The importance of Salaat (prayer) in the way of life of Islam is emphasised by the saying:
He who establishes his Salaat, establishes his Islam
The 5 daily prayers are compulsory for every Muslim after he or she has attained the age of puberty. Even in the Holy Qur’an, you will find numerous references to ‘establish prayer’ and by that it is meant the 5 daily prayers.
Apart from being a means of forgiveness for sins, acceptance of Duas (supplications) and elevation of a person’s status in the eyes of Allah, Salaat is the most complete form of Ibaadah (act of worship) for a human being.
Let’s take it from the top:
The Muslim raises his or her hands and says ‘Allahu Akbar‘ which means ‘God is Greatest’. At that point the Muslim is cutting out all forms of connection or distraction from the physical world around and enters into a private ‘communion’ with the Almighty.
The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) encouraged us to believe in the fact that when a Muslim stands up in Salaat, he or she is standing before Allah and that Allah is watching him/her. We are taught to learn the specific prayers which the Prophet (PBUH) himself used to pray and also the Holy Qur’an so that we may praise and glorify Allah during the Salaat.
Next we bow – we keep our knees straight and bow before Allah, once again believing that Allah is watching over us as we bow out of humility to Him and glorify Him.
So now we have some sort of momentum going – we started standing up and praising Allah (Qyam) and praying selected Ayaat verses from the Qur’an. We then moved into Rukuh (bowing position) and continued praising God with full Yaqeen (conviction, belief) in His Omnipresence and now finally, we reach the zenith of our actions, the logical next step of the act of Ibaadah, we kneel before our Creator, put our hands down on the floor and place our heads into the ‘lap’ of our Creator and prostrate in front of Allah, the Creator of the universe.
This is called Sujood (prostration) and it is the very climax of this perfectly self contained piece of worship called Salaat. It is in Sujood that a person is the closest to Allah, indeed our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) likened it to placing one’s head in the ‘lap’ of God.
We then finish off by sitting down in Qaidah (sitting position), sending salutations to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and asking Allah to forgive our shortcomings in the prayer and accept it through His Mercy.
So there we have it, a brief exposition into the journey which is encountered (or should be encountered!) by every Muslim when we lift our hands up and say Allahu Akbar!!
And Allah knows best.