Salah originates from the word Sila, which in Arabic means to make contact. From an Islamic perspective it means to make contact or to communicate with Allah. How do we do this? We do this through remembering Allah with our tongues and actions.
When Adam’s soul (a.s) entered his body once it reached his nose he sneezed and soon after said “Alhumdulillah” (all praise be to Allah). So we can see that Sila began from the second mankind was given life and this continued.
At the time of Noah (as);
He Said: “O my people verily, I am a plain warner to you.
That you should worship Allah (Alone), be dutiful to Him, and obey me” (2-3:71)
At the time of Shu’ayb (as)
They said: O Shu‘ayb does your prayer command you that we leave the worship which our fathers practised…” (11:87)
Prayer (Salah) as we Muslims today know it did not originate though until the time of Ibrahim (as). After Ibrahim (as) built the Ka’bah he said, as mentioned in the Quran:
“O Lord I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a barren valley by your sacred House in order O Lord! That they may establish regular prayer.” (14:37)
[Ibrahim said:] “My Lord! Make me and my descendants people who establish salat. My Lord! Accept my prayer.” (Surah Ibrahim, 40)
While referring to the Prophets Abraham, Isaac (s.w.s) and Jacob (s.w.s), the Quran says:
“And We made them leaders guiding [men] by Our command, and We sent them inspiration to do good deeds, to establish regular prayer and to give Zakat.” (21:73)
At the time of Musa (as):
“I am Allah. There is no god but Me, so worship Me and establish salat to remember Me. (Surah Ta Ha, 14)
At the time of Issa (as)
He said: “I am the servant of Allah, He has given me the Book and made me a prophet. He has made me blessed wherever I am and directed me to do salat and give the alms as long as I live.” (Surah Maryam, 30-31)
It is known from a Hadith that Abu Dhar Ghafari (rta) used to pray even before he had met the Prophet (sws). While talking to his nephew during the course of a journey, he says:
O son of my brother! I used to pray three years prior to meeting the Prophet. I asked: For whom did you pray. He replied: For Allah. I said: In what direction did you pray. He replied: In whatever direction the Almighty turned my face to. I used to offer the ‘Isha prayer late at night. (Muslim: Kitab al-Fada‘il)
The Salat and other practices have been given to us by the Sunnah of the Prophet (s.w.s). All these have existed since Abraham (s.w.s). The Prophet (s.w.s) was not the first to give directives about them. He only cleansed them of certain innovations (bid’ahs) which had over the years crept into their daily practices.