Many cultural Muslims treat formal daily prayer quite casually. They consider the prayers merely as a means of accumulating good points on their record. Consequently, some only pray twice per year at the two annual celebrations ad al-Fitr and al-Adha), others only during the month of fasting, Ramadan. and yet others only pray the weekly Friday congregational prayer. Some regularly miss one or more of their daily prayers while others pray all five before going to bed at night. Yet others delay beginning regular prayers until their old age.
The prayer is usually made very quickly without the least thought being given to what was said and done. The Prophet ﷺ instructed those who prayed quickly to redo their prayers, because quick prayers are not counted.
For cultural Muslims, the prayer has become such a ritual that in some parts of the Muslim world a special method of prayer was invented for women, distinct and different from the prayer of men. However, the Prophet ﷺ instructed his followers to pray as he prayed, without making any distinction between males and females.
Consequently, non-Muslims will observe cultural Muslims praying regularly, yet being most dishonest and corrupt in their dealings with others. Yet, Allah has stated in the Qur’an that regular prayer prevents corruption,
Indeed formal prayer prevents evil speech and evil deeds.Quran 29:45
Thus, if one’s prayers do not prevent them from corruption, they are not performing the prayers which God has commanded.
The character which Salah builds is:
a) God-fearing: An individual who is conscious of God will question himself or herself prior to doing every act, “Is this act pleasing to God or not?” God consciousness is the ultimate basis of righteousness, as it is that consciousness alone which will prevent an individual from evil, even when it is at his or her own expense.
b) Good speaking: True believers will not be noted for obscene language, slander, backbiting, lies, etc. During formal prayer, one is restricted to saying only good words as training for life beyond prayer. The Prophet ﷺ said, “Let whoever believes in Allah and the last day either speak good or be silent.’
c) Good acting/behaviour: During formal prayer, the believer acts only in accordance with God’s instructions. All of his or her body parts conform to set movements designed to train the believer to obey Allah during the periods between the prayers. Consequently, what he or she looks at, hears, touches, walks to will be good. And the believer’s interaction with people will be amicable. The Prophet ﷺ emphasized this concept saying, “The religion is comprised of good social dealings.”
– Excerpt from The Clash of Civilisations by Dr Bilal Philips