Faith Friday: The Muslim Prayer {Part II}

Man prays beside a desolate road, Muslims Praying in Amazing Places

In 'The Muslim Prayer - Part I' I said that I would go through some FAQ's. After receiving feedback from my readers I've decided to break down this series in various parts because the purpose of The Muslim Prayer series is to help both Muslims and non-Muslims. Whenever I read books and listen to lectures I find myself learning things I didn't know before and I think it would be great for me to share with my readers.

Q: Why does God need us to pray to Him?
A: Prayer wasn't prescribed because God needs us to praise and glorify Him. Allah (swt) commanded us to pray because we need Him. We often fall into despair and depression because we question what our purpose in life is. The rich are never satisfied with what they have. The rest of us are tired of working hard to survive. What's the point of all of this when it's all temporary?, we may ask ourselves. At times we feel so lost. We cannot be truly at peace until we know where we came from and where we will go after this life. When we feel lost in this world, prayer is our GPS to finding our purpose and the source of all our blessings - God. 

Q:Did the Muslim prayer begin with Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)?
A: Muslims believe that prayer (supplication or du'a) began with Prophet Adam (alayhis salaam, may Allah bless him). In Chapter 2 of the Qur'an it says:

And We said, "O Adam, dwell, you and your wife, in Paradise and eat therefrom in [ease and] abundance from wherever you will. But do not approach this tree, lest you be among the wrongdoers."
But Satan caused them to slip out of it and removed them from that [condition] in which they had been. And We said, "Go down, [all of you], as enemies to one another, and you will have upon the earth a place of settlement and provision for a time." 
Then Adam received from his Lord [some] words [to pray with], and He accepted his repentance. Indeed, it is He who is the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful.  {Surah Al-Baqarah, 2: 35 - 37}

You might be wondering, Was Adam Muslim? Didn't Islam come after Judaism and Christianity? The term Muslim means 'one who submits to [the Will, Wisdom, Sacredness and Power of] God' therefore we believe that all prophets were Muslims because they dedicated their lives to worshipping Allah (subhanahu wa taala - the Sacred and The Mighty). Next question, But they didn't worship Allah so they can't be Muslims? The word Allah can be broken down into Al-ilah. with 'ilah' meaning 'God' in Arabic and 'al' meaning 'the'. So it is literally translated to 'The God'. To understand the purpose of the prefix 'al' in the Arabic language refer to this. So Allah basically means the ultimate God.  It is not a name like Zeus or Aphrodite.

Q: Why do Muslims pray? 
A: Not for very different reasons to why people of other faiths pray. Faith. Guidance. Desire. Hope. We don't pray only when we want something. We pray to stay connected to our Creator. We pray as a way of showing gratitude to Allah (swt). We also believe when prayers are performed properly there will be many benefits, inshaa Allah (God Willing).

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In Islam, contact prayer (solah) is a process of purification. This process begins with physical purification, known as wudhu' or ablutionfollowed by spiritual purification, which is the prayer itself. I personally believe one of the most important benefits of prayer, both solah and du'a, is that it is a way to instill humility in us. Prayer removes the feeling of 'kibr' (sense of self-glorification, arrogance) from our hearts and transferring the focus to God's Greatness instead. It doesn't mean prayer removes any sense of self-worth whatsoever but it just makes you a more humble person. If you're an arrogant person and you don't want to be that way anymore then pray. The change starts within you and then watch how Allah (swt) guides you in ways you never imagined.

The purpose of solah is only one: to worship and please Allah (swt) but there is no set list to outline how prayer benefits us simply because its innumerable and the significance of prayer to the Muslim life is almost indescribable. Only God knows best as our reward lies with Him. 

Q: Why are Muslims commanded to pray 5 times a day?
A: Firstly, Muslims pray because it was prescribed by Allah (azza wa jal, the Mighty and Majestic), the Arabic word for 'God', as an act of worship. Secondly, the daily prayer was prescribed to mankind before Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) received divine inspiration and revelation about the message of Islam. This is evident just by seeing how Jews and Christians pray but the history behind the Muslim prayer is explained in a hadith (saying of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessing be upon him) about the night of Isra' Mi'raj (The Night Journey) when Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was ascended to Heaven with the accompaniment of the angel Gabriel (by the will of God). This journey is mentioned in the Qur'an in Surah Al-Isra.

"Then the prayers were enjoined on me: They were fifty prayers a day. When I returned, I passed by Moses (Prophet Musa, alayhissalam 'peace be upon him') who asked (me), 'What have you been ordered to do?' I replied, 'I have been ordered to offer fifty prayers a day.' Moses (as) said, 'Your followers cannot bear fifty prayers a day, and by Allah, I have tested people before you, and I have tried my level best with Bani Israel (Children of Israel). Go back to your Lord and ask for reduction to lessen your followers' burden.'
So I went back, and Allah reduced ten prayers for me. Then again I came to Moses (as), but he repeated the same as he had said before. Then again I went back to Allah and He reduced ten more prayers. When I came back to Moses (as) he said the same, I went back to Allah and He ordered me to observe ten prayers a day.
When I came back to Moses (as), he repeated the same advice, so I went back to Allah and was ordered to observe five prayers a day. When I came back to Moses (as), he said, 'What have you been ordered?' I replied, 'I have been ordered to observe five prayers a day.' He said, 'Your followers cannot bear five prayers a day, and no doubt, I have got an experience of the people before you, and I have tried my level best with Bani Israel, so go back to your Lord and ask for reduction to lessen your follower's burden.'
I said, 'I have requested so much of my Lord that I feel ashamed, but I am satisfied now and surrender to Allah's Order.' When I left, I heard a voice saying, 'I have passed My Order and have lessened the burden of My Worshippers." {Hadith Sahih Al Bukhari 5.227} (Read full hadith here)

The journey of Isra' Mi'raj and what transpired between Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), Prophet Musa (as) and God is known as a mu'jizat (miracle). You can read more about it here.  Many people don't believe in miracles these days but I think they occur everyday. It's a miracle we're still alive when we hear of people dying from car crashes all the time. It's a miracle how we are made up of cells and each and every cell functions like a city that never sleeps. It's a miracle women are given the ability to become pregnant, carry a baby in their womb for 9 months and then bring a new person into this world. It is scientific but who said miracles and science can't be mixed? Some women are born without a womb and can't have babies. Some men can't produce children either. It's not the end of the world, of course, but these are merely examples of  the blessings and everyday miracles we often take for granted.

Q: Why are Muslim women not allowed to pray in certain mosques?
A: One of the best things about being a Muslim is knowing that Muslims are diverse and they come from various cultural backgrounds. However, this is also a challenge but bear in mind, challenges exist in all religions as people interpret their holy books differently. While it's not always wrong to mix culture with Islam, adapting negative aspects of  a culture into the religion (deemed as 'cultural baggage' by Susan Carland) can distort and be detrimental to the way a certain group of Muslims practice Islam. Of course women are allowed to enter and pray in mosques and no, oppression against women (e.g. marriage without consent, honour killings, etc.) is not an Islamic concept at all. Imam Suhaib Webb briefly discusses women prayer spaces in mosques here. The reality is different cultures have different perceptions about women and this is a challenge that is often used to perpetuate misconceptions about the treatment of women in Islam.

"...despite Western portraits of Islam casting it as oppressive to women, a quarter of female converts were attracted to the religion precisely because of the status it affords them." Women & Islam, The rise and rise of the convert, The Independent

In this video Susan Carland explains her journey to Islam, her experiences as an Australian Muslim and talks about several issues that have been raised by non-Muslims about women in Islam. In another video she deliberates on modesty, the Australian Muslim community and life as a Muslim in a Western country.

Q: What if I'm a good person but I don't pray 5 times a day?
A: Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan answers this question right here.

Q: What is the symbolism behind the Muslim prayer positions?
A: The Symbolism of Prayer written by Abdur Rahman is a must-read for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

More FAQ's coming up inshaa Allah!


Nai @ TPJ said…
Barakallahu feeky, ukhti.
Sarah Zulkifli said…
Make me stunned for a while , this post so nice :)
Shahirah Elaiza said…
@Tak Pe Je, @Weirdo thank you and jazakAllah Khair!
Nazihah said…
This is a great one Sha. Thank you for such thorough answers and thoughtful links.
Nai @ TPJ said…
See you this coming Being Me Conference..
Nemo said…
Alhamdulillah ya Allah~ Thanks for posting this it teaches me a lot :D
As Salam.
Hanafedora said…
aahhhh so nice. Jazakallah. I wish I was there with you attending it :))