ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

What is the Spiritual Significance of Prayer within Islam?

Updated on August 31, 2014

The Importance of Prayer

For Muslims the concept of worship, known as ibadah, is central to their whole way of life. The Five Pillars, then, being the main acts of worship are not simply a matter of remembering God but are a whole attitude to life. Salah is regarded by most Muslim scholars as the most important of the practical pillars. Prayer does not only have spiritual value but also social significance.

The main purpose of prayer is to praise God. It allows Muslims to communicate with God. It is believed in Islam that God not only allows prayer but gently urges and invites it. Through prayer Muslims are able to converse with Allah when they are in congregation and isolation.


Why do Muslims Pray?

Initially the main reason why Muslims pray is because the Qur'an commands them to do so:

"Establish regular prayers- at the sun's decline till the darkness of the night. And morning prayer. And reading for the prayer And reading in the morning carry their testimony" Surah 17v 78

As with all aspects of Islamic life, Muslims try to follow the examples set by Prophet Muhammad. It was Muhammad, not the Qur'an who decided Muslims should prayer five times a day, after speaking to Allah on the Night Journey. This highlights the importance of the Hadith as an elaboration of the messages in the Qur'an.

Of course the Qur'an has not commanded Muslims pray for no reason. The psychological effect that prayer has is massive. It allows believers to strengthen their relationship with God through self sacrifice, spiritual awareness and spiritual cleansing.

Prayers and the Sun

I mentioned that Salah times are worked out in accordance with the sun but they do not fall exactly at sunset and rise etc. This is done deliberately to ensure Muslims do not get confused with worshipping the sun instead of Allah. Of course this would have been a more pressing issue for the early converts to Islam who had been polytheists and practised animism before Islam than it is for modern day Muslims.

Prayer and Submission

The word 'Islam' literally means 'submission' and for Muslims, submission to God is a fundamental belief and aim in Islam. Prayer is both symbolic and physical submission to God. The last three rakat are all symbolic of submission but actually performing the prayer is spiritual submission and an act of self sacrifice.

Note, Many Muslims would argue that prayer is refreshing and enjoyable and that rather than seeing it as a chore it is something they look forward to. So what does it mean to say it is a self sacrifice? As Salah must be performed five times a day, at set times it requires a very strict discipline and commitment. Salah times are in accordance with the sun so the prayer times differ from season to season but the first prayer is always early in the morning and the last one is always in the evening. Prayers then, require commitment throughout the entire day.

It is common for Muslims to have the word 'Ali' following their names which means 'slave of God'. The concept of Muslim's being slaves of God is evident in Salah- prayer should be both physically and mentally challenging.


Transcendence and Immanence

Within Islam there exists the paradoxical belief that God both transcends the universe but also that he is:

"...nearer to man than his jugular vein" Surah 50 v.16

The belief that God is both transcendent and immanent is expressed through prayer. As God is totally different and separate from humans he can only be approached by those who have purified themselves through wudu. Yet the fact that humans can communicate with God through prayer reinforces the concept of immanence:

"Prostrate yourself and draw near" Surah 96 v.19

Wudu, ritual washing, not only acts to actually cleanse the body but it also cleanses the spirit and prepares it for communication with Allah. The very act of prayer itself provides spiritual cleansing as well. Muhammad once said:

"If a man performs two cycles of prayer without the distraction of any worldly thought, all his previous sins will be forgiven" Hadith

The action of the first rakah, putting one's hands to one's ears, is symbolic of shutting out worldly thought.

Prayer and Awareness of God

Taqwa is the state of spiritual awareness- complete awareness of God. Salah helps a Muslim reach this state. Salah reminds Muslims of their insignificance in comparison with Allah's greatness. A Muslim acknowledges this with the words "Allahu Akbar" (God is most great) and by prostrating the most precious part of the body (your face) to the dust of the earth.

Salah also highlights God's oneness- there can be no intermediaries in prayer- only direct communication. God's omnipotence is symbolised by prostration. A Muslim prostrates to show their low position in comparison to God's all powerful one.

God's mercy and compassion is remembered through salah - Muslims believe God wishes to guide his creation and teach them right from wrong. He can do this by revealing himself to humanity either through direct revelation or prayer. The Qur'an was received through revelation but prayer provides a means by which one can receive personal guidance.

Muslims believe that they are God's vice regents who act on God's behalf. This can only be carried out if God first shows them how to act correctly. The first rakah is symbolic of listening to God's guidance.

Prayer and Jihad

In Islam there is the greater Jihad and the lesser Jihad. Jihad means to struggle or strive. The spiritual side of Islam is concerned with the Greater Jihad which is the inner and personal struggle to be a better Muslim. Throughout his life a Muslim will struggle to live as best he can and as Swar says :

"Learn to control his own bad desires and actions"

We have already established that ibadah is a complete way of life and therefore for a Muslim to live as best she can she must follow the Five Pillars as best she can. Thus salah has a large role to play in a Muslims struggle to be pleasing to Allah. As a practical form of worship salah acts to prevent hypocrisy. As salah cleanses the spirit it establishes maruf (right) and removes munkar (evil).


Watton, Victor W. A Student's Approach to Wiorld Religions: Islam

Yusuf Ali Abdullah, The Meaning of the Holy Qur'an

© 2014 TheRSTeacher


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)