Why is Salah so important in Islam?

Salah is the second Pillar of Islam and the most important form of worship for Muslims   It is important because it singles Allah out for one’s devotion, praising Him, glorifying, and invoking His help and shows one’s dependence on Him.   Salah is the single greatest distinguishing factor between a believer and non believer.

Salah is the second of the ‘Pillars of Islam’ and the most important form of worship after testifying to the article of faith – being the oneness of Allah.  

In the Arabic language, the basic meaning of Salah is supplication.  In religious terminology, it is used to refer to the acts of bowing and prostration amongst other actions at specified times with certain conditions and requirements. Naturally, this emphasis is also given in the Quran with the word Salah itself being mentioned around 96 times while its connection to other nouns and associated words brings this number to over 700.

salah in mosque

Each and every Muslim, male or female, is obliged to offer his Salah (prayers) regularly five times a day at the specified times; the males in the masjid (mosque) in congregation and for females it is better to offer them at home. 

One must offer the prayers as the Prophet (SAW) used to offer them with all their rules and regulations i.e. standing, reciting bowing sitting, etc.

When the Quran states: ‘Perform the Salah’ it means perform the prayer with all of the obligations that accompany it.  This includes all the physical actions as well as timing, punctuality, humbleness, reflection and sincerity.

Prayer is the right of Allah as well as a form of worshipping Him.  It includes singling Him out for one’s devotion, praising Him, glorifying Him, invoking Him and it shows one’s dependence upon Him.

How is the Quran connected to Salah

In Salah, the Quran is recited in Arabic – its original language and not any translation.  The first connection the Quran has with Salah is the opening Surah (chapter) Al Fatiha. (No.1). This Surah must be memorised because no prayer is valid without it.

The Prophet of Allah (SAW) said: ‘There is no prayer for the one who does not recite the Opening of the Book (al-Fatihah).’ (Bukhari and Muslim)

In another Hadith, the Prophet (SAW) stated: ’When you stand to pray, say takbeer (Allahu akbar”), then recite whatever you can of the Qur’an.’ (Bukhari and Muslim).

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By reading from memory in Arabic, this allows Muslims to constantly be in touch with the word of God. It is to be recited in a beautiful and melodic manner that appeals to the emotion of the listener. The word Quran actually means the most recited. 

Importance of Salah in the Quran

The following are some of the many times Salah’s importance is stated in the Quran, in terms of what it shows and what it leads to:

1.    The sign of a believer –

‘The believers are only those who, when Allah is mentioned, their hearts become fearful, and when His verses are recited to them, it increases them in faith; and upon their Lord they rely – The ones who establish prayer, and from what We have provided them, they spend.’

Quran [9:2-3]. 

The Quran stresses the importance of Salah which is the greatest act of worship in order to be a true believer and which sets apart a believer from a non believer.

2.    Protection against all types of evil –

‘Recite, (O Muhammad), what has been revealed to you of the Book and establish prayer. Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing, and the remembrance of Allah is greater. And Allah knows that which you do.’ 

Quran [29:45].

This shows the power of Salah as a protector against different types of evil

3.    ‘But there came after them successors who neglected prayer and pursued desires; so they are going to meet evil.’

Quran [19:59].

This also shows what happens when Salah is abandoned

4. Leaving Salah leads to shirk. 

The Prophet (SAW) said: “The difference between us and them is Salah. Whoever neglects it is a kaafir.”(Ahmad) and: “(Nothing stands) between a man and kufr and shirk, except prayer: (whoever neglects it becomes a disbeliever and a polytheist).” (Muslim).  Majority of scholars say this is for one who denies that Salah is obligatory and abandons it because of this. If a person neglects the prayer due to laziness, it falls under the category of major sins.

5.    You will be helped through Salah.

‘And seek help through patience and prayer, and indeed, it is difficult except for the humbly submissive (to Allah).’ 

Quran [2:45].

Performing Salah makes you feel better and reading the Quran lifts a weight off your shoulders. Umar (RA) was reported to have said: ‘There are two types of patience: good patience when the disaster strikes, and a better patience while avoiding the prohibitions of Allah.’

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6.    Salah leads to Everlasting Blessings. 

‘So whatever thing you have been given – it is but [for] enjoyment of the worldly life. But what is with Allah is better and more lasting for those who have believed and upon their Lord rely – And those who avoid the major sins and immoralities, and when they are angry, they forgive – And those who have responded to their lord and established prayer and whose affair is [determined by] consultation among themselves, and from what We have provided them, they spend.’ 

Quran [42:36-38]. 

Here Allah points out the insignificance of this worldly life and its transient luxuries and adornments.  It says no matter what you achieve or amass; do not be deceived by it, for it is only the enjoyment of this life, which is the lower realm that will surely come to an end.  But the reward of Allah is better than this world and it will last forever, so don’t give preference to that which is temporary over that which is everlasting.

child praying salah

The Prophet’s recitation of Quran in Salah

Salah is a great source of inner satisfaction and spiritual ecstasy for those attached to it firmly.  The greatest example of this is the Prophet (SAW) himself who said: ‘The comfort of my eyes lies in Salah.’

On one occasion, according to a companion Auf (RA), the Prophet recited Surah Baqarah in the first rakaah (unit of prayer), in which when he came to any verse extolling the Grace of Allah, he would pray for mercy, and would supplicate for divine forgiveness when reciting any verse referring to His wrath.  He took as much time in Ruku (bowing posture) and Sajdah (prostration) as he did in the recital.  He then recited the next three successive Surahs in the remaining three rakaahs and each one was of about the same length as the first one.  This amounts to more than one-fifth of the Quran and the Prophet (SAW) recited it with proper intonation.

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The above was his recitation during extra voluntary prayer and not the obligatory prayer in congregation.  In congregation, The Prophet (SAW) used to recite at length in Fajr and Zuhr prayer, a moderate amount in Asr and Isha, and briefly in Maghrib, in which he would recite short Surahs. He would sometimes recite longer passages than this or he would make it shorten them, according to the situation. 

Is 5 times prayer mentioned in the Quran?

‘So exalted is Allah when you reach the evening and when you reach the morning – And to Him is (due all) praise throughout the heavens and the earth. And [exalted is He] at night and when you are at noon.’

Quran [30:17-18]

It is reported that Ibn ‘Abbaas (RA) said: “The five daily prayers are (mentioned) in the Quran.” He was asked, “Where?” He said, “Allah says: ‘So glorify Allah when you come up to the evening’ is maghrib and isha; ‘and when you enter the morning’ is fajr; ‘in the afternoon’ is ‘asr; and ‘the time when the day begins to decline’ is zuhr.’

Some commentators of the Quran said that these verses mention only four of the prayers; isha is not mentioned here, but it is mentioned in Surah Hud, where Allah says:

“… and in some hours of the night…”

Quran [11:114]

What is taraweeh prayer in Ramadan?

It is the same as Tahajjud or witr prayer except in Ramadan it is called Taraweeh.  So the blessings that apply to Tahajjud also apply to taraweeh.  The command to pray at night was given to the Prophet (SAW) right from the beginning of his mission.  The scholars say that for the Prophet (SAW) the night prayer Tahajjud was wajib, i.e, obliged to pray every night.  For the Muslims in general, it is Sunnah, not obligatory. 

We must be punctual in salah as it will be the first thing we will be questioned on, on the day of judgment. So keep it in mind, don’t delay when its time comes and pray with sincerity