Linguistically, Salaah (prayer) means invocation. Allah commanded the Prophet ﷺ to ‘pray’ for the believers saying:
خُذْ مِنْ أَمْوَٰلِهِمْ صَدَقَةً تُطَهِّرُهُمْ وَتُزَكِّيهِم بِهَا وَصَلِّ عَلَيْهِمْ ۖ إِنَّ صَلَوٰتَكَ سَكَنٌ لَّهُمْ ۗ وَٱللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ
“…And invoke (Allah’s blessings) upon them.” [At Tauba 9: 103]
Salaah is the second pillar of Islam, after the Testimony of Faith by which one becomes Muslim. It is also the head of the physical acts of worship that was brought by all of Allah’s Messengers. Salaah is not just a mere act, rather it is an act with multiple benefits that signify its obligation. These benefits are as follows:
1. Obligatory act
Prayer was commanded by Allah to Prophet Muhammad ﷺ on his ascension to Heaven (Al-Miraj), unlike any other act of worship. This shows its greatness and confirms its obligation on all Muslims. It is mentioned in a Hadith:
“Between a man and shirk and kufr there stands his neglect of the prayer.” [Muslim]
According to the unanimous agreement of the Muslim scholars, a Muslim who denies Salaah is considered an apostate.
2. Virtuous deed
Salaah is one of the most virtuous deeds as mentioned in the following hadith:
“A man said to Ibn Mas’ud RA: ‘Which deed is most virtuous?’ He said: ‘I asked Allah’s Messenger (that). He said: “Salaah at the beginning of its time.” I asked him: “What is after that O Messenger of Allah?” He said: “Being dutiful to one’s parents.” I said: “What is after that [O Messenger of Allah]?” He said: “Jihad in the Way of Allah.” [At- Tirmidhi]
3. First question in the grave
Prophet ﷺ 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.” [Al-Tabarani]
Therefore, we should do our best to perfect our Salaah, so as to perfect our deeds.
4. Relation to Allah
All acts of worship are performed so that one gets close to Allah. Salaah, too, helps bring one close to Him, as it is an act performed five times a day. The connection between a servant and Allah is established, put into practice, improved and increased through Salaah. As mentioned in the aforementioned Hadith, if the prayers are sound and proper, then the rest of the deeds will be sound and proper. When a servant goes into sujood during Salaah, they are very close to their Creator. The Salaah is like a conversation between a slave and his Master. The soul requires this connection so that it does not get corrupted.
5. Lasting effect
Salaah has a lasting effect on a person, if it is done properly. It brings about the true remembrance of Allah and causes one to turn to Him for forgiveness. So, after finishing the prayer, one’s heart will be occupied with remembrance of Allah; with fear of His displeasure and hope in His Mercy.
6. Fight temptation
When one performs Salaah, it means they are aware of Allah and this helps in successfully striving against all kinds of evils and temptations. It also helps one to remain steadfast at times of trials and hardships and protect oneself against the weakness of the flesh and the harm of excessive appetites, Allah ﷻ said:
ٱتْلُ مَآ أُوحِىَ إِلَيْكَ مِنَ ٱلْكِتَـٰبِ وَأَقِمِ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ ۖ إِنَّ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ تَنْهَىٰ عَنِ ٱلْفَحْشَآءِ وَٱلْمُنكَرِ ۗ وَلَذِكْرُ ٱللَّهِ أَكْبَرُ ۗ وَٱللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ مَا تَصْنَعُونَ
“Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing.” [Al Ankabut 29:45]
7. Type of purification
A Muslim turns to Allah five times a day, making it a type of purification for the evil deeds he committed. Also, the repeated standing in front of Allah should keep the person away from performing sins during the day. Moreover, it should also be a time of remorse and repentance, such that he earnestly asks Allah ﷻ for forgiveness for all those sins that he has committed. The Prophet ﷺ said:
“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 ﷺ then said, “That is like the five daily prayers: Allah wipes away the sins by them.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]