"From the point of view of life in the contemporary Western world, the obligation to worship five times a day might seem excessive. Our lives are filled with so many responsibilities and so many distractions. Yet compared to the life of a monk or a yogi, the obligations of a Muslim layman do not appear to be onerous. The call to worship five times a day has, however, established among Muslim peoples an abiding awareness of the Divine, a God-centered life, and a social cohesion. In its first centuries the sheer moral vitality and spiritual magnetism of Islamic practice was a civilization-building force.

"At its best, when performed with some sincerity, salah cuts through our worldly preoccupations and immediately reestablishes a connection with the Divine. It leads us to a state of remembrance of God — a state that ideally should be maintained through our whole lives. The Qur'an says, 'And the remembrance of God is the greatest' (29:45). And 'Indeed, in the remembrance of God hearts find rest' (13:28).

"The ritual prayer is extremely important because it serves to constantly remind the believer that there is a God, and he is in charge. The rat race of life can easily distract us from the greater goal of existence on this earth: to know, remember, and reverence God. The Qur'an says God created human beings in order for them to worship and serve him. Having to pray five times a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year is a powerful reminder of this greater purpose. It helps keep us grounded and prevents us from becoming arrogant. Having to touch your forehead to the ground is a humbling experience, especially when you have to do it day after day."