Prayer and Ramadan

Another Ramadan has arrived and more than a billion Muslims around the world abstain from food and drink from dawn until dusk for an entire month. While this is one of the main deeds that characterize Islam, there is one that is superior to the month-long fast:  it is the habitual daily prayer.  The daily prayer is the most significant act of a believer since, according to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), it is the deed most loved by God and “Between man and non-belief is the abandonment of prayer.”

Prayer is an exercise that increases one’s self-discipline and strengthens one’s faith by training him to look beyond the illusive qualities of life on earth. There is a specific sequence and method for the ritual prayer in Islam, which is preceded with ablutions.  Just as one would groom himself before meeting an important friend, ablutions prepare the Muslim physically and mentally for his encounter with God. Every prayer starts with the first chapter from the Holy Quran, which constitutes what could be called “the Lord’s Prayer” in Islam.

Bowing and prostration are also essential parts of the ritual prayer, and these postures are reserved for no other being but God as a tribute to His supremacy, power and majesty.  After invoking blessings on God’s righteous servants, especially Muhammad and Abraham (PBUH), the prayer ends with a greeting of peace.  Habitual daily prayers nourish the soul, strengthen the will and revitalize the spirit. They are the mainstay of the Muslim’s faith.

In addition to the ritual prayer, the Muslims engage often in remembrance of God and supplication, which differs from ritual prayer in that it can be offered at any time and in any form.  It is a spontaneous prayer from the heart of a believer at any moment during his life – in times of need, in moments of joy, during reflection or strenuous effort.  It is informal communication with God, a “spiritual snack” between the ritual prayers.

In addition to the five daily prayers, there are optional prayers at night, which can be performed in congregation or in solitude. Called taraweeh prayers during Ramadan, they begin daily about two hours after sunset. In addition, qiyamul-layl is prayer that is performed particularly during the last one-third of the night. These night prayers become especially important during the last ten nights of the month as Muslims anticipate Lailat-ul-Qadr, or the “Night of Destiny.”

It is said to be worth a thousand months in merit (Quran 97:1-5). It is on the Night of Destiny that the Quran was first revealed. No one knows exactly which night it falls on so prayers are conducted late into the night for all of the last then days. Attendance at designated neighborhood mosques is high, and attendance at the Grand Mosque in Kuwait City reaches about 30,000 during these days. God instructs us in the Quran to “establish prayer for My remembrance” (20:14). Just as there is a “minimum daily allowance” of calories, vitamins and minerals for a healthy body, the five prayers can be considered the minimum daily allowance of communication with God for a healthy spirit.

By Teresa Lesher

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