What Is the True Purpose of Prayer?

What Is the True Purpose of Prayer? April 29, 2018
true purpose prayer salah
Photo by matin firouzabadi on Unsplash

When I get the chance to lay my prayer mat across the floor and place my forehead on the ground, I feel such utter bliss. It’s hard to put my finger on what that bliss is. Some may say that it’s a moment where my consciousness is present in the now, whereas others may say that it is exclusively an effect of connecting to the Divine. I’m not sure what it is and I’m not exactly sure if I care. Unfortunately, this moment doesn’t happen too often; my prayers occasionally feel empty and I fear the loss of that connection. But in that fear lies the question of why I truly pray. I feel as though as Muslims, we forget why we pray salah (the 5 daily prayers) and worship; prayer and reflection turn into meaningless rituals.

Regardless of this, I try to remind myself that God never promised that prayer would lead to happiness of peace in this life. There are blessings in prayers that feel empty—it shows our belief in God, that even though there is no form of gratification now, there will be relief eventually. What is faith if we aren’t tested? It also brings up the question of, “Why am I truly worshiping Allah? Is it for self-gratification? Is it only for the promise of Paradise, and nothing else?”

Rabiah Al-Basri, a famous Islamic Mystic once said, “O Allah! If I worship You for fear of Hell, burn me in Hell and if I worship You in hopes of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise. But if I worship You for Your Own sake, don’t deny me Your Everlasting Beauty.”

My prayers occasionally feel empty and I fear the loss of that connection. But in that fear lies the question of why I truly pray.

We shouldn’t worship Allah with hopes of Paradise or the fear of Hellfire. We should Worship Him so that we may get His pleasure. It’s easy to forget that we are doing this to get closer to Allah and to possibly get a glimpse of his unfathomable beauty. In the spirit of this, I constantly remind myself that my efforts aren’t for me. They aren’t for this body or my presence on this earth. We spend our entire lives hearing about sages and ascetics who have attained enlightenment and peace. But what is Enlightenment and what is Peace?

In a hadith, the Prophet (PBUH) remarked, “Allah, The Most Merciful has said, “I am what my servant thinks of Me.” I know and believe that Allah is more than the gratification that I seek on this earth. He has laid out the Heavens and the Earth as a test. It’s easy to fall into deceptive thoughts that cloud your mind with the joys of this Earth and the wonders of Jannah, but if the beauty of the Seven Heavens is unfathomable, imagine the beauty of its Creator! I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t seek Jannah—we should. But in seeking Jannah, we should ultimately be seeking Allah (SWT).

The Prophet (PBUH) said, “Allah (SWT) said, ‘If My servant loves to meet Me, I love to meet him.’” [Sahih al-Bukhari]

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