Benefits Of Salah (Prayer)

The Muslims who reach the age of puberty (with exceptions of: menstruating, being to ill or experiencing post-partum bleeding) have to pray to Allah minimum 5 times a day. This Arabic word "Salah," doesn't only mean "prayer," because "pray" basically means to address a prayer to God or another deity, according to the Oxford Dictionary. "Salah," is a word with a broad meaning, which doesn't only mean prayer, but also means goodness, righteousness and godliness. In Salah, we not only ask from Allah but we also thank Him, praise Him, and at the same time receive guidance from Him.
Salah in the true sense is programming or conditioning. The prayer conditions us to stay away from forbidden and shameful actions, and encourages us to do righteous and sensible actions. Since we humans have no free will, this conditioning will help us and enable us to stay away from forbidden things, and enjoin on what is not forbidden. A healthy body requires 3 meals a day. Similarly, the spiritual soul requires 5 times Salah a day.

The main reason why we offer salah, is to thank Allah and to praise him. This is not for his benefit, since he is free of all wants, as the Quran says in Surah Fatir 35:15. The benefit of prayer is what we derive, because it adds to our good deeds and increases our faith. But besides this, there are various spiritual and scientific advantages with offering the salah.
The salah programs the person into not doing evil deeds, by ensuring that the Muslims are God fearing people, and are aware of the wrong doing going on. Since there are so many evil doings occurring, the salah keeps us away from doing this, and guides the people into doing holy actions, not evil deeds like: swearing, adultery, rape etc. The salah also helps to strengthen ones faith, and keeps a person from being strayed away from the truth. Salah is also a great way to ask Allah's help, and is like a "hotline" to pray to Allah. It is very calming and relaxing, because in the salah, there are no actions which require a lot strength and power. Many people may claim that salah is like gymnastics, where you go: up and down, up and down, etc. Let us see the comparisons of gymnastics and Salah:
  • Salah improves social harmony and equality, while gymnastics does not.
  • Salah doesn't require: apertures, bars, hoops, rings, beam etc like gymnastics does.
  • Salah is cheap, since you don't have to pay anything. When you want to perform gymnastics properly, you have to pay through your noses (very expensive).
  • Salah can be offered by people of all ages (even if you can't stand, you can sit. If you can't sit, you can lye down). People of all ages cannot do gymnastic.
  • Salah can be offered wearing clean clothes, whereas your clothes get dirty in gymnastic.
  • You have to be clean, in order to offer salah. In contrast, you can be physically be as filthy and dirty as you want to do gymnastics.
  • Salah increases brotherhood in the nation. Gymnastics does not do this.
  • In Salah, the chances of gaining injuries are very little. In gymnastics, the chances of gaining injuries, accidents and broken bones are much much higher.
  • There are less risks in Salah, as compared to gymnastics.
  • If your not healthy (i.e. broken arm, leg, shin, foot etc) you cannot do gymnastics. In contrast in this situation, you can offer salah.
  • After you've eaten a meal, you can offer salah. If you do gymnastics after you eat a meal, you can easily throw up.
  • Salah programs you to abstain from evil deeds and enjoin good deeds. Gymnastics does not program you like this.
  • In Salah, you gain a lot of good deeds from Allah. Gymnastics does not have this advantage.
  • In Salah, you can offer it at home, at mosque, even outside. Gymnastics does not have this advantage.
  • Salah can only be done if you offer wudu (Islamic ablution) which has many scientific advantages. Gymnastics does not have this advantage.
Hence, we see that there is a vast difference between Salah and gymnastics, that Salah is far superior and holier than gymnastics. Gymnastics is nothing like salah, since when salah is offered correctly, the differences you can see is vast. Moreover, there are various scientific benefits of the salah, which include:
In salah, when we do ruku that is: bow down, extra blood flows into the upper part of the body. The spine becomes supple and flexible, while the spinal nerves are nourished. This relieves backache and pain. This is a good posture for flatulence. Stretches lower back, thighs, and calves while blood gets pumped into the upper torso. Bowing position tones stomach muscles, abdomen and kidneys. When we come back to the standing position (after ruku), the blood which has entered into the upper part of the body, comes back to normal and the body is relaxed. As a result, this blood carries away toxins & releases tension. 
When we do sujud, which is basically the prostration to the ground with are 8 parts of the body touching the floor, the forehead in on the ground which is the best position of salah. It is the most relevant part of salah. Daily, the human beings are propounded by electrostatic charges from the atmosphere, which gets perspirated in the central nervous system, which gets super saturated.

These extra electrostatic charges, have to be dissipated and discharged, otherwise you'll have: headache, neck ache, muscles spasms, etc. No wonder people regularly take tranquillizers, and drugs, to relieve the pain. These electrostatic charges are dissipated and discharged, when the frontal lobe of the brain is put on the ground, in sujud. There is dominance of the frontal lobe, and the thinking capacity of the brain is not on the top of the brain, but in the frontal lobe. In doing sujud, there is less chance of getting: headache, spasms, aches, etc due to the fact that the electrostatic charges are dissipated and discharged.

Moreover, the sujud allows extra blood supply to enter the brain, which enables the brain to become more healthier, plus has a positive effect on the memory, vision, hearing, concentration & the pysche. In addition, extra blood flows into the skin, neck and face, which increases the circulation of the blood of the skin, neck and face, which is very healthy especially in the cold seasons. Also, allows mental toxins to be cleaned by blood. This is also very good for the brain. This prevents diseases, such as: fibrositis and chilblains. During the sujud, there is drainage of the paranasal sinuses, this there is less chances of getting sinusitis, which consists of inflammation of the linings of the sinuses that surround the nose. In certain forms of yoga, some adherents stand on their heads for the purpose of blood flowing to the brain, which we Muslims have been doing for centuries.
Normally during the day, the human beings have an upright posture. The maxillaris sinus, the opening is in the upper medium part. The secretions cannot be drained, due to the upright posture which people have. Therefore when you do sujud, there is drainage of the maxillaris sinus, which is very healthy, and decreases the chances of infections occurring. It also causes drainage of secretion of the frontal sinus, ethmoid sinus as well as the sphenoid sinus. This all decreases the chances of a person getting sinusitis. Moreover, someone who has sinusitis, the sujud is a natural treatment. The sujud position is also a natural treatment for a person suffering from bronchitis, which is inflammation in the lungs. The sujud position also causes drainage of the secretion of the bronchial tree, thus prevents bronchitis. It prevents the accumulation of the secretion in the bronchial tree. It is also helpful in other pulmonary (lung) diseases, in which secretion are acclimated. Besides this, other things like: dust and bacteria can accumulate, which the sujud is a prevention from.
Normally when you breathe, only 2/3 of the lung capacity is used. The remaining 1/3 of the lung capacity, the air remains in. Therefore, it is only 2/3 of air which comes in as fresh air, when you breathe and 2/3 goes out. The remaining 1/3 is called as: residual air. When you do sujud, the abdominal viscera, they press against the diaphragm. The diaphragm presses against the lower lobes of the lungs, which causes the person to exhale the 1/3 residual air. Once this residual air goes out, more fresh air comes in, which is responsible for a healthy lung. When you do sujud, due to the decrease of the gravitational force, there is extra venous return from the abdominal organs. Therefore, the extra venous return (volume of blood returning to the right atrium of the heart) is increased, which makes the heart healthy. This also supplies fresh blood to all body tissues. In the sujud, the weight is concentrated on the knees, and your legs are flexed. The soleus and the gastrocnemius muscles (muscles of the leg) are also called the peripheral heart, because it has an extensive venous return, which is responsible from increasing venous return, of the lower heart of the body. This also causes relaxation in lower half of the body.
In sujud, the knees are touching the floor, including the hands and forehead. This posture is helpful in diseases of the cervical spine, because this helps the intervertebral joints, which allows the spine to move more flexibly. The posture of the sujud is also helpful in cardiac diseases. When a person rises from the sujud from the squatting position, the blood which has flowed into the upper part of the body comes back to normal sea, and the body is relaxed. There is extra blood flowing in the muscles and nerves, of the thigh and the back, so the back muscles of the back are relaxed. It is helpful and useless in constipation and indigestion. Is is also helpful for a person suffering from peptic ulcer and other stomach problems. When a person gets up from the squatting position to the standing position, his weight is concentrated on the ball of the feet, which improves the strength of the back muscles, thigh muscles, knee muscles and leg muscles.
The ruku and sujud (bowing down and prostrating to the floor) are great postures against femoral and esophageal hernia. These positions in the prayer are also prophylaxis treatment, of a person suffering from hemorrhoids (inflammation of veins in the rectum and anus) which in layman's terminology is called as: piles. These positions of salah are also helpful in prolapse of the uterus. In sujud, the knees form a right angle allowing the stomach muscles to develop, plus prevents growth of flabbiness in the midsection, & reduces high blood pressure.

When sitting on the knees after sujud, this helps toughen the legs & hips and makes them stronger, ensuring you have more flexibility in joints plus stretching out muscles. It encourages an upright posture, which is good for the spine. In addition, the body returns to even greater relaxation, and the posture assists digestion by forcing the contents of the stomach downwards. Also, since most of the pressure goes to the lower half of the body, the upper half of the body, especially the shoulder & head will be relaxed.

Furthermore, we repeat the sujud within a few seconds after sitting on knees. What this does is cleanses the respiratory circulatory, and nervous system. There is also oxygenation of entire body, while sympathetic & parasympathetic nervous systems are relaxed.

Praying the Fajr prayer (dawn prayer) stops long amounts of stillness, as one gets up from sleep. This decreases the chance of gaining diseases like: arthritis, osteoporosis, anemia, etc. Moreover, the dawn prayer prevents you from getting too much sleep, and scientific established facts informs us that too much sleep increases the chances of gaining diabetes, heart disease, early death, etc (*).
Also, there have been ways which western countries give, in where you can exercise without standing up, one of which is: turning your head left and right. Similarly, in the salah, we do this after every prayer. At the end of the salah, we first turn right and say: "Asalam wa alaykum rahmutula," and then we turn left and say the same thing. Salah is light exercise and is heavy in spiritual deeds, so you getting a 2 in 1 workout. Moreover, in salah, the recitation of the Quran occurs. During the recitation, the sound vibrations of the long vowels: Aa, Thee and oo stimulate the heart, thyroid, pineal gland, pituitary, adrenal glands and lungs, purifying and uplifting them all.

These body movements performed during the salah are an excellent source of exercise for our heart as well. According to a Hadith, Prophet Muhammad said:

Sahih Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 2, Number 49:
"There is a piece of flesh in the body if it becomes good (reformed) the whole body becomes good but if it gets spoilt the whole body gets spoilt and that is the heart."
It is the heart. A tissue in our body is the cartilage. It is unique in being a living tissue with no direct blood supply. The only way it receives nutrients and oxygen is by movements of the joints. The pumping effect forces blood into the joint area which would otherwise be bypassed. Those who sit at the terminals are in greater danger of ending up with dead cartilage tissues that will subsequently wear away. This will leave us with arthritis, painful joints and paralysis. Bacteria and viruses find safe haven in joints for this reason as no blood cell can get at them and in most cases neither can antibodies. Salah therefore, has many orthopedic benefits for all Muslims.

Moreover, a scientist enlightens us on the following:

"Prayers help adjust the rhythm of the body. Modern scientific research proven that Muslims' prayer timings correspond with that of the physiological activities of the body. Thus, prayers are considered as the orchestrator that adjusts the rhythm of the body. In his book Seeking cure from prayers, Dr. Zaheer Rabeh indicates that cortisone is the active hormone that increases acutely in the human body with the approach of dawn time, and is associated with the rise in blood pressure. In this way, man is much more active after dawn prayer, between 6-9 a.m. Thus, the time after prayer is considered the best time for hard work and seeking one's livelihood. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was quoted as saying; "O Lord, give benediction to my umma (nation) at the early morning time." Ozone, which has an invigorating effect on the nervous system, and muscular and mental activity, reaches its highest levels in the air at such a time.

Contrary to this is the forenoon time (Duha), in which secretion of cortisone reach the minimum limits; leading man to feel exhausted with the stress of work, and the need to have a rest. This is almost seven hours after getting up. Here comes the time of noon (Zuhr) prayer, which provides quietness to the exhausted heart and body, and following which man seeks to get an hour of sleep to rest and reinvigorate himself, in what is termed as qaylula (nap) before ('Asr), afternoon prayer. Such a short sleep was mentioned in the Prophet's saying; "Get help with Suhoor (the meal before dawn) for fasting, and with qaylula for Qiyam (night) prayer." He also said; "Have qaylula, as satans do not have it." It has been proved that the human body at this period generally encounters a hard time, where an increase occurs in an anesthetic chemical substance secreted by the body that has the effect of tranquilizing, and incites man to sleep. The body, seven hours after waking up, is at it's lowest levels of concentration and activity. So if man ignores sleeping at that time, much of his neuromuscular compatibility decreases all day long.

Then comes the 'Asr afternoon prayer to reinvigorate the body once again. Adrenalin is then raised in the blood; causing activity in the body functions, particularly the cardiac one. 'Asr prayer thus has a great effect in preparing the heart and the body to accept this sudden state of activity, which can cause serious trouble to cardiac patients due to the sudden transfer of the heart from an inert state to an active state. Allah says:

Guard strictly your (habit) of prayers, especially the middle prayer, and stand before Allah in a devout (frame of mind). (2:238).

Most Qur'anic commentators agreed that the middle prayer is 'Asr prayer. With the discovery of the increase of adrenalin hormone at this time, the reason behind this Qur'anic command of the keeping up 'Asr prayer becomes crystal clear. Performing 'Asr prayer at a designated time, alongside other extra prayers, reinvigorates the heart gradually to that it functions more effectively after an inert state. The rest of one's bodily organs and senses are in deep concentration in prayer, making it easy for the heart and the hormones to adjust the normal rhythm of the body which reaches the climax at that time.

Then comes the Maghrib sunset prayer. Contrary to what happens early in the morning, cortisone decreases and the activity of the body starts to diminish. With the transfer from daylight to night darkness, melatonin increases encouraging relaxation and sleep, and causing laziness to engulf the body. Here, prayer comes at a transitional station. The Isha, early night prayer is the last station in the course of the day, wherein the body is transferred from a state of activity and mobility to a state of seeking sleep with the spread of darkness and the increase of melatonin secretion. Therefore, it is commendable to delay Isha prayer to the time just prior to sleep so that all man's preoccupations are finalized, and sleep ensues. The regular secretion of melatonin is closely related to sexual and mental maturity, which is the consequence of following a fixed program and a way of life. Therefore, we find that adherence to performing prayers on time is the best way to guarantee an integral compatibility with daily activities. It also leads to the highly efficient functioning of human bodily systems.
  • Prayer prevents varicosing. Varicose veins on the legs are a common dysfunction, which takes the shape of large, zigzag veins filled with blood of a changed colour all along the lower limbs. Dr. Tawfiq Elwan, a Professor in Alexandria's Faculty of Medicine, Egypt, indicated that with the meticulous observation of prayer movements, it was found that prayer is distinguished by a wonderful measure of smoothness, harmony and coordination, represented in standing, kneeling (ruku), prostration (sujud) and sitting between every two prostrations. A scientific study on the measure of pressure exerted on the walls of the saphenous vein at the ankle joint found that a great decrease in that pressure occurs during kneeling; such pressure being reduced by almost one-half. As for the state of sujud, the average pressure becomes very slight. Naturally, this decrease provides full rest to that vein, which is greatly exhausted by long periods of standing.  

    Sujud also helps the blood circulate work in the same direction as earth's gravity, as blood from the soles of the feet to the cardiac muscle, now pour smoothly and easily from top to bottom. This process greatly reduces the vein pressure over the feet dorsum. Amazingly, the reduction in pressure from standing to prostration represents around 80%. Consequently, the risks of having varicose veins, which rarely affects those performing prayers regularly and properly, are diminished.
  • Prayer for strengthening bones. Bones pass through two consecutive stages: anabolism followed by catabolism and so on in a continuous manner. In our youth and growth, man's anabolism increases, so bones become longer and stronger. After maturity and with the advance of age, catabolism takes over, with the amount of bone decrease and becoming more fragile, and the spine bows due to vertebra's collapse, shortness and weakness. The activity and the strength of bones are the outcome of the amount of pressure and pulling exercised by the muscles and tendons, which stick to the bones, during flexion and extension.

    It has recently been proven that an electric current with two different poles runs inside the bones, affecting the distribution of cell functions such as anabolism and catabolism. The current also determines, at large, the aspects of these cells' activities. The experiments proved that in laziness and rest, the electric current is diminished, leading the bones to lose their componential materials, thus they become thin and weak. Experiments also revealed that during travel to space where gravity is totally absent, muscles become weak and bones think because of the inability to resist the burden of the earth's gravity. Hence, it was deduced that complete rest causes the bones to shrink, as the absence of movement activated catabolism cells, and weakens anabolism cells, with a resultant reduction in bony materials.
  • The performance of 16 units (rak'ah) of obligatory prayer, plus some extra prayers, strengthens man's bones, and forced him to perform bodily movements for no less than one hour a day. This happens throughout a Muslim's life, for Muslims never abandon their prayers.
  • Prayer is a regular and simple exercise preformed at different times of the day. It helps the body maintain its viability, especially the cardiac system and blood circulation.
  • Prayer is a psychological therapy that helps calm the soul and relieves all tension. The most significant reason for this is that man feels that all his problems are very small in the face of the Greatness and Capability of the Creator who handles this large universe. The Muslim, after finishing prayer, has through all his problems and worries aside, as he has deputized the Merciful Lord to managed and relieve him of these. Prayer also helps remove all sources of tension because of the constant changed of movement involved. It is know that such changed of movement lead to important psychological relation, therefore, the Prophet (peace be upon him) commanded that Muslims when afflicted by a state of anger should resort to prayers. 

    It has been proven that prayer has an immediate effect on the nervous system, it calms agitation and maintains balance. Prayer also constitutes a successful treatment for insomnia resulting in dysfunction of the nervous system." (Dr. Sharif Kaf Al-Ghazal - Medical Miracles Of The Quran - The Islamic Foundation, 2006 - Pages 94-99).
Thanks to Dr. Zakir Naik for most of the scientific information.
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