What is the Purpose behind the 5 daily prayers?
Prayer constitutes one pillar of Islam and is considered ‘the foundation of the religion’. Any Muslim who fails to observe his prayers without reasonable excuse is committing a grave offense and a heinous sin. This offense is so grave because it is not only against God, which is bad enough, but is also against the very nature of man. It is an instinct of man to be inclined to worship great beings, and to aspire to lofty goals. The Greatest Being and the loftiest goal of all is God. The best way to cultivate in an individual a sound personality and actualize his/her aspirations in a mature course of development is the Islamic prayer. To neglect prayer is to suppress the good qualities in human nature and unjustifiably deny it the right to worship and love, the right to aspire and ascend, the right to excel in goodness and achieve noble aims. Such suppression and denial constitute a very serious and destructive offense. Here lies the significance and vitality of prayer in the life of an individual.
It should always be borne in mind that God does not need man’s prayer, because He is free of all needs. He is only interested in our prosperity and wellbeing in every sense. When He emphasizes the necessity of prayer and charges us with the duty, He means to help us; because whatever good we do is for our own benefit, and whatever offense we commit is against our own souls. Here, too, man is the center of gravity, and his general welfare is the main concern. The benefit which man can derive from the Islamic prayer is immeasurable, and the blessing of prayer is beyond imagination. This is not just a ‘theory’ or conventional assumption; it is a fascinating fact and a spiritual experience. Here is an explanation of the effectiveness of the Islamic prayer:
1. It strengthens belief in the Existence and Goodness of God and transmits this belief into the innermost recesses of man’s heart.
2. It enlivens this belief and makes it constructive in the practical course of life.
3. It helps a person to realize his/her natural and instinctive aspirations to greatness and high morality, to excellence and virtuous growth.
4. It purifies the heart and develops the mind, cultivates the conscience and comforts the soul.
5. It fosters the good and decent elements in man, and suppresses the evil and indecent inclinations.
6. It restrains from shameful and unjust deeds.
When we analyze the Islamic prayer and study its unique nature, it will reveal to us that it is not merely a sequence of physical movements or an empty recital of the Holy Book. It is a matchless and unprecedented method of intellectual meditation and spiritual devotion, of moral elevation and physical exercise, all combined. It is an exclusively Islamic experience where every muscle of the body joins the soul and the mind in the worship and glory of God. It is difficult for anyone to impart in words the full meaning of the Islamic prayer, yet it can be said that it is:
1. A lesson in discipline and willpower;
2. A practice in devotion to God and all worthy objectives;
3. A vigilant reminder of God and constant revelation of His Goodness;
4. A seed of spiritual cultivation and moral soundness;
5. A guide to the most upright way of life;
6. A safeguard against decency and evil, against deviation and going astray;
7. A demonstration of true equality, solid unity, and brotherhood;
8. An expression of thankfulness to God and appreciation of Him;
9. A course of inner peace and stability;
10. An abundant source of patience and courage, of hope and confidence.