Ibn Qayyim says that the Salah brings about sustenance, preserves health, eradicates illness, strengthens the heart, radiates the face with light, brings joy to the soul and dissipates laziness. It also energized the limbs while taking one away from Shaytan and drawing him/her closer to Allah.
Senior Physiotherapists from the Rehabilitation and Physical Medicine Institute, Al Ain Hospital, UAE, conducted research into the health benefits and found that they included:
* Energy expenditure- A study done on the energy cost of two and four rak’ah prayers in male and female adults found that Salah has a positive effect on metabolic function and could burn up to 80 calories per day, meaning it could be considered a form of physical activity that enhances fitness. (Jasem Ramadan Alkandar)
* Enhance Flexibility and Muscular fitness. Salah involves a certain level of physical activity which includes standing, bowing prostration and sitting consecutively. Each position involves the movement of different parts of the body in ways that some muscles contract isometrically (same length) and some contract in approximation or isotonically (same tension). These movements enhance flexibility and general muscular fitness. Let's take a look step by step at each part of the Salah and how it benefits health.
The method of making Wudu (ablution) is stated in the Qur’ān: “When you stand for prayer, wash your faces, and your hands up to the elbows. Then wipe your heads and wash your feet up to your ankles.” (Qur’an 5:6)
Performing Wudu purifies your body and soul, which ultimately brings you closer to Allah. The Prophet ﷺ also recommended making ablution before going to bed.
Some of the health benefits are;
* Stimulation of biological rhythms of the Body - similar to the idea behind Chinese reflexo-therapy. It is a treatment which includes hydro-massage.
**( Biological rhythms are the natural cycle of change in our body’s chemicals or functions. It’s like an internal master “clock” that coordinates the other clocks in your body. It’s made up of thousands of nerve cells that help sync your body’s functions and activities.**
* Nasal cleaning and sniffing the water during Wudu clears it from bacteria and microbic diseases.
* Washing hands stops the spread of harmful bacteria that spread disease such as pneumonia. Hand washing also reduces respiratory infections by removing infectious pathogens found on the hands.
* Rinsing the mouth further prevents the spread of diseases. During the ablution, Muslims rinse their mouth in order to remove food particles and bacteria from the mouth.
According to a recent study published in the Clinical Microbiology Reviews Journal by the name of ‘Systemic Diseases Caused by Oral Infection’, they have found a direct link between a lack of oral hygiene and systemic diseases. Systemic diseases include Cardiovascular Disease, Bacterial Pneumonia, Osteoporosis, Low Birth Weight and Diabetes-Related Complications.
Takbir and Standing
Before starting the Salah one should make his intention for Allah and clear his mind of distractions and worldly affairs. This intention is made internally and not uttered upon the tongue, but making dua (supplication) at this time can be pronounced upon the tongue. This in itself creates a calming and spiritual effect on the body.
You begin by the Prayer by saying the takbīr: “Allāhu-akbar” (Allāh is Greater than all else)in a whisper and not loud, unless he is the imām who leads others in Prayer. You should raise his hands whilst saying the opening takbīr, or just before it or just after it and spread out your fingers slightly and raise your palms to the level of his shoulders or to the level of his earlobes but without touching the ears.
Then you should place the right hand over the left hand, wrist and forearm upon the chest (for men and women).
While standing, there is an even distribution of weight in both feet throughout. This eases the balance of the body and lower back brought into a neutral position whilst activating the core muscles at the same time. This position helps to straighten the back and improves posture.
Ruk’u (Bowing/forward bending)
Ruk’u is good for the lower vertebral column, trunk stability and provides a gentle distraction at vertebras. This posture is useful to treat backache and vertebral column related diseases. It reduces the risk of nerve compression and promotes the flexibility of the spine in healthy people.
According to industrial engineering Prof. Muhammad Khasawneh et al, the complex physical movements of the ritual can reduce lower-back pain if performed regularly and properly. He says “In some cases of chronic lower back pain, as part of exercise plan, I often advise my Muslim patient to prolong the Ruku’u position every time they Pray for a few more seconds in order get the effective sustain stretch.”
To perform ruk’u (bowing) correctly, you should place the palms of your hands on your knees and spread your fingers as if you are holding them firmly. Then you must stretch out your back keeping it straight and level, such that if some water was poured onto it, it would settle there. The head should not be dipped, nor raised high but instead, level with the back. You should keep your elbows away from touching your sides too. (Swipe post for illustration).
Then you should say “Subḥāna Rabbīyal-ʿadhīm.” (Glorified is my Lord, free and far-removed from all imperfections, the Supreme). Repeat this three times or more.
During the prostration, your hands are placed on the ground first, before your knees. Then you bring your fingers together on the ground.
Keep your elbows and forearms lifted above the ground, and not spread out on the ground. You should firmly place your forehead, nose, hands, knees and toes on the ground.
While in the prostration, you should recite,” Subḥāna Rabbīyal-Aʾlá.” (Glorified is my Lord, free and far-removed from all imperfections, the Most High). You should recite this three times or more. It is recommended to be plentiful in supplicating to Allah while in sajdah because it is a moment most suited for supplications to be answered.
The hands are also stretched out in a manner that allows the forearm as well as the arm muscles to bear weight. The toes, entire vertebral column and upper and lower spinal muscle experiences a stretch. The knees forming a right angle allow abdominal muscles contraction to be activated and prevents flabbiness.
This posture combined with other exercises opens the lower lumbar joints and may help to reduce lower back pain and sciatica.
Tashahud involves sitting on the floor directly on the ground, while both legs are folded in such a manner that the heels touch the gluteal region and the hands are placed on the knees. In this position, muscles at the front of the ankle and foot are stretched. It stretches the tibialis anterior, the extensor hallucis longus (with toe extended), the quads and gluteus muscles (while knees and hips are flexed).
The full inner range of motion on the knee joint is achieved and it prevents restricted joint range which is most commonly seen in patients with degenerative knee problems.
Furthermore, rising up after Tashahud to continue other Rakʿah involves activities like deep squats and full to half kneeling postures. With these erect postures, more spinal stability is gained. All these physical actions are therapeutic and can be used to treat joint/muscle injuries and core coordination and balance.
Salutations at the End of the Prayer (Taslīm)
To complete the Salah you turn your head to the right side and say “As-salāmu ʿalaikum wa raḥmatullāh.” (May Allāh’s peace and security be upon you, and His Mercy). Then turn your head to the left side and say the same thing.
With that, you complete your Prayer just as Allāh’s Messenger ﷺ taught his followers.
And all praise is due to Allāh, Lord of all creation.
The Taslīm is an excellent form of neck and upper vertebrae exercise. The head performs rotational movements over the cervical vertebra. This improves the range of motion of the neck and whilst stretching the trapezius fibers. It also helps to mobilize the upper back and the thoracic muscles. These gentle neural stretches at cervical rotation are effective and may reduce the symptoms of cervicogenic headache.
Al- Gazal and Ayad et al. (2008) stated that the neck muscles, in particular, are strengthened such that it is uncommon to find a person offering regular Salah prostrating at least 40 times a day to suffer from cervical spondylosis or myalgias.
Research paper from here.