Salat is the best form of worship and the first duty enjoined on the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). It is also the most repeated act of worship or duty mentioned in the Holy Qur’an. It is only through salat that man keeps contact with his creator. It is for this reason the prophet Muhammad (SAW) describes it as the prime pillar of Islam. The prophet Muhammad (SAW) is reported to have said: “the greatest of every affair is Islam, the principal pillar of Islam is salat and its pinnacle is striving in the cause of Allah”.
The receipt of the institution of salat was indeed tortuous and strenuous. The institution and commandment in respect of salat was received during the israi and miraj journey of the Holy Prophet (SAW). Hadrat Anas reports narrate “the injunction regarding salat was made to the prophet (SAW) during the night of the israi spiritual journey, initially fifty times per day and subsequently reduced to five. Upon another plea it was said ‘that is the least that I can approve, however, your community shall have a reward in respect of the five, an equivalent of fifty”.
Salat is the first act of man to be accessed in the day of resurrection and it shall determine the acceptability of other acts. Abdullah bin Qurt reports that the Prophet (SAW) said; “the first action that a servant shall account for on the day of resurrection is his salat. If the salat is ok, then all other actions follow suit, however, if the salat is faulty, then all other acts also follow”.
It is important to note that the last statement the prophet made before his death emphasizes the importance of salat. In other words, salat was the prophet’s (SAW)’s last piece of advice to mankind. He is reported to have said “salat, salat and what your right hand possesses” before he breathed his last.
THE ESSENCE OF SOLAT AND ITS CATEGORIES
There is no doubt that salat is an act that purifies and spiritually elevates the state of man. The Qur’an has warned us to be wary of a generation that neglects prayer (see Qur’an 19:60 and 107: 5-6). The prophet (SAW) has exemplified for us a parable signifying how salat keeps us in high spiritual light. Abu Hurairah narrates that he heard the messenger said “if one of you has a river at his door in which he washes five times a day, what do you think? Would it leave any dirt on him? The companions replied that it would leave no dirt on him (he would be absolutely clean). The prophet then states that this is an example of five daily prayers with which Allah blots off every evil of man”
The promised messiah said while commenting on salat as a sure way of getting nearer to Allah “Solat is prayer at a very high level, but people do not appreciate it duly. In this age many Muslims are devoted to frequent repetition of pious formulas, s, for instance, the naushahis and Naqshbandis, etc. it is a pity that all these are innovations. These people are unaware of the reality of salat and defame God’s commandments. For a seeker, none of these are innovations are of any benefit compared with salat. My experience is that nothing takes one near to God as Solat. The various postures of salat demonstrate respect, humility, and meekness. In Qiyam (standing posture) the worshipper stands respectfully before his master and king. In Ruku (bowing) the worshipper bends down in humility. The climax of humility is reached in Sajda (prostration. Which indicates extreme helplessness” (Speech at the Annual Conference, 1906, pp6-8.)
The promised messiah said further that Solat “Is a supplication addressed to the Lord of Honour without which a person cannot be truly alive, nor can he procure any means of security and happiness. When God Almighty bestows this grace upon a person it is only then that he obtains true comfort. From that moment he will begin to feel pleasure and delight in salat”.
It is important to note that beyond the five daily prayers, the prophet (SAW) has enjoined us to say nawafil (voluntary) prayers. There are several voluntary prayers that the Prophet (saw) encouraged us to offer, however, the most important which is also the only one mentioned severally in the Qur’an is Tahajjud or qiyamul layl (see Qur’an 17:79; 51:15-19; 25: 64-65; 32: 16-18; 39;10; 73:1-5 and 73; 20. On the 22nd March 1902, the promised Messiah, peace be on him, is reported to have said “My community should make it a point of duty to offer tahajjud prayers, even if it is only two rak’at. The fact is that tahajjud prayer provides a very good opportunity of supplicating to God. The supplications of that time are very effective because they really come out of the core of our hearts. You know, unless we feel the real zeal for prayers it is not easy to get up at that time, abandoning the sweet sleep…” (See Pronouncement of the Promised Messiah translated by Naseem Saifi, page 26).
Some other forms of voluntary solat mentioned by prophet Muhammad (SAW) in his sayings are Solat ul duha (prayer after sunrise); Solat ul taraweeh (prayer during Ramadan); Solat ul istikhara (Prayer for guidance), solat ul tasbeeh (prayer to glorify God), solat ul hajjaat (prayer in the time of need); solat ul istisqaa (prayer for rainfall); Solat ul taubah (prayer for repentance) and solat-ul khusuf (prayer duing eclipse). It is important we all be conversant with these forms of prayers so that we derive the benefits for our souls and household.
BENEFITS OF SOLAT: LESSONS FROM PROPHET IBRAHIM VIS A VIS THE TEACHING OF PROPHET MUHAMMAD (SAW)
The Qur’an is replete with several examples of successes and blessings attained through the strict observance of prayers. The example that stands out is that of Prophet Ibrahim (AS). Many of us may not have averted our minds to the fact that the so much blessings he acquired for himself and his progenies spanning several generations, including having prophets of Allah within four consecutive generations, were all results of blessings of solat.
It is important to note that, according to Qur’an chapter 2 verse 34, the household of Ibrahim and Imran were both outstanding. Further reading of the reasons adduced in the Qur’an shows unequivocally that both families believed in the institution of solat and strictly observed it as revealed to them, thus culminating in the exceeding successes they both achieved. Qur’an 2:39 & 40 provides an insight into the inspiration zakariyya received from the wife of imra’an culminating into his fervent prayers. Allah puts it as follows: “there and then did Zachariah pray to his Lord, saying, ‘My Lord, grant me from Thyself pure offspring; surely, thou art the hearer of prayers.’ And the angels called to him as he stood praying in the chamber:’ Allah gives thee glad tiding of Yahya, who shall testify to the truth of the word from Allah-noble and chaste and a prophet from among the righteous. (Underline for emphasis).
Furthermore, in chapter 14 of the Qur’an, Allah gives us details of the attention that Ibrahim gave to solat and thus underscores the essence of the solat in the blessings embedded in his household. However, before delving into the specifics regarding solat which I shall return to shortly, it is important to note that Qur’an chapter 2 verses 127 to 135 documents for us the prayers of Ibrahim for Allah to make the city of Makka a peaceful one, make him and his child submissive and raise from amongst his offspring a Prophet who shall recite to mankind Allah’s signs (this prayer was fulfilled in the advent of the Holy Prophet Muhammad [SAW]). Allah also emphasizes that the path of Ibrahim was pure and ought to be emulated because he submitted to Him and taught his children to follow suit.
Now returning to Qur’an 14:36 -42, particularly verses 38, 40 and 41. The entire verses show the prayers of Ibrahim to Allah. In verse 38 Allah states: ‘Our Lord, I have settled some of my children in an uncultivable ally near Thy Sacred House-our Lord- that they may observe prayer. So make men’s hearts incline towards them and provide them with fruits that they may be thankful’ (underline for emphasis).
Verse 40 41 and 42 provides as follows “All praise belongs to Allah, who has given me, despite my old age, Ishmael and Isaac. Surely, my Lord is the Hearer of prayer. ‘My Lord make me observe prayer, and my children too. Our Lord! Bestow Thy grace on me and accept my prayer. Our Lord, grant forgiveness to me and to my parents and to the believers on the day when the reckoning will take place”.
There is no doubt that our prophet Muhammad (SAW) is a fulfillment of the blessings of the solat of prophet Ibrahim (AS). Allah confirms this in the Qur’an 6:162-163 where he states commanding our prophet Muhammad (SAW) as follows “Say, ‘As for me, my Lord has guided me unto a straight path-a right religion, the religion of Abraham, the upright, and he was not of those who join gods with God’ Say ‘My Prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are all for Allah the Lord of the worlds’. (Underline for emphasis).
It is due to the enormous success that Ibrahim and his household attained that Our Prophet Muhammad enjoins us to invoke the Darood, seeking for him and his followers the blessings and favours bestowed on Ibrahim and his household. The blessings of prayers on the household of Ibrahim and his offsprings for four generations was indeed enormous. Even though his household and offsprings were not perfect, Allah’s favours always led them back to track, all in deference to the blessings of Prophet Ibrahim. This is perfectly exemplified in surat ul Yusuf, chapter 12 of the Qur’an. The chapter documents the story of Yusuf and his brothers and how they erred and subsequently repented through the grace of Allah. When the Prophet was once asked by his companions that who is the noblest of men, he replied ‘Truly the noblest of men is prophet Yusuf, who was the son, grandson and great grandson of a prophet of God.
Indeed Solat is the key to a successful life. It is the key to paradise. Its impact on our lives is enormous and therefore should not be neglected. It is true that at age 40 and above, most of us are interested in the future of our children and how to build a long-lasting legacy within the family. The answer to this craving is simple, we should pay attention to our Solat and enjoin our children to do the same. This would bring to u long-lasting happiness and success. Solat would ensure that our family and children remain on this path even long after we are all gone and forgotten.
SOLAT MUST BE OBSERVED BY EVERY AHMADI MUSLIM IN CONGREGATION, AT THE SPECIFIED TIME AND AS PRESCRIBED
The works of the Promised Messiah are filled with emphasis on solat as prescribed. The third condition of bay’ states “Shall regularly offer the five daily prayers in accordance with the commandments of God and the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW)”.
In Malfoozat, Volume 2, pages 370, the promised Messiah said “prayer is the right of Allah; fulfill it well… Even if the entire house is destroyed, let it be, but do not discard the prayer. The Holy Qur’an speaks of two paradises, one of which is the paradise of this world, which is prayer”.
It is not just important to observe prayers but it is equally very important to be regular in its observance in accordance with the laid down requirements, in a congregation and with rapt attention. In chapter 23 of the Qur’an named after the believers, among the qualities of successful believers listed, the humble observance of prayers was listed as the first quality (see Qur’an 23:3). The Qur’an also pictures for us the response of those who shall be cast in hell. They shall say “We were not of those who offered prayers” (See Qur’an 74: 43-44). The Qur’an shows indubitably that Solat is indeed the key to paradise.
May I use this opportunity to state that I have observed over the years some lackadaisical attitude towards solat. I will give just one example and I trust that we shall take this serious and correct same as we move on. This attitude is borne out of our inability to distinguish between solat-ul-safar (Prayer on a journey) and solat-ul-khauf (Prayer in a state of fear). To appreciate these two concepts of prayer, we must be very conversant with the jurisprudence of timing for solat. Because this presentation is not focused on this, I shall refer us to the Muslim Prayer Book, particularly pages 7-8. Prayer on a journey is discussed on pages 71-72 while prayer in a state of fear is discussed on pages 72-73. It suffices to say here that the only impact journey has on solat is to shorten 4 raka’at to two and no more. It is therefore only when there is ‘fear’ of imminent danger, fear of expiry of time for solat or illness that makes it impracticable that such prayer can be said while sitting, riding or walking. Qur’an 2: 239-240 is quite informative on this, it states “Watch over prayers, and the middle prayer, and stand before Allah submissively. If you are in a state of fear, then say your prayer on foot or riding; but when you are safe, remember Allah as he has taught you that which you did not know”. It is therefore important that we know that when we are preparing to embark on a journey, we should make preparation for solat and therefore when we stop to eat, for instance, we should also ensure we observe our prayers in the normal way. It is only where there is ‘fear’ and the time for solat may expire before get to a secured place that we are allowed to offer prayers in our vehicles. We must watch over this privilege and ensure that it is not abused.
BUILDING THE CULTURE OF OBSERVANCE OF SOLAT IN OUR FAMILIES IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE TEACHINGS OF OUR PROPHET MUHAMMAD (SAW)
Allah enjoins the Prophet (SAW) in Qur’an 20:133 as follows: “And enjoin prayer on thy people, and be constant therein. We ask thee not for provision; it is We that provide for thee. And the end is for the righteous. (Underline for emphasis). See also Qur’an 66:6.
Amr bin Shuaib narrates from his grandfather through his father that the Prophet (SAW) said: “Command your children to say solat when they attain the age of seven and chastise them if they fail to do so at the age of ten…” The essence of this hadith is to emphasize to parents that the foundation of a good and successful home lies in ensuring that children are spiritually engaged and their desires are curtailed and branded with spirituality. The example of Ibrahim cited above is enough illustration on this.
There is no doubt that payer is a sound foundation that sets all things right. Qur’an 29: 45 reads: “Recite that which has been revealed to thee of the Book and observe prayer. Surely prayer restrains one from indecency and manifest evil, and the remembrance of Allah indeed is the greatest virtue. And Allah knows what you do”. This is an attestation to the fact that once as parents we set our children on the path of solat as exemplified by Prophet Ibrahim (AS) and amplified by prophet Muhammad (SAW), we would have carried out a large portion of our obligation towards them and others would simply fall in place with little more efforts. May Allah make this easy for us, amin.
The institution of solat is essential for the attainment of success in this world and the hereafter. It is the best short cut to success for ourselves, families and unborn generations. Solat is a gift that we can utilize to conquer all obstacles successfully and remain relevant for all times. It is a formula to build strong and God-fearing families that shall convey the message of the Promised Messiah to all corners of the earth and reform mankind and return it to the real purpose of creation.
Our Lord, make us observe prayer and our children too. Our lord bestows thy grace on us and accept our prayer. Our Lord, grant forgiveness to me and to our parents and to the believers on the day when the reckoning shall take place, amin.