One of the most important rituals acts for Muslims is the act of solat. We are obligated to perform the daily prayer 5 times and are encouraged to supplement it with the sunnah prayers.
Solat is a very special act of worship in the sight of Allah s.w.t. It is the only commandment that was given directly to Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. Unlike other commandments, where revelations came in different forms, such as through the message conveyed by Angel Jibril a.s., the commandments for the ummah of Rasulullah s.a.w to perform prayers were given when the Prophet s.a.w was ascended to the Heaven in the event of Isra’ Mi’raj.
This article explains why solat is so important for us as Muslims and address why we must perform it five times a day, except in circumstances that we are given the concessions by Allah s.w.t.
1. Solat is a Form of Direct Interaction With God
When we recite the takbiratul ihram, we are in direct connection with Allah s.w.t. Solat opens up an exclusive channel that God has given us access to Him. When we begin our prayer by proclaiming our intention (niat) and then perform the takbiratul ihram by saying Allahu Akbar (God is Great), we are in a special zone where are standing before God, connecting ourselves to our inner spirituality and communicating with our Creator. There is no barrier between us and God when we put our thoughts and focus solely on Him during our prayer, Insya’Allah.
Solat forms a special bond between us and our Creator. We perform the act of munajat, through expressing our gratitude to Allah s.w.t and surrendering ourselves in total submission. We seek for His blessings to grant us peace and security and provide the best to us, in this world and the eternal abode.
In internalising the deeper meanings of solat, let us look at how Rasulullah s.a.w taught us to perform our prayer. The movements of qiyam (standing), ruku' (bowing), and sujud (prostrating) are performed to glorify God. God has given us and blessed us with good health, children, spouse, parents and families. These blessings from Him are limitless and therefore as His servants, it is our duty to express our gratitude to our Creator and be dutiful servants in serving what He has commanded us, for our own good.
The Prophet s.a.w. taught us how to perform our prayers and guided us on the recitations that we can recite during our prayers. These recitations are the medium we used in communicating with God during our solat, at least five times daily. The recitations essentially include our expressions of gratitude for His blessings, our prayer seeking Him to grant us goodness in this life and hereafter, asking for His forgiveness and prayer for peace and His continual guidance. We ended our prayer by saying the word salam or peace.
2. Gain Multiple Rewards and Seeking Forgiveness
By performing solat, we not only gain multiple rewards but we are also blessed with the forgiveness of our past sins. The benefit of being the ummah of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w is that this faith is made simple for us.
In comparison, the people of Prophet Musa a.s were faced with stricter rules. For instance, they were required to worship God the whole day on the day of the Sabbath that requires them to try to manoeuvre the strict rules. Alhamdulillah, for us, we are required to perform our Friday prayer only for a very limited amount of time and we can continue to perform our affairs before and after our Friday prayers.
With regards to seeking forgiveness from God, we can repent through establishing our daily prayers, performing the sunnah prayers and other sunnah acts and other good actions (amal salih). Prophet Muhammad s.a.w taught us that if a person performs the obligatory prayers from one Friday to the following Friday, Allah s.w.t. will forgive the sins (of that person) between the two Fridays.
As for the benefits of fard (obligatory) prayers, there are many blessings that God has bestowed, such as the expiations of sins for those who perform it as Allah s.w.t has commanded in the following verse:
وَأَقِمِ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ طَرَفَيِ ٱلنَّهَارِ وَزُلَفٗا مِّنَ ٱلَّيۡلِۚ إِنَّ ٱلۡحَسَنَٰتِ يُذۡهِبۡنَ ٱلسَّئَِّاتِۚ ذَٰلِكَ ذِكۡرَىٰ لِلذَّٰكِرِينَ
“And establish prayer at the two ends of the day and the approach of the night. Indeed, good deeds do away with misdeeds. That is a reminder for those who remember”
(Surah Hud, 11:114)
The Prophet s.a.w further strengthened this in the following hadith:
"If there was a river at the door of anyone of you and he took a bath in it five times a day, would you notice any dirt on him?" They said, "Not a trace of dirt would be left." The Prophet s.a.w. added, "That is the example of the five prayers with which Allah blots out (annuls) evil deeds."
Furthermore, when performing qiyam, ruku', sujud, and solat's movements, we can get closer to Allah s.w.t by invoking zikir such as tasbih, tahmid, and takbir. Insya’Allah we will be rewarded with infinite rewards.
3. Beyond Spiritual Nourishment
While solat do provide us with spiritual nourishment, such as attaining rewards and being forgiven of past sins, the act of solat also brings benefits to physical health and mental wellness.
We rise up every morning to perform the Fajr/Subuh prayer and start our day with a routine. The first thing we do before we start our day is to communicate with our Creator. This routine provides us with a sense of direction in our life.
According to Imam Al-Dhahabi in his book At Tib,
"In solat, physical considerations are also involved in the form of exercise for the body in addition to the mental aspects. These exercises through solat involve standing upright (qiyam), sujud, ruku', tumakninah and concentration (khusyu'). The movements of the body take place, and most of the organs are calm."
Through his sunnah, Rasulullah s.a.w. taught us that we should be strong, and not weak and be active and not be lazy when standing in prayer. It should also be done in a peaceful and orderly manner, as evidenced by the Prophet's command to a Bedouin Arab to repeat the prayers he had performed. He conducted his solat in haste and in a poor manner.
Thus, apart from being an act of worship, solat is also a form of daily ritual that is organized in such a way as to provide rest for the soul and also to the human body through prayer's movement such as the practice of ruku ', i'tidal, sujud and other movements of solat.
4. Spiritual Strength
A Muslim who performs their solat with khusyu' (deep concentration) can spiritually strengthen his/her inner power, which is highly important in facing all of life's obstacles and hardships.
In his book al-Tib, Imam Al-Dhahabi states,
"Prayer always produces joy and satisfaction, it can reduce anxiety and control anger. It can increase the love of truth and humility towards human beings, soften the heart and form love and forgiveness. It can also eradicate hate and the nature of revenge. One can find ways to solve worldly and spiritual problems and examine oneself, especially when one truly appreciates his prayers. The best time is after midnight when most people are asleep and in a peaceful state."
In explaining this, the Quran illustrated these pointers beautifully in surah Al-Baqarah:
يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ ٱسۡتَعِينُواْ بِٱلصَّبۡرِ وَٱلصَّلَوٰةِۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ مَعَ ٱلصَّٰبِرِينَ
“O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient”
(Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:153)
As a result, prayer becomes a practical moral education institution and capable of nurturing traits such as honesty and truthfulness while also preventing heinous and evil acts as enshrined in surah Al-Ankabut:
ٱتۡلُ مَآ أُوحِيَ إِلَيۡكَ مِنَ ٱلۡكِتَٰبِ وَأَقِمِ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَۖ إِنَّ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ تَنۡهَىٰ عَنِ ٱلۡفَحۡشَآءِ وَٱلۡمُنكَرِۗ وَلَذِكۡرُ ٱللَّهِ أَكۡبَرُۗ وَٱللَّهُ يَعۡلَمُ مَا تَصۡنَعُونَ
“Recite, [O Muhammad], what has been revealed to you of the Book and establish prayer. Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing, and the remembrance of Allah is greater. And Allah knows that which you do.”
(Surah Al-Ankabut, 9:45)
5. Mental Wellness
One of the benefits of solat is that it helps us to strengthen our emotional and mental wellness. Allah s.w.t addressed anxiety in the Quran,
إِنَّ ٱلۡإِنسَٰنَ خُلِقَ هَلُوعًا. إِذَا مَسَّهُ ٱلشَّرُّ جَزُوعٗا. وَإِذَا مَسَّهُ ٱلۡخَيۡرُ مَنُوعًا. إِلَّا ٱلۡمُصَلِّينَ. ٱلَّذِينَ هُمۡ عَلَىٰ صَلَاتِهِمۡ دَآئِمُونَ
“Indeed, humankind was created anxious: When evil touches him, impatient, And when good touches him, withholding [of it], Except the observers of prayer - Those who are constant in their prayer.
(Surah al-Ma'arij, 70:19-23)
From these verses, it can be concluded that prayer is one of the ways that can help to calm oneself. Doa (supplication), tasbih, takbir, and tahmid are parts zikrullah (acts of remembrance of God) that are included in solat. Through zikrullah, which is recited repeatedly based on the longing for Him, can direct the human soul towards goodness and keep the soul away from evil, Insya’Allah.
In addition, prayer can also train the human soul to continue to love Allah and His Messenger. This deep love will soothe one's soul, and always remember God and fear His greatness. Subsequently, it will also enliven doa in our connection with Him and enable the believers to communicate directly with God by expressing all of their emotions through prayers offered to Allah s.w.t. These practices are also in line with the method of counselling or psychotherapy.
In psychotherapy, when someone pours out their feelings to the second person, it will help ease the burden, especially if the one who hears our complaints and frustrations is God Almighty and All-Hearing! The Prophet s.a.w. once said,
"When anyone of you is engaged in the Prayer, he is holding an intimate conversation with his Lord."
If the prayers are performed diligently and khusyu' (deep concentration), it can discipline the soul from being fixated with worldly influence and lift oneself from the lustful desire for greatness, wealth, and power. If one is able to understand the recitations in the prayers, it will help him/her further to attain better mindfulness in solat. Allah said in surah the Quran:
ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ وَتَطۡمَئِنُّ قُلُوبُهُم بِذِكۡرِ ٱللَّهِۗ أَلَا بِذِكۡرِ ٱللَّهِ تَطۡمَئِنُّ ٱلۡقُلُوبُ
“Those who have believed and whose hearts are assured by the remembrance of Allah. Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah, hearts are assured."
(Surah Al-Ra'd, 13:28)
Indeed, the Prophet s.a.w taught us that indeed solat is a source of tranquillity. It was narrated that when asking Bilal r.a. to proclaim the azan (the call to prayer), he said,
"O Bilal, give us rest with it."
(Sunan Abu Daud)
What can be concluded is that a solat, when performed with khusyu', has various advantages that can strengthen our emotional and mental wellness.
Hopefully, as we know all the advantages and benefits behind the five daily prayers, we will be more motivated and feel the loss of not doing so, Insya’Allah.
P.S If you are looking for an Islamic course on Solat, do check out Solat Class by Ustaz Yusri Yusoff entitled, "As Beautiful as Prophet's Prayers".