Prayer shows a deep sense of appreciating one’s weak and helpless state before one’s Creator. It is a clear indication of the fact that the human being is a frail creature who can never satisfy his needs or attain his goals alone, unless they have Allah's blessing. Prayer is the purest, most explicit and most honest way of expressing one’s status as a servant before one’s Creator. In the Qur’an it is stated that a basic attribute of the believer is his “calling on Allah morning and evening”:
And keep your soul content with those who call on their Lord morning and evening, seeking His pleasure; and let not your eyes pass beyond them, seeking the pomp and glitter of this Life; nor obey any whose heart We have permitted to neglect the remembrance of Us, one who follows his own desires, whose case has gone beyond all bounds. (Al-Kahf, 28)
The true meaning and content of prayer should be well grasped, since what most people understand by prayer considerably differs from what the Qur’an actually tells us about it. This is solely because information about prayer is mostly gathered from sources outside the Qur’an, such as tradition, parents, ancestors, etc. That is why the Qur’anic standpoint and the morale it inculcates should be well comprehended.
The Qur’an explains the kind of prayer which is made “with humility” While praying, man should deeply recognize his weaknesses and frailty in the presence of His Creator and feel that he is desperately in need of His guidance. His prayer will thus surely meet the criteria set by Allah, as stated in the following verse:
Call on your Lord with humility and in private: for Allah does not love those who trespass beyond bounds. (Al-Araf, 55)
The prayers of the believers in the Qur’an set an example for all believers. That of Zakariya is one of them:
Behold! he cried to his Lord in secret, praying: “O my Lord! infirm indeed are my bones, and the hair of my head glistens with grey: but never am I unblest, O my Lord, in my prayer to you! Now I fear what my relatives and colleagues will do after me: but my wife is barren: so give me an heir as from yourself.” (Maryam, 3-5)
Another attribute of a believer’s prayer is being in a mood of mingled “fear and hope”. They forsake their beds, while they call on their Lord, in fear and hope: and they spend in charity out of the sustenance which We have bestowed on them. (As-Sajda, 16)
The believers fear Allah with sincere and true respect, while hoping for His grace and mercy.
Allah accepts the sincere prayer intended to seek His good pleasure.
When My servants ask you about Me, I am indeed close to them: I answer to the prayer of every suppliant when he calls on Me: let them also, listen with a will, to My call, and believe in Me so that they may walk in the right way. (Al-Baqara, 186)
While praying, man should certainly know that Allah will respond to his call. He should be aware that Allah is the Master of all, Omnipotent and Omniscient; that He is All-Knowing and All-Seeing. In an ardent expectation, a believer never becomes despondent and patiently awaits for the response of Allah. Having a firm belief in His justice, he avoids taking an anxious and desperate attitude. The mind of a believer adhering to the guidance of the Qur’an never harbours doubts about the answer Allah would give to his call. Anyone who is beset by doubts would from the very beginning display a contradictory attitude to the reasoning of the Qur’an. Beneath the very essence of prayer, there lies a sincere approach and deep faith in Allah, as the prophet Salih said, “...my Lord is always near, and ready to answer.” (Hud, 61) The believer fully trusts in Allah.
However the fact that Allah answers his servants’ calls does not necessarily mean that the suppliant will get whatever he wishes. This is because sometimes an individual may ask for something which is harmful for him. Such a call will certainly not be answered, and Allah will grant something better to his servant.
An example given by a famous Islamic scholar Said-i Nursi, illustrates this subject very well. A physician is called to see a sick child. The child asks the physician for a particular medicine he likes. However, the physician knows from experience that that particular medicine is no cure. So, he provides a totally different treatment and heals his young patient.
Allah totally encompasses man and knows exactly he his needs. He always responds to a sincere call, yet His answer might not be in accord with the desires of the devotee. As the Qur’an puts it: “You may dislike a thing which is good for you, and love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knows, and you do not know.” (Al-Baqara, 216)
Like the child in the aforementioned example, a man may not distinguish good from evil. Hence it is quite possible that he may be asking his Creator for something detrimental: “The prayer that man should make for good, he makes for evil; for man is given to hasty (deeds).” (Al-Isra, 11)
Accordingly, man should primarily seek the Will and Mercy of Allah. He should ask Him for an honourable and mature soul. Allah knows what is best for man. The prayer of Solomon sets a good example for all believers: “...O my Lord! so order me that I may be grateful for Your favours, which You have bestowed on me and on my parents, and that I may do good works that will please You...” (Al-Naml, 19)
Furthermore, believers are welcome to ask for anything praised in the Qur’an. In a sincere and honest spirit, man should not restrain himself from asking for anything he would like to have. Allah knows exactly what His servants wants. As a matter of fact, He is the One placing all the desires and wishes in his soul.
Allah answers the sincere prayers of the believers. The past communities destroyed by the prophet's prayer's are examples to this;
They (prophets) sought victory and decision (there and then), and frustration was the lot of every powerful obstinate transgressor. (Abraham, 15)
In the Qur’an many examples are cited. Allah has rewarded the messengers and the believers with many graces :
And remember Job, when He cried to his Lord, “Truly distress has seized me, but You are the Most Merciful of those that are merciful.” So We listened to him: We removed the distress afflicting him, and We restored his people to him, and doubled their number, as a grace from Oursef, and an admonition to all who serve Us. And remember Isma’il, Idris, and Zul-kifl, all men of constancy and patience; We admitted them to Our mercy, for they were of the righteous ones. And remember Yunus, when he departed in wrath. He imagined that We had no power over him! But he cried in the darkness, “There is no god but you: glory be to you: I was indeed wrong!” So We listened to him: and delivered him from distress: and thus do We deliver those who have faith. And remember Zakariya, when he cried to his Lord: “O my Lord! do not leave me without offspring, though you are the best of inheritors.” So We listened to him: and We granted him Yahya: We cured his wife’s barrenness for him. These three vied with each other in good works and called on Us with love and reverence, and humbled themselves before Us.(Al-Anbiya, 83-90)
The worshipper who prays realizes that Allah is All-Knowing and All-Seeing and expresses his respect for and fear of Him. He never hesitates to admit his status as a servant before Him.
Since prayer is an important worship, it is not only done to make a wish. Every need or wish signals the time of this worship. Since man constantly needs and demands things, he should also pray consistently. there of course, are particular times for prayer: regular night and morning prayer times are mentioned in the Qur’an as the proper moments for prayer in the Qur’an.
Nevertheless, man should consistently pray all day long since every course of action proceeds under the control of Allah. Man should turn to Him for guidance and help in all his deeds. Moreover, he should pray for Allah’s acceptance of his services. The prayer of Abraham is an example:
And remember Abraham and Isma’il raised the foundations of the House with this prayer:
Our Lord! Accept this service from us: For you are the All-Hearing, the All-knowing.(Al-Baqara, 127)
The believers who pray to Allah, and turn to Him under all circumstances are described in Surat’Al-Imran, as “men who celebrate the praises of Allah, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides...” (Al-Imran, 191). the believers are naturally praised in the Qur’an for this attitude.
For Abraham was, without doubt, forbearing of faults, compassionate, and devout. (Hud, 75)
The verses below are a key to understanding the significance of prayer:
Say (to the Rejecters): “My Lord would not care for you were not for your prayer. But you have indeed rejected Him, and soon will come the inevitable (punishment)!” (Al-Furqan, 77)
In the Qur’an, one point is repeatedly stressed: now and then pagans also pray to Allah. However a great difference exists between the prayer of pagans and that of the believers.
The believers turn to Allah under all circumstances. Whether in times of ease or difficulty, their attitude never changes; they keep praying being conscious of their frailty before Allah.
Pagans, on the other hand, keep themselves constantly distant from Allah. Only hardship makes them feel their weakness before Allah and leads them to turn to Him. Their prayer said in times of trouble, is indeed a sincere one. Yet, sooner do things take a turn for the better than they forget that they prayed for the mercy of Allah and remain ungrateful:
We find several references in the Qur’an to this pagan attitude . Here are some examples:
When misfortune befell man, He cried to Us in all postures- lying down on his side, or sitting, or standing. But when We relieved his affliction, he went on his way, as if he had never cried to Us for our help. Thus the deeds of transgressors seem fair in their eyes! (Jonah, 12)
In some of the verses, the example of a ship is given. In a sinking ship, man understands the emergency of his situation and sincerely prays, expressing his repentance and asking for salvation. This is surely a time of desperation when a person comprehends that no other soul can save him. It is then that he turns to Allah. However, when Allah rescues him, he again assumes his former attitude. This is certainly a great distortion of true piety:
It is He Who enables them to travel over land and sea. They board their ships; they set sail, rejoicing in a favourable wind. Then comes a raging tempest and the waves surge upon them from all sides, and they think they are being overwhelmed. They cry out to Allah, sincerely offering their allegiance to Him saying, “If you deliver us from this, peril, we shall truly show our gratitude!”
Believers should constantly pray to Allah and put their trust in Him, knowing that there is no one else to help or guard them.
Call then upon Allah with sincere devotion to Him, even though the Unbelievers may detest it. (Al-Ghafir, 14)
The believer attains true gratification only when he asks for the help of Allah. He feels the security of being cared for and guarded by his Creator. This is the highest degree of happiness that one can ever attain both in this world and the hereafter. Thus, prayer is a source of great satisfaction which will also continue in the hereafter. The Qur’an states that believers will keep praying also in the hereafter:
Those who believe, and do good works will be guided by their Lord because of their faith: beneath them will flow rivers in gardens of bliss. (This will be) their cry therein: “Glory be to You, O Allah!” And “Peace” will be their greeting therein! and the close of their invocation will be: “Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds!” (Jonah, 9-10)
The Prayers From the Qur’an
In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds; Most Gracious, Most Merciful; Master of the Day of Judgment. We worship, you and we seek your aid. Show us the straight way, the way of those on whom Your have bestowed your Grace, not of those who have incurred your wrath and who have gone astray. (Al-Fatiha, 1-7)
And remember Abraham said: “My Lord, make this a land of peace, and feed its people with fruits, such of them as believe in Allah and the last day.” He said: “Yes, and such as reject faith, for a while I will grant them their pleasure, but will soon drive them to the torment of the Fire—an evil destination indeed!” (Al-Baqara, 126)
And remember Abraham and Isma’il raised the foundations of the House with this prayer: “Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us: for You are the All-Hearing, the All-knowing. Our Lord! make of us Muslims, bowing to Your Will, and of our progeny a Muslim people, bowing to your will; and show us our place for the celebration of our rites; and turn to us in Mercy; for you are forgiving and Most Merciful. Our Lord! send amongst them a messenger of their own, who shall declare your signs to them and instruct them in the scriptures and in wisdom, and purify them of sin: for you are the Exalted in Might and Wise.” (Al-Baqara, 127-129)
There are some who say: “Our Lord! Give us good in this world and good in the hereafter, and defend us from the torment of the Fire!” To these will be allotted what they have earned; Allah is swift in His reckoning. (Al-Baqara, 201-202)
When they advanced to meet Goliath and his forces, they prayed: “Our Lord! Fill our hearts with constancy and make our steps firm: help us against those that reject faith.” (Al-Baqara, 250)
On no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear. It shall be requitted for whatever good and whatever evil it has done. (Pray:) “Our Lord! Do not condemn us if we forget or fall into error; our Lord! Do not lay on us a burden like that which you laid on those before us; Our Lord! Do not lay on us a burden greater than we have strength to bear. Forgive us our sins, and grant us forgiveness. Have mercy on us. You alone are our Protector. Help us against those who stand out against faith.” (Al-Baqara, 286)
“Our Lord!” (they say), “Let not our hearts deviate now after you have guided us, but grant us your own mercy for you are the Giver of bounties without measure. Our Lord! You will surely gather mankind together upon a day about which there is no doubt; for Allah never fails in His promise.” (Al-Imran, 8-9)
Those who say “Our Lord! we have indeed believed: forgive us, then, our sins, and save us from the agony of the Fire.” (Al-Imran, 16)
Behold! a woman of ‘Imran said: “O my Lord! I dedicate to you what is in my womb for your special service. So accept this from me. You alone hear and know all things.” (Al-Imran, 35)
There Zakariya prayed to his Lord, saying: “O my Lord! Grant me progeny that is pure: you hear all prayers! (Al-Imran, 38)
“Our Lord! we believe in what you have revealed, and we follow the Messenger; then write us down among those who bear witness.” (Al-Imran, 53)
All that they said was: “Our Lord! Forgive us our sins and anything We may have done that transgressed our duty: make us firm of foot and help us against those that resist faith.” (Al-Imran, 147)
In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the alteration of night and day, there are signs for men of sense; those who celebrate the praises of Allah, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and contemplate the wonders of creation in the heavens and the earth, saying: “Our Lord! not for nothing have you created all this! Glory be to You! Give us salvation from the penalty of the Fire. Our Lord! any whom you cast into the Fire, you will cover with shame, and never will wrong-doers find any helpers! Our Lord! We have heard the call of one calling Us to the true faith saying: ‘Believe you in your Lord,’ and we have believed. Our Lord! Forgive us our sins, remove from us our iniquities, and take to yourself our souls in the company of the righteous. Our Lord! Grant us what you promised us through your messengers, and save us from shame on the day of judgment: For you never break your promise.” (Al-Imran, 191-194)
And when they listen to the revelation received by the Messenger, you will see their eyes overflowing with tears, for they recognise the truth. They pray: “Our Lord! we believe; write us down among the witnesses. (Al-Maeda, 83)
They said: “Our Lord! We have wronged our own souls. If you do not forgive us and do not bestow upon us Your Mercy, we shall certainly be lost.” (Al-Araf, 23)
“...Our Lord! decide between us and our people in truth, for you are the best of judges.” (Al-Araf, 89)
Moses prayed: “O my Lord! forgive me and my brother! admit us to your mercy! for You are the Most Merciful of those who show mercy!” (Al-Araf, 151)
“...Our Lord! give us patience and constancy, and take our souls to You as Muslims who bow to your will!” (Al-Araf, 126)
(Moses said ): “You are our Protector: so forgive us and give us Your mercy; for You are the best of those who forgive. And ordain for us that which is good, in this life and in the hereafter: for we have turned to you.” He said: “With My punishment I visit whom I will; but My mercy extends to all things. That mercy I shall ordain for those who do right, and practise regular charity, and those who believe in Our signs (Al-Araf, 155-156)
They said: “In Allah we have put our trust. Our Lord! Do not make us a trial for those who practise oppression; deliver us by Your Mercy from those who reject You.” (Jonah, 85-86)
Moses prayed: “Our Lord! you have indeed bestowed on Pharaoh and his chiefs splendour and wealth in this life, and so, Our Lord, they mislead men from Your Path.destroy their wealth, and harden their hearts, so that they will not believe until they face the grievous penalty.” (Jonah, 88)
“O my Lord! you have indeed bestowed on me some power, and taught me something of the interpretation of dreams and events. Creator of the heavens and the earth! you are my Protector in this world and in the hereafter. Take my soul at death as one submitting to your will as a Muslim, and unite me with the righteous.” (Joseph, 101)
Abraham said “O our Lord! I have settled some of my offspring in a valley without cultivation, near your Sacred House, so that our Lord, they may observe regular worship. So fill the hearts of men with love towards them, and feed them with the earth’s fruits, so that they may give thanks. O our Lord! truly, you know what we conceal and what we reveal: for nothing whatever is hidden from Allah, whether on earth or in heaven. (Ibrahim, 37-38)
And, out of kindness, treat them (your parents) with humility and tenderness, and say: “My Lord! bestow on them Your Mercy. They cherished me in childhood.” (Al-Isra, 24)
Say: “O my Lord! Let my entry be by the gate of truth and honour, and likewise my exit by the gate of truth and honour; and grant me your authority to aid me.” (Al-Isra, 80)
When the youths sought refuge in the cave, they said: “Our Lord! bestow on us Your Mercy and dispose of our affair for us in the right way!” (Al-Kahf, 10)
This is a recital of the Mercy of your Lord to His servant Zakariya. Behold! he cried to his Lord in secret, praying: “O my Lord! infirm indeed are my bones, and the hair of my head glistens with grey: but never am I unblest, O my Lord, in my prayer to You! Now I fear what my relatives and colleagues will do after me: but my wife is barren: so give me an heir as from yourself,- one that will truly represent me, and represent the posterity of Jacob; and make him, O my Lord! one with whom you are well-pleased!” (His prayer was answered):
O my Lord! make me and my offspring steadfast in prayers. O our Lord! accept my prayer. O our Lord! grant us your Forgiveness - me, my parents, and all believers, on the Day of Reckoning! (Ibrahim, 40-41)
And remember Yunus, when he departed in wrath: he imagined that We had no power over him! But he cried in the darkness, “There is no god but You. Glory be to You: I was indeed wrong!” So We listened to him, and delivered him from distress Thus do We deliver those who have faith. (Al-Anbiya, 87-88)
And (remember) Zakariya, when he cried to his Lord:
(Noah) said: “O my Lord! help me, for they accuse me of falsehood!” (Mumenoon, 26)
And when you have embarked on the Ark - you and those with you, say:
(The prophet) said: “O my Lord! help me: for they accuse me of falsehood.” (Al-Mumenoon, 39)
And say: “O my Lord! I seek refuge in you from the promptings of the Evil Ones. And I seek refuge in you, O my Lord! lest they should come near me.” (Al-Mumenoon, 97-98)
So say: “O my Lord! grant us forgiveness and mercy, for you are the Best of those who show mercy!” (Al-Mumenoon, 118)
And those who pray, “Our Lord! Give us joy in our wives and offspring and give us the grace to lead the righteous. (Al-Furqan, 74)
Abraham said : “O my Lord! bestow wisdom on me, and join me with the righteous; grant me honourable mention on the tongue of truth among the latest generations; make me one of the inheritors of the Garden of Bliss; forgive my father, for that he is among those who have gone astray; and let me not be in disgrace on the Day of Resurrection.” (Al-Shuara, 83-87)
He (Noah) said: “O my Lord! truly, my people have rejected me. Judge rightly between us, and deliver me and those of the believers who are with me.” (Al-Shuara, 117-118)
So he (Solomon ) smiled,amused at her speech and said: “O my Lord! so order me that I may be grateful for your favours, which you have bestowed on me and on my parents, and so that I may do the good works that will please you: and admit me, by your Grace, to the ranks of your righteous servants.” (Al-Naml, 19)
He (Moses) prayed: “O my Lord! I have indeed wronged my soul! Forgive me!” So Allah forgave him: for He is the Oft-Forgiving, and Most Merciful. He said: “O my Lord! Because you have bestowed your Grace on me, never shall I be a help to those who sin!” (Al-Qasas, 16-17)
He (Moses) went away, looking about, in a state of fear. He prayed “O my Lord! save me from people given to wrong-doing.” (Al-Qasas, 21)
So he (Moses) watered their flocks for them; then he turned back to the shade, and said:
He (Lot) said: “O my Lord! help me against people who do mischief!” (Al-Ankaboot, 30)
Abraham said: “O my Lord! Grant me a righteous (son)!” (As-Saaffat, 100)
He (Solomon ) said:“O my Lord! Forgive me, and grant me a kingdom such as will belong to no other after me: for you are the Bountiful Giver.” (Sad, 35)
Those who sustain the Throne of Allah and those aroundit sing Glory and Praise to their Lord; and believe in Him.They implore forgiveness for those who believe saying :
We have enjoined on man kindness to his parents. In pain his mother bore him, and in pain she give birth to him. The carrying of the child to his weaning is a period of thirty months. At length, when he reaches the age of full strength and attains forty years, he says:
And those who came after them say: “Our Lord! Forgive us, and our brethren who came before us into the Faith, and do not leave in our hearts, rancour or a sense of injury against those who have believed. Our Lord! you are indeed Full of Kindness and Most Merciful.” (Al-Hashr, 10)
...”Our Lord! in you we trust, and to you we turn in repentance: you are our Final Goal. Our Lord! Do not expose us to the designs of the Unbelievers. Forgive us, our Lord! for you are the Exalted in Might and Wise.” (Al-Mumtahina, 4-5)
To those who believe Allah sets forth as an example to the wife of Pharaoh. Behold, she said:
And Noah, said: “O my Lord! Do not leave a single one of the Unbelievers, on earth! For if you leave any of them, they will only mislead your devotees, and they will breed none but wicked, ungrateful ones.” (Nooh, 26-27)
Noah Said: “O my Lord! Forgive me, my parents, all who enter my house in faith, and all believing men and believing women: and hasten the destruction of the wrong-doer.” (Nooh, 28)
You shall admonish such a one as follows the Message and fears the (Lord) Most Gracious, though he cannot see Him. Give such a one, therefore, good tidings, of forgiveness and a reward most generous. (Ya-Seen, 11)