Nature of Islamic Prayer
Prayer, then, is communion with God in the certitude that He exists and is receptive to a solicitation for His assistance. Its purpose is not the bodily movements of kneeling and prostration nor the verbal recitation of the Qur'an, not the prescribed takbir and ta'zim. [The reference is here to the phrases, Allahu Akbar (God is Greatest) and Subhana Rabbi al 'Azim (Praise to my Lord Almighty) repeated many times in the course of the Islamic prayer.] 'Rather, it is meant to fill the soul with iman and the heart with reverence and recognition of God's holiness. Every element in the Muslim's prayer is designed to achieve this dual purpose. It is the worship of God for the sole sake of God, the recognition of God's face as the light of heaven and earth. He-may He be adored-said
"Righteousness does not consist in your turning your faces toward east or west. Instead, it involves iman in God, in the Day of Judgment, in the Book, in the prophets, and spending of one's wealth out of love of Him for the welfare of the relative, the orphan, the deprived, the wayfarer, the poor, and for ransoming the captive. Righteousness also consists of the holding of prayer, the paying of zakat, the fulfillment of promises and covenants made, patience in good or ill, and steadfastness in war. Those who fulfill these values are the genuine in faith; they are the pious, the righteous." [Qur'an, 2:177]
The man with genuine iman, therefore, is the man who turns with his whole heart to God in prayer, making God the witness of his own piety. It is he who implores His help in the fulfillment of the duties of life, solicits His guidance and blessing in his search for the secrets of the world and for the laws and pattern of the cosmos during his prayer as well as at any other time.
Hence, the Muslim is fully conscious of his insignificance before almighty God on high. We are capable of achieving such a view of the earth's insignificance when we ascend in an airplane a few thousand meters into the sky and begin to see the mountains, rivers, and cities as small marks upon a vast canvas. We see them delineated in front of our eyes as if they were mere lines on a map made out of paper. The earth looks flat; mountains and buildings lose their elevation, and wells and rivers their depression. The whole appears to be no more than patches of color moving and waving and intermingling with one another the higher we ascend into space. Our very earth is only a little planet among thousands of other heavenly bodies and systems, and these are only a very small pocket in the infinite magnitude of being. How small and little we therefore are! How weak and insignificant in relation to the Creator of all this being and to its Ruler and Provider whose very greatness stands beyond our grasp!