Worship is the essence of every religion while prayer is the essence of every kind of worship we do. Prayers may be divided into two distinct categories, the regular prayer which includes our supplications for health and remembrances of God that we make from time to time and the special prayer that we do which may have a prescribed way for it to be done. For Christians, in order to make the point clearer, any supplication may be made any time of the day anywhere, while praying the rosary have prescribed times and procedures to be performed.
Muslims too supplicate to Allah freely in any time of the day. Supplication is known as Dua in Islam. Another form of prayer in Islam which is known as Salah, however, is the prayer that should be done only after certain conditions are met first and is done methodically.
Salah comes from the Arabic word Silah which literally means a connection. Salah is something that we connect ourselves to Allah further by involving our hearts, tongues, and bodies in an act of worship that no Muslim may abandon.
Allah said in the Quran, “Recite what is sent of the Book by inspiration to you, and establish Regular Prayer: for Prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds; and remembrance of Allah is the greatest thing in life without the doubt. And Allah knows the deeds that you do.” Quran 29:45
THE CONDITIONS OF SALAH
The first condition of the Salah is the coming of the proper time of Salah. Muslims pray the Salah 5 times a day which fits conveniently within our daily schedules. The second condition is facing the Qiblah. Wherever someone may be, he should be facing the direction of Makkah while praying. The third condition is covering the required body parts during prayer.
For men, their knees up to their navels have to be covered including their shoulders. For women, their whole body should be covered including their feet and hair. Their faces and hands, however, may be exposed. The fourth condition is purification that requires a Muslim to do ritual purification by washing some body parts such as the face, hands, and feet. The last condition is the intention and it is important that the Muslim should dedicate his prayers only to Allah and not to show off.
If any of the conditions of the Salah is not met, such a Salah is invalid.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SALAH
Prophet Muhammad said, “The first matter that the slave will be brought to account for on the Day of Judgment is the prayer. If it is sound, then the rest of his deeds will be sound. And if it is bad, then the rest of his deeds will be bad.” Reported by At Tabarani.
Salah also is the quintessential act that a Muslim must perform in order to be qualified as a Muslim. Prophet Muhammad said, “The difference between us and the Non-Muslims is the Salah and whoever abandons it has abandoned his faith.” Narrated by Imam Muslim.
Due to this importance being given by Muslims to Salah, there are rulings that are related to anyone who abandons Salah whether he is abandoning it out of laziness or out of hate of it. A person who may be known as someone from a Muslim family yet he does not perform the Salah is in the danger of falling into disbelief and must repent to Allah immediately.
The person who is known as a Muslim and yet does not perform Salah whether male or female is not allowed to marry a Muslim man or woman who prays. His slaughtered animal shall not be eaten by Muslims. He shall not inherit from his parents who perform Salah or for his praying children to inherit from him. When such a person dies, he or she shall not be prayed upon and washed like it was customary for dead Muslims and they should not be buried in a Muslim cemetery.
Upon looking, we may say that this harsh ruling against those who do not pray the Salah is a deterrent for anyone to abandon Salah because the Muslims are still ordered to be lenient to those who abandon the Salah and to guide them always.
HOW THE MUSLIMS DO THE SALAH
Salah is performed strictly according to how Prophet Muhammad performed it. No one is allowed to make his own version of the Salah. Prophet Muhammad said, “Pray as you have seen me praying.” Reported by Imam Al Bukhari.
To describe the whole process of the Salah shall take a small textbook but in order to be concise, Salah is composed of physical actions such as standing, bowing, prostrating and sitting. While performing all these, prayers and glorification of Allah are recited while each word and action is done with the presence of our hearts. Words mentioned in the Salah may come from the Quran while others have been prescribed from the narrations about how Prophet Muhammad performed the Salah.
THE CONGREGATIONAL SALAH
Salah may be done anywhere that is clean of animal or human excrements and blood. Salah is also forbidden to be done in a toilet or cemetery. Prophet Muhammad said, “All the earth is a mosque apart from the graveyards and bathrooms.” Reported by Imam At Tirmidhi.
For the men, Salah is obligatory to be done in a mosque if it is not too far and they should attend the congregational prayers every Friday at noon. Women are advised to pray in their houses but they may still pray in the mosque while maintaining modesty.
SALAH WAS MADE EASY
No matter how the Salah is strictly imposed upon the believers, there are exceptions made in order to make Salah easy for those who may experience difficulty performing it. Sick Muslims may pray sitting or lying of their beds. Travelers may shorten their Salah in order to expedite their travel. Sick Muslims may also do an alternative way of purification if using water may worsen their sickness.