When I was researching this, I was surprised to see how few sources we have which encourage salat and so many that instruct. Especially in light of the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters have abandoned the salat --- May Allah guide us all.
Some of the greatest blessings imaginable are so simple yet we try so hard to make them so unattainable. Great rewards are the blessings that Allah has given us for various acts that we perform. The greatest of them all is the salat. Allah has enjoined on us five prayers a day. Simple, efficient, and packed with benefit, this small amount of time that we spend in remembrance of Allah, speaking to Him, seeking from Him, gaining from Him...this short time that we give to Him from the multitude of time He has given us is so tiny, yet so power-packed.
Imagine the honor Allah has bestowed upon us by actually providing us with a time and a place for a private audience with Him. When we pray, we are actually talking to Allah who is listening to us and will, if we are sincere and humble in our supplications, grant us what we ask. Narrated Anas bin Malik: The Prophet said, "A faithful believer while in prayer is speaking in private to his Lord..." Sahih Bukhari: Volume 1, Book 8, Number 405:
Just the blessing and honor we get from reciting the Fatiha in our salat should be sufficient incentive for us, but the unfortunate truth is that it is not.
Narrated AbuHurayrah: The Apostle (peace be upon him) said: If anyone observes prayer in which he does not recite Umm al-Qur'an, it is deficient (he said this three times) and incomplete. It was said to AbuHurayrah: At times we are behind the Imam. He said: Recite it inwardly, for he had heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) declare that Allah the Exalted had said: I have divided the prayer into two halves between Me and My servant, and My servant will receive what he asks for. When the servant says: Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the universe, Allah the Most High says: My servant has praised Me. And when he (the servant) says: The Most Compassionate, the Merciful, Allah the Most High says: My servant has lauded Me. When he (the servant) says: Master of the Day of Judgment, He remarks: My servant has glorified Me, and sometimes He will say: My servant entrusted (his affairs) to Me. When he (the worshipper) says: Thee do we worship and of Thee do we ask help, He (Allah) says: This is between Me and My servant, and My servant will receive what he asks for. Then, when he (the worshipper) says: Guide us to the straight path, the path of those to whom Thou hast been Gracious--not of those who have incurred Thy displeasure, nor of those who have gone astray, He (Allah) says: This is for My servant, and My servant will receive what he asks for. Sahih Muslim: Book 4, Number 0775.
The immensity of this honor is mind-boggling if we really think about it in its reality. Reciting Quraan, the Words of Allah -- Speaking directly to Allah! Think about it in worldly terms. May of us are awe - struck by even the lowest of creatures on this earth. Some of us would literally be left speechless if we were to have an opportunity to meet with one of these kafir singers or some King or President, but we take our audience with Allah so casually that we sometimes have the audacity to blow it off. We don't even show up. Allah guide us!!!! Even though, Allah has promised us to accept the sincere prayers and to reward them:
Allah says: And when My servants ask you concerning Me, then surely I am very near; I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he calls on Me, so they should answer My call and believe in Me that they may walk in the right way. 2:186
And: Those who believe, and do deeds of righteousness, and establish regular prayers and regular charity, will have their reward with their Lord: on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. 2:277
And: But the firm in knowledge among them and the believers believe in what has been revealed to you and what was revealed before you, and those who keep up prayers and those who give the poor-rate and the believers in Allah and the last day, these it is whom We will give a mighty reward. 004.162
Allah does not need us. We need Him. We must call upon Him to achieve in this life and the next. He is our Creator and our Master. Our Rabb (Lord) and our Malik (King). He is the one who deserves all the awe, fear, love, respect and reverence, but in our petty life-mindedness, we forget this or ignore it or, Allah forbid, disbelieve in it.
Allah says: O you who believe! whoever from among you turns back from his religion, then Allah will bring a people, He shall love them and they shall love Him, lowly before the believers, mighty against the unbelievers, they shall strive hard in Allah's way and shall not fear the censure of any censurer; this is Allah's Face, He gives it to whom He pleases, and Allah is Ample-giving, Knowing. Your (real) friends are (no less than) Allah, His Messenger, and the (fellowship of) believers - those who establish regular prayers and regular charity, and they bow down humbly (in worship). 5:54-55
Does nothing affect us anymore or even faze us? Are our hearts and souls sealed so tightly? We must recognize the power and importance of the prayers. We must establish them, and we must seek the blessings that accompany them. Otherwise, we are beyond lost.
Yet, instead of doing this, we are consistently calling upon that which has no true power to help us or hurt us. We give our awe and our respect to the Kings of the earth and devalue the King of the Worlds. How many of us -- out of fear or shame --- will remove our coverings or our beards because we fear losing an employment opportunity or fear jail? Too many of us have done it already.
I have seen brothers and sisters leave their salat -- waiting till they arrive at their home -- after the prayer times have elapsed --- because they were at work or at school and/or they either did not want to be seen in public doing this thing or were afraid of their boss or their teacher's reaction or --- the silliest yet -- because the available locations were not up to their comfort standards. Ya Allah! How far has the Muslim fallen that we had a prophet who rostrated in the mud but his followers can not prostrate on cement or concrete instead of nice cushy carpet or sweet grass?
When will we remember and adhere to the words of Allah?
Say: Shall we call on that besides Allah, which does not benefit us nor harm us, and shall we be returned back on our heels after Allah has guided us, like him whom the Shaitans have made to fall down perplexed in the earth? He has companions who call him to the right way, (saying): Come to us. Say: Surely the guidance of Allah, that is the (true) guidance, and we are commanded that we should submit to the Lord of the worlds.
And to establish worship and be dutiful to Him, and He it is unto Whom ye will be gathered. 6:71-72
And: Every soul will taste of death. And ye will be paid on the Day of Resurrection only that which ye have fairly earned. Whoso is removed from the Fire and is made to enter paradise, he indeed is triumphant. The life of this world is but comfort of illusion. 3:185.
Brothers and sisters, I beg you, for your own soul's sakes. Let us stop fearing social reactions. Let us stop following the ways of Shaitan. Let us stop worrying about our own comforts. Let us stop worshipping these things with our actions or inaction and let us return to worshipping, fearing and loving Allah.
Allah has made it so easy for us to worship Him. If you can't do it standing, sit. If you can't do it sitting, lie down. If you can't move your trunk, move your head. If you can't move your head, move your eyes. If you can't move even your eyes, at least move your heart!
I challenge anyone to find one other activity so blessed by Allah or man. Can you go to your employer for one hour a day and reap as much reward? Can you be a student for an hour a day and get such reward? What activity can you do that will give you so much for so little, and if this is not enough, to make it even easier, this hour --- this insignificant morsel of time --- is divided up into five periods over twenty-four hours. Subhana Allah! Allah is truly the Most Generous, the Most Merciful, the Most Beneficent!
You want more easy blessings? What about this?
A man questioned his companions, "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. That is the example of the five prayers with which Allah blots out (annuls) evil deeds." This was narrated from our beloved Prophet by Abu Huraira:Sahih Bukhari: Volume 1, Book 10, Number 506.
And: Narrated Uthman ibn Affan: I heard Allah's Apostle (peace be upon him) say: When the time for a prescribed prayer comes, if any Muslim performs ablution well and offers his prayer, with humility and bowing, it will be an expiation for his past sins, so long as he has not committed a major sin; and this applies to for all times. Sahih Muslim: Book 2, Number 0441.
What a blessing! Something so simple -- praying --- blots out every single one of the minor sins committed till we are as clean from our sins as a man who bathes five times a day is clean from the dirt. What more can we ask for? What greater ease is there in gaining the pleasure of Allah? Allah has commanded us to pray. The fear of burning forever in the hellfire should be enough to motivate us to perform this duty, but Allah, in His infinite Mercy and Justice has given us both the carrot and the stick. Don't pray, and He will punish you. Pray, and the blessings you get are beyond description: Paradise everlasting. Subhana Allah! One spot in paradise is worth all of this world and everything in it!!!! Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, "A place in Paradise as small as a bow is better than all that on which the sun rises and sets (i.e. all the world)." He also said, "A single endeavor in Allah's Cause in the afternoon or in the forenoon is better than all that on which the sun rises and sets." Sahih Bukhari: Volume 4, Book 52, Number 51.
Why so great a punishment and so great a reward? Because Allah created us for one purpose alone, to worship Him. Allah says, I created the jinn and man only that they might worship Me. 51:56
We are here only to worship Allah, not to get that perfect job, that house, that car, that man, that woman, that degree, that (fill in your own blank). We are the slaves of Allah. As such, we need to show our gratitude for the blessings He has bestowed on us. Can you see? Can you walk? Can you hear? Can you speak? Can you love? Can you work? Can you study? Can you feel? Choose a blessing, and show the proper gratitude. For the doctor who removes our appendix in the nick of time, we shower him with thanks. For the teacher who gave us the recommendation that got us into college, we are eternally grateful, but to Allah who gave us everything we have, we can not find the hour a day to thank Him? Where are our priorities?
Don't get me wrong. Gratitude to the one who helps is part of the Islamic character: The prophet said Those who are not grateful to the people are not grateful to Allah". (sahih) We have to be grateful to those who help us, but we can never forget that the greatest gratitude belongs to Allah. It is His right upon us!
Narrated Mu'adh: I was a companion rider of the Prophet on a donkey called 'Ufair. The Prophet asked, "O Mu'adh! Do you know what Allah's right on His slaves is, and what the right of His slaves on Him is?" I replied, "Allah and His Apostle know better." He said, "Allah's right on His slaves is that they should worship Him (Alone) and should not worship any besides Him. And slave's right on Allah is that He should not punish him who worships none besides Him." I said, "O Allah's Apostle! Should I not inform the people of this good news?" He said, "Do not inform them of it, lest they should depend on it (absolutely)." Sahih Bukhari: Volume 4, Book 52, Number 108.
If all this, Paradise everlasting, is not enough, as a prize for our gratitude and our seeking of His pleasure, Allah has promised us the greatest of gifts: the more we attempt to reach Allah's Pleasure, the closer He will come to us.
Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, "Allah says: 'I am just as My slave thinks I am, (i.e. I am able to do for him what he thinks I can do for him) and I am with him if He remembers Me. If he remembers Me in himself, I too, remember him in Myself; and if he remembers Me in a group of people, I remember him in a group that is better than they; and if he comes one span nearer to Me, I go one cubit nearer to him; and if he comes one cubit nearer to Me, I go a distance of two outstretched arms nearer to him; and if he comes to Me walking, I go to him running.' " Sahih Bukhari: Volume 9, Book 93, Number 502.
Allah will come to us if we make even the smallest attempt to come to Him. Allah. Imagine that. Allah -- the Most Supreme, the One who needs us not, the One who Provides and needs no provision, the One who Gives Life and takes Life. Allah!
He will come to us -- all we have to do is draw nearer to Him. Him! Yes, none other than Allah!
Please. Take a second. Reflect on the magnitude of this. Really reflect on it. This is huge! This is the honor of honors. For the one who has no faith, there is no way to instill in him the immense blessing that is found in an audience with Allah. Here we are -- piddly humans, insignificant creatures who deserve neither Allah's forgiveness nor His favors, but rather we deserve His contempt because of all the evil we create. Yet, in spite of our unworthiness, in spite of the fact that we are so low in comparison to Him, Allah has promised to listen to, accept and respond to our prayers. Alhamdulillah rabi al Alamiin. La ilaha ila anta subhanak ini kuntu min adhaleemeen. (None has the right to be worshipped except you. How perfect you are. Verily I was among the wrongdoers).
I cannot emphasize this enough. Please! Think about it! Who is Allah?? He is the All Powerful, the All Mighty. Do we deserve such an honor? Do we even consider it an honor anymore? We had companions who were so awestruck by the magnitude of Allah's Mercy in listening to us that when they went to make salat, they almost fainted from the fear and awe at the thought of having an audience with Allah. But today, we have no time to keep our appointment with Allah. The job, the kids, the school, are all too important to neglect, but Allah --- He can wait. Authu billah! I seek refuge in Allah from Allah! May Allah guide those of us who can not find the time for Him. What a great loss they have cursed themselves with. Listen to this with your hearts.
Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, "Angels keep on descending from and ascending to the Heaven in turn, some at night and some by daytime, and all of them assemble together at the time of the Fajr and 'Asr prayers. Then those who have stayed with you over-night, ascent unto Allah Who asks them, and He knows the answer better than they, "How have you left My slaves?" They reply, "We have left them praying as we found them praying." If anyone of you says "Amin" (during the Prayer at the end of the recitation of Surat-al-Faitiha), and the angels in Heaven say the same, and the two sayings coincide, all his past sins will be forgiven. " Sahih Bukhari: Volume 4, Book 54, Number 446.
What will these angels say about us? "We left him/her watching TV, Allah, as we found him/her?", "We left him/her chatting on the computer, Allah, as we found him/her?", "We left him/her at his lucrative job, Allah, as we found him/her?", "We left him/her sleeping, Allah, as we found him/her?", "We left him/her studying, Allah, as we found him/her?" or "We left him/her praying as we found him/her praying?"
You decide how you want your case presented to Allah.
My dear brothers and sisters: Al deenu naseeha (The religion is advice) and advice profits the believers, so I leave you with the following -- the greatest advice ever given, the words of Allah.
Say: "My Lord hath commanded justice; and that ye set your whole selves (to Him) at every time and place of prayer, and call upon Him, making your devotion sincere as in His sight: such as He created you in the beginning, so shall ye return." 7:029
And: Say: "Truly, my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death, are (all) for Allah, the Cherisher of the Worlds: 6:162