Why We Pray Salah
Salah is one of the most important forms of worship. It is the second pillar of Islam, and it is the first thing that we will be asked about on the Day of Judgement. It will also define our success in the Akhirah.
Abu Huraira reported: “The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, ‘The first action for which a servant of Allah will be held accountable on the Day of Resurrection will be his prayers. If they are in order, he will have prospered and succeeded. If they are lacking, he will have failed and lost. If there is something defective in his obligatory prayers, then the Almighty Lord will say: See if my servant has any voluntary prayers that can complete what is insufficient in his obligatory prayers. The rest of his deeds will be judged the same way.’” (Sunan al-Tirmidhī)
The Prophet (SAW) specifies in this hadith that the quality of our prayers is what determines our success on the Day of Judgement. And conversely, if we are lacking in our prayers, then we will have failed. The Prophet (SAW) specifies in this hadith that the quality of our prayers is what determines our success on the Day of Judgement. And conversely, if we are lacking in our prayers, then we will have failed. The formula for being successful on the Day of Judgement is to hold onto our prayers and perform them correctly and on time, with a heart that is present.
We understand from the hadith above is that salah will benefit us on the Day of Judgement. But why do you have to pray salah anyway? How does it benefit us in this world? The answer is in the Qur’an:
For Allah’s Remembrance
Allah says to Musa (A) in Surah Taha: “Indeed, I am Allah. There is no deity except Me, so worship Me and establish prayer for My remembrance.” (20:14)
When Allah introduces Himself to Musa (A), the first thing He says to him is: “Worship Me” and “Establish prayer for My remembrance.” When we stand up to pray, how often is our heart present? How often do we think to ourselves: I am going to now remember Allah? I am going to have a conversation with Allah?
When we have the privilege of speaking with someone we love, we rush to the phone. We talk to them for hours and don’t like anyone to interrupt us. But when it comes to conversing with Allah, do we have that same passion to rush to the salah?
Allah made it so simple for us to understand the purpose of salah in this ayah. The purpose of salah is to remember Allah, to talk to Him, to connect with Him.
After mentioning salah, Allah reminds Musa (and us) that the Day of Judgement is coming:
“Indeed, the Hour is coming - I almost conceal it - so that every soul may be recompensed according to that for which it strives.” (20:15)
Allah then goes on to give a warning not to become diverted or distracted from His remembrance:
“So do not let one avert you from it who does not believe in it and follows his desire, for you [then] would perish.” (20:16)
These three ayahs are so powerful and comprehensive. Allah is making the connection between establishing prayer for His remembrance and the coming of the Day of Judgement when we will be rewarded for our striving in His path.
To Disconnect from the Dunya
We are living in dunya (in this worldly life) so, we have to earn and attend to our daily tasks. We have to cook and clean and go to work and school. We have to do groceries and run errands. Even now, during the coronavirus, we have so many tasks that we are taking care of in the home and remotely for work. In the middle of all these things, we also have distractions.
Entertainment, social media, and even too much news consumption can become a distraction from our true purpose in life, which is to connect with Allah and build our home in the Hereafter.
Al-Hasan Al-Basri (rahimahullah) said,
“The dunya distracts and preoccupies the heart and body, but al-zuhd (detachment from dunya) gives rest to the heart and body.” (Al-Bayhaqi)
Detachment from the dunya, according to the sunnah, is not to go sit in a cave away from the people and meditate. True detachment from the dunya is when you are in it, but not consumed by it.
Allah gave us salah as a gift. It is a tool that we use to detach our hearts from the dunya over and over again. When we stand up to pray five times a day, we have an opportunity to break away from our worldly distractions and to reorient our hearts, minds, and souls back to our Creator. We are reminded that what we are working for here is not nearly as important as what we ought to be working for in the Akhirah.
Salah is a chance to slow down and take a breath. It is a chance to tell Allah about whatever good and bad we are encountering in our day. It is a chance for us to feed our souls just as we feed our bodies.
May Allah allow all of us to connect with Him in our salah and to gain His Pleasure on the Day of Judgement. May Allah facilitate the breaking of our attachments to dunya through our salah and allow us to remember Him often. Ameen.