When a muslim is born, the first thing they hear is adhaan, the call to prayer, whispered in their ear. And when they are dead, funeral prayer is done for them. We start our lives with adhaan, and end it with salah, prayer, as if all of our life is between adhaan and salah.
Allaah, subhanaho wata’ala, is calling us to His house. Five times a day, every single day, the one who calls for prayer calls us to worship God, and he starts with calling out “haya ala salaah” …Do we have any connection with Allaah, azza wa jall? Do we have any nearness to Allaah, subhanaho wata’ala? Do we pray the five daily prayers?
In the Quran, Allaah says,
فِى جَنَّـٰتٍ۬ يَتَسَآءَلُونَ (٤٠) عَنِ ٱلۡمُجۡرِمِينَ (٤١) مَا سَلَڪَكُمۡ فِى سَقَرَ (٤٢) قَالُواْ لَمۡ نَكُ مِنَ ٱلۡمُصَلِّينَ
“In Gardens (Paradise) they will ask one another, About Al-Mujrimûn (polytheists, criminals, disbelievers), (And they will say to them): “What has caused you to enter Hell?” They will say: “We were not of those who used to offer the Salât (prayers)” [Surah al-Muddathir: 74: 40-43]
The first thing, the first reason they will mention is that we were among those who didn’t pray. This verse shows the significance of prayer. Prayer is the fundament of all good deeds, and prayer come before and after all other good deeds. We can see that in the Quran, where Allaah says:
قَدۡ أَفۡلَحَ ٱلۡمُؤۡمِنُونَ (١) ٱلَّذِينَ هُمۡ فِى صَلَاتِہِمۡ خَـٰشِعُونَ (٢) وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمۡ عَنِ ٱللَّغۡوِ مُعۡرِضُونَ (٣) وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمۡ لِلزَّكَوٰةِ فَـٰعِلُونَ (٤) وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمۡ لِفُرُوجِهِمۡ حَـٰفِظُونَ (٥) إِلَّا عَلَىٰٓ أَزۡوَٲجِهِمۡ أَوۡ مَا مَلَكَتۡ أَيۡمَـٰنُہُمۡ فَإِنَّہُمۡ غَيۡرُ مَلُومِينَ (٦) فَمَنِ ٱبۡتَغَىٰ وَرَآءَ ذَٲلِكَ فَأُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ هُمُ ٱلۡعَادُونَ (٧) وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمۡ لِأَمَـٰنَـٰتِهِمۡ وَعَهۡدِهِمۡ رَٲعُونَ (٨) وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمۡ عَلَىٰ صَلَوَٲتِہِمۡ يُحَافِظُونَ (٩) أُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ هُمُ ٱلۡوَٲرِثُونَ (١٠) ٱلَّذِينَ يَرِثُونَ ٱلۡفِرۡدَوۡسَ هُمۡ فِيہَا خَـٰلِدُونَ
“Successful indeed are the believers. Those who offer their Salat (prayers) with all solemnity and full submissiveness. And those who turn away from Al-Laghw (dirty, false, evil vain talk, falsehoods and all that Allah has forbidden). And those who pay the Zakat. And those who guard their chastity (i.e. private parts, from illegal sexual acts). Except from their wives or (the captives and slaves) that their right hands possess, -for then, they are free from blame. But whoever seeks beyond that, then those are the transgressors. Those who are faithfully true to their trusts and to their covenants. And those who strictly guard their Salat (five compulsory congregational prayers at their fixed stated hours). These are indeed the inheritors. Who shall inherit the Firdaus (Paradise). They shall dwell therein forever.” [Surah al-Muminun 23:1-11]
And He also say,
إِنَّ ٱلۡإِنسَـٰنَ خُلِقَ هَلُوعًا (١٩) إِذَا مَسَّهُ ٱلشَّرُّ جَزُوعً۬ا (٢٠) وَإِذَا مَسَّهُ ٱلۡخَيۡرُ مَنُوعًا (٢١) إِلَّا ٱلۡمُصَلِّينَ (٢٢) ٱلَّذِينَ هُمۡ عَلَىٰ صَلَاتِہِمۡ دَآٮِٕمُونَ (٢٣) وَٱلَّذِينَ فِىٓ أَمۡوَٲلِهِمۡ حَقٌّ۬ مَّعۡلُومٌ۬ (٢٤) لِّلسَّآٮِٕلِ وَٱلۡمَحۡرُومِ (٢٥) وَٱلَّذِينَ يُصَدِّقُونَ بِيَوۡمِ ٱلدِّينِ (٢٦) وَٱلَّذِينَ هُم مِّنۡ عَذَابِ رَبِّہِم مُّشۡفِقُونَ (٢٧) إِنَّ عَذَابَ رَبِّہِمۡ غَيۡرُ مَأۡمُونٍ۬ (٢٨) وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمۡ لِفُرُوجِهِمۡ حَـٰفِظُونَ (٢٩) إِلَّا عَلَىٰٓ أَزۡوَٲجِهِمۡ أَوۡ مَا مَلَكَتۡ أَيۡمَـٰنُہُمۡ فَإِنَّہُمۡ غَيۡرُ مَلُومِينَ (٣٠) فَمَنِ ٱبۡتَغَىٰ وَرَآءَ ذَٲلِكَ فَأُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ هُمُ ٱلۡعَادُونَ (٣١) وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمۡ لِأَمَـٰنَـٰتِہِمۡ وَعَهۡدِهِمۡ رَٲعُونَ (٣٢) وَٱلَّذِينَ هُم بِشَہَـٰدَٲتِہِمۡ قَآٮِٕمُونَ (٣٣) وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمۡ عَلَىٰ صَلَاتِہِمۡ يُحَافِظُونَ (٣٤) أُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ فِى جَنَّـٰتٍ۬ مُّكۡرَمُونَ (٣٥)
“Verily, man (disbeliever) was created very impatient; irritable (discontented) when evil touches him; and niggardly when good touches him. Except those devoted to Salat (prayers), those who remain constant in their Salat (prayers), and those in whose wealth there is a known right, for the beggar who asks, and for the unlucky who has lost his property and wealth, (and his means of living has been straitened). And those who believe in the Day of Recompense, and those who fear the torment of their Lord. Verily! The torment of their Lord is that before which none can feel secure. And those who guard their chastity (ie, private parts from illegal sexual acts), except with their wives and the (women slaves and captives) whom their right hands possess, -for (then) they are not to be blames. But whosoever seeks beyond that, then it is those who are trespassers. And those who keep their trusts and covenants, and those who stand firm in their testimonies, and those who guard their Salat (prayers) well; such shall dwell in the Gardens (i.e. Paradise) honored.” [Surah Al-Maarif: 70:19-35]
In these verses, it is told what characteristics the believers have, and the first thing that is mentioned is how they devote themselves on their prayers. Other signs of a believer is:
They avoid vain and vulgar activities.
They pay their Zakat regularly.
They guard their chastity and avoid illicit relations.
Those who do not betray covenants and trusts.
Those who stand by their testimonies (as in Surah Al-Maarij.).
And then, after mentioning these characteristics, Allaah again points to the importance of establishing regular prayers. The quotation from surah Al-Maarij is similar to the one from surah al-Muminoon. These verses makes us understand that the prayer is like a fortress which protects and preserves all our other good deeds. To guard one’s prayer helps guard one’s other virtues. The Prophet, aleyhi salato wasalaam, said once: “Prayer is the pillar of the religion” (Al-Baihaqi) He, aleyhi salato wasalaam, also said: “The first thing about which a mans is going to be questioned on the Day of Judgment is prayer. If it is found to be sound all his other reactions will be sound as well. If his prayer is not sound all his remaining actions would be spoiled.” (Al-Tabarani)
So from this we can also understand that prayer stimulates us to do good deeds, but it also removes minor sins from us, subhanAllaah! Allaah, subhanaho wata’ala, says:
وَأَقِمِ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ طَرَفَىِ ٱلنَّہَارِ وَزُلَفً۬ا مِّنَ ٱلَّيۡلِۚ إِنَّ ٱلۡحَسَنَـٰتِ يُذۡهِبۡنَ ٱلسَّيِّـَٔاتِۚ ذَٲلِكَ ذِكۡرَىٰ لِلذَّٲكِرِينَ
“Verily, the good deeds remove the evil deeds (i.e. small sins), ” [surah Hud 11:114]
Prayer is the best of all good deeds and it can erase many sins from us poor sinners. Allah’s Messenger, aleyhi salato wasalaam, said: “Whoever commits a sin, but performs ablution in the best way, then offers two Rakat prayer, and he asks for the forgiveness of Allah, Allah almighty forgives his sins.” (Ahmad) This does of course not mean that we can go on and sinning as much as we want, as long as we follow each sin with prayer. No, what this means is that the doors to repentance also opens the doors for forgiveness, and that we always, as long as we live, have an opportunity to repent. This hadeeth also shows us that prayer is a form of repentance, and thus we should offer our prayers with sincerity and a true desire to amend one’s character. Repentance will lead to that our eman, faith, will be revived, renewed and we will be better and stronger in fighting our desires to do evil and wrong.
In surah Al-Furqaan Allaah describes how repentance is a way out for those who commit major sins:
وَٱلَّذِينَ لَا يَدۡعُونَ مَعَ ٱللَّهِ إِلَـٰهًا ءَاخَرَ وَلَا يَقۡتُلُونَ ٱلنَّفۡسَ ٱلَّتِى حَرَّمَ ٱللَّهُ إِلَّا بِٱلۡحَقِّ وَلَا يَزۡنُونَۚ وَمَن يَفۡعَلۡ ذَٲلِكَ يَلۡقَ أَثَامً۬ا (٦٨) يُضَـٰعَفۡ لَهُ ٱلۡعَذَابُ يَوۡمَ ٱلۡقِيَـٰمَةِ وَيَخۡلُدۡ فِيهِۦ مُهَانًا (٦٩) إِلَّا مَن تَابَ وَءَامَنَ وَعَمِلَ عَمَلاً۬ صَـٰلِحً۬ا فَأُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ يُبَدِّلُ ٱللَّهُ سَيِّـَٔاتِهِمۡ حَسَنَـٰتٍ۬ۗ وَكَانَ ٱللَّهُ غَفُورً۬ا رَّحِيمً۬ا (٧٠) وَمَن تَابَ وَعَمِلَ صَـٰلِحً۬ا فَإِنَّهُ ۥ يَتُوبُ إِلَى ٱللَّهِ مَتَابً۬ا
“And those who invoke not any other Ilah (god) along with Allah, nor kill such life as Allah has forbidden, except for just cause, nor commit illegal sexual intercourse – and whoever does this shall receive the punishment. The torment will be doubled to him on the Day of Resurrection, and he will abide therein in disgrace. Except those who repent and believe (in Islamic Monotheism), and do righteous deeds, for those, Allah will change their sins into good deeds, and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. And whosoever repents and does righteous good deeds, then verily, he repents towards Allah with true repentance. “ [surah al-Furqaan 25:68-71]
Prayer is not a burden forced upon us but is the inner cry of every soul. It’s a cry from the depths of our hearts to our Creator and Sustainer. The prayer is only a very small sign of our gratitude for all the innumerable bounties that our Creator has bestowed upon us. Everyday, in our normal everyday lives, we thank people for the small good deeds they do for us, but we so often forget to than Allaah. It is after all He Who has given us everything we have, He Who has provided for every single need of ours. We should focus more on looking up, looking around us, observing the amazing creation that we are a part of. We should be amazed by the beauty that Allaah has created, for us to enjoy. And we should fall down in gratitude to our Lord, our Creator, to Allaah, subhanaho wata’ala.