Salat or the prescribed Prayer has been mentioned in the Holy Quran as an essential characteristic of a true believer. The Holy Quran states:
This is a perfect Book; there is no doubt in it; it is a guidance for the righteous, Who believe in the unseen and observe Prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them; (2:3-4)
Prayer or Salat, helps us to get rid of sins; inclines us more and more towards God and goodly things and so gradually purifies us. But this is not the end. Prayer does much more than this. It brings man closer to his Creator. The worshipper tries to imitate God in His most excellent attributes and is constantly transformed from a lowly and worldly person to a highly noble and sublime servant of God. The Holy Quran mentions this distinctive quality of Salat by saying:
Recite that which has been revealed to thee of the Book, and observe Prayer. Surely, Prayer restrains one from indecency and manifest evil, and remembrance of Allah indeed is the greatest virtue. And Allah knows what you do. (29:46)
Prayer is indeed a sure and well-tried prescription for purity of the heart and the soul. It is through Salat alone that we are able to establish a living communion with Allah. The Quran says:
Surely, only those who follow the Book of Allah and observe Prayer and spend out of what We have provided for them, secretly and openly, hope for a bargain which will never fail; In order that He may give them their full rewards, and even increase them out of His bounty. He is surely Most Forgiving, Most Appreciating. (35:30-31)
According to the Holy Prophet(sa) Salat is the pinnacle of the spiritual life of the believer. It is the highest form of Divine worship. The Holy Prophet(sa) is further reported to have observed:
Prayer brings the believer into communion with his Lord.
It must be realised that sincere prayer never goes in vain. Sometimes, the deep spiritual experience of the intense love of God brings tears to the eyes. Sometimes, a milder pleasure of love fills the heart with sublime happiness. These experiences are signs of the Prayer being alive, meaningful and fruitful. Otherwise, just a performance of formality is not enough to benefit man. That would be obeying an order without one’s heart being in it. That is why it is highly essential that every beginner should keep this noble objective before him and always try to make his Prayers come alive.
The Salat combines all forms and degrees expressive of humility and submission. The worshippers stand in rows and respectfully behind the Imam.
All the worshippers who line up behind the Imam must follow his movements at his call. The call for every movement is Allahu Akbar except when the Imam straightens himself from the position of Ruku‘, i.e. the bowing position, when instead of saying Allahu Akbar, he says Sami‘allahu Liman Hamidah which means ‘most certainly God listens to those who praise Him.’ At this call, all the followers also straighten up with arms by their sides, saying Rabbana Wa Lakal Hamd, Hamdan Kathiran Tayyiban Mubarakan Fihi.
Sincerity and humility are the essence of prayer. Allah enjoins believers:
Surely, success does come to the believers, Who are humble in their Prayers, (23:2-3)
The Holy Prophet(sa) has said: No servant of Allah humbles himself for the sake of Allah, but Allah thereby brings about his Raf‘a. Raf‘a is an Arabic word meaning ‘to raise’. It does not mean that Allah will lift him bodily to heaven. Obviously it means that Allah will exalt his status before Him.
True humility can only be achieved by mentally concentrating on the attributes of Allah. When His immense greatness dawns on someone, one has no choice but to be humbled.