Face to faith: Why prayer is the only way to salvation

PRAYER is the first pillar of Islam that Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, mentioned after the testimony of faith. It was made obligatory upon all the Prophets and for all peoples. When Allah spoke directly to Moses, peace be upon him, He said, "And I have chosen you, so listen to that which is revealed to you. Verily, I am Allah! There is none worthy of worship but I, so worship Me and offer prayer perfectly for My remembrance." [Holy Quran, Taha, 13-14]

By Abid Ishaq

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Published: Fri 16 Jun 2006, 11:06 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 5:13 PM

Once a man asked the Prophet about the most virtuous deed. The Prophet declared that the most virtuous deed is the prayer. The man asked again and again. The first three times, the Prophet answered, "The prayer," then on the fourth occasion he stated, "Jihad in the way of Allah." [Ahmad] The importance of prayer is demonstrated in many of the Prophet’s hadith (sayings) and traditions. For example, the Prophet said, "The first matter that the slave will be brought to account for on the Day of Judgment is the prayer. If it is sound, then the rest of his deeds will be sound. And if it is bad, then the rest of his deeds will be bad." [Tabarani]

The importance of the prayers lies in the fact that no matter what actions one performs in his life, the most important aspect is one’s relationship with Allah, that is, one’s faith (imaan), piety (taqwa), sincerity (ikhlas) and worship of Allah (ibaadah). This relationship with Allah is demonstrated and put into practice, as well as improved and increased, by the prayer.

Therefore, if the prayers are sound and proper, the rest of the deeds will be sound and proper; and if the prayers are not sound and proper, then the rest of the deeds will not be sound and proper, as the Prophet emphasised. And the Holy Quran itself says: "Verily, the prayer keeps one from the great sins and evil deeds" (al-Ankaboot, 45). An Islamic scholar explains, "Its (prayer’s) aim is to generate within the subliminal self of man such spiritual power, light of faith and awareness of God as can enable him to strive successfully against all kinds of evils and temptations and remain steadfast at times of trial and adversity and protect himself against the weakness of the flesh and the mischief of immoderate appetites."

The overall effect that the properly performed prayers should have upon humans is described in other verses in the Quran, "Verily, man was created impatient, irritable when evil touches him and niggardly when good touches him. Except for those devoted to prayer those who remain constant in their prayers..." (al-Maarij, 19-23)

As for the Hereafter, Allah’s forgiveness and pleasure is closely related to the prayers. The Last Messenger of Allah said, "Allah has obligated five prayers. Whoever excellently performs their ablutions, prays them in their proper times, completes their bows, prostrations with sincerity has a promise from Allah that He will forgive him. And whoever does not do that has no promise from Allah. He may either forgive him or punish him." [Malik]

Dear readers, the prayers are a type of purification for a human being. He turns and meets with his Lord five times a day. As alluded to above, this repeated standing in front of Allah should keep the person from performing sins during the day. Furthermore, it should also be a time of remorse and repentance, such that he earnestly asks Allah for forgiveness for those sins that he committed. In addition, the prayer in itself is a good deed that wipes away some of the evil deeds that he performed. These points can be noted in the following hadith of the Prophet: "If a person had a stream outside his door and he bathed in it five times a day, do you think he would have any filth left on him?" The people said, "No filth would remain on him whatsoever." The Prophet then said, "That is like the five daily prayers: Allah wipes away the sins by them." [Bukhari and Muslim]

In another hadith, the Prophet is reported as saying, "The five daily prayers and the Friday prayer until the Friday prayer are expiation for what is between them." [Muslim]

Abid Ishaq can be reached at thelinguist75@yahoo.com

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