Taken from: “Why Do We Pray?” by Dr. Suhaib Hasan
After a long and hectic day at work, some might think that it is difficult for a tired person to concentrate on his prayers to Allah, the Almighty. Snuggled up in a warm and cozy bed, how difficult it is to get up at the call of the Mu`azzin (calling to prayers): “Come to prayer! Come to success!”
Describing this moment, the famous doctor and philosopher, Ibn Sina (Avicenna), narrated that on one cold and icy night, he and his slave were resting at an inn in a remote part of Khuraasaan. During the night, he felt thirsty, so he called to his slave to bring him some water. The slave had no desire to leave his warm bed, so he pretended not to hear Ibn Sina’s call. But finally, after repeated calls, he reluctantly got up and went to fetch the water. A little while later, the melodious sound of the azaan (call to prayer) filled the air.
Ibn Sina began to think about the person calling the people to prayer. “My slave, ‘Abdullaah, he mused, has always respected me and admired me. He seizes any opportunity to lavish praise and affection on me, but tonight he preferred his own comfort to my needs. On the other hand, look at this Persian slave of Allaah: He left his warm bed to go out into the chilly night, he made ablution in the icy water of the stream, and then he ascended the high minaret of the mosque to glorify Allah whom he truly serves; calling for the prayer;
“I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except Allah. I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.”
Ibn Sina records: “I learned the essence of true love, that love which results in complete obedience.” The love of Allah demands total and unconditional obedience.
Allaah, the Almighty says:
(Say [oh, Muhammad!]: “If you love Allah, follow me: Allah will forgive your sins, for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful)(Qur’an 3:31)
After Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) was commissioned for Prophet Hood, the first thing he was commanded to do by Allah was to pray.
The angel Jibreel came to him and a spring of water gushed out of the rocks in front of them. Jibreel then showed Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) how to make ablution. He then showed him how to pray to Allah (Subhanahu Wataala = means Glorified and most exalted). Then Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) went home and showed his wife Khadeejah what he had learnt from the angel Jibreel.
At first the prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) prayed two rak’ah twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening.
From that time, the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) never went through a day without praying. Just before his migration to Madinah, he was taken on a night journey to Jerusalem and then to the heavens (Mi`raaj).
During this journey, Allah, Almighty, ordered him to pray five times a day. This prayer was a gift given to every Believer to enable him to experience a spiritual ascension five times a day.
Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) said:
“The prayer is the Mi`raaj of the Believer.”
Prayers give every Muslim the chance to communicate with his Lord. During each prayer, the Muslim recites “Soorah Al-Fatihah”: This recitation is not a dull monologue by the Believer, but Allah promises that it is a conversation between Him and the worshipper.
Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) reported that Allah, the Almighty says:
‘When my slave says in his prayer: “All praise is for Allah, the lord of the worlds” I say: “My slave has praised me” When he says: “The Merciful, the Compassionate, Master of the Day of Judgment,” I say: “My slave has glorified me.” When he says: “You alone we worship and your aid we seek,” I say: “This is between me and my slave.” When he says: “Show us the straight path,” I say: “This is for my slave, and I give my slave what he wants.”
The Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) once said:
“Prayer is the pillar of religion.”(Narrated by Al-Baihaqi)
He also informed us that Islam is built upon five pillars, the second being to establish prayer five times a day. (Narrated by Al-Bukhaari)
This makes the image very clear: Islam is like a building supported by five columns; remove just one column and the entire building weakens. In the same way, when a person stops praying, his faith becomes weak, and the mildest blows can cause it to crumble.
The prayer is so very important that the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) said:
“Verily, between man and polytheism and disbelief is abandoning prayer.”(Narrated by Muslim)
Regarding the plight of disbelievers on the Day of Judgment, Allah (Subhanahu Wataala) says:
(What led you into the Hell-fire?” They will say: “We were not of those who prayed.)(Qur’an 74:43).
Allah (Subhanahu Wataala) also says:
(Successful indeed are the Believers, those who humble themselves in their prayers)(Qur’an 23:2),
(And those who guard [strictly] their worship, such will be the honoured ones in the Gardens [of Bliss])(Qur’an 70:35).
Allah (Subhanahu Wataala) has emphasized the need for humility and concentration in prayers. There is no doubt that Satan is the bitterest enemy of man; he always tries to disturb the Believer’s prayers.
A Muslim (the worshipper) may find his/her mind suddenly engulfed with memories, problems, worries, work and family and will often find himself wondering whether he has prayed three rak`ah or four. This is how Satan steals the prayer. Allah (Subhanahu Wataala) says that man was created only to worship him, He (Subhanahu Wataala) says:
(I created not the jinns and mankind except to worship me) (Qur’an 51:56)
Man is to live in this world as a worshipper of Allah and prayer is the best form of worship. On the Day of Judgment, man will have to answer for his deeds.
Allah (Subhanahu Wataala) says:
(Then shall you be questioned about the joy [you indulged in])(Qur’an 102:8)