What is the Philosophy behind the Prayer in Islam (Salat)? Part 2

Prayer in Islam (Salat) is one of the most important practical principles of Islam [1]. It is a physical, mental and spiritual act of worship consisting of prescribed actions and words. Every action in the prayer in Islam (Salat) is meaningful. Here, we will see what each movement in the prayer means and represents.

Standing (Qiyam)

The prayer in Islam starts with standing. That is to appear in front of God gently and courtly with your whole heart and body; that is how one demonstrates the respect for others. Having the gaze down in Qiyam demonstrates the modesty towards God. It makes one forget about his\her superiority and helps to overcome his\her arrogance [2]. Also, knowing that one should stand five times a day in front of a superior power, who knows every overt and covert act and behavior, will eventually prevent from evil deeds and sins [2].    

prayer in Islam, salam islam  

Intention (Niyyah) of the Prayer in Islam


We do many things every day, some of which are repetitive and by habit, and we are not even aware of why we are doing them. Prayer in Islam, one of those works, seems to be a physical practice. That is why the prayer must have a Niyyah to prevent the prayer from becoming a daily habit and to help the Muslim to recall the reason behind that. Hence, a prayer without Niyyah will be a set of physical movements, and it won’t be accepted.  

Niyyah reminds one that he\she is showing up to demonstrate the submission to the divine orders. Having a pure intention in the prayer teaches to avoid duplicity. It is not necessary to repeat the words of the Niyyah. That is enough to recall it and to consider it throughout the prayer. Indeed, this should be considered during any other act or practice in daily life; firstly, to purify our intentions for God; then, to stick to that intention until the end.


The sayings in the prayer in Islam (Salat) start with Takbir. Takbir means to regard God as great. By saying Takbir, we express our belief that God is great. There exists nothing similar to Him. He cannot be perceived or touched by our physical senses and understanding [3]. Takbir reminds us of the Monotheism (Tawhid) which is the first pillar of Islam [4]. 


Bowing (Ruku)


Bowing (Ruku) is a perfect demonstration of the gratitude and respect that a human being has for God, as a divine source and a higher power. And, this is a unique posture that a Muslim will never have in front of anyone else [5]. In Ruku, every individual, in whatever position and grade, bows to God which consequently reduces the arrogance and pride within him\her. Lady Fatima (AS) said: “God has ordered […] the prayer to purify you from arrogance and pride” [6]. 


According to Imam Ali (AS), holding the neck straight during Ruku shows that one believes firmly in Islam such that he\she won’t give up even if he loses his\her life (to have the neck cut) for this belief. Another point in Ruku is that it is a unique posture that only exists in the Islamic ritual and distinguishes the Islamic prayer.   

prayer in Islam, Salam Islam

Prostration (Sujood)

Prostration (Sujood) is exhibiting the maximum humility and dignity for God. Imam Sadiq (AS) describes that one is closest than ever to God in this posture [7]. According to the Quran: “to Allah prostrates whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth of creatures…” (16:49). This means that in that posture, the human being is in harmony with the whole universe and creatures. 


Imam Ali (AS) explained that the first Sujood means that God has created us from the earth. Coming up from the first Sujood is the symbol of this worldly life. The second Sujood represents the death and returning to the earth. Finally, rising from the second Sujood symbolizes the afterlife [8]. According to the interpreters of the Quran, this refers to the fact that: “From the earth, We created you, and into it, We will return you, and from it, We will extract you another time” (20:55). 


The Prayer in Islam, Beneficial to Soul as Well as Body

There have been some attempts in the recent years to analyze and justify the physical benefits of performing the prayer. Those discussions might be true, but they are not the whole reason behind this practical principle of Islam. The prayer is a means of worship that engages the body and soul and is beneficial to both. The reasons above are a small part of the philosophy behind the acts of the prayer. One might refer to the advanced references for more details. 



[1]. Shaikh al-Hur al-Aamili, "Wasail al-Shia", p. 214.

[2].  J. Maleki Tabrizi, “The Mysteries of the Prayer”, vol. 1, p. 323.

[3]. Ibn Babawayh, "Man la yahduruhu al-Faqih", Book Salat, Chap. 17

[4].  https://salamislam.com/content/monotheism-tawhid/1

[5].  A. Hosseini Khamenei, “The Prayer in Depth”, p. 5.

[6].  M. Majlisi, "Bihar al-Anwar", vol. 29, p. 223.

[7].  Shaykh al-Kulayni, "al-Kafi", vol. 3, p. 324, T. 11.

[8].  Ibn Babawayh, "Man la yahduruhu al-Faqih", vol. 1, p. 311.