Why Salat is Five Times a Day, Day After Day (Cyclical and Repetitive)
[Just to let you know, the text below is a transcription of what I've said in this video. So please excuse any words or phrases that don't quite look right.]
Consider the Salat itself.
The Salat from beginning to end is made up of cycles and repetitions. There is something symbolic about the cyclical nature of the prayer. The fact that it is repeated resembles what is going on elsewhere in terms of the natural order and processes even within ourselves.
So look at our digestive systems.
There's a cycle, a repetition. We don't complain about the fact that there is a repeating cycle. We need that to happen.
We also need the water cycle. We need the Earth to keep spinning at a certain rate and rotate around the sun in its orbit.
Everything else out there in its Sajdah, in its “Salat,” is going through a particular set cycle and repeating that cycle.
How Long Do We Stand in Prayer?
So for human beings, consider your five daily prayers from beginning to end. Look at the time that's required. Allah is not asking us a lot because there's only five. It was originally ordained 50 prayers in the day and night. 50.
Now the reflection in this for us should be: if it was 50 in the day and night, that wouldn't have been too much for Allah to ask from us. It's as if Salat is why we are here. It's not a sideshow.
We really need to shift our perspective to understand, as human beings, we're on Earth literally to show whether we can pray. Will you pray? That's pretty much it. You might think that's overly simplified, but that is the central point of human existence. Are you going to do your Salat, do your Tasbih, do your Tahmeed?
Will you fit into alignment with everything else that is out there? Or won't you? Instead, are you going to be arrogant, rebel, forget and be heedless?
It could have been 50 prayers. But no, it's just five.
Five prayers might take us a minimum of an hour or two if you pray congregationally (if you're driving there and back and everything else.) Maybe you're not driving right now because you’re in lockdown and you are social distancing and your mosque is closed. But normally speaking, let's say Salat takes a maximum of two hours a day.
What are two hours out of 24? 1/12th of your day. Eight and a bit percent.
What if Salat was only half an hour out of 24 hours? 1/48th: just over 2%. Still a single-digit percentage of our time.
Allah blessed us with time and just a single-digit percentage of our time is what Allah is asking us to offer in prayer.
Everything else is cycling constantly. Angels are constantly glorifying Him, some are constantly engaged in prostration. Everything else out there that Allah refers to is in a constant state of Salat and Tasbih.
When you are engaged in prayer, engaged in Salat, then you are tapping into and aligning with the natural order of things.
Salat: A Disruptor to Your Life, or Your Reason for Life?
A key practical reflection for us is the following: if we feel our prayers are breaking our routine and we are inserting something into what the main goal of our life or day is, this is a problematic attitude.
Yes, Salat might be the disruptor for the one who isn't looking forward to it. If their mind is elsewhere it becomes a disruptor.
However, in principle, it's the Salat that we're here for a priori.
Before you layer anything else on in terms of your responsibilities, duties, work or your family, first and foremost show that you're a worshipper of God, submitted to God, and someone who prostrates to Him. Then, in and around that, insert a bit of work. Get some money so you can feed your family. Spend some time entertaining yourself. Socialise. Do some other good works here there.
Salat is the Key to Paradise
Salat is the centre point. Let us not underestimate and forget that Salat is literally the key to paradise. If the teeth of this key are aligned in the right order, then you put the key in and the door opens.
So you might have a key. You might have some Salat. But it's not just any key; it needs to be a properly honed Salat key. Like a high-security lock. It needs to be managed in a certain way.
Salat is the first thing that Allah will ask us about on the Day of Judgement.
Just imagine you're arriving for your account and it’s the very first thing.
Were you a good person? Did you speak nice words? Did you give charity? Did you look after your parents? All of this stuff is excellent, insha'Allah. All will be there on our account.
But number one? "Tell me," Allah will say, "My servant, what is the state of your Salat?"
What's the state of your prayer? That's the number one question. Therefore, it is no exaggeration to say that after we acknowledge the oneness of God, and we say, la illaha ill-Allah, there is no single more important action than the prayer itself.
Amongst the dying words of the Prophet, God grant him blessings and peace, "Wa al Salat, al Salat," in a plea to his Ummah, to his nation: don't leave this, don't forget this.
We see Ibrahim, his forefather, was the same. His concern for the prayer. The desire that Salat would continue was his central concern.
To conclude, we can take great comfort and a lot of encouragement from this. Hopefully, this expands your perspective. When you stand to pray, Zoom out of yourself and realise that you are literally aligning with everything that is out there in worship of the One True Creator of everything that exists. That's prayer as a universal phenomenon.