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Salah: Life’s Forgotten Purpose

Man has taken many journeys throughout time. But there is one journey that nobody has ever taken.

Nobody—except one.

On a vehicle no man has ever ridden, through a path no soul has ever seen. To a place no creation has ever before set foot. It was the journey of one man to meet the Divine. It was the journey of Muhammad ﷺ, prophet of God, to the highest heaven.

It was al Israa wal Miraaj (the magnificent journey).

On that journey Allah took his beloved prophet ﷺ to the seventh heaven—a place not even angel Gibreel could enter. In the Prophet’s mission on earth, every instruction, every commandment was sent down through angel Gibreel. But, there was one commandment that was not. There was one commandment so important, that rather than sending angel Gibreel down with it, Allah brought the Prophet ﷺ up to Himself.

That commandment was salah (prayer). When the Prophet ﷺ was first given the command to pray, it was to be fifty times in a day. After asking Allah to make it easier, the commandment was eventually reduced to five times a day, with the reward of the fifty.

Reflecting upon this incident scholars have explained that the process of going from fifty to five was a deliberate one, intended to teach us the true place salah should hold in our lives. Imagine for a moment actually praying fifty times a day. Would we be able to do anything else but pray? No. And that’s the point. What greater way than that to illustrate our life’s true purpose? As if to say, salah is our real life; all the rest that we fill our day with…just motions.

And yet, we live as if it’s exactly the opposite. Salah is something we squeeze into our day, when we find time—if that. Our ‘lives’ don’t revolve around salah. Salah revolves around our ‘lives.’ If we’re in class, salah is an afterthought. If we’re at the mall, the Macy’s sale is more urgent. Something is seriously wrong when we put aside the very purpose of our existence in order to watch a basketball game.

And that is for those who even pray at all. There are those who have not only put aside their life’s purpose, they have abandoned it completely. What we often don’t realize about the abandonment of salah is this: No scholar has ever held the opinion that committing zina (fornication) makes you a disbeliever. No scholar has ever held the opinion that stealing, drinking or taking drugs makes you a disbeliever. No scholar has even claimed that murder makes you a non-Muslim. But, about salah, some scholars have said he who abandons it, is no longer Muslim. This is said based on ahadith such as this one: “The covenant between us and them is prayer, so if anyone abandons it, he has become a disbeliever.” [Ahmad]

Imagine an act so egregious that the Prophet ﷺ would speak about it is such a way. Consider for a moment what satan did wrong. He didn’t refuse to believe in Allah. He refused to make one sajdah. Just one. Imagine all the sajdahs we refuse to make.

Consider the seriousness of such a refusal. And yet, think how lightly we take the matter of salah. Salah is the first thing we will be asked about on the Day of Judgment, and yet it is the last thing that is on our mind. The Prophet ﷺ said: “The first thing which will be judged among a man’s deeds on the Day of Resurrection is the Prayer. If this is in good order then he will succeed and prosper but if it is defective then he will fail and will be a loser.” [Tirmidhi]

On that Day, the people of paradise will ask those who have entered Hell-fire, why they have entered it. And the Qur’an tells us exactly what their first response will be: ”What led you into Hell Fire? They will say: ‘We were not of those who prayed.’” (Qur’an, 74:42-43)

How many of us will be among those who say “we were not of those who prayed, or we were not of those who prayed on time, or we were not of those who made prayer any priority in our lives?” Why is it that if we’re in class or at work or fast asleep at the time of fajr and we need to use the restroom, we make time for that? In fact, the question almost sounds absurd. We don’t even consider it an option not to. And even if we were taking the most important exam of our lives, when we need to go, we will go. Why? Because the potentially mortifying consequences of not going, makes it a non-option.

There are many people who say they don’t have time to pray at work or school, or while they’re out. But how many have ever said they don’t have time to go to the bathroom, so while out, at work or school have opted instead to just wear Depends? How many of us just don’t feel like waking up at Fajr time if we need to use the bathroom, and choose instead to wet our bed? The truth is we’ll get out of bed, or leave class, or stop work, to use the bathroom, but not to pray.

It sounds comical, but the truth is we put the needs of our body above the needs of our soul. We feed our bodies, because if we didn’t, we’d die. But so many of us starve our souls, forgetting that if we are not praying our soul is dead. And ironically, the body that we tend to is only temporary, while the soul that we neglect is eternal.

Originally published by InfocusNews

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  • “It sounds comical, but the truth is we put the needs of our body above the needs of our soul. We feed our bodies, because if we didn’t, we’d die. But so many of us starve our souls, forgetting that if we are not praying our soul is dead. And ironically, the body that we tend to is only temporary, while the soul that we neglect is eternal.”

    Subhanallah.

  • Assalaamualaikum..
    What an apt & beautifully written article, mashAllah..
    JazakAllah khair

    Wasalaamualaikum..

  • jazakAllah khair sister
    what a beautiful writing..
    muslims seriously need to make Salah their first priority and rest is temporary
    may ALlah give us hidayah to pray on time ameeen .

  • Subhan’Allah. I just read this article after praying and I am moved. Thank you for the reminder and what an excellent piece. May Allah guide us all.

  • Mashallah! Another AMAZING article!
    Thank you for the wonderful, essential reminder. Barak Allahu feek to you and your family, sister Yasmin.
    ~sister Alia
    p.s. on behalf of all the sisters from UCLA, we think you are a truly talented and stellar muslimah! and we are all making dua’a for you, May Allah tala continue to bless you with the best.

  • Great Allah is working miracles. Finally Islam is now online. the article is so inspiring let me go and pray

  • I love the fact that you can summarize the significance of Salah in just one page. It’s straight to the point and deep in the meaning and analogy. May Allah reward you and your family.

  • My biggest gripe about the topic of Salah is the term is never properly defined. Instead it’s incorrectly translated as “Prayer”. Salah is NOT prayer. Du’a (calling out) is prayer. The word is related to another term mentioned frequently in the Qur’aan Salihaat (actions that restore things into the proper order). Salah comes from the root Salaha which means to “put in order,to restore, to repair in order to improve”.

    So Salah is not prayer but an act that “restores” you back to reality. The reality that as Allah mentions in Qur’aan that everything in world will come back to Him. The adhaan if properly taught would ensure all Muslims understand what Salah is about. Unfortunately in most Muslim societies Islam isn’t taught it’s inherited.

    The Adhan states:
    Allah is greater.

    Greater then what? Everything!every situation,every action, every emotion,every event. Salah reminds you of this because when you stop for Salah everything in world will continue on without your participation. So that thing that impedes you from Salah isn’t that important as you may think. People who are constant with their Salah understand this.

    Also the Adhaan states:

    Come to Falah.

    What does Falah may? An Achievement one has that can never be taken away. It doesn’t mean “success”. Success can’t be clearly defined. It’s different for every individual and society. Recognizing and realizing that nothing is more important than remembering your place in universe and your state (condition) in relation to Allah is concept that Allah himself placed in the world. It’s not man-made concept like astrology.

    The physical movements and words used during Salah is too much for me to comment on in this short space but in the end Salah is much more than the english word “prayer” denotes. Without a daily action like Salah it would be nearly impossible for an individual to understand,experience and comprehend this world and their purpose in it.

    • I really enjoyed reading your comment, it added much to the article. I’m interested in reading what else you got to say on this so if you can please add additional insight or point me to the resources you utilized.

      • @ timur

        The two resources I used are primarily an Arabic -English dictionary (Hans Wehr) and The Qur’aan. As well if I remember correctly I believe I heard Imam Suhaib mention the definition of “Falah” in lecture on youtube before. I don’t remember which one I’m afraid.

  • Wonderfully stated, as always Sr. Yasmin. Indeed, a great reminder – I was thinking about the initial 50 salah/day requirement this week – as you said, don’t think we humans would have been able to do that. Jazak’Allahu Khairan for the reminder.

  • thank you sister yasmin. a reminder for all of us. even for those who pray everyday we need to constantly improve our kushoo and they way we priortize prayer.

  • mashaallah good post ..however not praying does not make a muslim kaafir i.e. this is stronger opinion.. but the missed salaah is missed time to get hasanaat and certainly if prayer is not in order muslim enters hell because of a hadeeth which rasulallah(saw) has narrated to us..

  • Thank Allah that I found this article.

    I lived in islamic country with a secular education system. Thus I seek more explanation to the why we do solat in Islam, what does it mean actually and how I can relate it to my soul and my life.

    Because without understanding, every solat that i did may not reached the level i wanted to achieve.

    Thank you again.

  • Sister Yasmin, I wonder if you can give some practical advice on where to perform Salah when you are in a public place? I come across this problem frequently. Living in America, we don’t always have mosques that are close to us in which to pray. Praying in public may result in backlash and maybe even violence from others. I know that there are locations for prayer at hospitals, universities, etc. How about if you are at the mall or in a store?

  • Fitting room, lol :)

    Outside on the grass, on the sidewalk, in an empty parking lot, in a conference room, wherever…If you make Salah your priority, Allah will make a way for you:

    “…And for those who fear Allah, He (ever) prepares a way out, And He provides for him from (sources) he never could imagine. And if any one puts his trust in Allah, sufficient is ((Allah)) for him. For Allah will surely accomplish his purpose: verily, for all things has Allah appointed a due proportion.”(65:2-3)

  • jazaki allahou khayr,this a grat reminder ,i feel that i was lost and lhamdoulelah,you wake me up,jazaki alahou khayr

  • Mashallah, this is a reminder to those who have forgotten and an eye opener for those who do not realise. Thank you for this; may Allah bless you with Iman and Taqwa til the last breath Amin

  • My favorite part: There was one commandment so important, that rather than sending angel Gibreel down with it, Allah brought the Prophet ﷺ up to Himself.

  • BarakAllahu Feeki Sr.Yasmin,

    SubhanaAllah,not just an eye opener but I love how in every single one of your articles,you are able to create a connection with things that every muslim knows and bring it about in a way that is just like “oh, SubhanAllah, i never thought of it like that!” Tremendous skills that you have been blessed with.

    May Allah (swt) preserve you, bestow His mercy upon you and grant you the highest of heavens and His eternal Beauty, alongside Muhammad (swt).

    Ameen

  • Assalamu alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu ya ukhti!

    JazakAllahu khayran
    May Allah Ta’ala reward you with His Good Pleasure, the Ultimate Success ( and me too)…ameen and May He forgive us & our sins…for who can forgive and have mercy except He?
    SubhanAllahi wa behamdehi, SubhanAllahil Azeem!

    Can i please print this article?
    Wassalam

  • Assalamu alaikum.

    “Consider for a moment what satan did wrong. He didn’t refuse to believe in Allah. He refused to make one sajdah. Just one. Imagine all the sajdahs we refuse to make.”

    I’m curious to know, did satan pray? And does satan STILL pray?

    Jazak Allah

    Wassalam

  • JazakAllah khair for this great article, mashAllah. May Allah (SWT) reward your efforts, and may He make us all among those who are steadfast and sincere in our prayers. Ameen.

  • Salam
    I have learnt a few things from this website that I was unaware of that I was doing incorrectly in my salah (eg I learnt to point my toes towards the qibla when sitting in tashhud – I had always been placing them backwards). Is there a Youtube/other Islamic website video that teaches the DETAILS of the way women are supposed to do salah?

    Thanks and jazakAllah

  • Mashallah…may Allah reward you for this short but sweet article…. I have only just started praying and I find this article very useful and motivating. Salah brings benefits that can only be comprehended by those who worship. I lead a simpler life and I already feel richer…enough said. peace to you all :)

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