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SALAT, An Islamic Service Of Worship

Among the five pillars of Islam, Salat occupies the 2nd place. Literal meaning of salat is to pray and according to Islam it is a kind of physical and spiritual worship in which a Muslim glorifies the attributes of Almighty Allah in different postures of human body five times a day. In English it is generally translated as Service of Worship. The Holy Quran speaks of it more than a hundred times and continuously accentuates on its importance and utility. It is obligatory upon the Muslims on it’s prescribed times as declared by Almighty Allah in verse No. 103 of Surah Al Nisa / Chapter Women, which states, When you have finished the Prayer, remember Allah’ standing, and sitting, and reclining. And when you become secure, perform the regular Prayer. Prayer at it’s prescribed times is enjoined upon the believers. Like other rituals of Islam, Salat/Prayer was also obligatory upon the people of other prophets who preceded the Holy Prophet (PBUH). This aspect has been clearly expounded in the Holy Quran at different places. The advice of Hazrat Luqman to his son about salat has been elaborated in verse No.17 of Surah Luqman which states, ‘Son establish prayer, enjoin good and forbid evil, and endure with patience whatever affliction befalls you. Surely these have been emphatically enjoined.’  In verse No.31 of Surah Maryam/Chapter the Mary, the Christ said to his people, ‘And He has blessed me wherever I may be; and He has enjoined on me Salat and Zakat so long as I live’. Similarly, in verse No. 40 of Surah Ibrahim, Hazrat Ibraheem/Abraham prayed to Almighty Allah, ‘My Lord!  Enable me and my offspring to establish prayer, and do accept, our Lord, this prayer of mine’. Salat was also obligatory on the children of Israel as the Almighty Allah says in verse No. 12 of Surah Maida/ Chapter the Repast ‘Surely Allah took a covenant with the children of Israel, and We raised up from them twelve of their leaders, and Allah said: Behold, I am with you if you establish  Prayer and pay Zakah and believe in My prophets and help them, and lend Allah a goodly loan, I will certainly efface from you your evil deeds, and will surely cause you to enter the Gardens beneath which rivers flow. Whosoever of you disbelieves thereafter has indeed gone astray from the Right Way’.

Chapter the Repast Surely Allah took a covenant with the children of Israel, and We raised up from them twelve of their leaders, and Allah said: Behold, I am with you if you establish  Prayer and pay Zakah and believe in My prophets and help them, and lend Allah a goodly loan, I will certainly efface from you your evil deeds, and will surely cause you to enter the Gardens beneath which rivers flow. Whosoever of you disbelieves thereafter has indeed gone astray from the Right Way.

If we compare Muslim prayers ‘Salat’ with those performed by the followers of other religions, we are convinced with the perfection of this Islamic institution. The Jews go to synagogue and sit there while the rabbi recites the Psalms/Torah and they disperse at the end of recitation. The Christians recite the Bible during service in church and observe the ritual of Communion. There is fire worship among Zoroastrians. Hindus worship the cow and idols in their temples. The Budhists have a peculiar method of worship in their monasteries and the Sikhs worship in their Gurdwaras. The Islamic form of worship/prayer commences in a standing position of human body with the recitation of Surat-al-Fatihah / Chapter the Opening, the first Surah in the Quran. This is the direct praise of God in which a Muslim dispenses with symbolism and establishes direct contact with his Creator. This Surah is followed by some other verses of the Holy Quran. Then a Muslim glorifies the praise of Allah Almighty in bowing down/kneeling position and then in prostration which signifies the humbleness of a Muslim and the greatness of Allah Almighty. Then the Muslim offering Salat adopts sitting position or Al-tahiyyah. When a person gets an audience of a senior he salutes him. So does a Muslim for this is precisely the meaning of Al-tahiyyah. It is legacy of the Ascension (Meraaj) of the Prophet (PBUH). When he reached the Divine presence, the Prophet (PBUH) pronounced a salutation. God graciously replied: ‘Peace be on you O Messenger, and the mercy and blessings of God’. The Prophet (PBUH) thought of his Ummah/people and responded: ‘Peace be on us and on the servants of God who are pious’. He thus included us all, the humble members of his Ummah, in the blessings which were descending from God. Muslims include this salutation in their prayer. The Islamic prayers in fact sum up the attributes of the prayers of all other religions.

The Holy Quran speaks of it more than a hundred times and continuously accentuates on its importance and utility.
The Holy Prophet (PBUH) has declared that the distinguishing feature between a Muslim and non-Muslim is Prayer/Salat. He has also termed Prayer/Salat as the pillar of Deen/Islam. Unlike other modes of worship of Islam, it is obligatory on each and every adult Muslim and in each and every condition of human life. If a Muslim is unable to stand then Salat has to be offered in the sitting position and if he/she is even not able to sit then he/she has to offer Salat through gestures. Even in the battlefields, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) used to divide the army into groups at the time of salat. One group would remain engaged in warfare and the other would offer salat. After offering salat this grup would join the battlefield and the remaining one would offer salat which exhibits the importance of salat. A woman is exempted from offering salat during days of her menstrual course and after birth discharge. According to Islamic teachings the first question to be asked on the Day of Judgment would be about Salat/Prayer.
If we compare Muslim prayers ‘Salat’ with those performed by the followers of other religions, we are convinced with the perfection of this Islamic institution.
The recommended way of offering salat is to offer it in congregation in mosque. Islam lays special stress on prayer in congregation. The God Almighty commands in verse No.43 of Surah Baqara / Chapter the Cow, ‘Establish Salat, give Zakat and bow down your heads with those who bow down (in worship)’. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) said, ‘A prayer performed in congregation is twenty-seven times better than the one that is offered alone’.
Salat is having far reaching pleasant and positive effects on human life. The most important benefit of Salat is that it is a source of inner and outer purification. The pre-requisites of salat such as purity of body, attire, place and performance of ablution are the sources of outer purity. A Muslim who observes his/her Prayers/Salt would always take care of the cleanliness and purity of his body and colthes. About the inner purity caused by salat the God Almighty says in verse No.45 of Surah Ankaboot/Chapter the spider, “(O Prophet), recite the Book that has been revealed to you and establish Prayer. Surely Prayer forbids indecency and evil. And Allah’s remembrance is of even greater merit. Allah knows all that you do’. Now the question arises that why a number of Muslims who regularly offer salat do not abstain from wrong doings. The reason is that we have failed to understand the spirit of salat. Huge majority of us even don’t know the meaning of verses that we recite in salat. So how can we expect the desired effects of salat. Salat also teaches the Muslims the traits of piety, patience, perseverance, humility, discipline, equality and brotherhood. So by realizing and understanding the spirit of salat and by establishing the institution of salat, we can acquire eternal success in this life as well as in the hereafter. Islam is a complete code of life and gives equal importance to the rights of God and rights of human beings as both are internally linked and dependent upon each other. Discharging rights of Allah such as offering of salat reminds us our responsibilities/duties and bring us in contact with Allah Almighty that in turn incite us to discharge the right of people.

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