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The Prayer1


In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Mercy-giving.


All praise belongs to God, Who has lavished His favours on His servants, filling their hearts with
the light of religion and its duties, sent down from the Throne of Glory to the heaven of this world by the
steps of mercy. One mark of His compassion: in contrast to earthly kings, though majesty and might
belong to Him Alone, He urges the people to bring Him their requests and pleas, saying: ‘Will anyone
call, that I may answer him? Will anyone seek my forgiveness, that I may forgive him?’ Unlike the
rulers of this world, He keeps an open door and does not screen himself away. He allows His servants to
converse with Him intimately in their Prayers, under all circumstances, be they in Congregation or
isolation. Not merely allowing, indeed, He gently urges and invites. How different are those feeble
worldly kings, who grant an audience only when they have received a gift or bribe!
Glory be to Him, therefore, so grand in His sublimity, so Strong in His authority, so Perfect in
His graciousness, so All-embracing in His goodness. Blessings and salutations to Muhammad, His
chosen Prophet and selected friend, and to his family and Companions, those keys of right guidance and
lanterns in the dark.


2 Merit of the Prescribed Prayers at Set Times (Salāt)
Allah, Exalted is He, says:

‘Prayers have been prescribed for the believers at set times.’ [al-Nisā’, 4:103]

(Inna-lsalāta kānat ‘alā-lmu’minīna kitāban mawqūtā.)

Said the Prophet, on him be peace: ‘There are five Prayers which God has prescribed for His
servants. For those who perform them properly, without disrespectful omissions, there is a guarantee
that God will admit them to Paradise. To those who do not observe them, however, God offers no such
guarantee: He may punish them or He may admit them to Paradise, as He wills.’2
Said the Prophet, on him be peace: ‘The five set Prayers may be compared to a stream of fresh
water, flowing in front of your house, into which you plunge five times each day. Do you think that
would leave any dirt on your body?’ When they replied: ‘None at all!’ The Prophet, on him be peace,
said: ‘Indeed, the five Prayers remove sins, just as water removes dirt.’3
Other sayings of the Prophet, on him be peace:
‘The five set Prayers are an expiation, for there is something amongst them by which major sins
are repelled.’4
‘What distinguishes us from the Hypocrites is our attendance at late night and early morning
Prayers, both of which they miss.’5
‘If a man meets God when he has been negligent of the Prayer, God will pay no attention to his
other virtues.’6
‘Prayer is the pillar of religion; to neglect it is to prepare the downfall of religion.’7
‘Prayer at the appointed times.’8 (In answer to the question: ‘Which action is the most
‘If a man performs the five Prayers, in a proper state of purity and at the times prescribed, they
will be a light and a proof for him on the Day of Resurrection. But he who misses them will be
resurrected along with Pharaoh and Hāmān.’9
‘The key to Paradise is ritual Prayer.’10
‘After the affirmation of His Unity, no duty God has imposed on His creatures is dearer to Him
than ritual Prayer. Had anything been dearer to Him than this, it would have become a form of worship
for His angels. As it is [each of them performs part of the Prayer,] some bowing, some prostrating
themselves, some standing upright and some sitting on their heels.’11
‘Anyone who deliberately misses a Prayer has forsaken his faith.’12 That is to say, he has
virtually been stripped of faith, since its knot has been untied and its pillar has fallen. The [Arabic verb
meaning] ‘has forsaken…’ is used idiomatically, much as one might say that a man ‘has arrived’ when
he is very near his destination.
‘If someone deliberately omits a Prayer, he ceases to enjoy the protective custody of
Muhammad, on him be peace.’13
Abū Hurayra, may God be pleased with him, said: ‘If someone makes his ablution and does it
well, then sets out with the intention of performing the Prayer, he is already in the state of Prayer while
on his way to it. With each two steps he takes, a good deed is added to his record and a bad deed is
erased from it. So do not linger when you hear the signal that the Prayer is beginning, for the one who is
farthest from home will get the greatest reward.’ They asked: ‘Why is that, Abū Hurayra?’ and he said:
‘Because of all the steps he had to take.’
According to Tradition: ‘Of all a man’s actions, the first to be examined on the Day of
Resurrection will be the Prayer. If it is found to be complete, it will be accepted of him along with the
rest of his works, but if it is found wanting it will be rejected along with the rest of his deeds.’14
The Prophet, on him be peace, said: ‘Abū Hurayra, command your family to perform Prayer, for
God will provide you with blessings too numerous to reckon.’15
A scholar once said: ‘One who performs Prayer is like a merchant, who does not start making a
profit until he has recovered all his capital. In similar fashion, one who performs Prayer gets no credit
for supererogatory devotions until he has discharged his basic obligations.’
Abū Bakr, may God be pleased with him, used to say: ‘When it is time for Prayer, get up and
extinguish the Hellfire you have kindled for yourselves.’
Extracted from al-Ghazālī, Abū Hāmid Muhammad. Inner Dimensions of Islamic Worship. Trans. Muhtar Holland.
Markfield: The Islamic Foundation, 2002.
Abū Dā’ūd/al-Nasā’ī/Ibn Māja et al.
Mālik: mursal.
al-Tabarānī – different wording.
al-Bayhaqī et al: da‘īf.
Abū Dā’ūd.
al-Tabarānī – letter part only.
al-Bazzār – doubtful isnād.