Why Ṣalâh? What are the beneficial ends accomplished for the individual Muslim and for his community by their proper practice of Ṣalâh?
Part III: Summary of the Comprehensive Benefits Accomplished by Ṣalâh:
Spiritual, Physical, Social, and Personal Development
The totality of benefits accomplished by Ṣalâh, when carried out with proper attention and with the intention of pleasing Allah, are interconnected and mutually supportive.
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- Disease prevention: Good hygiene lowers the risk for illnesses commonly spread through infectious agents. Our hands are the prime means for spreading infection because they come in contact with bacteria every time we cough and cover our mouth, use the rest room, touch our pets, or touch surfaces such as stairs, railings, doorknobs, anything frequently used by others. Wuḍu and baths help us to rid the dirt and infectious agents.
- Good oral hygiene and foot care: Using the Siwak, or toothbrush, and flossing the teeth prevents gum diseases, plaque formation, and oral cancer. Trimming nails and keeping the feet dry, prevents bad odor and athlete’s foot.
- Prayer teaches steadfastness (Istiqâma) in regularity and punctuality, and consistency in actions in our daily lives, through Adhân and Iqâma.
- We learn etiquettes, humility and concentration when we establish the proper performance of Prayer: Reciting Sûrah Al-Fâtiḥa teaches the formal etiquettes of supplication by exulting the Beneficient with His great Attributes (Q 1:1-3), and showing the utmost humility (Khushu’a).
- Paying off the Due Charity (Ṣadaqah): Every part of the human body is a blessing ready to take part in one’s life, and a charity is due on every blessing. Paying the dues is a reflection of gratefulness to the Bestower of these Blessings.
Narrated by Abu Dharr, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:
“When you get up in the morning, charity (Ṣadaqa) is due from every one of your joints. There is charity in every ascription of glory to Allah; there is charity in every declaration of His Greatness; there is charity in every utterance of praise to Him; there is charity in every declaration that He is the only true God (worthy of worship); there is charity in enjoining good; there is charity in forbidding evil. Two RakCâhs of Ḍuḥâ (forenoon prayer) is equal to all this (in reward).” (Riyad Al-Salihîn 118 from Ṣaḥîḥ Muslim)
Ṣadaqa, or charity, is due on any blessing. Joints are blessings so charity is due on them, and that charity is paid through engaging the joints in prayer. Ṣadaqa on wealth is complementary to the expression, Alhamdulillah, ‘All praise belong to Allah’; without paying Ṣadaqa, the phrase Alhamdulillah remains incomplete, only at the level of words of the tongue and lips. The best way to pay Ṣadaqa on joints is to use them in prayer in the best possible way, following the Sunnah of the Prophet (ﷺ).
This Hadith emphasizes the importance of Prayer that mobilizes the entire skeletal system. The spiritual reward that is earned during performance of these two RakCahs of Ḍuḥâ Prayer is the same as the reward earned through various righteous deeds during the span of a day.
- Congregational Prayer is much greater in reward:
“Ibn ‘Umar (RA) reported:
The Messenger of Allah said, “Salat in congregation is twenty-seven times more meritirious than a Salat performed individually.” (“The Excellence of Performing Salat In Congregation,” Riyad-Al-Salihîn, Vol. 2, Hadith #1064)
Congregational Prayer not only offers individual personal spiritual benefits, but it also offers communal benefits. When people gather for Prayer, this facilitates interactions between people and solidifies human brotherhood:
“O mankind! We created you from a single [pair] of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other…).” [Sûrah Al-Ḥujurât, 49:13]
- Social and Professional Acceptance: Spending time around those who fail to demonstrate good hygiene can be unpleasant due to factors such as bad breath and body odor. Poor hygiene can have a negative impact on social life and family relationships. On the other hand, being clean, wearing clean clothing and maintaining good grooming, make one feel confident and comfortable both physically and mentally. Poor hygiene affects mood, and interactions with others.
In conclusion, Ṣalâh re-establishes a connection with Allah تعالى و سبحانه at a minimum of five times a day. It offers the worshiper the opportunity to have a dialogue with Him and enter the spiritual world. The five-times-a-day Prayers cleanse the worshiper physically and spiritually, wiping out the minor sins committed in between two Prayers:
Narrated by Abu Hurairah
The Allah’s Messenger said, “The five daily Salah (Prayers) and the Friday Prayer to Friday Prayer expiates whatever minor sins may be committed in between, so long as major sins are avoided.” [Riyad Al-Salihîn, Vol 2, Hadith 1045, from Ṣaḥîḥ Muslim, Book 2, Hadith 18/449)
Ṣalâh offers the opportunity to exit from the cares and duties of the material world at regular intervals and allows us to focus on, and prepare for, the coming Eternal Life.
Personal hygiene and clean dress are requirements for Prayer, emphasizing the fact that cleanliness is a prerequisite for spiritual transformation:
Narrated Abu Malik al-Ash’ari that the Messenger of Allah said,
Cleanliness is half of Imân, and ‘Al-Hamdulillah’ fills the scale; Subhan Allah and al-Hamdulillah fill up what is between the heavens and the earth; and prayer is a light, and charity is proof (of one’s faith); and endurance is a brightness; and the Holy Qur’an is a proof on your behalf or against you. All men go out in the morning and sell themselves, thereby setting themselves free or destroying themselves.” (Ṣaḥîḥ Muslim, 223; Book 2, Hadith 1; Book 2, Hadith 432)
Since movements are essential parts of life, and since proper movements depend on the healthy condition of our skeletal system, then as a sign of gratitude, we are asked to pay a little ‘charity’ for such great blessings, which are achieved through our attentive and regular performance of Prayers.
Ṣalâh regulates the routine of daily life. It brings comfort to the heart and tranquility to the mind, and elevates the worshiper to the proximity of the Sublime, the Lover and Cherisher of His creations.
In Prayer, Khushu’a (concentration) and Khudu’a (humility) are necessary to reach the underlying goal of prayer. Physical humility in standing and reciting is not as difficult to attain as concentration. Our attention span is very short! Living in the age of smart phone, human attention span has fallen from twelve seconds in 2000 to eight seconds in 2018. Our brains have become idle! Accordingly, slow recitation and understanding is crucial in order to attain the concentration and meditation necessary for connecting with Allah (تعالى و سبحانه ).
The Prophet’s Prayer was the culmination of the highest levels of both spiritual and physical aspects of worship. For reaching that goal, and attaining His acceptance of our Ṣalâh, it is imperative to follow his example, as he himself instructed:
Offer your Salah the way you see me offering them. (Ṣaḥîḥ Al-Bukhârî, 5662; Ṣaḥîḥ Muslim, 674)
The Prophet ﷺ guarded his Prayer with his body, mind and spirit. Anyone who would guard his Prayer, the way the Prophet ﷺ did, he will inherit Paradise:
“…And who (strictly) guard their prayers—these will be the heirs, who will inherit Paradise: they will dwell therein (forever).” [Sûrah Al-Mu’minûn, 23:9-11]
It is good to remind ourselves of the Prophet’s way of Prayer by reading or re-reading the Hadith related to Ṣalâh. For that I recommend Book 4 (Prayer) of Ṣaḥîḥ Muslim.
- The Noble Qur’an, English Translation of the Meaning and Commentary (1419 A.H) King Fahd Complex, P.O.Box No. 6262, Madinah Munawwarah, K. S. A.
- The Holy Qur’an: Text, Translation and Commentary, New Revised Edition (1409 A.H./ 1989 C.E.) Amana Corporation, Brentwood Maryland 20722
- Riyad As-Saliheen. Translated by Dr. Muhammad Amin Abu Usamah Al-Arabi bin Razduq (June 1999) Darussalam, Riyad, S. A.
- Abdul Karim Saqib, A Guide to Prayer In Islam: “Pray As You Have seen Me Praying” (no date) Riyad, K. S. A.
- Imam Ibn Kathir, Stories of the Prophets, Translated by Sheikh Muhammad Gemeiah, Office of the Grand Imam, Sheikh Al-Azhar (1997) El-Nour for Publishing Distribution, Mansoura, Egypt.
- Tafsir Ibn Kathir Abridged under the supervision of Shaykh Saifur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri (September 2000) Darussalam.
- Moore & Persaud, Embryogenesis, The Developing Human, 7th Edition (2003) Saunders (an imprint of Elsevier)