What is a prayer in Islam?
Salat in Arabic as mentioned in the Quran (Prayer in Islam) is an act of worship which is performed five times a day by all Muslims and it’s an obligation starting from ages 7 to 10 (gradual learning process). I cannot stress how important it is to perform the salat pillar and the amount of rewards that will be gained out of it in this life and in the Akhira (hereafter). As told by many scholars, salat is what distinguishes a true believer and a disbeliever/hyppocrite on the day of judgement. Anyone can say I am a Muslim, but actions are required to prove your Eman (faith) in Allah. As for new Muslims, I understand that they may have a hard time when it comes to the muslim prayers since it;s a new habit but it will become easier and more natural with time. The goal is to make it a priority to improve upon your salat until you reach a certain point where you can feel peace in the heart and connection with Allah. A good start would be to attend the Jumma Prayer which is done every Friday at Zuhur (noon) time. The purpose of the Jumma prayer (Mandatory for all men but voluntary for women) is to gather the muslims within the community on a weekly basis and to give them reminders and teachings of Islam.
The importance of Prayers in Islam (Salat)
The Prophet Mohammed Peace Be Upon Him (PBUH) told us that one of the first things that we will be questioned about on the day of judgement is the prayer. Another point to show you the importance of prayers is that it’s the ONLY PILLAR that was commanded by Allah to our beloved Prophet while he was above the seven heavens. This event occurred in the night of Israa and Miraj where angel Jibreel (Gabriel) accompanied the prophet (PBUH) on a journey to Jerusalem (Israa) and then on a journey through the seven heavens (Miraj). You can read more about this event in the Quran in the first couple of verses in the Israa chapter and more details in the books of Hadith by Sahih Bukhari/Mulim.
Another powerful point that shows the importance of salat is that if it is performed right, it will get you closer to Allah and give you peace and tranquility. When I was younger I did not know this, but the older I got, the more I realized how I would never experience the true feeling of safety and calmness without the prayers. Salat is constantly mentioned in the Quran and Sunnah (teachings of the Prophet) but there are couple of verses in chapter Al-Ma’arij that really caught my attention, which I want to share with you: 19. Verily, man was created very impatient; 20. Irritable (discontented) when evil touches him; 21. And niggardly when good touches him; 22. Except those devoted to Salat (prayers); 23. Those who remain constant in their Salat (prayers). In other words, a human will never be in the right/balanced state of mind unless he/she prays in the right way as taught by our beloved prophet Mohammed (PBUH).
How to Perform Salat?
For a muslim, it’s an obligation to do the five daily prayers: 1) fajr (dawn before sunrise and it’s two raka’at), 2) Zuhur (noon time and it’s four raka’at), 3) Asr (afternoon time and it’s four raka’at), 4) Maghrib (sunset and it’s three raka’at), 5) Isha (night time and it’s four raka’at). The raka’a (single) or raka’at (multiple) means the 90 degrees bending movement while standing. it is followed by the sujood which means bowing down while sitting down and your forehead, hands, knees and feet are touching the ground. Also, each salat contains recitation of Quran, praising the names of Allah (Allahu Akbar, Subhan rabiya Al-Azeem, Subhan Rabiya Al-Ala), and Testimony of Allah and the prayers/blessings on His prophets Muhammed and Abraham. There are two rules that are mandatory for a salat to be accepted and they are: 1) To face the direction of Kaba (House of Allah in Mecca) while praying and 2) To be clean. Muslims must do a Wudu (cleansing of hands, mouth, nose, face, arms, hair, ears, and feet) before every salat unless one can stay clean for a long period of time (no urination or gas). Please watch the video below which will explain the rules of salat and how to perform the salat in more details:
Sunnah Prayer in Islam
There are also other prayers in Islam called Sunnah prayers which were a ritual of the prophet Mohammed (PBUH). They are usually done right after the five obligatory prayers and in some other specific times (ex. late night prayers). These are very important and high rewarding prayers, but they are all voluntary.
Improving your Prayer (Salat)
Your main concern as a beginner should be to pray the five obligatory prayers and try really hard to do them ON TIME. Praying on time has high rewards from Allah and it’s the best way to receive that energy that will boost you up to go on for the next part of the day. If a CEO or a political leader calls you and says I want to meet you for an appointment at 12:00 pm tomorrow, I am sure you will fully prepare for this meeting and you will reach there on time. Well what about if this meeting is with Allah, the Almighty, the Creator of the heavens and earth? This is your priority as you will be facing the Qibla (directing yourself towards Mecca), which houses the Ka’aba. Also, for men, it is highly recommended to pray in the mosque if they can as the reward for this will be 27 times higher than praying anywhere else. For women, they will get the same high rewards praying at home. Also, women are not allowed to pray when they are on their period.
Health Benefits of Muslim Prayers
The amount of physical and mental benefits to humans from performing salat is massive. As science and technology is growing every day, and new scientific facts were discovered about the (yoga like) movements in the prayers. For example, when we do the sujood (bowing down with head on the floor), the extra blood flowing to the brain that never happens in any other movement will prevent many diseases such as chilblain, sinusitis, bronchitis, etc. This was just an example but there is a lot of research and findings available on the net if you have an interest in learning more. You can research scientific miracles of Islam and the Quran.