Dr. Nisar Hussain,
MA, M.P.Ed. M.Phil., Ph.D.,
National Referee in Vollyball (VFI),
Coach, University of Mumbai Vollyball
What is namaz (Prayer – Salat)?
Prayer – Salat – namaz
The life of man is full of signs that indicate the search for truth in order to reach the Creator of the universe. These signs are the consequence of our natural inclinations to believe and worship. These are innate and set in the nature of mankind. Those then who remain deprived of the (Divine) Reality and truth, and go astray by deifying a powerless being who cannot satisfy their true natural needs, as has been seen both in the past and present, end up following unreasonable and illogical paths. Thus, today, many millions of people deify such creatures as the cow, and many of them, as in the deviated religions, have an anthropomorphic view of the Transcendent Lord, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the Universe.
This points out that man is in need of being a servant and is in need to carry out the requirements for fulfilling that purpose. Thus, Allah says in the Qur’an:
“I have only created the Jinn and humankind, that they may serve Me.” (Az-Zariyat 51: 56). This means that because of this destiny, man is a servant and since he is living in the secret of servant hood, he is in a state of need. Therefore, man is supposed to reach salvation and success to the degree that he is able to channel this natural inclination in to pursuing the honor and dignity of mankind. And he is, thereby, charged to praise and worship his Lord. Ultimately, all superior features and degrees that man is endowed with are based on the condition of accomplishing this task. It is stated in the Qur’an: “Say (to the rejecters): ‘My Lord is not uneasy because of you if you call not on Him…’” (Al-Furqan 25: 77).
Thus, Allah in this verse, and in many verses of the Qur’an, states that man needs to do good deeds as well as having faith. Therefore, the believers who aim to enter the presence of Allah with a sound heart commit themselves to the sublime springs of acts of worship called righteous deeds and with a willing heart, they travel towards the ocean of union with their Lord. And prayer is, without doubt, the biggest and most important worship that leads the servant to the ocean of union with the Lord. Because prayer is the core and the zenith of all practices in terms of content, scope, and degree.All creation in the universe; the sun, green meadows, and trees glorify Allah. Birds, mountains, and stones all praise Allah in ways that are unknown to us. Plants glorify Allah by standing; animals glorify Him by bowing down, and inanimate objects glorify Him by lying down. And the heavenly creatures follow the same pattern. Some angels glorify Allah by standing, some by bowing down, and some by lying down. However, the prayer that Allah offered man as a vehicle for ascension covers all these acts of worship. Thereby, the true prayer offers countless rewards and spiritual manifestations since this act of worship covers the total of worship that beings of this-world and other-worlds can perform.
Soloman Shalabi puts this special characteristic of prayer into words so elegantly:
Whoever performs this prayer,
Acquires merit in Allah’s sight…
As it covers every form of worship,
Union with Allah is included in this kind of worship…
The Prophet (pbuh) says in this regard:
“Prayer allows the person to attain Allah’s approval and also the love of the angels. It is the way of the prophets. It is the light of wisdom. It is the foundation of faith. It makes one’s sustenance blessed with increase and fertility. It gives comfort to the body. Page 195 It is a weapon over the enemies. It keeps Satan away. It is an intercessor between the worshipper and the Angel of Death. It is a candle and a carpet in the tomb. It is an answer to the angels of Munkar-Nakir (the angels that question the dead person right after death). It is a bosom friend until the Day of Judgment. It is a shade over the worshipper on the Day of Judgment. It is a crown on the head. It is a dress on the body. It is pioneering light.”
What is Yoga?
Derived from the Sanskrit word yuj, Yoga means union of the individual consciousness or soul with the Universal Consciousness or Spirit. Yoga is a 5000-year-old Indian body of knowledge. Though many think of yoga only as a physical exercise where people twist, turn, stretch, and breathe in the most complex ways, these are actually only the most superficial aspect of this profound science of unfolding the infinite potentials of the human mind and soul. The science of Yoga imbibes the complete essence of the Way of Life.
As Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says, “Yoga is not just exercise and asanas. It is the emotional integration and spiritual elevation with a touch of mystic element, which gives you a glimpse of something beyond all imagination.”
Yoga is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India. There is a broad variety of Yoga schools, practices, and goals in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Among the most well-known types of yoga are Hatha yoga and Rāja yoga.
The origins of yoga have been speculated to date back to pre-Vedic Indian traditions; it is mentioned in the Rigveda, but most likely developed around the sixth and fifth centuries BCE, in ancient India’s ascetic and śramaṇa movements. The chronology of earliest texts describing yoga-practices is unclear, varyingly credited to Hindu Upanishads. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali date from the first half of the 1st millennium CE, but only gained prominence in the West in the 20th century. Hatha yoga texts emerged around the 11th century with origins in tantra.
Yoga gurus from India later introduced yoga to the west, following the success of Swami Vivekananda in the late 19th and early 20th century. In the 1980s, yoga became popular as a system of physical exercise across the Western world. Yoga in Indian traditions, however, is more than physical exercise; it has a meditative and spiritual core. One of the six major orthodox schools of Hinduism is also called Yoga, which has its own epistemology and metaphysics, and is closely related to Hindu Samkhya philosophy.
Many studies have tried to determine the effectiveness of yoga as a complementary intervention for cancer, schizophrenia, asthma, and heart disease. The results of these studies have been mixed and inconclusive, with cancer studies suggesting none to unclear effectiveness, and others suggesting yoga may reduce risk factors and aid in a patient’s psychological healing process. On December 1, 2016, Yoga was listed as UNESCO’s Intangible cultural heritage.
History of Yoga
The earliest mention of the contemplative tradition is found in the oldest surviving literature Rig Veda, in Nasadiya Sukta. It dates back to the Indus-Saraswati civilization. The Pashupati seal from the selfsame civilization shows a figure sitting in a yogic posture, further corroborating its prevalence in those ancient times. However, the earliest mention of the practices that later became part of yoga are found in the oldest Upanishad, Brihadaranyaka. The practice of Pranayama finds a mention in one of its hymn and Pratyahara in Chandogya Upanishad. The first appearance of the word “yoga” with the same meaning as we know today, perhaps happens for the first time in Kato Upanishad, a mukhya or important Upanishad, embedded in the last eight sections of the Katha school of Yajurveda. Yoga here is seen as a process of inner journey or ascent of consciousness.
The famous dialogue, Yoga Yajnavalkya, (found in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad), between Sage Yajnavalkya and the learned Brahmvadin Gargi mentions asanas, numerous breathing exercises for cleansing the body and meditation. Gargi has also spoken about Yogasanas in Chandogya Upanishad.
Vratya, a group of ascetics mentioned in the Atharvaveda, emphasized on bodily postures, which may have evolved into Yogasanas. Even Samhitas mention munis, kesins and vratyas, various ancient seers and sages who practiced rigorous physical deportments to meditate or do tapasya.
Yoga as a concept slowly emerged and has an elaborate mention in Bhagavad Gita and in Shanti Parva of Mahabharata.
There are more than 20 Upanishads and Yoga Vasishtha, which predate Mahabharata and Bhagavad Gita, where Yoga is stated to be the union of mind with the Supreme Consciousness.
Yoga is discussed in the ancient foundational Sutra of Hindu philosophy and is perhaps most elaborately mentioned in Patanjali Yogasutra. Patanjali defines yoga in his second sutra as:
- Yoga Sutras
Patanjali’s writing also became the basis for Ashtanga Yoga. Many practices like five vows in Jainism and Yogachara of Buddhism have their root in Patanjali Yogasutras.
Breathing Techniques (Pranayama) & Meditation (Dhyaan)
Pranayama is the extension and control of one’s breath. Practicing proper techniques of breathing can help bring more oxygen to the blood and brain, eventually helping control prana or the vital life energy. Pranayama also goes hand in hand with various yoga poses. The union of these two yogic principles is considered as the highest form of purification and self-discipline, covering both mind and body. Pranayama techniques also prepare us for a deeper experience of meditation.
Relation of Namaz & Yoga
Here you’ll find Salat positions along with their most similar yoga positions and their health benefits:
During Qiyam and Namaste, there is an even distribution to both feet. This will ease the nervous system and balance the body. The body is charged with positive energy. This position straightens the back and improves posture. In this position, a verse of the Quran is recited: ‘And guide us to the straight path.’ Some have interpreted this to mean the alignment of our Chakras. While reciting more verses from the Quran, the sound vibrations of the long vowels ā, ī, and ū stimulate the heart, thyroid, pineal gland, pituitary, adrenal glands, and lungs, purifying and uplifting them all.
Ruk’u and Ardha Uttanasana fully stretch the muscles of the lower back, front torso, thighs, and calves. Blood is pumped into the upper torso. This position tones muscles of the stomach, abdomen, and kidneys.
Julus and Vajrasana aid the detoxification of the liver and stimulate peristaltic action of the large intestine. This position assists digestion by forcing the contents of the stomach downward. It helps in curing varicose veins and joint pains, increases flexibility, and strengthens the pelvic muscles.
Sujud is the most important position in prayer. This position stimulates the brain’s frontal cortex. It leaves the heart in a higher position than the brain, which increases flow of blood into upper regions of the body, especially the head and lungs. This allows mental toxins to be cleansed. This position allows stomach muscles to develop and prevents growth of flabbiness in the midsection. It maintains proper position of fetus in pregnant women, reduces high blood pressure, increases elasticity of joints and alleviates stress, anxiety, dizziness and fatigue.
Many people perform Yoga with soothing instructions to help them meditate. In a soft voice, a man or woman would describe how to breathe, what to imagine, and what to feel. Recitation of the Quran serves similarly as guidance to the individual. However, it serves not only to guide you during Salat but also to guide your life. Many describe meditation as a source of enlightenment as it leaves them at peace and eases their daily activities. Salat serves this exact purpose. Guidance and peace are core values in Islam to the point that prayer is needed five times a day! It is so significant that a sect of Islam, Sufism, was created to make meditation their main focus.
These are just some benefits associated with Salat. Benefits of reciting Quran, along with other features of prayer, delve into aspects of psychology, sociology, neuroscience and much, much more.
Benefits of Namaz
Namaz is the finest form of meditation
Namaz is one of the best forms of meditation or Dhyan from Yogic point of view where the person unilaterally surrenders to Allah. Meditation is defined as the uninterrupted flow of mind towards a particular object. Namaz is one of the best stress buster and tension reliever modules. Namaz (Sala’at) is the perfect example of meditation where the performer thinks only and only about Allah. Thus, Namaz provides the ultimate satisfaction and peace to the mind thus save you from many diseases and disorders. It enhances your concentration and reduces the level of depression. Namaz helps to develop positive milieu around the Namazi.
Namaz and physical health benefits
Namaz has multiple many health and fitness benefits. Some of the important physical health benefits are as follow:
Namaz is one of the important means for health, happiness and harmony.
Offering regular Namaz keeps one fit and healthy by burning extra calories thereby losing weight. Namaz is one of the effective ways for weight loss as well as to control obesity.
Namaz stretches your muscles and helps to provide tone body.
It is good to overcome arthritis as Namaz is good to enhance flexibility of the body and reduces stiffness.
Namaz is a good source to balance Anabolic and Catabolic bio-chemical process of the body.
Namaz is good for heart, brain, above all for the entire body.
Standing posture in Namaz (Qiya’m) ensures proper blood flow the lower portion of the body. It is also good in strengthening the leg muscles.
The forward bending position of Namaz (Ruk’u) is good for your lower vertebral column. It helps to ease your back pain as per Yogic philosophy. Doing Ruku properly helps to control backache and vertebral column related diseases. Namaz Ruku is effective in developing flexibility to shoulder, elbow wrist, knees and ankle regions. Ruku exerts abdominal pressure thereby eases constipation and peristaltic movements. During Ruku, the kidney experiences a sort of massage thus helpful to kidney problems.
Health benefits of Sajdah
During Sajdah, one sit in Vajrasana, a very important yoga pose from health point of view. Vajrasana strengthens the thigh and calf muscles. It is good for digestion and keeps your spine firm and erect. Sajdah is very beneficial in the proper functioning of brain, lungs, body muscles, joints and entire vertebral column. Sajdah helps to maintain smooth blood to the brain region, and also stimulates the master gland pituitary gland as well as the pineal gland. Sajdah reduces the chances of brain hemorrhage and headache due to smooth blood flow to the head region. While performing Sajdah, the toes are experiencing acupressure which is good for better health of the body, especially for body pains.
Health benefits of Sala’m (Neck Yoga)
Salam is the excellent form of neck and upper vertebra exercise. Namaz’s Salam is the Griva-sakti-vikasaka (Strengthening the Neck) of Yogic Sukshma Vyayama, which is helpful in loosening the neck joints and also helps to relax the shoulder and upper back muscles. Salam helps to refresh all the nerves passes through the neck, thus good in case of headache and contend migraine.
Benefits of Yoga
Improves your flexibility
Builds muscle strength
Perfects your posture
Prevents cartilage and joint breakdown
Protects your spine
Betters your bone health
Increases your blood flow
Ups your heart rate
Drops your blood pressure.
Regulates your adrenal glands
Makes you happier
Founds a healthy lifestyle
Lowers blood sugar
Helps you focus
Relaxes your system
Improves your balance
Maintains your nervous system
Releases tension in your limbs
Helps you sleep deeper
Boosts your immune system functionality
Gives your lungs room to breathe
Prevents digestive problems
Gives you peace of mind
Increases your self-esteem
Eases your pain
Gives you inner strength
Connects you with guidance
Helps keep you drug free
Builds awareness for transformation
Other benefits of Namaz
Improved Body Posture
Secretion of Glands
Stretches The Body