Why Ṣalâh? What are the beneficial ends accomplished for the individual Muslim and for his community by their proper practice of Ṣalâh?
Part II: Physical Health Benefits of Ṣalâh
The physical health benefits of our Prayer are based, first, on personal hygiene, and secondly, on proper use of the vehicles that carry us (our physical bodies).
Personal hygiene is guaranteed through the proper application of the ritual bath [ghusl] and wuḍu:
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The ritual bath [ghusl] is mandatory before Prayer:
“If you are in a state of ceremonial impurity, clean your whole body [aghsilû]…” [Sûrah Al-Mâ’idah, 5:6]
It removes physical contaminations and offers the best preventive measure against the possibility of transmitting all diseases.
In addition to the mandatory baths, routine showers are highly recommended because it adds to the hygienic value of wuḍu [routine ablution] and ritual baths. The wisdom is that the human body harbors many kinds of pathogens, which can be harmful to the individual under certain circumstances —and which can also be transmitted to others for whom it can be deadly. In addition to removing pathogens, regular showers get rid of the dead skin, sweat and bad odor.
In addition, there are hygienic actions guided by natural instincts that contribute to the preservation of personal health that improve spiritual life and make social life pleasant.
Narrated by ‘A’isha (RA) the Prophet ﷺ said:
“Ten are among the Fitrah (instinct, natural constitution): trimming the mustache, growing the beard, using siwak, inhaling and exhaling water (in ablution), cutting the nails, washing between the fingers (in ablution), plucking the underarm hair, shaving the pubic hair, washing with water after answering the call of nature, rinsing the mouth (in ablution).” (Ṣaḥîḥ Muslim 1:223)
Wuḍu (ablution, washing with clean water) is required for every Ṣalâh; dry ablution (tayammun, wiping with clean sand) is an option only under certain preconditions. Wuḍu starts with cleaning the hands, followed by rinsing the mouth and throat, cleaning the nose, washing the face, washing the arms up to elbows, wiping the head, and finally washing the feet:
“O you who believe! When you prepare for Prayer [Ṣalâh], wash your faces, and your hands (and arms) to the elbows; Rub over your heads; and (wash) your feet to the ankles.” [Sûrah Al-Mâ’idah, 5:6]
On the eminent value of ablution,
Abu Hurairah (RA) said, “I heard the Prophet (ﷺ) saying,
“On the Day of Resurrection, my followers will be called Al-Ghurr-al-Muhajjalun [“people with shiny skin”] from the traces of ablution, and whoever can increase the area of his radiance should do so (i.e. by performing ablution regularly)” (Ṣaḥîḥ Al-Bukhârî, Chapter 3, Hadith 138; Riyaḍ Al-Saliḥîn, Vol 1, Hadith 1024)
Wuḍu has profound hygienic values. Cleaning the hands, face, forearms and feet helps get rid of environmental contaminations like sweat and dirt, and pathogens like viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Rinsing the mouth with clean water helps clean the debris from the mouth, cleaning the throat helps get rid of the virulent bacteria like streptococcus, and cleaning the nose with water helps clean out the dirt and pathogenic bacteria like staphylococcus. Wuḍu, accordingly, purifies the exposed parts of the body, washes away the dirt and germs, and minimizes the chance of cultivating or spreading infection.
The regular practice of simple hand-washing with soap and water— before and after eating; before preparation of food; after coming into contact with impurity (in rest rooms, for example); after coughing and sneezing; and after touching any surface touched by people of unknown health backgrounds— are of paramount importance to prevent deadly infections like CoVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus infection), SARS, and MERS. Once infected, then the measures of self-quarantine, hand-washing, wearing gloves, and respiratory isolation (masking) are necessary preventive measures at the personal level. In global or regional pandemics, a national quarantine may be necessary.
Use of the siwak is a highly recommended practice of the Holy Prophet (ﷺ):
Narrated by Abu Hurairah (RA) the Prophet said,
“If I had not found it a hardship for my ummah, I would order them to make wuḍu’ for every ṣalah and to use miswâk in every wuḍu.” (JamiC al-Tirmidhi Vol. 1, Book 1, Hadith 22)
Siwak has many scientifically demonstrated values.
Clean dress for Prayer is mandatory. It is part of proper adornment, but most especially so for Prayer;:
“O children of Adam! Don your [fresh] adorning apparel when setting out for every place of prostration [act of worship]… [Sûrah Al-A’raf, 7:31]
Proper adornment prevents lewdness, confers modesty and safeguards morality. Guarding chastity by covering the awrah (hidden parts) is a natural instinct. Inappropriate exposure of the awrah is an invitation to lewdness, an instigation from Shaitan. Tempting others with one’s physical beauty, and their ensuing psychological reactions, eventually lead to illegal relationships. Lewdness is the evil at the root of all moral degradation, and the spread of mental and physical illness. Appropriate dress is a garment of righteousness and a protection against lewdness:
“O children of Adam! We have bestowed upon you [a sense of want for] clothing—to cover your hidden parts— and [garments for] adornment; yet the garment of righteousness, that is the best [of human adornment]…” [Sûrah Al-A’raf, 7:26)
The vehicle that carries us is our skeletal system. One of the health benefits of Prayer is a predisposition to physical fitness. The physical activity of Prayer leads to attaining and maintaining physical fitness. The various acts of Prayer, when done properly and fully, demand a steady, strong, and a flexible skeletal frame. Mankind has been created in that frame to meet that demand:
“We created mankind in the best stature (mold).” [Sûrah Al-Tîn, 95:4].
This unique mold or frame is comprised of approximately 650 muscles, 206 bones, and 360 joints. A saying of the Prophet addresses the number of joints in the human body in relationship to their functional movements:
Narrated by CAishah (RA)the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:
“Everyone of the children of Adam has been created with three hundred and sixty joints; so he who declares the Glory of Allah (i.e., saying Allahu Akbar), praises Allah (i.e.,saying Al-hamdu lillah), declares Allah to be One (i.e., saying La ilaha illallah), glorifies Allah, and seeks forgiveness from Allah (i.e., saying Astaghfirullah), and removes a stone, or thorn, or bone from people’s path, and enjoins good and forbids evil, to the number of those three hundred and sixty, will walk that day having rescued himself from Hell.” (Ṣaḥîḥ Muslim, 2199)
The method of Prayer taught by the Holy Prophet (ﷺ) assures the correct use of the human frame (the divinely formed mold) in all stations of Prayer. A perfect Prayer involves the movement of all 360 joints, the 650 or so muscles, and the 206 bones, together with all the ligaments around the joints.
After assuming a position during Ṣalâh, sufficient time must be allowed for the joints and muscles to relax and return to their normal and comfortable positions before moving on to the next position; otherwise the benefit will be compromised and the Prayer will be deficient.
Rifa`ah bin Rafi` (RA) narrated:
“One day Allah’s Messenger was sitting in the Masjid. Rifa’ah said: ‘And we were with him. Then what appeared to be a Bedouin man entered to pray, but he performed his Salat in a very brief manner. He then got up and greeted the prophet with Salâm. The Prophet said [returning the greeting]: ‘And upon you. Go back and perform Salat, for indeed you have not prayed.’ So he returned to perform Salat then came and greeted the Prophet with Salâm. So [the Prophet] said (returning the greeting): ‘And upon you. Go back and perform Salat, for indeed you have not prayed.’ [He did that] two or three times, each time coming to the Prophet, greeted the Prophet with Salâm and the Prophet saying: ‘And upon you. Go back and perform Salat, for indeed you have not prayed.’ – until the people got scared and became very worried that one whose prayer was so brief had not actually [fulfilled the requirements of having] prayed. Then in the end the man said: ‘Then show me, and teach me, for I am a human who has suffered and is mistaken.’ So he said: ‘Alright. When you stand for Salat then perform Wuḍu as Allah ordered you. Then say the Tashahhud, and the Iqâmah, as well. If you know any Quran then recite it; if not, then praise Allah, mention His greatness, and the Tahlil. Then bow such that you are at rest in your bowing, then stand completely, then prostrate completely, then sit such that you are at rest while sitting them stand. When you have done that, then you have completed your Salat, and if you leave out something, then you have made your Salat deficient.’
And this was easier on them than the first matter, because if some of that was deficient, It would only reduce the reward of his Salat; [its reward] would not have gone entirely.” (JamiCAl-Tirmidhi, 302).
So it is not just the heart, mind and tongue, but also the entire skeletal system that gets engaged in a completed Prayer so as to “pay the charity due on them.”
Narrated by Abu Hurairah that the Holy Prophet ﷺ said:
“There is a Sadaqa to be given for every joint of the human body; and for every day on which the sun rises there is a reward of Sadaqa (i.e. charitable gift) for the one who establishes justice among people.” (Ṣaḥîḥ Al-Bukhârî, 2707; Vol. 3, Book 49, Hadith 870)
Referring to the importance of physical fitness,
Narrated by Mujâhid (RA) from Ibn ‘Umar (RA) the Prophet ﷺ said :
“Take [benefit] from your health before illness [sets in], [from your] life before death [comes]” (JamiC Al-Tirmidhi, Vol. 4, Book 36, Hadith 30; Book 10, Hadith 2333)
Narrated by Ibn Abbas (RA) that the Prophet said:
“There are two blessings that many people lose: [they are] health and free time for doing good.” (Ṣaḥîḥ Al-Bukhârî, Vol. 8, Book 81, Hadith 1; Book 76, Hadith 421)
Health and time are two blessings that are too often taken for granted, and sometimes abused: Time translates into life, and health helps to maximize the use of those precious hours of life. The preservation of health depends on good personal hygiene, good eating habits and exercise. Since the Islamic ritual of Prayer [Ṣalâh] requires strict personal hygiene, and since, in a subtle way, it offers the format for total body exercise that involves all muscles, bones, joints and ligaments—in a gentle, non-vigorous method— so then regularity and punctuality in properly performed Prayer offers long lasting physical benefits.
Prayer teaches effective time management through performing Prayers on time as announced through the Adhân:
“…But when you are free from danger, set up regular Prayer for such prayers are enjoined on believers at stated time.” [Sûrah Al-Nisâ’, 4:103]
Furthermore, it teaches the importance of working together when each musallî (person performing the Prayer) responds to the call of the Iqâmah.
Since time is precious, any extra time after the obligatory duties should be used in doing good deeds and in the worship of Allah تعالى و سبحانه , such as voluntary [Nafila] Prayer at night:
“So when you are free (have finished your required activities), devote yourself to Allah’s worship. And to your Lord [alone] turn [all your] intention and hope.” [Sûrah Al-Sharḥ, 94:7-8]
To be continued in Part 3…