Prayer is a Muslim’s Mairaj, or communication with Allah. Prayer purifies and cleans your mind five times a day, and serves to bring peace to your life. Prayer is a man’s way of thanking Allah, and reminds him that Allah is watching over his life, giving him the courage to face even the toughest of times. This article explains how the Islamic prayer, salah, is performed.
The five prayers of the day
- Fajr prayer is offered between dawn and sunrise. It consists of two raka’at sunnah, followed by two raka’at farz.
- Zuhr prayer is offered between true noon and the time when an object’s shadow equals it in size. It consists of four raka’at pre-farz sunnah, four raka’at farz, two raka’at post farz sunnah, and two raka’at nafil.
- Asr prayer is offered between the time when an object’s shadow equals it in size, to just before sunset. It contains four raka’at pre-farz sunnah, and four raka’at farz.
- Maghrib prayer is offered between sunset to the time when twilight disappears. It contains three raka’at farz followed by two raka’at post-farz sunnah and two raka’at nafil.
- Isha’ prayer is offered between the time when the twilight disappears and mdnight. It consists of four raka’at pre-farz sunnah, 4 raka’at farz, two raka’at post-farz sunnah, two raka’at nafil, and three witr.
Prepare for prayer. Preparing for prayer includes cleaning yourself, wearing clean clothes, and finding a clean and pure place to pray.
- Perform the Wudu, or the Ghusal, depending on your requirement. You must perform the Ghusl if you have had sexual intercourse, after discharge of other ‘sexual’ fluids, and after a woman has completed her menstrual cycle.
- Wear clean clothes. Men should cover at least the part of their body between the navel and the knees, but it is preferable to wear a (preferably long sleeved) shirt. The lower garment must extend to below the knees, but must be above the ankles.
- Pray in a clean place. The place where you pray must be clean and pure. If you are not sure whether the ground is clean or not, spread a clean cloth over it.
Stand to face the Qibla. The Qibla is the direction towards the Kaaba. Some compasses modified for this purpose are now available. Many hotel rooms also have the Qibla direction marked somewhere on the roof. You must be looking towards the spot where your head will touch the ground during the Sajdah and your feet must be evenly spaced.
Make the intention to pray. You do not need to say it out loud, but you need to know which prayer of the day you are performing, what will be the type of the rakaat, and the number of rakaats. An example would be to think “I will perform 2/4 rakaat farz/sunnat/nafil of the fajr/zuhr/asr/maghrib/isha/ prayer”.
Perform the Takbiratul Ihram. This starts the prayer. Raise your hands, palms facing forwards, up till your ear lobes (or to your shoulders if you are a woman), and say الله أَكْبَر (Allahu Akbar = God is The Greatest).
Perform Qiyam. Qiyam is where you stand up, your hands folded across your chest, and recite the Surah Al Fatiha and another short portion of the Qur’an.
- Stand up straight, with your hands folded. Your right hand should be over your left, and they should overlap till the wrists only. Men place their folded hands below their navel, and women at chest level(Three of the Sunni schools of Islamic law: the Hanafi, Shafi’i and Hanbali groups pray with their hands folded. Malikis pray with their arms at their sides. If you are a Shia, stand with your arms at your sides.)
- Recite Surah Al-FatihahAl-Fatihah. Your voice can be audible to yourself, but if it is not, thinking the prayer perhaps in your brain or mind is also a valid method.
- Recite a short portion of the Qur’an. It is helpful to have memorized small surahs of the Qur’an by heart. The last of the 30 parts of the Qur’an contains many small surahs that are easy to memorize. Commonly recited surahs are Surah Al-Ikhlas, Surah Al-Falaq, Surah Al-Nas, and Surah Al-Kafirun.
Perform Ruk’u. The ruku is basically a bow. You unfold your hands and bow, then placing your hands on your knees. Your back should become parallel to the ground. It is essential to completely bow, not just tilt your body at 45o to the vertical. Say الله أَكْبَر (Allahu Akbar)as you perform this step. When you are in ruku, recite سبحان ربى العظيم (Subhan rabbi alAdheem – All praise to Allah, the Great) thrice.
Rise up. Rise from the bow, while reciting “Sam’i Allahu liman hamidah(Allah listens to those who praise Him) then ربنا لك الحمد (Our Lord, to You is due all praise).
Perform Prostration. Say الله أَكْبَر (Allahu Akbar) and prostrate, placing your forehead, palms, and knees on the ground. The bases of both feet’s fingers need to touch the ground. Your forehead must be bare – a covered forehead invalidates prayer. Recite سبحان ربى الأعلى (Subhan rabbi alAla – Glory be to my Lord, the Most high) thrice. A woman’s elbows may touch the ground, but men must keep their elbows raised above the ground.
Rise to a sitting position, saying الله أَكْبَر (Allahu Akbar). When you are in this position, you must keep your eyes at your lap. Men turn up the heel, and bend the toes, of the right foot. Women keep both their feet, soles up, under their body.
Prostrate again, saying الله أَكْبَر (Allahu Akbar). The second prostration is identical to the first one.
Rise up to proceed to the next raka’at, saying الله أَكْبَر (Allahu Akbar). The second raka’at is identical to the first one up till the second prostration, but without the Takbiratul Ihram.
- Perform the Tasyahhud at the end of the second raka’at. After the second prostration, stay in a sitting position and recite the Tashahhud (also known as Tahiyat) and then the SalawatAtta-hiyyatu lillahi was-salawatu wat-tayyibatu As-salamu ‘alaika ayyuh-an-Nabiyyu wa rahmat-ullahi wa barakatuhu As-salamu ‘alaina wa ‘alaa ‘Ibaadillah-is-salihin. Ash-hadu-al-la-Ilaha illAllahu wa ash-hadu anna Muhammadan ‘abduhu wa Rasuluh. meaning All worships – oral, physical and momentary – are for Allah. Allah’s peace be upon you, O Prophet, and His mercy and blessings. Peace be on us and on all righteous servants of Allah. I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His Servant and Messenger.
- If you are performing only two raka’ats, then this is the last raka’at. After saying theTasyahhud and the Salawat, say the Durud,اللهم صلى على محمد وعلى آل محمد كما صليت على إبراهيم وعلى آل إبراهيمو بارك على محمد وعلى آل محمد كما باركت على إبراهيم وعلى آل إبراهيم فى العلمين إنك انت الحميد المجيد(Allahuma sali ala Muhammad wa ala Aali Muhammad kama saliet ala Ibrahim wa ala Aali Ibrahim ennak hameed majeed, wa barik ala Muhammad wa ala Aali Muhammad kama barakta ala Ibrahim wa ala Aali Ibrahim ennak hameed majeed)
- اللَّهُمَّ اغْفِرْ لِىْ وَلِوَ الِدَىَّ وَلِمَنْ تَوَالَّدَ وَلِجَمِيْعِ الْمُؤْ مِنِيْنَ وَالْمُؤْ مِنَاتِ وَالْمُسْلِمِيْنَ وَالْمُسْلِمَاتِ وَالاْاَحْيَاءِ مِنْهُمْ وَالْاَمُوْ اَتْ بِرَحْمَتِكَ يَااَرْحَمَرَّحِمِيْنَ
Allahumma inni zalamtu nafse zulman kaseeraw walayagfiruz zunuba illah anta fagfirli Magfiratam minindika warahamni innaka antal gafurur Rahim.
- Then complete the prayer by looking over your right shoulder (where the angel who records your good deeds is) and saying the Salaam
- السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته
and then looking over your left shoulder (where the angel who records your wrongful deeds is) and saying the same.
If you are performing more than two raka’ats, do not say the Durud or theSalaam, but rise after saying the Tasyahhud and Salawat and proceed to the next raka’at. The third raka’at is performed just like the first one, and you rise directly after the second prostration without saying the Tasyahhud or Salaam, unless it is your last raka’at. After your last raka’at, complete the prayer after the second prostration by reciting the Tasyahhud, Salawat, Durud, and Salaam, as described in the step above.
- Note on farz and witr prayers:
- In the farz prayers, the first two rak’at are performed as stated above.In any raka’ats after that, during the Qiyam, only the Surah Al-Fatiha is recited, and is not followed by a short portion of the Holy Qur’an/
- In the three witr raka’at for the Isha’ prayer, the first two are performed as stated above. In the third raka’at, after reciting a short portion of the Qur’an in the Qiyam, say الله أَكْبَر and raise your hands to your ears (chest for women), as in the Takbiratul Ihram, and then lower and fold them. Then, say the Dua-e-Qunut. After that, bow and prostrate as usual.