Prayers in Islam
The introduction for The Book of Prayers (Kitab Al-Salat)
From the Hadith collection of "Sahih Muslim"
By theTranslator: Abdul Hamid Siddiqui
Prayer is the soul of religion. Where there is no prayer, there can be no purification of the soul. The non-praying man is rightly considered to be a soulless man. Take prayer out of the world, and it is all over with religion because it is with prayer that man has the consciousness of God and selfless love for humanity and inner sense of piety. Prayer is, therefore, the first, the highest, and the most solemn phenomenon and manifestation of religion.
The way in which prayer is offered and the words which are recited in it explain the true nature of religion of which it is the expression of man's contact with the Lord.
Prayer in Islam gives in a nutshell the teachings of Islam. The very first thing which comes into prominence in Islamic prayer is that it is accompanied by bodily movements. It implies that Islam lifts not only the soul to the spiritual height, but also illuminates the body of man with the light of God-consciousness. It aims at purifying both body and soul, for it finds no cleavage between them. Islam does not regard body and soul as two different entities opposed to each other, or body as the prison of the soul from which It yearns to secure freedom in order to soar to heavenly heights." The soul is an organ of the body which exploits it for physiological purposes, or body is an instrument of the soul" (Iqbal, Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, p 105), and thus both need spiritual enlightenment.
Secondly, Islamic prayer does not aim at such a spiritual contact with God in which the world and self are absolutely denied, in which human personality is dissolved, disappears and is absorbed in the Infinite Lord. Islam does not favor such a meditation and absorption in which man ceases to be conscious of his own self and feels himself to be perfectly identified with the Infinite, and claims in a mood of ecstasy: My" I" has become God, or rather he is God. Islam wants to inculcate the consciousness of the indwelling of the light of God in body and soul but does allow him to transport himself in the realm of infinity. It impresses upon his mind that he is the humble servant of the Great and Glorious Lord and his spiritual development and religious piety lies in sincere and willing obedience to Allah. The very first step towards the achievement of this objective is that man should have a clear consciousness of his own finiteness and Infiniteness of the Lord, and clearly visualize and feel that he is created as a human being by the Creator and Master of the universe, and he cannot, therefore, become a semi-god or god. His success lies in proving himself by his outlook and behavior that he is the true and loyal servant of his Great Master. Islamic prayer is, therefore, the symbol of humble reverence before the Majesty of the Glorious Lord.