In my previous column, I highlighted the critical importance of knowing, believing that God loves you, that He loved you before you ever were. Once you acknowledge this fact and rejoice in the light of His love, it becomes incumbent upon the believer to love the Precious Lord back. One of the greatest manifestations of this is the daily prayer.
Our Lord repeatedly exhorts us to “establish the prayer.” In a Hadith, the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, was asked by Ibn Masud which deed is the best in the sight of God. He replied, “To say the prescribed prayers on time.” (Bukhari, Muslim).
Our Prophet told us that daily prayer erases our sins, “Let anyone tell me: if a stream flows by the house of any person and he bathes in it five times a day, will any dirt remain on his body?” After the companions answered in the negative, he continued, “So is the case with the daily prayers. God forgives the minor sins on their account.” (Bukhari, Muslim)
The Prophet told us that the first deed about which we will be asked on the Day of Resurrection is the daily prayer. As he said, “If they are in order, then he will have prospered and succeeded; and if they are wanting, then he will have failed and lost.” The Prophet also told us that the daily prayer will bring salvation on Judgment Day and it will “illuminate his face.” The daily prayer is so important that the Prophet said in another tradition, “Pray while standing, and if you cannot, pray while sitting, and if you cannot do even that, then pray lying on your side.” (Bukhari)
Yet, the Prophet’s noble words and exhortations notwithstanding let us reflect upon the significance of this – admittedly sometimes difficult – daily ritual. God prescribed the daily prayer directly, face to face, to the Prophet when he ascended to Him during the Isra and Miraj. Daily prayer was so important that God chose to tell the Prophet directly about it. And what do we do when we pray to God, five times a day; every day?
It is a physical manifestation of the glaring reality that we are subservient to the Lord. Five times a day, we chose – by our own free will – to place our heads on the ground in humility and reverence to the One who gave us life, to the One who loves us. That sends a very powerful message to all those around us, that, no matter where we are, we are willing to stop everything and remember that God is Supreme; to remember that our life is not without purpose; to remember that we ultimately belong to God, and to Him we shall return one day. It allows us to remain grounded and never get distracted by the fleeting glitter of this world. It allows us to constantly remember the larger goal, to return to the Lord after our estrangement from Him on this Earth.
Yet, it can be quite difficult to pray five times a day, especially with our hectic lives here in the United States. Frequently, our work environments do not make it practical to stop and pray every few hours, especially during the short days of the winter. Yet, when there is a will, there is a way. If we are allowed a break at work, try to time the break to coincide with the time of prayer and if you have no room where you can pray at work, do as the Prophet said, “Pray while sitting.” If you can not do that at your desk, go to your car. On Fridays, try to come to work early so you can take an extended lunch break to attend Friday prayer.
We have to make an effort to keep the daily prayer always at the forefront of our minds. There are free services on the Web that will send text messages with the five daily prayer times. I use http://www.praytime.us. There are numerous iPhone applications that do the same thing as well. Today’s technology has made it very easy to remind us to pray every day and we must take advantage of them. God willing, when we make an effort to do what God wants us to do – in essence, love Him back – then He will make it easy for us.
Sadly, many Muslims in our world today have abandoned the five daily prayers, even though it is the most important of the rituals of Islam. Let us redouble our efforts to re-kindle a relationship with God, and let this effort begin with the five daily prayers. It will be source of blessing, solace, reward and success in this life and the next.