“Do you really believe that God expects you to show Him your respect by repeated bowing and kneeling and prostration? Might it not be better only to look into oneself and to pray to Him in the stillness of one’s heart? Why all these movements of your body?”
As soon as I had uttered these words I felt remorse, for I had not intended to injure the old man’s religious feelings. But the hajji did not appear in the least offended. He smiled with his toothless mouth and replied: How else then should we worship God? Did he not create both, soul and body, together? And this being so, should man not pray with his body as well as with his soul? Listen, I will tell you why we Muslims pray as we pray. We turn toward the kaaba, God’s holy temple in Mecca, knowing that the faces of all Muslims, wherever they may be, are turned to it in prayer, and that we are like one body, with Him as the centre of our thoughts. First we stand upright and recite from the Holy Koran, remembering that it is His Word, given to man that he may be upright and steadfast in life. Then we say, “God is the Greatest,” reminding ourselves that no one deserves to be worshipped but Him; and bow down deep because we honour Him above all, and praise His power and glory. Thereafter we prostrate ourselves on our foreheads because we feel that we are but dust and nothingness before Him, and that He is our Creator and Sustainer on high. Then we lift our faces from the ground and remain sitting, praying that He forgive us our sins and bestow His grace upon us, and guide us aright, and give us health and sustenance. Then we again prostrate ourselves on the ground and touch the dust with our foreheads before the might and the glory of the One. After that, we remain sitting and pray that He bless the Prophet Muhammad who brought His message to us, just as He blessed the earlier Prophets; and that He bless us as well, and all those who follow the right guidance; we ask Him to give us of the good of this world and of the good of the world to come. In the end we turn our heads to the right and to the left, saying, “Peace and grace of God be upon you” and thus greet all who are righteous, wherever they may be.
It was thus that our Prophet used to pray and taught his followers to pray for all times, so that they might willingly surrender themselves to God which is what Islam means and so be at peace with Him and with their own destiny.”
~From The Road toMecca, by Muhammad Asad