What is prayer?
It is to put ourselves in touch with God, remind ourselves
of His greatness, goodness and beauty, think over how we can develop the qualities He has
placed in us, remember the goal He has put before us, and ask for His help in enabling us
to do good and refrain from evil. Prayer also makes us see our lives, with all the
successes and disappointments, in their true perspective, and makes us pause for a moment
to see what we are doing in the light of what God wants us to do.
Is prayer necessary?
Just as the body requires food, cleansing, and exercise to
make it fit for everyday living, the spirit or soul has spiritual needs for its
development, so that one's character and conduct remains good and healthy. The needs of
the spirit are provided by acts of worship and devotion, the most important and frequent
of which is prayer. Not supplying these needs weakens the highest part of man, damaging
his ability to do good and refrain from evil, just as not having enough food makes his
body unfit to work and prone to disease.
What are the most important points Islam
teaches about prayer?
Among many other important points about prayer, the first
is that a person should say his prayers "as if he is seeing God", or at
least be conscious that he is in God's presence. This means that prayer should be said
with full attention, concentration of mind, and feeling of heart, just as if we were
talking to someone in front of us. Another very important point Islam teaches is that a
main purpose of prayer is to lead one to do good, to refrain from evil, and to behave
better towards others. If prayer does not have this effect on a person's daily life and
conduct, it means that he or she is not performing prayers properly, in the way required
How does one pray in Islam?
Prayer, of course, is a general turning towards God. Islam
has prescribed a particular form of prayer in order to make it systematic and to enable
the whole community to pray together. The details of the Islamic prayer are available
separately in many books. Briefly, certain bodily postures are adopted (standing, bowing,
prostrating, and sitting on the ground) in each of which some prescribed prayers and other
words extolling and praising God are said. This is the regular prayer known as Salaat,
and is said in congregation (if possible) at five fixed times of the day. Apart from Salaat,
one can just address a prayer to God at any time, in any situation, using any words one
What is the significance of the various
postures during Salaat?
It is to give greater force and feeling to the words of
prayer that are being said, and in fact to address God with the whole of oneself and not
just the tongue. This is just as when people talk to each other they move their hands,
head, etc. to stress what they are saying. The standing posture is as if to say to God
that we are ready and keen to obey Him. Bowing down and prostrating is to express the
inner feeling that we want to bow to God's commands in our daily lives and submit to Him
completely, with humility. The words that are said in these two positions mean that
"God is flawless and the Most High", i.e. we, who are imperfect, humble
ourselves before the Perfect Being so that, through contact with Him, our defects may be
What prayers does one say during the
First of all, there are a few short prayers and expressions
that must be said in particular positions during the Salaat in Arabic. The main
such prayer is the Fatiha, the first chapter of the Holy Quran consisting of seven
short verses, which is really the heart of the whole Salaat. In addition to the
compulsory words of prayer, we may say any prayer we like, in any language we prefer, at
any stage in the Salaat. The Holy Quran and the Holy Prophet Muhammad's Sayings
contain a large number of apt and beautiful prayers for various situations. We must, of
course, know the full meaning of any prayer we say, Arabic or otherwise, and it must be
said with the full presence of mind and sincerity of heart.
Please explain briefly the meanings of
This is the fundamental Muslim prayer, which illustrates
the basic aim of the worshipper:
1. All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the worlds,
2. The Beneficent, the Merciful,
3. Master of the Day of Judgment.
4. You (O Allah) are the one we worship, and You are the
One Whose help we seek.
5. Guide us on the right path,
6. The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favours,
7. Not those who incur wrath or those who go astray.
What are the important points to be
noted about this prayer?
We pray to be guided on the right path all the time, so
that we progress along it constantly and develop the good qualities that God has placed in
every person. This "right path" is that on which the righteous persons of all
times have walked, whose lives show that God graced them with His spiritual favours. While
praying for this, we recall that we are weak, and so we also pray that we may avoid
wrongdoing as well as wrong beliefs (no. 7). This makes one feel humble while walking on
the right path, and prevents arrogance, selfrighteousness, and complacency.
Why are parts of the prayer said in
The main reason is that, when the Salaat is
performed in congregation, some words and passages are recited aloud by the man leading
it, so that the assembly is praying in concert and harmony, as a single body. Since Islam
is an international religion and Muslims praying in a congregation may well come from
different countries (as often happens in prayer-meetings in the West), using Arabic, the
original language of the Holy Quran, means that they can pray together. The Arabic prayers
and expressions necessary for a Muslim to learn are very short and easy, and can be learnt
by a child in a few days. Using Arabic also enables the people gathered for Hajj
(in Makka, Arabia), from every part of the world, to worship together in step.
Does this mean that a purpose of Salaat
is to bring people closer together?
Yes. Besides taking man closer to God, the other main
purpose of Salaat is to bring people together and teach them equality and
brotherhood. The worshippers stand in rows, shoulder to shoulder, without any distinction
of race, nation, colour, wealth, family, status, etc., and all pray together as one body.
They feel humble before God and brotherly among themselves. The Salaat ends with
the worshippers turning their faces to the right, and then left, and in each direction
wishing peace and God's mercy upon those in that direction. They are really wishing peace
and the mercy of God upon the whole world. The purpose of the prayer, therefore, is to
train people to acquire such qualities and character that they bring peace to the world.