Question and answer details
|I would like to know the benefits of prayers? In other words, what do prayers add to Muslims? And how can a new Muslim boost his attachment to the five daily prayers? Thank you.|
Praying five times a day is considered so important to Muslims that we call it one of the Five Pillars of Islam. In other words, along with the declaration of faith, fasting in Ramadan, paying of Zakat and going on pilgrimage once in one's life to Makkah, prayer is considered essential if we are to call ourselves Muslims.
As with everything in Islam, there is a reason behind all the things we do. Sometimes, if we don't understand these underlying reasons, many things can just appear as external rules and regulations. Modern men and women are not looking for extra burdens to put on their backs, so there is much more to praying than observing a regulation.
Contrary to what many people think, there is much more to prayer than just asking for things! Of course, we ask things of Almighty God, but we can also spend time thanking Him and praising Him. Indeed, the angels in heaven exist just to do this.
In the holy Quran we read: (Most surely, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find solace.) (13:28)
In the Call to Prayer (the Adhan), which is called from the mosque five times a day, the caller says these words: "Come to prayer. Come to Success." In the Call for the Morning Prayer, he even adds the phrase, "Prayer is better than sleep." There is really nothing more beautiful in a Muslim country to wake up in the morning to hear Allah's name being mentioned from every part of the city. Even for those who are the only Muslims in their town, though, the morning Call to Prayer reminds them just how beautiful a gift prayer really is.
Imagine an air-raid siren being sounded in time of war. People hear the siren and run as fast as they can to take cover from the bombs that would soon be falling on them. The Adhan is like this air-raid siren, but instead of calling people to take shelter from bombs it is asking them to come to God Almighty and take shelter from the cares of this life. You see, prayer is not an escape from reality. It is an escape to reality. In prayer we can put all things in perspective and see what is really important in life.
When our foreheads are touching the ground in prayer we can't fool anyone. Maybe in life we manage to fool others by the way we dress or by the words we use. Sometimes we even manage to fool ourselves. But Allah is not to be fooled. He not only created the heavens and the earth and everything in between, but He also knows every leaf that falls from every tree. This is why we can truly be ourselves in His presence when we pray.
For Muslims, praying is not a regulation. It is a gift.
So why five prayers, and why at certain set times during the day? You know, of all the Pillars of Islam, praying five times a day was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in heaven. At first, he was told that Muslims should pray fifty times, but Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) urged Muhammad to go back and say that this was too much. Allah Almighty then said ten times, and again Moses (peace be upon him) persuaded Muhammad (peace be upon him) to plead that this was too much. Finally, Muhammad (peace be upon him) was told that Muslims must pray five times a day, and Allah added, "I have enforced My obligation and made it light for my servants. He who prays these five prayers will be rewarded as if he had prayed fifty. What I decree cannot be changed." (Bukhari)
The regulation of praying at certain set times is not just a random idea. The whole idea is to permeate the whole of one's day with the remembrance of Allah. Some new Muslims say that they lead very busy lives and ask if it is OK to say all the five prayers together in the evening when they have more time. It is precisely because we live busy lives that we must pray at certain times. The times are simple: when we get up, at noon, in the middle of the afternoon, in the early evening and at night. By praying at these set times we give a routine of prayer to our day. We wake up thinking of Allah and we spend the day interrupting all of our busy-ness to think of Him again.
So, if you are new to Islam is it easy to adjust to the routine of praying at five fixed times a day? Well, in my own case it certainly wasn't easy and it took me some time to get used to it. So if at first you are not feeling all that uplifted by getting up to pray at four in the morning, stick with it. The routine itself will help you. By doing good things we become good people. The routine of prayer will make you a better Muslim.
A few simple tips might help. If you find it difficult to get up for the Dawn Prayer, then buy yourself a loud alarm clock, or even two or three, and have them so far out of your reach that you have to get up to turn them off! You might at first even get your telephone company to give you a wake-up call.
As well as an alarm clock, you can also get an alarm clock that will sound the call to Prayer five times a day. There are many Muslim bookshops that sell these and you could probably even get one online. This kind of clock is especially helpful if you live in a country where the Adhan is not called publicly. If that is not possible, set your mobile phone to vibrate and be reminded of the prayer times even while you are in the office!
A problem people sometimes have in prayer is that they are distracted and cannot concentrate. Well, it all depends on how well prepared we are. If we are going to our prayers straight from watching a football match or a sitcom on the TV, then our thoughts will not be on Allah alone. So we need to take time in preparing for prayer. This, in fact, is what the Ablution gives us time to do. As we wash away the dirt that clings to our bodies, we prepare for the prayer to wash away the dirt that clings to our hearts and our lives.
So, for those new to Islam, setting off on a journey of prayer will bring great benefits. The greatest one of all is that it will help us to put our lives into perspective, seeing that all things come from Allah and that it is to Allah that all will return.