Prayer is one of the central elements of Islamic practice and worship. Indeed, it is the second of the Five Pillars of Islam and, along with the testimony of faith, the pilgrimage to Mecca, fasting the month of Ramadan and paying the poor tax, forms the essential framework of religious life for Muslims. More than that, the observance of the ritual prayer forms the framework of each Muslim’s day, from the pre-dawn morning prayer to the night prayer that precedes sleep.
Prayer’s Importance in Islam
Prayer, in the ritual sense, is an obligation of the faith, to be performed five times a day by adult Muslims. According to Islamic law, prayers have a variety of obligations and conditions of observance. However, beyond the level of practice, there are spiritual conditions and aspects of prayer which represent its essence.
Having cleansed yourself by Wudu, you may proceed to perform Salah. Wudu is a ritual cleansing. Before you begin your Salah, however, you must make sure that you have a clean body, a clean place to pray, and that you are wearing clothing free of impurities. The minimum clothing required during Salah is:
A.For males: Any clothing that covers from the naval to the knees. It is preferable to cover the shoulders.
B.For females: Any clothing that covers all of the body (including the head) except the face, hands, and according to Imam Abu-Hanifah the toes and a portion of the front of the feet.
How to Perform the Daily Prayers
“…but when ye are free from danger, set up Regular Prayers: For such prayers are enjoined on believers at stated times.” (Holy Qur’an: Chapter 4, Verse 103)
It is obligatory to perform the following five prayers every day during the prescribed times:
- Salat al-Fajr (Dawn Prayer) -Two rak’ah sunnah mu’akkadah, then two rak’ah fardh
- Salat al-Zuhr (Noon prayer) – Four rak’ah sunnah mu’akkadah, then four rak’ah fardh, then two rak’ah sunnah mu’akkdah, then two rak’ah nafl
- Salat al-`Asr (Afternoon prayer) – Four rak’ah sunnah ghayr mu’akkadah, then four rak’ah fardh
- Salat al-Maghrib (Sunset prayer) – Three rak’ah fardh, then two rak’ah sunnah mu’akkadah, then two rak’ah nafl
- Salat al-`Isha (Night prayer) – Four rak’ah sunnah, then four rak’ah fardh, then two rak’ah sunnah mu’akkadah, then two rak’ah nafl, then three rak’ah witr, then two rak’ah nafl
The significance of the Kaabah
One of the distinctive characteristics of Islamic ritual prayer is that the worshipper is obliged to keep his vision, both external and internal, concentrated upon the qiblah. The focus of every worshipper is and must be, a holy place. People whose understanding is purely external believe facing the Kaabah is of intrinsic value.
Performing the Muslim Prayers
1- Make your intention known in your heart. Before initiating the salat, it is important that you have the intention to pray.
2- Raise your hands up to your ears and say Allahu Akbar (الله أَكْبَر). This translates to “Allah is the greatest.” Do this while standing (or sitting if you can’t stand).
3- Place your right hand over your left hand. Place your hands either on your navel, on your chest, or between the two; there’s a difference of opinion between Islamic schools of thought. Keep your eyes focused on the place you are standing. Do not let your eyes wander.
4- “Subhanaka allahumma wa bi hamdika wa tabara kasmuka wa ta’ala jadduka wa la ilaha ghairuka.”
سبحانك اللهم و بحمدك، وتبارك اسمك، و تعالى جدك، ولا إله غيرك
This means: “O Allah, how perfect You are and praise be to You. Blessed is Your name, and exalted is Your majesty. There is no god but You.” [Only recite this supplication, Subhanaka, at the beginning of the first Rak’ah]
Then recite silently: “A’udhu billahi minash shaitanir rajim.”
أعوذ بالله من الشيطان الرجيم
This is called Ta’awwudh, and it means: “I seek shelter in Allah from the rejected Satan.”
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Then recite: “Bismillahir rahmanir rahim.”
This is called Tasmiyah, and it means: “In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.”
5- After this, reciteSuratul Fatihah (the opening chapter) of the Noble Qur’an:
“Al hamdu lil lahi rabbil ‘alamin. Arrahmanir rahim. Maliki yawmiddin. Iyyaka na’budu wa iyyaka nasta’in. Ihdinas siratal mustaqim. Siratal ladhina an’amta’alaihim, ghairil maghdubi’alaihim wa lad dhallin. (Amin)”
الحمد لله رب العالمين، الرحمن الرحيم، مالك يوم الدين، إياك نعبد
وإياك نستعين، اهدنا الصراط المستقيم، صراط الذين أنعمت عليهم غير المغضوب عليهم ولأ الضا لين
This means: “All praises and thanks be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful; Master of the Day of Judgment. You alone we worship, from You alone we seek help. Guide us along the straight path – The path of those whom You favoured, not of those who earned Your anger or went astray.”
You must recite Surat Al-Fatihah in each unit (Rak’ah) of the prayer if you pray alone. However, if praying behind an Imam and he recites loudly, then it is not necessary for you to recite it.
6- Now recite any other passage from the NobleQur’an.
For example: Bismillahir rahmanir rahim
“Qul hu wal lahu ahad, allahus samad, lam yalid wa lam yulad, wa lam ya kul lahu kufuwan ahad.”
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
قل هوا لله أحد،الله الصمد، لم يلد و لم يولد، و لم يكن له كفوا أحد
This means: “In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Say, He is Allah, the One. Allah is Eternal and Absolute. He begets not, nor was He begotten. And there is none co-equal unto Him.”
7- Now bow down saying: “Allahu Akbar” and place your hands on your knees and say silently: “Subhana Rabbiyal Adhim.” This means: (How Perfect is my Lord, the Supreme) three times. This position is called Rukoo’. Keep your head in line with your back, and look down to the place of Sujood.
8- Stand up from the bowing position saying: “Sami’Allahu liman hamidah” (Allah hears those who praise Him)”Rabbana lakal hamd.” This means: (Our Lord, praise be to You).
9- Prostrate on the floor saying: “Allahu Akbar” with your forehead, nose, palms of both hands, your knees, and toes all touching the floor. Then recite silently: “Subhana Rabbiyal A’la.”
(How Perfect is my Lord, the Highest) three times. This position is called Sujood. Keep your arms away from the sides of the body and the ground.
10- Sit up from the floor saying, Allahu Akbar. Sit upright with your knees bent and palms placed on them and say: “Rabbighfir li.”
رب اغفر لي
This means: “O my Lord! Forgive me.”
Say “Allahu Akbar” and again prostrate in the Sujood position. Recite “Subhana Rabbiyal A’la” three times. Sit up from this position saying “Allahu Akbar”
This completes the first Rak’ah or unit of Salah. Now stand up for the second Rak’ah and perform it in the same way, except that you do not recite Subhanaka at the beginning, and after the second Sujood (prostration) you sit on the left leg while keeping the right foot upright and put your right hand on the right thigh, with all fingers together in a fist except the index finger. Stick the index finger straight out. Put your left hand on the left thigh. Now recite Tashahhud silently:
التحيات لله والصلوات والطيبات، السلام عليك أيها النبي ورحمة لله
وبركاته، السلام علينا و على عباد الله الصالحين، أشهد أن لا إله إلا الله، وأشهد أن محمدا عبده و رسوله.
“At-Tahiyyatu lillahi This means: “Greetings, prayers and
was- Salawatu wat-Tayyibatu. goodness belongs to Allah.
As-Salamu ‘ alaika Peace be on you,
ayyuhannabiyyu O Prophet
wa rahmatullahi and the mercy of Allah
wa barakatuhu. and His blessings.
Assalamu ‘alaina wa’ala Peace be on us and on
ibadil-Lahis -Salihin the righteous servants of Allah
ash hadu al-La ilaha I bear witness that
il-Lal lahu there is no god but Allah,
wa ash hadu anna and bear witness that
Muhammadan abduhu Muhammad is His servant
wa rasuluhu.” and Messenger.”
In a three-Rak’ah Salah (as in Maghrib) or a four-Rak’ah Salah (Dhuhr, Asr, and Isha) you stand up for the remaining Rak’ah(s) after you have done Tashahhud. For a two-Rak’ah Salah you remain seated after Tashahhud and then recite silently Assalatul-Ibrahimiyah:
اللهم صل على محمد وعلى آل محمد، كما صليت على إبراهيم وعلى آل إبراهيم، وبارك على محمد وعلى آل محمد، كما باركت على إبراهيم
وعلى آل إبراهيم، في العالمين إنك حميد مجيد.
“Allahumma salli ‘ala Muhammadin “O Allah, let Your mercy come upon Muhammad
Wa ‘ala ali Muhammadin and the family of Muhammad
Kama sallaita ‘ala Ibrahima as You let it come upon Ibrahim
wa ‘ala ali Ibrahima and the family of Ibrahim
wa barik ‘ala Muhammadin O Allah, bless Muhammad
wa ‘ala ali Muhammadin and the family of Muhammad
Kama barakta ‘ ala Ibrahima as You blessed Ibrahim
Wa ‘ ala ali Ibrahima and the family of Ibrahim.
Fil a’lamina Innaka Truly You are
hamidun Majid.” Praiseworthy and Glorious.”
After this say silently: “Allahumma inni a’udhu bika min adhabi jahanam wamin adhabil qabri wamin sharri fitnatil mahya wal mamat wamin sharri fitnatil masihid dajjaal. Rabbi-ghfir li waliwalidayya, rabbi-rhamhuma kama rabbayani saghira.”
اللهم إني أعوذ بك من عذاب جهنم، و من عذاب القبر، و من فتنة المحيا و الممات، و من فتنة المسيح الدجال، رب اغفر لي و لوالدي رب ارحمهما كما ربياني صغيرا.
This means: “O Allah! I seek refuge in You from the torment of the Hellfire, from the torment of the grave, from the trials and afflictions of life and death, and from the deception of the False-Christ. O, my Lord! Grant me and my parents forgiveness, and bestow Your mercy upon them, just as they brought me up when I was small.”
11- Now turn your face to the right saying: “Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah” (peace and the mercy of Allah be on you) and then to the left repeating the same words.
This completes the two-Rak’ah Salah.
In the three or four-Rak’ah prayers (Dhuhr, Asr, Maghrib, and Isha) the whole procedure is repeated in the remaining Rak’ah(s), except after Tashahhud, you say “Allahu Akbar” and stand up and only recite Surat Al-Fatiha in Fard prayers and no other Surah, then continue doing the rest of the actions as you have done before (Rukoo’, rising, Sujood). Then stand again for the fourth Rak’ah.
Also, in the last Rak’ah of any prayer, after you have made your Sujood, sit up and silently recite both Tashahhud and Salatul Ibrahimiyyah. At the end of any prayer, you must finish by making Tasleem. When to Recite Aloud or Silently:
During obligatory Fajr prayers, you recite the Qur’an aloud in both Rak’ahs. You also recite the first two Rak’ahs of the obligatory prayers of Maghrib and ‘Isha aloud as well.
However, the third and fourth Rak’ahs are always recited silently during obligatory prayers. Also, in the Dhuhr and Asr prayers, the recitation is always silent for all four Rak’ahs.
Furthermore, the one who leads Jumu’ah prayers (Friday prayer in place of Dhuhr) will recite the Qur’an aloud.
Salat in Daily Life
One may pray individually or communally, in the home, outside, at the mosque or in virtually any clean place. However, observing the prayers at the mosque and in the congregation is strongly encouraged. In addition to the regular daily prayers, there is a special Friday noon prayer, called Jum¿ah. It, too, is obligatory and must be performed in a mosque, in the congregation. It is accompanied by a sermon (khutbah) and replaces the normal noon prayer.
“Strike the rock with thy staff.” Then gushed forth therefrom twelve springs. Each group knew its own place for water. So eat and drink of the sustenance provided by Allah, and do no evil nor mischief on the (face of the) earth.” (Surah Al-Baqara, 60)
Since ritual prayers are performed throughout the waking cycle of the day, they influence the rhythm of the entire day in many Muslim nations. Although it is preferable to worship together in a mosque, a Muslim may pray almost anywhere, such as in fields, offices, factories, and universities. Visitors to the Muslim world, where the call to prayer, adhān, is made public from every mosque at the onset of each prayer time, are often struck by the centrality of prayer in daily life.
“Remember We made the House a place of assembly for men and a place of safety, and take ye the station of Abraham as a place of prayer; and We covenanted with Abraham and Isma’il, that they should sanctify My House for those who compass it round or use it as a retreat, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer).” (Surah Al-Baqara, 125)
Traditionally, the call to prayer is the first thing a newborn baby hears after birth, as the father or a person of piety recites the prayer call in the infant’s right ear and the call to start the prayer (iqāmah) in the left.
Allah says in the Holy Qur’ān:
قُلْ أَمَرَ رَبِّي بِالْقِسْطِ وَأَقِيمُواْ وُجُوهَكُمْ عِندَ كُلِّ مَسْجِدٍ وَادْعُوهُ مُخْلِصِينَ لَهُ الدِّينَ كَمَا بَدَأَكُمْ تَعُودُونَ
Say: “My Lord hath commanded justice; and that ye set your whole selves (to Him) at every time and mosque, and call upon Him, making your devotion sincere as in His sight: such as He created you in the beginning, so shall ye return.”
When performed in congregation, prayer provides a strong sense of community, equality, and brotherhood. All Muslims are welcome in every mosque, regardless of their race, class or nationality. There is no minimum number of congregants required to hold communal prayers. Traditionally, mosques were the centres of their communities, where believers gathered five times daily or, at a minimum, once a week. There, the poor found food and assistance; the homeless, shelter; the student of religion, learning.
“Those who believe, and do deeds of righteousness, and establish regular prayers and regular charity, will have their reward with their Lord: on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (Surah Al-Baqara, 277)
Because of the centrality of prayer in Muslim religious life, mosques are often the dominant structures in Muslim villages, towns, and cities. Traditionally, great attention was paid to making these houses of worship more than just halls for prayer. Governments, individuals and communities invested huge sums to make their mosque the visual focus of its neighbourhood. In particular, the great mosques, in which the Friday obligatory congregational prayer was held, often became magnificent examples of architecture and art.
“Your (real) friends are (no less than) Allah, His Messenger, and the (fellowship of) believers,- those who establish regular prayers and regular charity, and they bow down humbly (in worship).” (Surah Al-Maida, 55)
Thus true prayer is nothing less than Ascension to the Station of true Servanthood, which is the Station of Submission. In that station, Divine Unity becomes manifest, and there, the servant reaches the state where he hears what no ears have heard, sees what no eyes have seen and tastes the reality of Divine Oneness. In this state of witnessing, the servant perceives only the Lord.
“When ye pass (Congregational) prayers, celebrate Allah.s praises, standing, sitting down, or lying down on your sides; but when ye are free from danger, set up Regular Prayers: For such prayers are enjoined on believers at stated times.” (Surah An-Nisa, 103)
He sees all existence through His Existence and the realization that all proceeds from the One. That is known as the station of annihilation, in which the servant no longer sees herself or himself, no longer sees anything, but only sees, feels and is immersed in the Presence of the Lord without any partner and with no likeness.