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  • Lena Ibrahim

Prayer: The Secret to Productivity

One of the five pillars of Islam is "Salah" - which means prayer ('Salat' = plural). The five pillars of Islam are essentially the foundations to being a righteous believer - think of the pillars supporting a roof. If one of them is missing, the roof cannot be supported and consequentially collapses. Salah is performed five times a day, everyday, and their times are as follows;

  1. Fajr - dawn

  2. Dhuhr - noon

  3. Asr - mid-afternoon

  4. Maghreb - sunset

  5. Isha’ - after dark

I struggle to think that anything this beautiful religion asks of us is a mere coincidence - from the teachings that are underlined and marked in bold, to the deeper meaning that are only sought if you read in between the lines. In this article, I delve into how prayer can make us more accomplished and insightful individuals.



Routine

If you’ve ever visited the Eastern part of the world, you'll often hear people referring to time in prayer context; 'Let's meet after Maghreb", or "I will finish work by Asr". I never thought of it beyond its convenience for people to refer to time in this way, but with time I started to realise the advantage that it occupied.

It's hard to find comfort in uncertainty; as a result we establish regularity and routine to direct us, to make us feel that we somewhat know what we're doing. As we entered the lockdown phase, our routines arrived at a halt; I lost my afternoon coffee shop and gallery trips, my morning commutes to university, and even the long evening study grind (whoops) - the only remnant of normality that I was able to keep hold on were my five daily prayers. I still had a scaffolding to my day that was familiar to me and gave me a reassuring sense of control, that even if I were to end the day with only half the boxes ticked on my to-do list, I still had a purpose to fulfil.

Habit formation isn't just beneficial for our mental and psychological stability, but it's how we succeed. A few random sessions at the gym when we occasionally feel motivated isn't going to improve our overall fitness - however, if we instilled discipline we are far more likely, if not certain, to gain results.

A'isha (the Prophet's wife, رضي الله عنه) reported Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) as saying:

"أَحَبُّ الْأَعْمَالِ إِلَى اللهِ أَدْوَمُهَا وَإِنْ قَل"
"The acts most pleasing to Allah are those which are done continuously, even if they are small"

(Sahih Muslim 783b, Book 4, Hadith 1713)

We all thrive on the basis of consistency - it allows us to achieve our long-term goals as well as observe the sub-benefits it comes with, such as self-fulfilment and reward.

Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) said,

“Pray while standing and if you can’t, pray while sitting and if you cannot do even that, then pray lying on your side”.

(Al-Bukhari 2:20, 218)

This quote emphasises just how valuable it is to God to be consistent with our prayers, to stop making excuses and simply show up. Applying this to other aspects of life: studying for 30 minutes is better than not studying at all, and taking an easy walk around the town is better than a skipped gym session altogether. The act of giving up loses the momentum we worked hard to establish in the first place, making each attempt to restart as exhausting as the one before. The consistency that daily prayer ingrains in us is something we ought to transfer when encountering our own daily challenges.



Punctuality

Procrastination is the productivity obstacle that every millennial inevitably faces these days. With so many distractions around us, it has become far too easy to fall into the trap of time-wasting. The concept of prayer needing to be fulfilled within a strict time frame urges us to overcome delaying tasks and complete them on time.

Growing up, my parents would always remind me of this story:

سَأَلْتُ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَىُّ الْعَمَلِ أَحَبُّ إِلَى اللَّهِ قَالَ ‏"‏ الصَّلاَةُ عَلَى وَقْتِهَا ‏"‏‏
I asked the Prophet (ﷺ) "Which deed is the dearest to Allah?" He replied, "To offer the prayers at their early stated fixed times."

(Al-Bukhari 1:10, 505)

Back then, what this roughly meant to me was “I'll pray when I feel like it, as long as I don’t miss it", because, clearly, I have all the time in the world! And before I knew it - poof, the Athan (the call for the next prayer) goes off and I‘ve missed it. It’s quite like writing on the wet sand on a beach; each wave that washes on the shore (metaphorically representing new tasks that come our way) will cause to the words to fade. Our brains simply can’t hold onto so many pencilled-in reminders - it only runs the risk of neglect, and it would be far more effective to cross things off as we go. If I had simply prioritised it, I would have instantly avoided the burden of disappointment that imminently followed.

The Prophet (pbuh) warns us that we are at stake of being at a greater loss when we miss deadlines,

"‏ الَّذِي تَفُوتُهُ صَلاَةُ الْعَصْرِ كَأَنَّمَا وُتِرَ أَهْلَهُ وَمَال"
"Whoever misses the`Asr prayer (intentionally) th