Parable of Three Types of People:
The example of the first type is like a man who was granted a spacious land to farm and was supplied with all the instruments of need – tools, seeds and water – to help him with his work. After he prepared the land for farming, he planted all the varied types of vegetation, and he then surrounded the land with a big fence and hired guards to protect it. He kept a constant watch on his farm and looked after it; fixing any spoiled parts, replacing dead plants with fresh ones, removing the harmful weeds that grew around his trees, and spending from the profit he gained from selling its harvest towards its maintenance.
The example of the second type is like the man who after he got his hands on the land, made it into a sanctuary for dangerous beasts and animals, a site for dumping corpses and rotten bodies, and a hideout for thieves and very evil and abusive person. Even worse, he put all that he had been given to help him farm the land at the service of the evil ones dwelling in it.
The example of the third type is like a man who neglected the land and wasted the water in the desert and became regretful afterward.
These examples represent the three types of people: those who are mindful, the people of treachery, and the heedless one respectively. The mindful ones are always ready and prepared to fulfil the purpose for which they are created unlike the treacherous ones who betray the trust placed in them and the people of negligence and heedlessness.
The affairs of the righteous people, be it their repose or activity upon taking a bite of food or a sip of drink, in their words or silences, in a state of sleep or awakening – is always earning them reward and counted in their favour. And their worship and remembrance of Allah draws them nearer to Allah. In contrast, the actions of the people of heedlessness are recorded against them and bring them nothing but failure and loss, not to mention distancing them from Allah.
And the actions of those who betrayed the trust are performed while they are being engulfed by their inadvertency and dominated by their idles and recklessness.
The grace surrounding the first group is a natural result of their obedience and acts of worship while the misery of the second group is a natural result of their transgression and treachery because Allah did not grant them all that they have in order that they use it disobeying Him – which is a betrayal of the trust assigned to them by Allah. And, the heedlessness of the third group is a result of their being unmindful, and driven by their base-desires, therefore their failure and loss are notable as they waste their lifetime serving their own pleasures and overlooking the best of all trades (i.e. trading with Allah).
The wisdom behind Allah calling His believing slaves to the ritual of salah five times a day is to manifest His Mercy upon them; hence he had facilitated for them within it a diverse abundance of actions and rites of worship so that His believing slaves may enjoy the reward of every word, action, silence and movement practiced therein.
Secret and Essence of the Salah
The secret and essence of salah lies in the inclination of the heart towards Allah alone and focussing all attention on Him while praying. Consider the case of a person whose heart is engaged in one’s own thoughts and worldly affairs; he is like a person who visits the King intending to apologise for his own mistakes and shortcomings, beseeching rain from the clouds of His Generosity and Mercy to nourish his heart enough so it can be at His service. However as soon as he arrives at His doorstep and is on the verge of calling upon Him, he turns away from the King and instead starts to busy himself with things that are most disliked and disparaged by the King. Even as his heart is inclined toward trivial matters, he still sends forth his servants (i.e. the limbs) to serve Him on his behalf and excuse and compensate for the absence of his heart. But despite that, the Generosity and the benevolence of the King to refuse to dismiss the servants of his slaves without granting their master (i.e. slave of Allah) a portion of His Mercy. But there is a big difference between the ones who wins and earns the trophy and those given a consolation prize out of Compassion and Mercy – Allah said:
“And for all there will be ranks from what they do, that He may pay them for their deeds! and they will not be wronged.” (Surah al-Ahqaf 46:19)
Allah Created mankind solely to worship Him, and He created everything else to be at mankind’s service… Allah, Most High, made the salah the means through which people can be near Him, invoke Him, earn His love and enjoy His company.
Salah is Built Upon Five Pillars:
This points to the worship, humility and submissiveness of the heart to its Lord as perpetual condition wherever it may be: in constant regard (for Allah), whether in solitude or in the company of others.
As salah is built upon five pillars; recitation (qira’a), standing (qiyam), bowing down (ruku), prostration (sujud) and remembrance of Allah (dhikr), it is tacitly called after these actions.
It is called qiyam based on the ayah: “Arise [to pray] the night, except for a little” (Surah al-Muzzammil 73:2) and “Stand before Allah, devoutly obedient.” (Surah al-Baqarah 2:238) and it is called qira’a based on the ayah: “and [also] the Qur’an [i.e. recitation] of dawn. Indeed the recitation of dawn is ever witnessed” (Surah al-Isra 17:78) and “so recite what is easy [for you] of Qur’an” (Surah al-Muzzammil 73:20) and it is called ruku based on the ayah: “and bow with those who bow [in worship and obedience]” (Surah al-Baqarah 2:431) and “And when it is said to them, ‘Bow [in prayer], they do not bow.” (Surah al-Mursalat 77:48) and it is called sujud based on the ayah, “So glorify the praises of thy Lord, and be of those who make prostration (unto Him).” (Surah al-Hijr 15:98) and “But prostrate and draw near [to Allah].” (Surah al-Alaq 96:19) and it is called dhikr based on the ayat: “O you who have believed, when [the adhan] is called for the prayer on the day of Jummuah [Friday], then proceed to the remembrance of Allah” (Surah al-Jummuah 62:9) and “O you who have believed, let not your wealth and your children divert you from the remembrance of Allah.” (Surah al-Munafiqun 63:9).
The most honourable action in salah is prostration and the most honourable dhikr in salah is the recitation of the Qur’an: the first Surah that was revealed to the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, was Surah al-Alaq, whose first ayah is to, “Recite in the name of your Lord who created.” and whose last ayah is to “…prostrate and draw near to Allah”.
Thus the structure of the unit (rakah) in salah is composed accordingly; it starts with recitation and ends with prostration.