The importance of prayer in Islam cannot be understated. It is the first pillar of Islam that Prophet Muhammad (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) mentioned after mentioning the testimony of faith, by which one becomes a Muslim. It was made obligatory upon all the prophets and for all peoples. Allah has declared its obligatory status under majestic circumstances. For example, when Allah spoke directly to Moses, He said: "And I have chosen you, so listen to that which is inspired to you. Verily, I am Allah! There is none worthy of worship but I, so worship Me and offer prayer perfectly for My remembrance." [Surah Taha 13-14]
Similarly the prayers were made obligatory upon Prophet Muhammad (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) during his ascension to heaven. Furthermore, when Allah praises the believers, such as in the beginning of Surah Muminoon, one of the first descriptions He states is their adherence to the prayers.
Once a man the Prophet Muhammad (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) about the most virtuous deed. The Holy Prophet (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) stated that the most virtuous deed is the prayer. The man asked again and again. The first three times, the Holy Prophet (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) again answered, "The prayer," then on the fourth occasion he stated, "Jihad in the way of Allah." [This is from a Hadith recorded by Ahmad and Ibn-e-Hubban.] (Targheeb wat-Tarheeb, vol 1, p 150)
The importance of prayer is demonstrated in many of the Prophet`s statement. For example, the Holy Prophet (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) said: "The first matter that the bondman will be brought to account for on the Day of Judgement is the prayer. If it is sound, then the rest of his deeds will be sound. And if it is bad, then the rest of his deeds will be bad." [Tabarani]
The importance of the prayers lies in the fact that no matter what actions one performs in his life, the most important aspect is one`s relationship to Allah, that is, one`s faith (Imaan), God-consciousness (Taqwa), sincerity (Ikhlas) and worship of Allah (`ibaadat).
This relationship with Allah is both demonstrated and put into practice, as well as improved and increased, by the prayer. Therefore, if the prayers are sound and proper, the rest of the deeds will be sound and proper; and if the prayers are not sound and proper, then the rest of the deeds will not be sound and proper, as the Holy Prophet (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) himself stated.
In reality, the prayer is performed properly — with true remembrance of Allah and turning to Him for forgiveness — it will have a lasting effect on the person. After he finishes the prayer, his heart will be filled with the remembrance of Allah.
He will be fearful as well as hopeful of Allah. After that experience, he will not want to move from that lofty position to one wherein he disobeys Allah.
Allah has mentioned this aspect of the prayer when He has said: "Verily, the prayer keeps one from the great sins and evil deeds (Ankaboot: 45)
Imam Nawawi has described this effect in the following eloquent way: Its aim is to generate within the subliminal self of man such spiritual power, light of faith and awareness of God as can enable him to strive successfully against all kinds of evils and temptations and remain steadfast at times of trial and adversity and protect himself against the weakness of the flesh and the mischief of immoderate appetites. [Nawawi, p 24]
The overall affect that the properly performed prayers should have upon humans is described in other verses in the Holy Qur`aan:
Verily, man was created impatient, irritable when evil touches him and niggardly when good touches him. Except for those devoted to prayer those who remain constant in their prayers..." (Ma`aarij 19-23)
As for the Hereafter, Allah`s forgiveness and pleasure is closely related to the prayers. The Messenger of Allah (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) said:
Allah has obligated five prayers. Whoever excellently performs their ablutions, prays them in their proper times, completes their bows, prostrations and Khushu`, has a promise from Allah that He will forgive him. And whoever does not do that has no promise from Allah. He may either forgive him or punish him." [Recorded by Malik, Ahmad, Abu Dawood, Nasaee and others]
In the narration, Khushu` in the prayer is where the person`s heart is attuned to the prayer. This feeling in the heart is then reflected on the body. The person remains still and calm. His gaze is also lowered. Even his voice is affected by this feeling in the heart.
For further details on this concept (as well as the difference between it and khudhu`), see Muhammad al-Shaayi, al-Furooq al-Laughawiyyah wa Atharahaa fi Tafseer al-Quran al-Kareem (Riyadh: Maktabah al-Ubaikaan, 1993), pp. 249-254].
The prayers are a type of purification for a human being. He turns and meets with his Lord five times a d