Allaah the Sublime said:
Indeed prayer restrains from the obscene and
evil deeds.[ 1]
Allaah has explained in this verse that a correct prayer, performed with khushoo' undoubtedly prevents its performer from obscene and evil deeds and leads him to goodness. Therefore, you will see that the people of the mosque are the most superior of mankind and the best amongst them. The sins and shortcomings of others are many times more than the sins and shortcomings of these people.
If the prayer does not prevent us from obscene and evil deeds then it is necessary to carefully scrutinize the deficiency within it and to correct it. There is no escaping from correcting one's prayer and there is no fleeing from bringing about khushoo' within it. So let us look at the causes and let us strive to treat them with the cure. Just like we treat our bodies for their diseases, the treatment of the souls is more appropriate and comes first. And this is what will help us to understand the saying of the Messenger (sallallaahu alaihi wasallam): "The first thing for which a servant will be held to account for is his prayer. If it is correct and sound, all the rest of his actions will be correct and sound and if it is corrupt then all the rest of his actions will be corrupt."
So in the correction of the prayer lies the corection of all the other actions. The position of the prayer (relative to all the other actions) is like that of the head to the body. This is because the servant is nearest to his Lord during his prayer, he calls upon his Lord and seeks forgiveness from Him. He returns to Allaah and cries to Him, the Sublime.
The prayer cannot be corrected except with the correction of the aqeedah (belief), being observant of Allaah, having fear of Him, bringing oneself to account in front of Him, and trembling out of fear of His Fire. When he finishes his prayer and is put to trial with sins and disobedience, he finds strength in his heart to repel them. This is because he looks at the the temporary and vanishing pleasures and then at the bliss and joy which never ends and the happiness which is never cut off. So he puts the good which will remain (and last forever) ahead of that which is only transitory and vanishes.
The prayer of the servant is corrupted due to lack of the careful observance of Allaah and weakness in taqwaa. He is, therefore, not able to produce such awe which will come in between him and his acts of disobedience.
There also occurs in the hadeeth: "Indeed there is in the body a morsel of flesh which if it be sound and wholesome, the whole body will be sound and wholesome and which if it be corrupt, the whole body will be corrupt. Indeed it is the heart."
In the correction and purification of the heart lies the correction of the whole body and in the corruption of the heart lies the corruption of the whole body. If the heart is corrected, the hand will be corrected so that it does not steal or strike anyone or commit zina by touching what is unlawful. The feet will also be corrected so that they do not walk towards what is unlawful. The ears will be put straight so that they do not listen to musical instruments, slander or backbiting. The situation of the tongue will improve so that it does not speak except what is good. If the heart is corrupted, the whole body becomes corrupt and the limbs will not depart except towards evil conduct and mischief.
The matter of the heart is either set aright or corrupted by the prayer. If the prayer is good it is an indication that the heart has benefitted and that it is sound and wholesome. If it is not good, it is an indication of the heart receiving little benefit and of its corruption. Evil deeds then become manifest and overtake the limbs.
Know that every prayer which is performed with awe and humility enlivens the heart and stimulates it to do good deeds and also makes it adapt to good deeds, just as every good action which is performed outside of the prayer increases ones khushoo within the prayer. In a hadeeth there occurs: "Upon you is the Night Prayer (Tahajjud) as it was the habit of the righteous people before you, is a means of nearness to Allaah the Exalted, a prevention from evil deeds and an expiation for sins."
The Messenger (sallallaahu alaihi wasallam) has made it clear that the Night Prayer is a prevention from sins in that it stops the one who performs it from evil deeds and incites him to do good deeds. Therefore, it is necessary for us to establish the prayer and to increase in it and likewise we must perform the Night Prayer, standing awe-struck, humble and submissive to Allaah the Sublime. Our hearts weeping over what we have neglected and fallen short of while hoping for the mercy of our Lord. We seek nearness to him by calling Him by His Names and Attributes, asking Him by them that he establishes us (upon His path) and that He gives us benefit from our prayer and standing at night.