Source: Religion & Ethics Newsweekly:"Belief & Practice: Muslim Prayer"
Prayer, the act of communicating with God, is a shared component of religions around the world. Prayer is one of the five pillars of the Muslim faith. Devout Muslims pray five times a day. In this video from Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, meet Shaker Elsayed, a Muslim living in Alexandria, Virginia, as he talks about his daily prayer rituals and what those practices mean to him.
A Muslim is defined as “one who submits to God.” A form of submission in Islam is the practice of prayer. Muslims offer their prayers five times throughout the course of a day. The timing of prayers and their frequency serve many purposes in the life of a Muslim. As the day progresses, through the performance of their prayers, Muslims are reminded of the presence of God, able to express gratitude for His blessings and request support in managing the challenges of daily life.
In preparation for prayer Muslims make an ablution, a physical and spiritual cleansing. The physical movements of prayer for Muslims are prefaced with the positioning of themselves toward the Ka’bah in Mecca. The Ka'bah is considered in Islam to be the first house of worship dedicated to the One God. The Ka’bah is not an object of worship, but a focal point unifying the worldwide Muslim community. Muslims in North America face northeast because this places them in the direction toward the Ka’bah. Prayer then begins with a set of ritual proclamations and movements. Verses from the Qur’an, the divinely revealed holy book of Islam, are recited.
Apart from the formal prayer, which is prewritten and sequenced, is du’a, or a prayer of personal supplication. Du'a, which can be made at any time of day, means “calling” in Arabic and is an individualized exchange in which Muslims call upon God to give thanks and make requests. Du’as are also blessings recited for specific occasions such as before and after eating, before going to sleep, when getting married, at the birth of a child, and when a person is ill.
After the completion of prayer, a Muslim’s connection to God is renewed. For Muslims, prayer can be likened to physical exercise. As exercise strengthens and maintains a strong body, prayer helps Muslims do the same for their spirit and faith.
BOB ABERNETHY: Now, our Belief & Practice segment. This week, the prayers of Muslims five times a day. Daily prayers are one of the five pillars of Islam, along with worshiping only Allah and accepting Muhammad as his prophet, charity, fasting during the month of Ramadan, and making a pilgrimage to Mecca. We spoke with Shakir el-Saed in Alexandria, Virginia, about his daily prayer practice and its meaning.
Mr. SHAKIR EL-SAED: A Muslim will pray five times a day: at dawn-time, before sunrise; at noontime; in the mid-afternoon; right after sunset; and in the beginning of the night. Before we pray, everyone has to make an ablution; that is, a way of cleansing. It is the tradition of the prophet. This is how he did. The prayer rug is not necessary for prayer. It's only something that you feel is cleaner than other pieces that you can pray on.
Mr. EL-SAED: So, as you enter the prayer, you say, 'Allahu Akbar, God is greater,' which tells you and reminds you that everything else is smaller and almost vanishes in value in comparison to the Lord. When we say 'Allahu Akbar' and we wave our hands to the back like this, it is symbolically kind of like saying, 'I am leaving the whole world behind, and I'm coming to you, oh, God, in submission.'
And as you stand, handcuffing yourself literally -- no motion, nothing -- in humility, in reverence to God, it reminds you who you are, and it brings back with a ... that he deserves. It reminds you that you are a servant of God. For a Muslim, the whole Earth is a prayer place, but the direction of the prayer -- that is, determined by where the person is toward Mecca -- will be of their families. When I am at the airport or even on the roadway, I just determine where the sun is, and then I know the East and West.
Five times a day we need the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and you are directly connected to him. Nothing and no one is in between. It leaves you, literally, spiritually filled.
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