Concept of prayers & worship in Islam

The fundamental creed and religious rites of Islam can be summed up in the phrase “Six Articles of Faith, Five Pillars (duties).” The Six Articles of Faith are belief in the existence of Almighty Allah, belief in the angels, belief in the holy books, belief in the prophets, belief in the resurrection, and belief in Allah’s plan (destiny). The five Pillars are the fundamental religious duties incumbent on all muslims – the profession of faith, prayer, almsgiving, fasting, and pilgrimage. Obligatory prayer is ranked second among them. The five daily times at which obligatory prayer must be performed are sunset (maghrib), evening (‘isha’), dawn (fajr), noon (zuhr), and afternoon (‘asr), while facing in the direction of holy Makkah (Mecca), in Saudi Arabia. Valued above all is the group prayer service held in mosques at noon on Fridays. Following a prescribed purification of the body, worship is conducted with established procedures and gestures, and the words recited are also established, with the first Sura of the holy Qur’an always being recited. As long as prayer is performed facing in the direction of holy Makkah, it can be done anywhere. Group prayer at a mosque is often led by the prayer leader (imam), and everyone, leader and congregation, faces in the direction of Makkah, the holiest city in Islam. The fact that obligatory prayer is conducted at set times of day on the basis of prescribed ritual indicates that in their prayers believers are attached to the greater community of Islam. When, at the end of formal prayer, they look to the right and the left and recite, “May peace be with you,” one can say this has the meaning of praying for peace for fellow believers and of raising awareness of equality and solidarity. Even if two people do not speak each other’s language, they will be able to worship together, if the liturgy and gestures always follow established forms. Today a large number of muslims are inevitably caught up in the disruptions and conflicts caused by the confusing policies of international society. Through worship and prayer they obtain the strength to accept their harsh fate and face another day together, shoulder to shoulder, under the rule of an omnipotent, all-knowing Almighty Allah. Whether obligatory or private, prayer relieves people’s spirits, strengthens ties with fellow believers, and is a method of affirming love of one’s neighbors. After all it is worship and prayer that embodies, for both mind and body, “absolute obedience to God.” In Islam, there is a clear distinction between obligatory prayer (salat) and private prayer (du’a’).
Obligatory prayer must follow a formula and be carried out in Arabic, but private prayers do not have to be in Arabic; use of the mother tongue of the believer is permitted. Whether people believe in a special creed or not, it can generally be said that they pray for happiness and to live another day. The worship and prayers of Islam are no different from ours. For there to be mutual understanding and a peaceful world through dialogue between cultures and religions, we must spare no effort in making it objectively understood that the harsh criticism, filled with ill will, toward Islam and muslims that seems to appear daily in the mass media is wrong. Considering the suffering and sorrow of all innocent followers of the Islamic faith, all muslims are duty bound to emphasize the need for a spirit of praying together.

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