In Islam there are five prayers per day at five different times which are Fajr (dawn), Zohr (noon), Asr (late afternoon), Maghreb (sunset), and Isha (evening or night).
I recently listened to a discussion which is worth sharing here, about the benefits of the Muslim prayer rituals.
The first benefit is cleanliness, washing thoroughly is a prerequisite for each prayer, and thus one has to remain in a hygienic state throughout the day, which includes body, clothes and belongings.
The second set of benefits relates to physical. Prayer in Islam requires one to exercise every part of the body because it involves bowing and kneeling down before God several times. The physical benefit is especially true of Fajr prayer at dawn; it typically follows seven hours of sleep during which most organs slow down and thus need a “wake-up call”. It is interesting to think about the reason behind the timing of the five daily prayers, aside from the fact that they are linked to the sun’s cycle. For instance one hears that prayer at dawn has preventive health benefits, possibly because it requires one to turn in early in order to wake-up on time, in addition to the quiet environment which allows for better meditation.
The third benefit is tranquility. If done properly the benefits of prayer compare with those one gets from meditation. Experts confirm that repeating the same lines relaxes the mind. It is worth pointing out that the word peace, ‘Salam’, is repeated frequently during prayer. Native speakers of Arabic should consider themselves very fortunate since prayer involves reciting verses from the Holy Quran which is in Arabic, thus every word should have an intense effect on their mood and frame of mind.
The fourth benefit is an improvement of social conduct. Prayer at various times of the day requires taking a “break” from life’s concerns. If done properly, it should make one think twice before committing a sin, to re-evaluate one’s behavior throughout the day, and to ask forgiveness for wrongdoing such as being unkind to a parent or an underling.
Fifth set of benefits relates to organization and discipline. Prayer keeps people organized, as they plan their daily schedule around prayer times; for instance. Women go to the market to buy groceries and make sure they are back in time for noon prayer (Zohr). Also people usually visit each other in the evening after Isha prayer.
Sixth, therapeutic benefits: With prayers no one is ever alone or lonely, because one is in a continuous ‘dialogue’ with God, praising Him, thanking Him for good fortunes, and asking for alleviation of misfortunes.
Seventh benefit is in terms of alertness, and presence of mind, especially in the old age. Prayer in old age keeps people alert, and organized, as it requires them to remain clean, and to move their joints as long as they are able to; otherwise, they are given other facilitating options.
Eighth benefit refers to unity with other Muslims around the world. No matter how many political differences there are among the various Muslim sects, prayer is basically the same for all. In fact prayer on Friday as a congregation has a special importance for its unifying feature, and it is currently being used around the globe to discuss urgent causes.
As a side note, someone pointed out recently that the annual pilgrimage to Makkah is the only ‘conference’ of its kind, which assembles willing people of all races, classes, and ages once a year for the same purpose, which is fulfilling one of the five pillars of Islam. They do this at their own expense provided that they can afford it. Thus many people save throughout their life for this very important purpose. This pilgrimage is for most people the only chance they get in their lifetime to venture outside their sheltered environment to discover God’s creation, and to experience what is described as a life changing trip.
It is worth pointing out that not many people appreciate all the above benefits of prayer since some pray ‘mechanically’ as a matter of habit. The value of prayer is clearest to those who take-up prayer at a later age, out of choice rather than as a requirement by parents.