Importance of Salah in Islam
Allah (SWT) has said in the Noble Qur'an: "I have not created the jinn and humankind for any other purpose except that they should worship Me." (Noble Qur'an 51:56)
It is clear from the above verse of Noble Qur'an that the purpose of our birth and of our life is no other than that of the worship of Allah (SWT). There are many acts of worship (Ibadah, Ibadat) in Islam, and Salah is one of the most important obligatory acts.
Salah (Salat, Namaz) is the ritual prayer practiced by Muslims in supplication to Allah (SWT). The term is commonly used to refer to the five daily prayers, which are compulsory upon all mature Muslims. Salah (Salat, Namaz) is considered the most important act of worship (Ibadah, Ibadat) in Islam and its importance is such that under very few circumstances it can be omitted.
Salah (Salat, Namaz) strengthens the foundations of our faith. It prepares a person to live the life of goodness and obedience to Allah (SWT), and it builds courage and determination. Every time we perform Salah, we renew our commitments to Allah (SWT) and we rid ourselves from worldly pressures five times a day.
According to a Hadith a companion of Holy Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) came to him one day and asked him "What is the thing that Allah (SWT) loves most?" Holy Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) replied "The thing that Allah (SWT) loves most is when his people pray Salah on time."
Salah (Salat, Namaz) is a practical sign of obedience to the commands of Allah (SWT). Its importance has been emphasized about 500 times in the Noble Qur'an.
Once Holy Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) shook a dry branch of a tree so that all of the leaves of the branch fell off than the Holy Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) said "The sins of those who pray Salah, drop off as the leaves of this branch fell off."
Before Salah, we make Wudu. Wudu (Ablution) is a unique way of cleansing certain parts of our body so we are clean before bowing down to the one who created us, who created the universe the one and only Allah (SWT).
The Holy Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) once asked his companions "Tell me if there was a river at the door step of one of you in which you washed five times a day would any of your dirt remain?" When Holy Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) received the reply that none of it would remain he then said "That is like the five times Salah, with which Allah (SWT) wipes out sin.
The last thing that Holy Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) emphasized at his deathbed was Salah. He also said the first thing we will have to answer about on the day of judgement is Salah.
While in Salah one communicates with Allah (SWT) and experiences his presence. That's why a Hadith says: Salah is the Meraj of a Momin (Namaz is called as Meraj-ul-Momineen).
The Holy Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) also said "The key to Heaven is Salah. The key to Salah is Purification."
"Namaz is a pillar of Religion. If Namaz is accepted all other deeds are accepted. If Namaz is rejected then all other Deeds are rejected." (Holy Prophet Mohammad (pbuh)
How to Perform Salah
Having cleansed yourself by Wudu, you may proceed to perform Salah. Wudu is a ritual cleansing. Before you begin your Salah, however, you must make sure that you have a clean body, a clean place to pray, and that you are wearing clothing free of impurities. The minimum clothing required during Salah is:
A. For males: Any clothing that covers from the naval to the knees. It is preferable to cover the shoulders.
B. For females: Any clothing that covers all of the body (including the head) except the face, hands, and according to Imam Abu-Hanifah the toes and a portion of the front of the feet.