So many people have asked me this question, "Do you pray 5 times a day?" And when I say yes, they open their eyes wide in shock.
Frankly I believe some have also gone away thinking that Islam is so strict and rigid that prayers have to be 'imposed' on all Muslims, and if you don't do these prayers you are condemned to Hell. Aren't prayers supposed to be voluntary?
Yet what is below this surface level of prayers, few understand. And I was blessed enough to come across this passage in the Risale-i Nur which spoke of the deep meanings of each prayer, and why we pray it at certain times of the day. This has in fact been one of my favourite passages so far. It is easy for one to get into the routine of praying 5 times a day without actually praying (ie. doing the actions and reciting and all but in fact thinking of what you're going to eat for dinner etc., and yes, frankly I have done that a couple of times). To understand each prayer as a representation of a cycle at any stage in our lives.. the beginning, peak, fall, and demise... it just helps to remind us to give thanks and worship Allah at every point.
The time of Fajr, the early morning: This time until sunrise resembles and calls to mind the early spring, the moment of conception in the mother's womb, and the first of the six days of the creation of the heavens and earth; it recalls the Divine acts present in them.
The time of Zuhr, just past midday: This resembles and points to midsummer, and the prime of youth, and the period of man's creation in the lifetime of the world, and calls to mind the manifestations of mercy and the abundant bounties they contain.
The time of 'Asr, afternoon: This is like autumn, and old age, and the time of the Final Prophet (PBUH), known as the Era of Bliss, and recalls the Divine acts and favours of the All-Merciful One present in them. The time of Maghrib, sunset: Through recalling the departure of many creatures at the end of autumn, and man's death, and the destruction of the world at the commencement of the resurrection, this time puts in mind the manifestations of Divine glory and sublimity, and rouses man from his slumbers of heedlessness.
The time of Isha, nightfall: As for this time, by calling to mind the world of darkness veiling all the objects of the daytime world with a black shroud, and winter hiding the face of the dead earth with its white cerement, and even the remaining works of departed men dying and passing beneath the veil of oblivion, and this world, the arena of examination, being shut up and closed down for ever, it proclaims the awesome and mighty disposals of the All-Glorious and Compelling Subduer. As lor the nighttime, through putting in mind both the winter, and the grave, and the Intermediate Realm, it reminds man how needy is the human spirit for the Most Merciful One's mercy.
And the tahajjud prayer informs him what a necessary light it is for the night of the grave and darkness of the Intermediate Realm; it warns him of this, and through recalling the infinite bounties of the True Bestower, proclaims how deserving He is of praise and thanks.
And the second morning calls to mind the Morning of the Resurrection. For sure, however reasonable and necessary and certain the morning of this night is, the Morning of the Resurrection and the spring following the Intermediate Realm are certain to the same degree.
That is, just as each of these five times marks the start of an important revolution and recalls other great revolutions, so through the awesome daily disposals of the Eternally Besought One's power, each calls to mind the miracles of Divine power and gifts of Divine mercy of both every year, and every age, and every epoch. That is to say, the prescribed prayers, which are an innate duty and the basis of worship and an incontestable debt, are most appropriate and fitting for these times.
-Risale i Nur
I believe that the things we are going through every day has its own beginning and peak and end, I might be at the fresh beginning of my job, or I might be excelling at learning my new languages, or I might be facing problems at home. And all the 5 prayers allow me to thank Allah for each and every one blessing, trial that enters my life. And by thinking of one experience during each prayer, helps me to keep track of everything that has been granted by Allah to me for that day. And that is the goodness of the 5 prayers- you never ever forget Allah.
So what a loss a person makes who spends twenty-three hours on this fleeting worldly life, and fails to spend one hour on the long life of the hereafter; how he wrongs his own self; how unreasonably he behaves.
-Risale i Nur