The Zahuri Sufi Web Site
I was asked to take part in a brief interview for a local
radio station to celebrate the occasion of Shab-i-Miraj
when the holy Prophet Muhammad was told by Allah to
give this practise to the Muslim community. I prepared a
short description as below but in fact the nature of the
interview did not enable me to get even these few points
in so I have published it here.
The role of the Ritual Prayers in the Daily Life of a Muslim - a brief
introduction for non-Muslims.
The question is - what is the significance of the times of the 5 Muslim
First let us understand that the use of the word 'prayers' is a little different
from the idea of prayers in the Christian sense. It is in fact a short ritual
comprising of very specific actions including ritual ablutions and the
recitation of very specific texts. The details of Namaz are very carefully laid
down even the volume of the voice is prescribed. Prayer in the Christian
sense of a private conversation with God, may be added at the end of the
ritual. It is probably more appropriate to refer to Namaz (or Salat) as ritual
It is worth emphasising that it is a very structured process with different
sections and sub-sect ions. It is nothing at all like the image that the old
Hollywood and Pinewood films used to present of people sort of wildly
prostrating and generally flinging their arms about.
If you want to get a sense of its feeling you might think of some of the
beautiful classical mosques - their polished white marble juxtaposed with
ornate and carefully inlaid text, graceful curves.- serene, calm, ordered and
dignified. The feeling of peace with awe that some people have a sense of
when encountering those building can give you some idea of the inward
feeling associated with the ritual worship of the Muslims.
There are 5 prayers prescribed to be recited each day. The first is in the
early morning - after dawn and before sunrise, the second at midday, the
third mid afternoon, the fourth just after sunset and the fifth after dark.
Except for the Friday midday prayers the Namaz can be recited at home, in
a quiet place at work, in an aeroplane or anywhere. The only two times of
the day it is forbidden to offer Namaz is at the time of the sun setting or
rising. This is to ensure the person is not worshipping the created sun but
the Creator of the sun and indeed of the entire universe.
The short and simple answer to why Muslims recite their prayers at these
time is that these are times and conditions prescribed in the holy Qur'an and
in the traditions of the holy Prophet Muhammad.
It is in the nature of human beings however to try to understand the reason
for such things and to speculate on them.
We can think of the five prayers as ensuring that during the course of the
day the pious person has to leave aside the cares and business of this
busy, cruel and unjust fleeting world to commune with the Eternal One Who
made him - to restore a sense of perspective. He or she imposes a
discipline on their natural impulses and brings them under control so that
they prostrate with humility before their Lord. The prostration represents the
highest point of the Namaz and indicates the person is submitting their will
to God's Will - ideally with body, heart, mind and soul. It is also a mental
discipline demanding concentration and attention. It is said one should pray
as if one is seeing God - and if one can't imagine this then the person must
pray thinking that God is seeing them.
Another way to think of the different times of the day is to do with the
rhythms of nature. We recognise that the human body operates on
biological rhythms as modern science has been busy rediscovering. It
would not be unreasonable to speculate that our biological clocks reflect a
hidden divine rhythm which we can see in nature as (for example) the
alternation of day and night. The timing of the prayers draw us back into
harmony with that rhythm.
The Namaz causes us to remember God's Mercy and Love - and we
believe that when we die it is the things which have occupied our attention
and which we have loved deeply that our soul will be drawn towards. The
prayers can be thought of as islands of tranquillity amidst the turbulent
currents of daily life. They are joy amongst sorrow, spiritual pleasure amidst
pain, sanity amidst madness. They are a gift of God to the Muslims and a
great blessing and the cause of inward joy and delight.
JMZ. Southampton. October 6th 2002.
Published by The Zahuri Sufi Web Site October 2002