To Muslim men and women, the idea of Solat or Solah (the Islamic Prayer) can be appealing or it can be a burden. Some look forward to the peace that Solat brings while there may be others who wish to know more about the importance and effectiveness of Solat.
Regardless, the next time Solat is commanded, one should always think of how Solat was made compulsory. The Prophet s.a.w. had travelled on a particular night in a journey called Isra’. He then ascended to the seven heavens and beyond to meet Allah s.w.t. where the process of decreeing Solat took place on that very same night. This was the Mi’raj.
Initially, Muslims were supposed to pray 50 prayers (Solat) every day if the Prophet s.a.w. had not gone out of his way to lower the number to five that night, and he did so with careful consideration of his people - Us. Allah s.w.t. says in a Hadith Qudsi:
مَن جَاءَ بالحَسَنَةِ فَلَهُ عَشْرُ أَمْثَالِهَا وَأَزِيدُ
“Whoever does one good deed will have (the reward of) ten like it and more”
In other words, when we pray the five daily prayers, the rewards are equal to that of 50 prayers. That, as amazing as it is, is not what Solat is entirely all about. To compile all the benefits and virtues of Solat would need a longer article. The following are seven virtues about the significance of Solat that one can think about the next time the prayer is called:
To say Solat is important is a huge understatement. The status of Solat in Islam is such a key part of a Muslim's life- so much so that one can never be separated from Solat. It is amongst the 5 pillars of Islam. In other words, it is as integral as part of our religious identity.
بُنِيَ الْإِسْلَامُ عَلَى خَمْسٍ: شَهَادَةِ أَنْ لَا إلَهَ إلَّا اللَّهُ وَأَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ، وَإِقَامِ الصَّلَاةِ، وَإِيتَاءِ الزَّكَاةِ، وَحَجِّ الْبَيْتِ، وَصَوْمِ رَمَضَانَ
"Islam is built upon five (pillars): The testimony that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, establishing the Solat (prayer), paying the Zakat, making the Hajj (pilgrimage) to the (Sacred) House, and Fasting in Ramadhan."
The second pillar of Islam is a foundation much needed (if not the foundation needed) for each Muslim to grow and succeed. When a person performs Solat, the faith is further strengthened. In fact, it is the first deed that will be asked on the Day of Judgement. The Prophet s.a.w. said:
إِنَّ أَوَّلَ مَا يُحَاسَبُ بِهِ الْعَبْدُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ مِنْ عَمَلِهِ صَلاَتُهُ فَإِنْ صَلُحَتْ فَقَدْ أَفْلَحَ وَأَنْجَحَ وَإِنْ فَسَدَتْ فَقَدْ خَابَ وَخَسِرَ
"The first of man's deeds for which he will be called to account on the Day of Resurrection will be Solat. If it is found to be good, he will be safe and successful; but if it is problematic, he will be unfortunate and at loss.”
It has also been reported in multiple narrations from the likes of Imam Abu Daud, Imam An-Nasai and more that the Prophet s.a.w. emphasised on Solat at his deathbed when the throes of death were upon him. Such is the importance of Solat that the Prophet s.a.w. prioritised it to be one of his last words.
For some, it may seem that this obligation is only for Allah s.w.t. and the Prophet s.a.w, as though it is they who benefit from such a decree. Allah s.w.t. does not need nor does he benefit from our Solat. Little do we realise that the Solat is in fact supposed to help the believer. Allah s.w.t. says in the Quran:
ٱتْلُ مَآ أُوحِىَ إِلَيْكَ مِنَ ٱلْكِتَـٰبِ وَأَقِمِ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ ۖ إِنَّ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ تَنْهَىٰ عَنِ ٱلْفَحْشَآءِ وَٱلْمُنكَرِ ۗ وَلَذِكْرُ ٱللَّهِ أَكْبَرُ ۗ وَٱللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ مَا تَصْنَعُونَ
“Recite what has been revealed to you of the Book and establish prayer. Indeed, prayer should deter (the doer) from indecency and wickedness.”
(Surah Al-Ankabut, 29:45)
The Solat that one does acts as a ward from committing sins and bad deeds. Here, the quality and sincerity of Solat play a major role in how effective it can be to prevent the person from doing any bad deeds.
One might argue that Solat is a separate act by itself and in no way can it prevent anything. One then should think of the effects of Solat which when done properly, should increase the faith and conscience of a person when confronting sin.
The spiritual self is cleansed from minor sins, elevating the person to rise further in doing good deeds. Abu Hurairah r.a. reported that “I heard the Messenger of Allah s.a.w. saying:
أَرَأَيْتُمْ لَوْ أَنَّ نَهَرًا بِبَابِ أَحَدِكُمْ، يَغْتَسِلُ فِيهِ كُلَّ يَوْمٍ خَمْسًا مَا تَقُولُ ذَلِكَ يُبْقِي مِنْ دَرَنِهِ
“Say, if there was a river at your doorstep in which you take a bath five times a day, would any dirt remain?”
The companions replied, "No dirt would be left on the person."
The Prophet s.a.w. then said:
فَذَلِكَ مِثْلُ الصَّلَوَاتِ الْخَمْسِ يَمْحُو اللَّهُ بِهَا الْخَطَايَا
“That is the five (obligatory) Solat (prayers). Allah obliterates all sins as a result of performing them.”
The Prophet’s analogy is one that is highly relatable. Water is essential for cleaning the body while Solat is essential for cleansing the soul. The way you bathe also makes a difference to how clean you are, and the same concept applies to Solat.
When Solat is performed with honest intent and committed focus, Allah will erase past sins and will raise the status of the person further. This is the foundation of a Muslim. There will be times when the person could make a mistake here and there. However, given the foundation that he or she has, it is easier to come back to the right path and rise back up again, ‘wash’ away from the mistakes and continue the journey forward.
Allah mentions in the Quran:
وَٱسْتَعِينُوا۟ بِٱلصَّبْرِ وَٱلصَّلَوٰةِ ۚ وَإِنَّهَا لَكَبِيرَةٌ إِلَّا عَلَى ٱلْخَـٰشِعِينَ
“And seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, it is a burden except for the humble.”
(Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:45)
The literal translation for Solat is prayer or supplication. When Muslims pray five times a day, they are made to supplicate and ask Allah while acknowledging His supremacy. A Muslim will ensure that his day is planned around Solat and none is missed or delayed without reason. When he or she does Solat, it is to ask from Allah and to glorify Him.
There are just so many things on one person’s plate that divine aid and intervention is always needed. As human beings are vulnerable and susceptible to failure and malady, the verse earlier becomes a principle to hold on to and live by. Allah asks the believer to seek help through patience and prayer and these are the keys to attaining help to any problem.
Admittedly, giving the best during Solat consistently could also be challenging. A Muslim continues to try and will never give up. He or she puts trust in Allah and knows that Allah will fulfil His promise when the servant asks sincerely from Him. Thus, Solat becomes the solution to every problem, even if it may not come in the form of what we desire but it will surely be what we need.
In addition to preventing bad deeds, erasure of sins and being a source of solutions, Solat also promises the believer rewards so wonderful that anybody who knew of its essence will never let it go. The Prophet s.a.w. said:
لَوْ يَعْلَمُ النَّاسُ مَا فِي النِّدَاءِ وَالصَّفِّ الأَوَّلِ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَجِدُوا إِلاَّ أَنْ يَسْتَهِمُوا عَلَيْهِ لاَسْتَهَمُوا وَلَوْ يَعْلَمُونَ مَا فِي التَّهْجِيرِ لاَسْتَبَقُوا إِلَيْهِ وَلَوْ يَعْلَمُونَ مَا فِي الْعَتَمَةِ وَالصُّبْحِ لأَتَوْهُمَا وَلَوْ حَبْوًا
“Were people to know the blessing of the call to prayer (azan) and standing in the first row (of congregational prayer), they would draw lots to secure these privileges. And were they to realise the reward of performing Solat early, they would race for it; and were they to know the merits of Solat after night prayer (Isya’) and the morning prayer (Subuh), they would attend to both even if they had to crawl.”
In the hadith, rewards that are simply unfathomable are reserved for those who arrive early for Solat and for those who attend the night and dawn prayer. These are rewards that are perfectly achievable. It cannot be denied that there is a degree of difficulty to never miss on such rewards. However, one cannot really say it is a daunting task to perform them. The rewards the hadith promises are something that every Muslim can strive towards.
There are also other narrations from the Prophet s.a.w. that describes the attitude of Man if only they knew the rewards of Solat. An example would be:
لَوْ يَعْلَمُ أَحَدُهُمْ أَنَّهُ يَجِدُ عَرْقًا سَمِينًا أَوْ مِرْمَاتَيْنِ حَسَنَتَيْنِ لَشَهِدَ اَلْعِشَاءَ
“If Man knew that they would receive fine meat from attending the night prayer, they would definitely do so.”
However, it is quite apparent that the reward of Solat is not as meagre as that of this world’s pleasures. There is a need to understand that when rewards are guaranteed by Allah, these rewards should not be taken lightly.
When an individual does Solat, he gets closer to Allah by doing what is necessary and Allah bestows His love upon the individual. This is reflected in a Hadith Qudsi where Allah says:
وَمَا تَقَرَّبَ إِلَىَّ عَبْدِي بِشَىْءٍ أَحَبَّ إِلَىَّ مِمَّا افْتَرَضْتُ عَلَيْهِ، وَمَا يَزَالُ عَبْدِي يَتَقَرَّبُ إِلَىَّ بِالنَّوَافِلِ حَتَّى أُحِبَّهُ
“And the most beloved thing with which My servant comes nearer to Me is what I have enjoined upon him (obligatory acts - Fardhu); and My servant keeps on coming closer to Me through performing the Nawafil (supererogatory acts – Sunnah) till I love him.”
In fact, it is also the closest point between a servant and his Lord. The Prophet s.a.w. once said:
أَقْرَبُ مَا يَكُونُ الْعَبْدُ مِنْ رَبِّهِ وَهُوَ سَاجِدٌ فَأَكْثِرُوا الدُّعَاءَ
“The nearest a servant comes to his Lord is when he is prostrating himself, so make abundant supplication (in this state).”
Hence, Solat is the medium that connects the servant to his Lord. A Muslim will feel uneasy if Solat has not been performed. When Allah loves a person, He bestows His favour upon that person. When Allah loves a family, no doubt good tidings will descend upon the family. When Allah loves a community or a society, the people will prosper and flourish.
The significance and virtues of Solat are truly many. The Solat we know as the pillar of Islam should not be seen as merely an obligation but an opportunity to reap blessings in this world and the hereafter.
Even from the societal aspect, Solat stands out as a communal affair to bring everybody together. This can be seen in the congregation for the obligatory five daily prayers, the obligatory weekly Friday prayers and during the two major annual celebrations for a Muslim, the two Sunnah Solat of Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Hari Raya Aidiladha.
Now with some measurements in place because of the pandemic, we can still perform congregational prayers while also being responsible.
The Prophet s.a.w. mentions in a hadith that praying in a congregation are 27 times better than praying alone. This proves that while an individual can succeed alone by doing prayers, Islam enjoins that the people succeed as one and Solat becomes the beacon to rise further.
صَلَاةُ الْجَمَاعَةِ تَفْضُلُ صَلَاةَ الْفَذِّ بِسَبْعٍ وَعِشْرِينَ دَرَجَةً
“Prayer in congregation is better than prayer alone by twenty-seven degrees”
The family institution is one that Islam highly prioritises. Families make up communities in which make up the Ummah. If Solat is observed correctly by the individual and then practised together by the family and further preserved by the community, this will no doubt create a shift in the people. One can only envision the effect Solat has on society when the virtues of Solat is blessed upon all.
These are virtues and significance that Solat may bring. These all started from the Prophet’s journey on the night of Mi’raj where he went out of his way to lower the units of prayer from fifty to five.
The next time the call to Solat is announced, let us reflect upon these virtues.