Almighty Allah Subhanahu Wata’ala tells us in verses 34 and 35 of Surah Al-Ma’arij:
“And those who (strictly) guard their Salaat; such will be the honoured ones in the Garden of Bliss.”
What is Salaat? Salaat is the outpouring of our heart to Almighty Allah Subhanahu Wata’ala – our Glorious Creator and Maker. Words emanating from the innermost recesses of the heart possesses potentialities of producing the most wonderful effects. They do not have the wings of a bird and yet they can soar high to penetrate the Divine Veil. It is only through the performance of regular Salaat that the veil between Almighty Allah and mankind can be uplifted. This drawing of the two is known in Islam as Salaat or Ibadah. True prayer of a Muhmin directs oneself to one single goal and that is to tread the straight Path of Seerathal Mustaqeem.
Why do we have to perform regular Salaat? Man is man because of his soul. Minus a soul, man is no better off than a beast. While the human body is nourished by food, the soul is nourished by spiritual sustenance which comes about through the regular performance of Salaat. The performance of regular Salaat is not necessary because Almighty Allah Azza Wajjal requires it, but because man needs it for his own spiritual perfection. If no Salaat is offered, the soul of man will suffer and not Almighty Allah as the body suffers if no food is given to it. The Most Holy and Glorious Qur’an lays the most important stress upon performing regular Salaat by mentioning it 82 times.
The institution of prayer existed in some or the other in all the religions prior to the advent of Islam. Islam added new meaning to it. The object of prayer in Islam is to worship none other than Almighty Allah Subhanahu Wata’ala. The entire universe is created for the service of mankind – the lord of creation, and man is for the service of his Glorious Creator and Maker. Everything in the world prays. Mountains pray sitting, trees standing, quadrupeds bending and creeping animals prostrating.
Ibadah is therefore the most important means of taking a man nearer to Almighty Allah and nearer to his fellow man. In other words, it teaches a man his duty towards Rahmathul Liel Ala’meen and his duty towards His creation. Had there been no prayer, man would have thought himself absolutely independent and Almighty Allah would not have been a living force. In verse 40 of Surah Ebrahim; Nabee Ebrahim Alayhis Salaam prayed to his Glorious Creator:
“O my Allah! Make me one who establishes regular prayer, and also raise such from my offspring.
“O Allah! And accept Thou my prayer.”
Here the eminent Friend of Allah, whom Allah has called “Khalil” is praying to His Glorious Creator to make him as well as his posterity of those who perform regular Salaat. In answer to Nabee Ebrahim Alayhis Salaam’s prayer, Almighty Allah revealed verse 132 of Surah Ta-Ha to our Beloved Nabee Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam:
(O Muhammad) “Enjoin prayer on thy Ummah, and be constant therein. We do not ask thee to provide sustenance:
“We provide it for thee. But the (fruit of) the Hereafter is for the Righteousness.”
It is reported in a Hadith that Almighty Allah Subhanahu Wata’ala bestows five favours on a person who is mindful in the regular performance of Salaat. His daily bread is made easy for him; he is saved from the punishment of the Qabar; He will receive the record of his deeds in his right hand on the Day of Judgement; he will successfully cross the bridge of Siraat and he shall enter Janna’h. As for the unfortunate soul who neglects his Salaat, he shall meet five types of punishments in this world; three at the time of his death; three in the Qabar and three after Resurrection.
Salaat is the cause of Almighty Allah’s Pleasure, is loved by the Mala’eeka, Salaat is a tradition of the Ambiya Alayhim Salaam, Salaat gives enlightenment about our Glorious Creator, Salaat is the root of Imaan, Salaat is the light in the darkness and is a loving and constant companion in the loneliness of the Qabar, Salaat is a shade against the devastating sun on the Day of Judgement, Salaat is a protection against the fire of Jahannum, and Salaat is a weight for the scales of goods deeds and is a key to Paradise.
Hazrat Usman Radhiallaho Anho is reported to have said: Almighty Allah bestows nine blessings on a person who guards his/her Salaat and is particular in performing it at its appointed times. Such persons are are loved by Allah; they are blessed with good health and constantly under the protection of the Mala’eeka; their homes are blessed with Baraka’h and happiness; the light of righteousness shines on their faces; their hearts are softened and they shall successfully cross the bridge of Sirat; their neighbours in Jannah are those of whom Almighty Allah has mentioned in the Most Holy and Glorious Qur’an in the following words:
“There shall no fear come upon them, neither shall they grieve.”
It is said that of all the places on this earth, the Masaajids are the dearest to Almighty Allah and are called the Gardens of Paradise. Our Beloved Nabee Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam said:
“Bear testimony to the Imaan of the person frequenting the Masjid.”
To offer Salaat with Jamaat is a mighty force in the unification of the human race. It unites people in a common place at fixed times five times a day with a bell of unity, equality, Muhabbat and brotherhood. The Ummah lay their heads together in the Masjid on a footing of total equality on the questions concerning the welfare of the Muslim community. Pertaining to the performance of Salaat with Jammat I quote the following Hadith: Hazrat Abdullah bin Umar Radhiallaho Anho narrates that he heard our Beloved Nabee Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam saying:
“Performing Salaat with Jamaat is twenty-seven times superior to Salaat performed individually.”
Nobody in his right mind will be so unwise as to forego a profit twenty-seven times greater with a little more effort. But we are so indifferent about the profits promised for our religious practices. This can be due to nothing but our total disregard for Almighty Allah’s Deen and the rewards. Gathering in the Masjid yields many benefits. It is here where we meet one another; it is here where we recognize and come to know each other; it is here where we come together as slaves of Almighty Allah and as the favoured Ummah of His Beloved Nabee Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam and as believers in the miracle of the Most Holy and Glorious Qur’an.
We stand shoulder to shoulder in rows. No one is higher or lower in status than his neighbour. In the Divine Court, in the presence of our Glorious Creator, we all belong to one family, we all have the very same status. We are all His obedient slaves and we all believe in His Deen. All ethnic, linguistic and tribal prejudices are destroyed. Divisions on family or national lines have no basis. The only difference that I personally find amongst the Muslims is that we come from different countries, we come in different shapes and sizes and we speak many different languages.
Yet, when we congregate with one another in Jamaat, we all offer our Ibadah to our Glorious Creator in the language of the Most Holy and Glorious Qur’an, the language of Jannah, the language of the Mala’eeka, the language of the Qabar and the language of the Akhirah. What binds us together is that we all serve and worship Almighty Allah Subhanahu Wata’ala. When we are one in Salaat, why then are we divided about other things?
In the performance of Salaat in Jamaat, we become one in the service of Rahmathul Liel Ala’meen. We move in such a manner that we all raise our hands together and move our feet together as if we not ten, twenty, one hundred or one thousand people, but that we have become one single person. In fact, if we want to live as the most favoured Ummah then it is of paramount importance that we live as we pray – united and organized,
As Muslims, we unite in Jamaat to glorify and to pray to Rahmathul Liel Ala’meen for the well-being of all. None of us is an island unto ourselves. We see and we meet one another as brothers.
Salaat performed regularly in Jamaat instills in us compassion and Muhabbat towards each other where those who are well off will help the less fortunate and the needy. Salaat in Jamaat strengthens the spirit of mutual affection and will multiply manifold if we counsel each other with sympathy, love and understanding. In so doing, the whole community will grow together in virtue and piety. This is how Almighty Allah Subhanahu Wata’ala wants us to live, both inside and outside the Masjid. Such acquaintance, such unity, and such attachment automatically leaven and quicken in us the feeling that we are indeed one single united Ummah, one community and Mujahids of the same army, brothers unto each other.
Regular performance of Salaat in Jamaat is a practice, it is a programme, that begins to make us aware, that makes us conscious of Almighty Allah; it makes us fear Allah, and that brings about within us a most wonderful spiritual transformation. It is the beginning of a revolution within us which expands to aspects of our realities. To be able to use the intellect to accomplish Almighty Allah’s Will is the primary goal of growing intellectually.
It is very easy to rationalize laziness, to make excuses for deliberately missing Salaat, or for not getting up in time for Fajr. That my dear brothers, is the starting point of the sincere Muslim, the first struggle he must undertake. The intellect must be trained to obey Almighty Allah’s Command and to fear disobedience. That is the way he will be able to bring about the balance that is necessary to attain success. At the same time, the thing that Almighty Allah has commanded upon us to establish the Salaat at both ends of the day. Our Beloved Nabee Sallallahoo Alayhi Wasallam said that Salaat distinguishes belief from unbelief. He is also reported to have said:
“If men knew the great blessings, the benefits, the Baraka’h and rewards of Fajr and Esha, they would come to the Masjid even if they had to crawl.”
This is how serious we have to be about our Salaat. In relating to people, relate to them on the basis of what Almighty Allah commands us to do for Allah declares:
“And make thy soul content with those who bow down with you.”
In other words, if you want to hang out, you hang out on the basis of Islam. That is your hang out card. Salaat rests upon each and every individual. If the believer begins to come for Salaat, then the whole social aspect of what believers do and what they can obtain becomes real to him. Salaat is not merely the name of a certain physical movements. It is not a wooden, lifeless ritual or something of a military discipline in which one’s own choice or volition has no place. Salaat is an act in which all three aspects of human existence, physical, mental and spiritual find their due expression. The body, the mind and the heart participate in it jointly and in an ideal manner.
The acts of standing erect in Qiyam, kneeling in Ruku and prostration in Sujood pertains to the body, recitation pertains to the tongue, reflection and contemplation to the mind, and fear, repentance and lamentation to the heart. In the whole of Salaat, the Sujood marks the highest point of nearness or communion with Almighty Allah Subhanahu Wata’ala. It is the most worthy and adorable act in His Sight for it is in the Sujood where the Muhmin tries to make the most of this priceless moment and cries his or her heart out in the presence of Almighty Allah Azza Wajjal. He or she, so to speak, says:
“O Almighty Rahmathul Liel Ala’meen! I beseech Thee like a wretched sinner, I implore Thee like an afflicted, awe-struck slave – a slave whose tears may be flowing in Thy presence, and whose body is bent in utter submission, a slave who is lying prostrate on the ground, begging and imploring and crying his or her heart out. O Allah! Do not reject my prayer; have mercy on me. O Thou! The Best and Most Excellent of Givers and the Noblest of Helpers.”
This is the Sujood before which mountains have quivered and the earth has shaken. The heads of powerful rulers and arrogant despots used to bend against its irresistible force. The all-conquering Sujood of intense love and devotion has, on many occasions changed the course of history, altered the destiny of nations and turned the defeat of the weak into victory and the victory of the strong and powerful into defeat.