam. After testifying to Allah’s monotheistic qualities, I must also pray five times a day.
No matter what I’m doing. I could be working, playing with my children, eating, sleeping, or watching TV. Everyday, for the rest of my life, five times a day, I must stop whatever it is I’m doing and perform the obligatory Islamic prayers known as Salah.
And you know what? I love it. I am so grateful that Allah has given me the chance to worship Him and praise Him and ask Him for whatever my heart desires.
I am so happy that He has given me the perfect method of one on one communication. And I’m also happy that He requires me to keep in touch at least five times a day.
The Different Prayers in Islam
First, let’s distinguish the different types of prayer in Islam. There is an informal prayer and a formal prayer.
Without getting too technical, the informal prayer is simply asking or calling out to Allah for whatever reason. This is generally called dua.
There are no special rules or format to making a dua. A person can make a dua before a job interview, or before a test. One can also make dua asking Allah for health, wealth, sustenance, ease, or whatever else one may need.
But the formal Islamic prayers are much different. The Salah, as they are known, must be made in a specific fashion and according to certain rules. There are also definitive times during the day that the Salah must be made. And there are times when the Salah should not be made. It is these formal Muslim prayers, the Salah, which a Muslim must perform five times a day.
The Benefits of the Islamic Prayer
I know some people, especially those unfamiliar with Islam, might think that praying five times a day would be a hassle. While I can understand such feelings, that is not how most Muslims feel. Most Muslims do not think of the Salah as a burden or a chore.
In fact, the Salah has many benefits. And after experiencing those benefits, most of us accept the Muslim prayers as a part of our lives and something that we just couldn’t do without.
For me, the best thing about making Salah five times a day is that it keeps me focused. My mind is always on the next prayer. I plan my day around accommodating the five daily Islamic prayers. I do not go to sleep at night without having made all five Salah. What does this mean? This means that my mind is always focused on the Creator. I plan my day around worshiping Allah. I do not go to sleep without ensuring that I have fulfilled my obligation to God.
Think about it. For those who do not pray five times a day, what is their day like? What are their lives about? Chances are, their lives are only about working, eating, and surviving another day just to start all over again. That doesn’t make them much different from a cow or chicken.
Details of the Islamic Prayer
I really don’t want to get into too much detail about how the Salah is performed. There are many good children’s books and grownup books about Salah, as well as videos and CD’s out there that can do a much better job than I can. However, I do want to explain some of the basics of the prayer in Islam.
As I’ve already mentioned, the Salah is direct communication between man and God. However, when coming before Allah, we must come correct. Therefore, a person must first be clean. A Muslim must perform ablution; in Arabic this is called wudu. Wudu is a type of ritual washing.
Also, a Muslim cannot just pray in any old fashion. First, we have to face towards the Kaaba in Mecca. We also must have the correct intentions, meaning we are clear in our purpose for establishing that particular prayer. And finally, the prayer must be done in the same manner as taught by Prophet Mohammad, may Allah be pleased with him.
The Times of Salah
The five daily Islamic prayers must also be made during specific times of the day. These times are:
- Fajr – From the onset of dawn until sunrise
- Zuhr – From just after noontime until mid-afternoon
- Asr – From mid-afternoon until sunset
- Maghrib – From sunset until the full darkness of night
- Isha – From beginning of the night until the middle of the night (not midnight)
These five prayers are mandatory for all Muslims. But we are not limited to only praying during these times. Muslims are encouraged to make voluntary Salah throughout the day. These voluntary prayers are sometimes called Naafil or Sunnah prayers.
Islamic Prayers Are Obligatory
Now keep this in mind. The five daily prayers are OBLIGATORY for Muslims. We cannot just abandon the Islamic prayers. The Salah are part of our identity as Muslims.
In fact, Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, has stated:
(The difference) between the believer and the disbeliever is the Salah.
For this reason, many Islamic scholars say that a person who deliberately abandons the Muslim prayers, and never makes them up, is not a Muslim.
For those of you who are Muslim but are negligent on your prayers, take this opportunity to make the change now. You must immediately correct this, and make the Salah a part of your daily routine.
And for those that are not Muslim, I encourage you to find out more about Islam and consider the benefits of the Islamic prayers. You will be amazed at how your life changes when you focus on the Creator as often as Muslims do.