Prayer is not merely a chore or a daily requirement. It is not a key for one’s entrance to heaven, nor does it promise such a notion. It is key to recognize the habitual act of the salat as a mean to be Present and connected to the heavens and cosmos at a particular time. In a sense, the occurrence of the salat at such metaphysically critical hours is to assert and remind us of our connections to the macrocosm.
The five daily prayers in Islam occur at pivotal points of the day- before sunrise, noon, before sunset, sunset, and post-sunset. Traditional cosmology and astrology have noticed a certain cosmic opening during these hours. There is no doubt that this is the reason behind the prayers being fixed in such a pattern. In fact, if one even looks at the Hindu tradition , its prayers and meditation methods are designated at similar hours , with a particular emphasis on the practice of mantras and meditation before sunrise.
Ultimately, the salat is a cosmic invitation to the infinite abode during the sacred times of the day. It is best for one to initiate the prayers right around the time of the azaan, to ensure that the flowing grace and light reaches the soul. We can always makeup the prayers if missed or forgotten, but in a sense when one has missed out on this time of sacred opening, one has missed to be Present. Salat is not a checklist that has to be marked off, rather it is a practice for those who wish to feel the pull of the universe right here, right now, in its own sacred manner.
Thus, I ask you to open your hearts to the cosmic pull and engage in the sacral opening during the times of salat. Be conscious of your intertwinement to existence, from a single particle to the infinite stars, and learn to cherish the moment rather than view it as a requirement. Feel the vibration of the words throughout every limb, experience the endless capacity of the soul within the finite body, and soak yourself into the showering grace of that time.
Once again, I reiterate that the five daily prayers are ringing bells to remind us of our existence. We have five official opportunities on a daily basis to be aware of this eternal consciousness, and if a prayer is missed, then there is an opportunity for the next. Do not allow these simple and abundant reminders to go to waste. The salat is not a system or a requirement for being a good Muslim, but transcends all of those parameters. It is a merciful call from our Creator over and over again. So be Present- feel the energy of the stars and heavens, tune in to the holy sound of the azaan, be united with your Lord here and now— that is really all that it is about, and God knows best.