by Sayed Moustafa Al-Qazwini
Prayers are the pillars of faith. Through prayer people establish communication and dialogue with God. It makes one become aware and realize that he or she is not alone in this universe and that each person has been created for a legitimate purpose. God created human beings to recognize and appreciate His grace and blessings.
The Necessity of Connection with the Absolute
The instinct to worship is an innate aspect of human beings - it is part of their natural disposition (fitra). Since the dawn of humanity, civilizations have worshiped the Creator in many different ways. The need for prayer is great, and a deep, strong, innate feeling within people drives them toward the Absolute Power to seek His help and assistance. Just as the body needs food to survive and grow, the soul also needs its nourishment; and the food of the soul is prayer. In order for people to receive their necessary spiritual nourishment, and to maintain a strong connection with God, Islam instructs Muslims to pray five particular prayers during the day. For example, the Quran states, Establish regular prayers from mid-day until the darkness of the night, and recite the Quran in the early dawn; verily, the recitation of the Quran in the early dawn is an act witnessed. (17:78-79) Islam has set five prescribed forms of prayers that must be completed everyday at five specific times.
All the daily prayers consist of recitations from the Quran and various bodily movements. People offer their prayers to God for many reasons; the first being the grandeur of the Creator. When one ponders and reflects upon the nature of the universe, and all the diverse and intricate matters that keep life in harmony, one would automatically conclude the existence of a mightier power - God. The Quran states, Truly, in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the succession of night and day, there are signs for all who are endowed with insight, and who remember Allah standing and sitting and lying on their sides, and contemplate creation of the heavens and the earth, [saying]: Our Lord, You have not created this without meaning and purpose, limitless are You in Your subtle Glory! (3:191) When a Muslim prays, he or she is acknowledging the grandeur of God.
Prayer is a serene and uninterrupted time of communicating and building a relationship with ones Creator. The recitation of the Islamic prayers encompasses a complete mental and spiritual concentration. It is a commitment not to leave the prayers aside. Those believers who establish prayers and show their devotion through them have mastered one of the foremost qualities of reverence toward God, Successful are the believers - those who offer their prayers with humility and submission and those who guard their five compulsory prayers. These are indeed the inheritors who shall inherit Paradise and abide therein forever. (23:1, 23:9-11) Prayers render moments of reflection and are a reminder of ones actions throughout the day. Prayers have significant benefits upon an individual, such as discouraging bad actions and seeking forgiveness, as the Quran states, Truly, prayer restrains from evil and shameful deeds. (29:45) Prayers also keep ones perspective of lifes ultimate meaning and goal always alive in the mind, as Imam Ali said, If a person who prays knew to what extent he was surrounded by Gods mercy, he would never raise his head from prostration. The need to worship is as strong as the need to eat, and just as a person who lacks proper food will eat anything to put an end to the hunger, a person who does not find proper spiritual nutrition will be led to unlawful worshipping, such as the worship of animals, fire, stars, art, materialism, or anything else - things which have no power to aid nor harm him.
Whether people have a structured religion or not, everyone worships something and everyone has an inner need to pray. In society, whenever people meet others who they perceive to be at a high rank, such as celebrities, politicians, doctors, and scholars they show considerable respect for them, sometimes, at the expense of their own dignity. If people show this much respect for other human beings (who were also created like them from dust) then how much respect should they show before the Creator whose knowledge, superiority, and grandeur is limitless and eternal? Should they not, at least, stand before Him many times a day and bow in respect and gratitude? Human beings must feel frail in front of God. If they try to act on their own, without the help of their Lord, they will be prone to failure because the source of all power and might is with God only.
Those who accomplished great feats for humanity -scientists in the laboratory, soldiers in the battlefield, astronauts in space, doctors in the hospital - all sought assistance from their Lord before embarking on their adventures. Alone, human beings are inferior and in need of God, as the Quran states, O mankind! You are the ones who are in need of Allah, but Allah is free from all needs, worthy of praise. If He wanted, He could destroy you and bring about a new creation, and that is not hard for Allah. (35:15-17)