Prayer, the summary of all kinds of worship
What is prayer? What is its meaning and importance for man?
Prayer is a kind of worship performed at certain times with special acts and reciting.
* Prayer is the most important order of Islam after belief; it is the pillar of the religion and the cornerstone of Islam. Prayer is one of the signs of belief.
* Prayer is a high relationship between Allah and His slave, a lofty connection and a decent service.
* Prayer is the expression of respect and admiration by man who understands Allah's power and admires His majesty through the most appropriate words and acts; or, strengthening the feelings of respect and admiration by repeating the same acts.
* Prayer means a slave's appearance before his Creator and standing there 5 times a day. In this high place, he himself presents all of his wishes and needs to Allah without any intermediaries; he takes refuge in Him and asks help only from Him. Thus, the meeting of the Prophet with Allah during Ascension takes place symbolically. Therefore, the Prophet said, "Prayer is the ascension of the believer."
* Prayer is a concise worship that includes all forms of worship.
According to the expression of the Quran, all of the creatures in the universe mention the name of Allah and glorify him all the time:
"There not a thing but celebrates His praise; and yet ye understand not how they declare His glory!" (al-Isra: 44)
When we look at the living beings other than human beings in the world, we see them in three positions:
Those standing upright: Like most of the plants and animals with two feet.
Those standing half leaning: Like animals with four feet.
Those crawling and creeping: Like reptiles and some plants.
The beings we have listed above perform the kinds of worship mentioned in the verse in their positions. However, when man worships, he combines the worship of those beings in prayer. As a matter of fact, when man prays, he performs some of it, standing, some of it bowing down and some of it prostrating. It shows that prayer is the perfect form of worship containing all kinds of worshipping.
Angels also worship Allah in one position like the other beings. They stand, bow down or prostrate as we have mentioned above. As a necessity of his lofty creation, man worships Allah by combining the forms of worship of angels.
* Prayer consists of the best forms and words that sing the majesty of Allah and His endless power:
Prayer includes takbir, tawhid, glorification, praising, thanking, respect, modesty, invocation and begging, along with wishing good things for believers and salawat for the Prophet.
Reading the Quran is a kind of worship on its own. Some verses of the Quran are also read in prayer.
It is also worship for believers to greet and salute one another. There is salutation at the end of prayer.
According to Islam, meditation is one of the greatest forms of worship. In the prayers that are performed in congregation, believers have the opportunity of meditating on the power of Allah.
There are also prohibitions related to fasting like abandoning eating and drinking in prayer; so, prayer includes fasting, too.
Prayer has some connections with zakah and hajj too. For, prayer is the zakah for the body and life of a person. Turning toward the qiblah in prayer is a sign and example of hajj.
As it is seen, prayer includes all bodily worship and summarizes all of them.
These properties of prayer's are indicated as follows in Mawlid by Süleyman Çelebi:
"You ascended and begged,
I made prayer the ascension of your ummah.
Those who perform this prayer
Will receive the rewards of all of the people of the sky.
For, all kinds of worship is in it,
Approaching and meeting Allah is in it."
Prayer is a definite fard determined by the Quran, hadiths and consensus of scholars. It is a very important duty to be fulfilled by every Muslim who is sane and has reached the age of puberty. Those who fulfill this important fard duty will attain a lot of grace and bounties of Allah.
If a believer denies that prayer is fard, he exits the religion of Islam. However, those who do not perform it due to laziness without denying it do not exit religion but they suffer big losses and damages spiritually.
Believers are ordered to perform prayers in many verses of the Quran (*). The following verse states that performing prayers is a definite obligation and duty for believers:
"For such prayers are enjoined on believers at stated times." (an-Nisa, 103)
The following is stated in a hadith:
"Allah rendered it fard for every believing Muslim, whether male or female, to perform 5 daily prayers."
Prayer was rendered fard as 5 times a day 18 months before the Migration, on the night of Ascension. The Messenger of Allah and the believers performed prayers before the night of Ascension. However, they performed only twice a day (morning and evening). Besides it was not fard but mandub.
Prayer has a lot of worldly and otherworldly, material and spiritual benefits for us. Some of those benefits are as follows:
1 - A person who performs prayers five times a day always remembers Allah and feels that he is in the presence of Allah, which does not allow bad thoughts to come to his mind. Even if they do, prayer expels them. Besides, the root of all evils in the world is forgetting Allah and not having fear of Allah in the heart.
There are many things in the world that make man forget Allah and lead him to heedlessness. Man is busy with worldly things day and night due to his nature. There must be something that will make man, who is so busy, remember Allah. If there is not anything like that, man will forget Allah and he will not have fear of Allah in his heart. When man forgets Allah he becomes a selfish man who thinks of his own soul, pleasures and interests only. He will not care about rights, law and justice. When a person becomes like that, laws, the police or the gendarmeries will not be able to stop him. When he finds an opportunity, he will do anything he wishes without thinking about its legitimacy.
Therefore, Allah has put in the heart of man a guard that will make him remember Allah all the time and fear Him. This guard is prayer.
Prayer makes man remember his Lord. As man remembers his Lord, he loses his inclination to commit bad deeds. He prevents his mind, thoughts, hands, feet, eyes and ears from doing bad deeds. He does not have an eye on others' property, lives, chastity and honor.
This property of prayer's is stated as follows in the Quran:
"Establish Regular Prayer: for Prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds."
The following is stated in a hadith:
"Prayer is the pillar of the religion. He who practices it will build and protect his religion, and he who forsakes it will destroy this religion and cannot protect his religion." Thus, the issue is explained concisely. (*)
Let us explain in detail how prayer makes man remember Allah and how it restrains all kinds of bad deeds:
A person who performs prayers regularly gets up early in the morning; he makes wudu first in order to perform the morning prayer and to pay his debt to Allah. He cleans his heart and body. If he has any bad thoughts in his heart, he removes them. He stands in the presence of Allah with a clean heart and body and performs the morning prayer. Then, he goes to work.
At his workplace, he meets people of different characters and natures. He hears many words from them, some of which are good and some of which are bad. Bad thoughts sometimes come to his mind since he is a human. He is sometimes filled with ambition, jealousy, hatred and revenge. When he decides to do something under the influence of some of them and starts to take action, he hears the muezzin call for the noon prayer by uttering Allahu Akbar. Then, this person, whose heart is filled with, hatred, revenge, ambition and jealousy, leaves these bad feelings aside and goes to the mosque. He stands in the presence of Allah with a clean heart and body. Prayer has come to help and has taken him to the presence of Allah without allowing him to do any bad deeds.
This help of prayer's also comes during the time of the afternoon, evening and night prayers.
There is no time left for such a person to think about bad things and to do bad deeds. Five daily prayers do not allow him to do them. For, before the good influence of a prayer on his heart ends, the time for the next prayer starts. Therefore, a person who performs daily prayers regularly will always have love and fear of Allah in his heart. Bad deeds are not expected from such a heart.
2 - Prayer arranges the daily life of a believer. The obligation of being in the presence of Allah five times a day at certain times makes a person live in order and discipline. It makes him arrange his tasks based on the time periods formed by prayers. Such regular and disciplined work makes a person tranquil and successful in life.
3 - Every prayer makes a person acquire the ability to check and control his soul. An official who is often summoned by his director or an inspector does his work very carefully and regularly; likewise, a person who stands in the presence of his Creator at least five times a day does his work very carefully and without any mistakes.
4 - The heart of a person who performs prayers is relaxed and his spirit is strong. He always lives in peace due to fulfilling his duty properly.
5 - Allah promises that He will put a person who performs five daily prayers in Paradise (*) if a person performs them for Allah and fully by paying attention to their rules and details. This divine promise is also supported by the following hadith: "Prayer is the key to Paradise."
It must not be misunderstood; it does not mean that a person who does not perform prayers cannot go to Paradise. If Allah wishes, He can forgive all of the sins and mistakes of a person and He can overlook his deficiency in his worship due to a good deed of his or some Islamic service and then put him to Paradise. It is completely up to His grace and mercy. However, Allah has promised Paradise to a person who fulfills prayer completely in accordance with its meaning and spirit. It does not befit Him to break His promise.
6 - To perform 5 daily prayers every day is atonement for minor sins. The Messenger of Allah likens a person who performs 5 daily prayers on time every day 5 to a person who washes 5 times a day in the river that flows by his house and said,
"Will there be any traces of dirt on the body of a person who washes his body 5 times a day?
A person who abandons prayers loses the benefits mentioned above; in addition, he will be disappointed and a loser both in the world and the hereafter.
According to a hadith, the first deed of a person to be checked in the hereafter is prayer. If his prayers are complete, his reckoning will be easy; some of his sins and mistakes will be tolerated. If his prayers are incomplete, his reckoning will be hard and detailed. Such a detailed reckoning will cause a person's destruction.
Therefore, conscious believers try to perform their prayers completely as much as they can. If they have missed any prayers, they try to perform them without delaying and go to the presence of Allah without any incompleteness.
The following spiritual metaphor is narrated in the book called "Tanbihu'l-Ghafilin" about the harms of not performing prayers:
"Once, a stingy and evil man meets Satan and asks him:
"O Satan! I want to be like you. What should I do? "
"Nobody has envied me and wanted to be like me so far. If you really want to be like me, you need to abandon two things; if you do so, it will be enough for you to be like Satan: One of the things you need to abandon is performing prayers and the second one is vowing (swearing) truly. "
According to a narration, angels and devils that walk about the streets argue when they arrive at the doors of houses. Angels say:
"We will enter this house. Devils have nothing to do here."
"We will enter this house. Angels have nothing to do here."
While they argue, adhan starts to be called; they stop arguing. If preparation for prayer is seen in the house, devils lose hope and angels enter the house. If there is no preparation for prayer in the house and nobody performs prayers, devils become hopeful and angels leave that place.
Therefore, people in the past said,
"A house where prayers are not performed is a place for devils and a house where prayers are performed is a place for angels."
It is seen that some Muslims keep away from, ignore and remain indifferent to prayer, which has many material and spiritual, worldly and otherworldly benefits and which is a lofty worship and universal good deed.
Main reasons and excuses they put forward are as follows:
1 - The thought that prayer is a duty to be performed when one gets old, that the youth is a period when it is necessary to work for the world and that old age is a period when it is necessary to work for the hereafter;
2 - The thought that heaviness of the worldly tasks leaves no time for prayers;
3 - The understanding that performing prayers 5 times a day makes man tired and bored.
In fact, these thoughts and ideas are groundless excuses that are not based on a sound foundation and that originate from the laziness of the soul and the delusions and suggestions of Satan only. Let us deal with those excuses one by one:
1 - Regarding prayer as something to be performed at old age is a common thought that prevents people from performing prayers but it is a completely wrong view. For, prayer is fard for man from the age of puberty to death. This obligation has nothing to do with youth, middle age and old age. Every prayer that a person misses is a debt to be paid. It is necessary to pay this debt before death and to perform those missed prayers in order to get rid of the torture in the hereafter.
A person who does not perform prayers when he is young and starts to perform prayers when he is old has a lot of prayers to perform and debt to pay. It is doubtful how much of those prayers he will be able to perform as an old person. Even if he performs them, he will not get rid of the burden completely; he will still be questioned why he did not perform them on time.
Thus, the thought of starting to perform prayers at old age is nothing but a trick of the soul and Satan.
On the other hand, man has no guarantee that he will live until old age. Death may occur any time and his life may end. Man has no guarantee that he will live until tomorrow.
Therefore, the thought of performing prayers at old age is an absurd dream and baseless idea. Besides, the prayers performed at old age will not be as good as those performed at youth. The worship performed at youth, when man is attached to the world with all his feelings and emotions, as a result of the struggle against one's soul is very valuable and worthwhile in the eye of Allah. At old age, man is not inclined to the world very much and starts to feel death closely. It can be sad that even the soul agrees to perform prayers and worship at old age.
The worship performed in such a psychological state will definitely not be equal to the worship performed at youth by struggling against the bad feelings and emotions of the soul. Therefore, the Prophet indicated in a hadith that the worship performed at youth was more acceptable than the worship performed at old age.
He stated the following in another hadith:
"The best youth is the one that thinks about death like an old man and works for the hereafter without being a slave of his desires and being drowned in heedlessness."
As it is seen, young people need to think about death like old people and work for the hereafter and perform prayers and other kinds of worship fully.
2. The muchness of the worldly affairs has no aspect that prevents performing prayers. For, Allah Almighty gave us a life of 24 hours every day. In return for it, He wants us to worship Him for only 1 hour. Is it logical and reasonable to spend 23 hours of the 24 hours for the worldly affairs but not to allocate only one hour to prayers, which will be a means of happiness in the world and the hereafter for us? To use lack of time as an excuse for such lofty worship while spending a lot of time on simple, unnecessary and meaningless activities means to surrender to the suggestions of the soul and Satan.
3. As for the thought that prayer is tiring and boring because it is repeated every day is an excuse of the laziness of the soul. For, man who eats and drinks every day does not get bored and tired when they are repeated; on the contrary, he takes pleasure from them. Therefore, the repetition of prayer, which is the food of the spirit and the elixir of life for the heart, will not bore and tire a person whose spirit is not dead and whose heart is alive.
Satan usually suggests these kinds of negative delusions to the people who have just started to perform prayers. Those who keep performing prayers and receive spiritual abundance have already understood the groundlessness these excuses.
In a famous story, a man says to his son,
"O my son! Perform prayers for forty days and see if you will be able to abandon prayers again." His son says,
"O Dad! Abandon prayers for forty days and see if you will be able to start again?"
Baseless excuses like the ones above consist of the suggestions and delusions of the soul and Satan. Man needs to overcome those suggestions by struggling against his soul continuously. Otherwise, man's life, which flows like water and flies like wind, will end in disappointment and the agony of having lost the test.
We have to perform prayers, which are ordered definitely in many places in the Quran; if we have skipped any prayers due to reasons beyond our control, we have to perform them as soon as possible. Thus, we will fulfill our debt of servitude and duty of humanity; then, we will get rid of the spiritual responsibility.
May Allah Almighty give us perseverance, steadiness and willpower to fulfill this universal good deed! Amin!