What are rewards for performing prayers?
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) regarded canonical prayer very significant and defined it as the best act of worship. In one of his sayings, he (pbuh) stated the significance of the prayer as follows:
“Try to go straight, although you will not be able to do so. Act, and the best of your actions is the prayer…” (Malik, Muwaṭṭa, Ṭaharah, 6)
Allah the Almighty has also stated that He will give many more rewards to those who complete prayer. Anas (r.a.) narrates that Allah the Almighty had commanded the Messenger of Allah to pray fifty times a day on the ascension night. Then He reduced it to five. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) was told that night that:
“O Muhammad! This is the ruling and (it has become definite) it will not be changed. There are five prayers every day and night. O Muhammad, each being credited as ten, so that makes fifty prayers.” (Muslim, Iman, 259)
Allah the Almighty’s emphasis on prayer requires that we should pay more attention to our prayers. This is why every single rak’ah that is performed is really valuable. How nicely our Prophet (pbuh) explains this fact in the coming incident. Abu Hurairah (r.a.) narrates:
“Two people from Kudaa tribe’s Baliyy clan converted to Islam together during Prophet’s time. Later one of them was martyred and the other one died a year later. Talha b. Ubaydullah said that “I saw in my dream that the one who died a year later entered Paradise before the one who got martyred and I was astonished.” In the morning Talha’s dream was told to the Prophet (pbuh). After he listened to the dream, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) gave them the following answer that shows the reward of acts of worship, especially prayers:
“Did not he have the chance to fast and perform about six thousand rak’ahs of prayer after the death of his martyr brother? (It is normal to be a difference between them)” (Ibn Hanbal, II, 333)
Prayer, the most significant act of worship, will be the reason to obtain many spiritual rewards and protect a believer from evil. Allah the Almighty expresses in the Qur’an that:
“Recite that which has been revealed to you of the Book and keep up prayer; surely prayer keeps (one) away from indecency and evil, and certainly the remembrance of Allah is the greatest, and Allah knows what you do.” (al-Ankabut 29; 45)
Prayer assembles qualities in it, like spiritual purity and pious reverence, which are required for eternal happiness; and it advances the servant up the stations of spirituality. When a human being attains a good attribute, he/she develops an attitude towards opposite qualities of evil attributes. Whoever performs his/her prayers properly; makes the ablution required for prayer; observes its obligatory times; bends, prostrates, and completes it in reverence and remembrances and observes all of its rules; he/she certainly opposes the evil, dives into mercy and attains the forgiveness of Allah the Almighty.
One day when the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was waiting for the prayer time, a man stood up and said:
“O Messenger of Allah! I have sinned.” Allah’s Apostle did not respond. After the prayer, the same man stood up and repeated his words. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) asked him:
“Have not you just prayed with us? And have not you nicely made your ablution?” The man replied:
“Yes, O Messenger of Allah!” Upon this answer, The Prophet (pbuh) told him:
“Your prayer will be an atonement for your sin.” (Haythami, I, 301)
How nicely Rumi (q.s.) explains:
“Allah the Most Gracious is hidden in the prayer. He bestows His bounty and blessings to the one who is pious and performs his/her prayers; (but) the (Divine) Forgiveness bestows a robe of honor (even) in (the case of) sin so that sin becomes a reason for forgiveness, bounty, and blessings.” (Mathnawi, VI, verse: 4345)
In Rumi’s above-mentioned lines, there is a reference to the following Qur’anic verses:
“… For surely good deeds take away evil deeds…” (Hud 11; 114)
“Save him who repents and believes and does righteous work; as for such, Allah will change their evil deeds to good deeds. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.” (al-Furqan 25; 70)
In order to obtain the expected results from our prayers, we need to perform it like the Prophet (pbuh) did. There are many good inspirations in the prayers which are performed according to its prescribed rules and in the Fatihas recited in our prayers. Thus, spiritual light occurs in the eyes and bliss in the heart. Such a prayer is the shortest path to ascend to the state of ihsan or to be a servant who is always aware that he/she was in the presence of Allah. As a result of this, he/she thinks about his/her Creator in all of his/her actions, words, and thoughts and becomes a perfect believer. Otherwise, if prayer is not performed like the Prophet (pbuh) did, it cannot make any changes in a believer’s life and he/ she may slip into swamps of sins and evil. Jalal al-Din Rumi (q.s.) depicts this situation as follows:
“O soul, in the first place look for solution to avert the mischief of the mouse, and then show fervor (zeal) in garnering the grain. Remember one of the sayings related from the Prophet (pbuh) who is the Chief of the Chiefs and soul of the souls: “No prayer is complete without ‘presence’ (concentration of the mind on Allah)”and begin to perform your prayers with a serenity of heart in order to be saved from self and Satan. If there is no thievish mouse in our barn, where is the corn of forty years’ works (of devotion)? Why is the daily sincerity (of our devotions) not being stored, bit by bit, in this barn of ours? Many a star (spark) of fire shot forth from the iron (of good works), and that burning heart received (it) and drew (it) in. But the thief extinguished the fire so as there will be no light in the heart of the believer.” (Mathnawi, I, verses: 380-85)
Companions of the Prophet (pbuh) knew how attentive the Prophet (pbuh) was about the prayer. For this reason, when they would begin to perform their prayers, they would feel closer to Allah. The following instance is an example that shows us how their prayers were:
“We proceeded in the company of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) for the battle of Dhat ar-Riqa. One of the Muslims killed the wife of one of the unbelievers. He (the husband of the woman killed) took an oath saying: I shall not rest until I kill one of the companions of Muhammad.
He went out following the footsteps of the Prophet (pbuh). The Prophet (pbuh) encamped at a certain place. He said: Who will keep a watch on us? Ammar b. Yasir and Abbad b. Bishr (may Allah be pleased with them) responded. He said: Go to the entrance of the mountain-pass. When they went there, Ammar preferred to lie down while Abbad stood to perform prayer.
The man (enemy) came to them. When he saw Abbad (r.a.) he realized that he was the watchman of the Muslims. He shot him with an arrow and hit the target. But Abbad took the arrow out and threw it away. He (the enemy) then shot three more arrows. Abbad (r.a.) awoke his companion, after he bowed down and prostrated. When he (the enemy) perceived that the believers had become aware of his presence, he ran away.
When Ammar (r.a.) saw Abbad (r.a.) bleeding, he asked him: Glory be to Allah! Why did you not wake me up the first time when he shot at you?
He replied: I was busy reciting a chapter of the Qur’an. I did not like to leave it. But because enemy’s arrows were coming continuously, I was forced to finish my prayer rapidly. By Allah, if I was not afraid to lose this place, which Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) ordered us to protect, I would prefer to die than to finish my prayer. (Abu Dawud, Ṭaharah, 78; Ibn Ḥanbal, III, 343-44)
The main motivation to present such wonderful meritorious deeds was the companions’ love for Allah and His Messenger (pbuh).
Miswar b. Mahramah (r.a.) tells the following incident stating the companions attention to ritual prayer:
“I went to Umar b. al-Khattab, when he got stabbed. He was covered with a blanket and was lying unconsciously. I asked the people with him:
“How is he?” They replied:
“Just like you see, he is not very good.”
I told them:
“Call him to prayer. You cannot wake him up with anything but calling him to prayer.” They told Umar (r.a.):
“O leader of the believers! Prayer!” Umar (r.a.) immediately stood up and said:
“By Allah, those who quit praying have no share from faith.” Then he performed his prayer with blood pouring from his wound.” (Haythami, I, 295. See also Ibn Sa’d, III, 35; Muwatta, Taharah, 51)
For the companions of the Prophet (pbuh), Allah’s commands were above everything else. Property and lives were nothing for them compared to Divine orders. All the members of the community were in realization of the fact that prayer constituted the center of the life of worship.
There have been believers among the generations after them, who share a similar consciousness of the companions. One of them was Sheikh Shamil, the famous Caucasian warrior. He was stabbed and wounded about a dozen times during the Gimri defense in 1829. One of his wounds was caused by a bayonet, which went through his chest, pierced his liver, and got out of his back. He also had several broken ribs and bones in his body. With the help of his surgeon uncle, it took six months for him to get well. After he got wounded, he stayed in a coma for twenty five days. When he woke up from his twenty-five-day coma, he found his mother next to his bed. His first words to his mother were:
“Dear Mother! Have I missed the prayer time?” (İbrahim Refik, Efsâne Soluklar, p. 78)
Companions tried to live Islam just like the way they saw from the Prophet (pbuh). This was how the Prophet (pbuh) performed his prayers and this was how those who follow his blessed footsteps…
Source: An Excellent Exemplar, Osman Nuri Topbaş, Erkam Publications