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Pillar of Islam: The Physical Act of Prayer

Islam is not a new religion. Literally meaning “submission to the Will of God", Islam is the only religion which is not named after a people, a place, or an individual. It is the religion of all of the prophets including Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, and Muhammad (peace be upon them
all), to name a few.

The Muslim practice of standing, bowing, kneeling, and prostrating in worship is not foreign to past traditions. While many Christians and Jews find images of Muslims in prayer to be peaceful or even awe-inspiring, some find the Muslim method of prayer to be odd.

When Muslims pray, they do so in a manner taught by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the Last Prophet sent by God and the only prophet sent to all of humanity. His words, his actions, and the events of which he approved or disapproved have all been preserved in numerous volumes, called Ahadith. It is important to note that these volumes are kept separate from the revealed word of God, the Qur'an.

It is from the Ahadith that Muslims derive their model for how to live, love, work, raise children, eat, give charity, greet each other, pray, etc. The point, here, is that after having received the command from God to pray, Muslims look to the example of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to learn how to pray. Were Christians and Jews to look to the examples of the prophets (peace be upon them all) given in the Torah and the Gospel, then they would find themselves praying like Muslims. Here's the proof...

Genesis 17:1-4 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, As for Me, behold, My covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.

Deuteronomy 5:6-9 I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of Egypt, from the house of bondage. Thou shalt have none other gods before Me. Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them nor serve them... The very fact that God is instructing people not to “bow down" to idols, means that bowing is a valid form of worship.

Psalm 95:6 O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. Note that both bowing and kneeling are mentioned in Psalm 95:6, the very order in which Muslims perform them.

Deuteronomy 9:24-25 Ye have been rebellious against the Lord from the day that I knew you. Thus I fell down before the Lord forty days and forty nights, as I fell down the first; because the Lord had said He would destroy you.

Revelations 7:11-12 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be
unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.

Joshua 7:6-7 And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the Lord until eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads. And Joshua said, Alas, O Lord God, wherefore hast Thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to
deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side of the Jordan!

Numbers 16:20-22 And the Lord spoke unto Moses and Aaron, saying, Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment. And they fell upon their faces, and said, O God, the God of spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt Thou be wroth
with the all of the congregation?

Numbers 20:6 And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the Lord appeared unto them.

Thus far, we have read that Moses, Joshua, Aaron, and Abraham (peace be upon them all) worshipped the One True God through prostration and bowing. The angels did the same. And in Matthew 26:39 Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) also puts his face to the ground in humility before God.

Matthew 26:36-39 Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gesthemane, and saith unto his disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be very sorrowful and heavy. Then saith he unto them, my soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death; tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou Wilt.

We must realize that human beings chosen by God to bring God's message are the best of human beings. To not follow their lead is illogical and arrogant. Bow down and prostrate to God and ask for guidance. It is God, alone, who can guide us.

"And be steadfast in prayer;
Practice regular charity;
And bow down your heads
With those who bow down." Holy Qur'an 2:45

Many first reactions to this information is that it is interesting, but not significant or important. "Wow, I never realized that Jesus (peace be upon him) prayed with his face on the ground, as Muslims do. That's interesting, but who cares? The important part of prayer comes from the heart,
not the act of bowing."

In one sense this is true. An important part of prayer is what comes from the heart...but that's not all. Islam (submission to God) is a way of life in all respects. As such, it does not divorce the physical act of submission from the submission of the heart. When Muslims pray, they do so in a manner taught by the prophets (peace be upon all of them). Prayer is an act of mind, body, and soul. Submission takes place in all of these realms.

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