Many Muslims often struggle to perform religious duties because they are worried about the opinions and reactions of others. I have noticed that often times when I ask someone why they don’t fulfill a certain religious duty(staying away from bars/haraam events, eating halal only, utilizing proper manners, pausing casual interactions to go make salah), their response is usually that they do not want to draw attention to themselves. I have a really good friend and once we were discussing hijab( for women) and she stated that if she were to have a daughter she would not want her to cover to school because she might get made fun of. I also know parents who choose to not have their older children fast during Ramadan when there’s school so that they do not stand out among their classmates. Now as someone who has struggled with not wanting to stand out, I find this to be quite sad. Essentially, when we think that it is okay to not do what Allah(SWT) has told us to do simply because of the opinions of others, we are committing a form of minor shirk. We are saying that the opinions and decisions of the creation are more important than that of the Creator(Audhubillah).
In today’s society, there are many people who are throwing aside their deen for the sake of the dunya and worldly affairs and it is important that we strive to uphold our beliefs within ourselves, our friends and our families. It is impertinent that we consistently ensure that we are fulfilling all of our religious duties to the best of our abilities. When we are instructed by Allah(SWT) to do something, we must. Allah(SWT) tell us:
The only saying of the faithful believers, when they are called to Allāh (His Words, the Quran) and His Messenger (SAW), to judge between them, is that they say: "We hear and we obey." And such are the successful (who will live forever in Paradise). And whosoever obeys Allāh and His Messenger (SAW), fears Allāh, and keeps his duty (to Him), such are the successful ones.” Qur'an 24:51-52
From this we know that a key component for entering Jannah as well as a major characteristic of a Muslim, of a believer, is one who when they are told that Allah(SWT) or His Messenger(SAW) has instructed him/her to do something, their immediate response is to submit and obey to the best of their ability. Allah(SWT) also reminds us that:
Recite what has been revealed to you of the Book and establish salat. Salat precludes indecency and wrongdoing. And remembrance of Allah is greater still. Allah knows what you do.” (Quran 29:45)
As we all know, Muslims are obligated to pray five times a day and there are very few exceptions to this obligation. To not perform all prayers during their prescribed time is a grave sin that you will have to answer for on the Day of Judgement. Along with our five mandatory prayers, the Prophet(SAW) was known to also pray extra prayers which we have come to know as "Sunnah salah" these prayers are in addition to the five that we already have to do and more blessings are earned for praying them.
Whenever I'm engaging in a conversation with someone about the importance of prayer a common question is "why is the prayer so formatted? Why can't someone just sit down and pray to God?" I think this questions stems mainly from our understanding of what prayer is. In Islam, the prayers that we engage in five times a day are called "salah" which are referred to as ritualistic prayers. These prayers come with their prescribed sayings and movements and must be done in the proper manner. In Islam, we also have the concept of "dua" which is most often referred to as "supplications". This is when we simply sit down and ask/tell Allah what we want.
Salah has been ordained upon us for numerous reasons. This first and foremost reason is that it is a sort of test, a way to gauge our obedience and submission to our creator. Allah(SWT) is asking us to wake up from our sleep, pause whatever work we're doing, turn off our favorite tv show to worship him. He's testing us by seeing if we will truly disengage from our worldly affairs and worship him. Salah also gives us a chance to connect with Him and His word. During our busy day, He is giving us an opportunity to stop at least five times to just remember Him, to talk to Him, to connect with Him. The Prophet(SAW) tells us that “When any one of you stands to pray, he is communicating with his Lord, so let him pay attention to how he speaks to Him.” as well as that “The closest a person is to His Lord is when he is in prostration” Observing our salah helps to build a closer and better relationship with our creator.
By enjoining the act of salah upon us, Allah(SWT) is also giving us the opportunity to remember him and remember his guidance and mercy. Seventeen times a day(the amount of rakat total in the 5 prayers) we recite Surah Al-Fatiha. That means that 17 times every day, we remember through our recitations that Allah is merciful, that He is The Master of the Day of Judgement, that He is The most compassionate. Seventeen times a day we make dua to Him to help us stay on the straight path. Simply by stopping what we are doing five times a day for no more than 10-15 minutes, we are able to engage in such a rewarding practice.
Salah is also important because it guards us from evil and helps us stay away from sins. When we make salah we are seeking Allah’s help and protection. We are asking him to protect us from the temptations of Shaytan and assist us in remaining steadfast. Observing salah protects us from committing sins because if one is sincere in their salah, they will most likely not finish their salah and then go engage in haraam activities. Alongside this, if one is engaging in haraam behaviour and still values their salah, stopping to pray removes them from sinful situations.
As humans in this dunya we are inundated by many distractions, misguidance, and falsehoods therefore making life much more confusing and difficult. What are we thinking, saying, observing, and experiencing in our lives? Are we truly living by Islamic ideals? This is where we can choose to actively “Strive For Clarity.”