On the authority of Abu Maalik al-Haarith ibn Aasim al-Ashari, (may Allah be pleased with him), who said: The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, ‘Purification is half of the faith. The phrase al-hamdulillah (‘All praises be to Allah ‘) fills the scale. The phrases sub-haanallaah (‘High is Allah above every imperfection and need; He is pure and perfect’) and al-hamdullilah (‘All praise be to Allah’) fill together – or each fill – what is between the heavens and earth. Prayer is a light. Charity is a proof. Patience is a brightness. The Qur’an is either an argument for you or against you. And everyone goes out in the morning and sells himself either freeing or destroying himself.” (Recorded in Muslim)
“Prayer is a light.”
We should note firstly that there are three different ways of understanding an expression of this nature in Arabic. The first way is to understand it as a way of expressing a likeness between two things, so prayer is not actually a light but very similar to it. The second is that prayer is full of light and the third is that it gives light. All of these are possible meanings from the way this statement ‘Prayer is a light’ is expressed here.
As a result, the scholars have differed in their interpretations of this statement. Some have said that the meaning of ‘light’ in this statement is spiritual and not physical. Prayer is therefore like a guiding light along the Straight Path that keeps one away from sins and transgression. This interpretation is supported by the Quranic ayah:
“Verily, the prayer prevents one from great sins and wicked deeds.” (Surah al-Ankaboot:45)
A second interpretation is that ‘light’ is meant here in a physical sense. On the Day of Judgment, the prayers will be transformed into a physical light for the one who performed them. Allah (swt) tells us in the Qu’ran:
“On the day you shall see the believing men and the believing women: their light running forward before them and by their right hands.” (Surah al-Hadeed:12)
A third interpretation is that ‘light’ means a physical light, but in this life rather than in the Hereafter. The faces or physical beings of people who pray will have a light about them. This interpretation is based on the Quranic ayah:
“Their mark [of faith] is on their faces from the traces of prostration (during their prayers)” (Surah al-Fath:29)
The Prophet Muhammad (s) stated that the prayer is a ‘light’, but he (s) did not confine this to any particular type of light, he (s) left the statement open. Hence it is possible that all three of these interpretations of the meaning for this statement are correct. Prayer may be understood to incorporate both physical and spiritual light, in this life and in the Hereafter. This demonstrates the importance and profound nature of the prayer and its virtues. Illuminating the Path to Paradise.