What is Islamic Prayer (Salah)
Prayer is the second pillar upon which Islam rests, the first pillar being the testimony of faith. Islam stresses this act of worship and sternly warns against neglect of it. Prayer is the central pillar of faith. It is the key to Paradise. It is the first thing to be accounted for on the Day of Judgment. It is also the first of the religious obligations brought by the Prophets after faith in Allah. Allah says, addressing Mūsā (Moses, peace be upon him):
"Verily I am Allah. There is no god but Me, so worship Me and establish prayer to celebrate My praises."
Allah relates to us the supplication of Ibrāhīm (Abraham, peace be upon him):
"My Lord, have me and my descendants establish prayer. My Lord, accept my supplication."
Likewise, Ismā`īl (Ishmael, peace be upon him) used to order his family to pray. Allah says:
"He used to order his family to pray and pay Zakāh (alms), and he was pleasing to his Lord."
The Messiah (peace be upon him) mentioned prayer when he was in the cradle. Allah relates his words:
"And He enjoined prayer and Zakāh (alms) upon me as long as I live."
Allah, in the Qur'ān, orders the Seal of the Prophets Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to pray. Saying:
"Recite what your Lord reveals to you of the Book and establish prayer."
The effects of prayer
1. It enriches the soul and fulfills its yearning to connect with its Lord. This gives the soul peace and contentment.
2. It purifies the heart from the effects of indolence and sin by providing a continuous opportunity for communication with Allah and for repentance. The Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) indicated this when he said to his Companions: "Consider if one of you had a river by his door in which he bathed five times a day. Would any filth remain on him?" They responded in the negative. He said: "Likewise, Allah wipes away sins with the five daily prayers."
This stresses the meaning of Allah's words:
"Verily prayer forbids licentiousness and wrongdoing. And the remembrance of Allah is the greatest thing."
3. It emphasizes the proximity between religion and daily life. Life, from an Islamic standpoint, is to be directed to Allah. Life is an opportunity for worship and the remembrance of Allah. Praying repeatedly throughout the day, interrupting the daily activities, brings about the realization of this concept. The believer, through prayer, acquires a spiritual awareness that he takes with him throughout all of life's endeavors.
4. It teaches a Muslim to respect time and to manage it wisely. Prayer shows how important time actually is. Allah says:
"Prayer is enjoined upon the believers at prescribed times."
5. It teaches the Muslim the virtues of constancy and perseverance while opening the door to greater effort and competition. Allah's Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: "The best of deeds with Allah are the ones performed most regularly, even if it is small."
6. It cultivates brotherhood, equality, and humility between the Muslims.