“Glory be to the One Who took His servant ˹Muḥammad˺ by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque whose surroundings We have blessed, so that We may show him some of Our signs.1 Indeed, He2 alone is the All-Hearing, All-Seeing.”
The Night of 27th Rajab holds special significance in Islam as it commemorates the miraculous journey of Isra Wal Mi’raj – the Night Journey and Ascension of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. Among the profound gifts of this journey is salah, bestowed upon all believers. But how did we get this precious gift and how can we utilize it to engage in dialogue with the Divine?
The “Year of Sorrow” was a period of intense trials and tribulations for our beloved Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. With the loss of two of his most supportive family members and allies – his wife, Khadijah RA and his uncle, Abu Talib – he became vulnerable to harsh opposition in delivering the precious message of Islam.
Although he was being confronted with these unrelenting circumstances, the Prophet ﷺ never lost faith in Allah. Instead, he called upon Him for His mercy, knowing that only He possessed the cure for his sorrow. As Allah says in the Qur’an:
“Indeed, with hardship [will be] ease.”
Soon, Allah sent for Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. With the Angel Gabriel AS, the Prophet ﷺ transcended boundaries of space and time, ascended the heavens, until he finally met with our Creator. This is the event we know as Isra and Mi’raj.
It was during this meeting that Allah imparted the blessing of the five daily prayers as we know them today – our gift of Salah. The Mi’raj of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ represents a level of ultimate closeness to Allah. In it, is an example and a metaphor for life and deen: Salah is the gift, the answer, the remedy.
“Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find peace.”
The correlation between adversity and ascension is something that we can reflect upon when it comes to our Salah. And even aside from adversity, Salah is simply how we nurture our link with Allah, our Creator. It’s how we communicate with Him, seeking blessings and guidance. Though it is an obligatory act of worship, Salah is also a treatment that heals our heart, soul, mind and even body. When we feel that yearning to be close to Allah, it’s our avenue towards perpetual spiritual ascension and how we can sustain that closeness to Him. Understanding Salah as a religious obligation as well as spiritual blossoming guides us to truly appreciate it and seek its benefits.
Performing Salah is a pillar of Islam; it’s one-fifth of your Muslim-hood. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said:
“The first thing for which a person will be brought to account on the Day of Resurrection will be his Salah.” [Ibn Majah]
These verses of the Qur’an tell us that performing prayer has long been the way the believers maintained closeness to Allah:
Ibrahim AS prayed:
“My Lord, make me an establisher of prayer, and [many] from my descendants. Our Lord, and accept my supplication.”
Allah said to Musa AS:
“Indeed, I am Allah. There is no deity except Me, so worship Me and establish prayer for My remembrance.”
Maryam AS was told:
“And [mention] when the angels said, ‘O Mary, indeed Allah has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above all women of the worlds.
O Mary, be devoutly obedient to your Lord and prostrate and bow with those who bow [in prayer].’”
Isa AS said from the cradle:
“…Indeed, I am the servant of Allah. He has given me the Scripture and made me a prophet.
And He has made me blessed wherever I am and has enjoined upon me prayer and zakah as long as I remain alive…”
Allah said to Muhammad ﷺ:
“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.”
Salah is a pact with Allah, prescribed because of its avail to us. The way we pray today – by Qur’anic recitation and specific movements – was taught to us by Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. The Surahs we recite and the movements we make are more than just words and actions – there’s purpose and benefit to them. Reflecting upon them can help us improve the quality of our Salah.
Wudhu (Ablution): This crucial Islamic etiquette prepares us for standing before Allah in a purified state. Along with personal hygiene and cleanliness, making wudhu also gives us spiritual benefit by:
Takbir: We begin by declaring “Allahu Akbar” (God is the Greatest) – an acknowledgment of the omnipotence of your Creator. This statement commences our audience with Allah.
Recitation of Surahs: Salah is the perfect time for us to foster our use of the Qur’an, as it gives us the opportunity to apply its recitation daily. Qur’an is also a form of Mi’raj – it provides us with enlightenment and healing. Consider how we use Qur’an in Salah:
Al-Fatihah (The Opening): This is the Surah we use most during Salah. It sums up the gist of calling upon only Allah to seek guidance when we say:
“It is You we worship and You we ask for help.
Guide us to the straight path – ”
Its placement in the Qur’an is purposeful – it opens the Qur’an with these basic invocations. It’s then subsequently followed by 113 more chapters of revelation of that exact guidance we ask for.
This setting is mirrored in our Salah. When we recite Fatihah, this is our dialogue with Allah. Our answer comes when we follow it with another Surah which holds Divine guidance.
Movements: When it comes to the physical impact of Salah on our bodies, it’s worthy to mention that it acts as an overall form of light cardio, therefore it improves blood flow and relieves joint pain.
Furthermore, if the Surahs are our dialogue, then the movements we make during Salah are our bodily/physical manifestation of worship. Through them, we display humility before our Creator – a key aspect to quality Salah.
Sujood (Prostration): The believer is the closest to Allah during prostration. This is perhaps the most humbling part of Salah.
“When a servant stands up to offer Salah, his sins are brought and placed on his head or shoulders. Each time he bows in ruku’ or prostrates his sins fall off.” [Sahih Ibn Hibban]
From time to time, we struggle with keeping our concentration during Salah, but here are some tips that can help us.
Know Your Surahs: The best way to keep your mind from wandering is to actually know the meaning of Surahs. This includes the translation and even Tafsir for context. This way, it becomes more than just speech – it employs more of our cognitive abilities and results in heartfelt recitation.
Khushoo: The Arabic term Khushoo refers to full attentiveness with engagement of the heart. Or simply – to speak from the heart. Feel the weight of the words – we are reciting verses of Divine revelation, wisdom and healing that are over 1400 years old. This is why knowing the background of Surahs helps. Once we have a solid understanding of your Surahs, we can master Khushoo.
Awareness of Allah – Allah loves those who show humility in prayer. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said:
“Ihsan is to worship Allah as if you see Him, and if you do not achieve this state of devotion, then (take it for granted that) Allah sees you.” [Muslim]
“So remember Me; I will remember you…”
Plan your day around Salah as much as possible. We are all seeking barakah in our livelihood, and prioritizing Salah can help us achieve this. Consistency in Salah adds routine, balance, peace and blessings to our lives.
Narrated Abu Huraira:
“I heard Allah’s Messenger ﷺ saying, “If there was a river at the door of anyone of you and he took a bath in it five times a day would you notice any dirt on him?” They said, “Not a trace of dirt would be left.” The Prophet ﷺ added, “That is the example of the five prayers with which Allah blots out (annuls) evil deeds.””[Bukhari]
Ammarah is a South Asian Muslim writer born in the U.S. who focuses primarily on Muslim identity. She believes in the power of the pen, and seeking and spreading knowledge. Her goal is to reclaim the narrative on Muslims through her writing to inspire peace and understanding.