The most important worship ritual of
Islam is the prayer. A little deliberation shows that the essence of religion is
comprehension of God and, with emotions of fear and love, an expression of
humility and servility to Him. The most prominent expression of this essence is
worship. Invoking and glorifying Him, praising and thanking Him and kneeling and
prostrating before Him are the practical manifestations of worship. The prayer
is nothing but an expression of these manifestations and, with graceful poise,
combines all of them.
The prayer occupies extra-ordinary
importance in religion. The status monotheism occupies in belief is exactly the
same as what the prayer occupies in deed. It has been made mandatory in order to
ingrain comprehension of Allah which one gets after being reminded by His
revelations and, as a result of this comprehension, of the emotions of love and
gratitude that appear, or should appear in a person, for the Almighty. It is a
pillar of Islam and is among the requisites in a person for the remembrance of
God. It is evident from the Qur’ān that the prayer is the foremost requirement
in a person so he may be called a Muslim both in this world and in the
Hereafter. It is a means to remain steadfast in Islam, a vehicle for countering
hardship and wiping out sins. It is the identity of true preaching, a means of
perseverance in the truth and the nature of every object of this universe and is
real life. When the comprehension of God, His remembrance and memory and the
feeling of His nearness reach their pinnacle, it becomes the prayer. All the
sages of the world are unanimous that real life is the life of the soul and this
life is nothing but the remembrance of God, His cognizance and attaining His
nearness. Only prayer can furnish and afford such a life to man.
i. History of the Prayer
The history of the prayer is as old as
religion itself. The concept of prayer is present in every religion and its
rituals and timings are also identifiable in these religions. The hymns sung by
the Hindus, the chants of the Zoroastrians, the invocations of the Christians
and the psalms of the Jews are all its remnants. The Qur’ān has informed us that
all the Prophets of God had directed their followers to offer it. It also
occupies the most prominent position in the religion of the Prophet Abraham (sws)
which the Prophet Muhammad (sws) revived in Arabia. When the Qur’ān directed
people to pray, it was nothing unknown to them. They were fully aware of its
pre-requisites and etiquette, rituals and utterances. Consequently, it was not
required that the Qur’ān mention its details. Just as it used to be offered as a
practice of Abraham’s religion, the Prophet (sws), at the behest of the Qur’ān,
promulgated it with certain changes among his followers, and after that they are
offering it generation after generation in the same manner.
ii. Pre-Requisites of the Prayer
are the pre-requisites for offering the prayer:
person must not be in a state of inebriation.
woman should not be in the state of menstruation or puerperal discharge.
person must have done the ceremonial ablution (wudū) and in case of janābah
or menstruation or puerperal discharge must have taken the ceremonial bath.
case of being on a journey or being sick or in case of non-availability of
water, a person can do the tayammum (dry ablution) if it becomes difficult for
him to do the ceremonial ablution and the ceremonial bath.
person must face the qiblah.
method of doing wudū is that first the face should be washed and then hands up
to the elbows should be washed and after that the whole of the head be wiped and
after that the feet washed.
is done, it remains intact as long as something which terminates it is not
encountered. Consequently, the directive of wudū is for the state in which it no
longer remains intact except if a person does wudū in spite of being in the
state of wudū for the sake of freshness.
are the things which terminate wudū:
passing wind whether with sound or without it, and
pre-seminal discharge and pre-ovular discharge.
the case of a journey, sickness or unavailability of water, wudū and the
ceremonial bath become difficult, the Almighty has allowed the believers to do
tayammum (dry ablution). It is done in the following way: hands should be rubbed
on a clean surface and wiped over the face and hands. It suffices for all type
of impurities. It can thus be done both after things that terminate the wudū and
after having sexual intercourse with the wife in place of the ceremonial bath.
Moreover, in case of being on a journey or being sick, tayammum can be done even
if water is available.
no doubt, does not clean a person; however, a little reflection shows that it
serves as a reminder of the real means of achieving cleanliness and as such has
special importance. The temperament of the sharī‘ah is that if a directive
cannot be followed in its original form or it becomes very difficult to follow
it, then lesser forms should be adopted to serve as its reminder. One big
benefit of this is that once circumstances return to normal, one becomes
inclined to follow the directive in its original form.
Practices of the Prayer
Following are the practices of the prayer which are laid down
in the sharī‘ah:
The prayer should begin with raf‘ al-yadayn (raising high
qiyām (standing upright) should ensue;
it should be followed by the rukū‘ (kneeling down);
qawmah (standing up after the rukū‘) should then be done;
two consecutive prostrations should then follow;
in the second and last rak‘at of each prayer, a person should
do qa‘dah (sitting with legs folded backwards);
when a person intends to end the prayer, he can do so by
turning his face.
Utterances of the Prayer
are the various utterances of the prayer:
prayer shall begin by saying اللهُ أكْبَر
(God is the greatest);
Sūrah Fātihah should be recited during the qiyām, after which, according to
one’s convenience, a portion from the rest of the Qur’ān should be recited;
going into the rukū‘, اللهُ أكْبَر
should be pronounced;
rising from the rukū‘, سَمِعَ اللهُ لِمَنْ حَمِدَهُ
(God heard him who expressed his gratitude to Him)
should be uttered;
going for the prostrations and rising from them, اللهُ
أكْبَر should be pronounced;
rising from the qa‘dah for the qiyām, اللهُ أكْبَر
should once again be pronounced;
end of the prayer, السَّلاُمُ عَلَيكُمْ وَ رَحْمَتُ
اللهِ (peace and blessings of God be on you) is to be
أكْبَر, سَمِعَ اللهُ لِمَنْ
حَمِدَهُ and السَّلاُمُ
عَلَيكُمْ وَ رَحْمَتُ اللهِ shall always be said
loudly. In the first two rak‘āt of the maghrib and ‘ishā prayers, and in both
rak‘āt of the fajr, Friday and ‘īd prayers, the recital shall be loud. The
recital shall always be silent in the third rak‘at of the maghrib and in the
third and fourth of the ‘ishā prayer. In the zuhr and ‘asr prayers, the recital
shall be silent in all the four rak‘āt.
These are the utterances prescribed by
the sharī‘ah for the prayer. They are in Arabic, and besides these, a person can
express any utterance in his own language which states the sovereignty of the
Almighty, expresses gratitude towards Him or is a supplication.
v. Prayer Timings
It is incumbent upon the Muslims to pray
five times a day. The time of each prayer is as follows:
fajr, zuhr, ‘asr,
maghrib and ‘ishā.
When the whiteness of the dawn emerges
from the darkness of the night, then this is fajr.
When the sun starts to descend from
midday, then this is zuhr.
When the sun descends below the line of
sight, then this is ‘asr.
The time of sunset is maghrib.
When the redness of dusk disappears,
then this is ‘ishā.
The time of fajr remains till sunrise,
the time of zuhr remains till ‘asr begins, the time of ‘asr remains till
the time of maghrib remains till ‘ishā and the time of ‘ishā
midnight. The times of sunrise and sunset are prohibited for praying since the
sun used to be worshiped at these times. These timings have remained the same
during the era of other Prophets as well.
of the Prayer
rak‘āt of the prayer which have been fixed by the sharī‘ah are:
the obligatory rak‘āt of each of these prayers, failure to offer which will
render a person liable to be held accountable on the Day of Judgement. Thus,
they must necessarily be offered except in cases when qasr has been permitted.
All other rak‘āt apart from them are optional; they earn great reward for a
person but he will not be held accountable on the Day of Judgement if he does
not offer them.
Concession in the Prayer
time of the prayer arrives in dangerous, disturbing, or disorderly
circumstances, the Almighty has allowed a person to pray while on foot or riding
in whatever way possible. In these circumstances, it is evident that there shall
be no congregational prayer, facing the qiblah shall not be necessary, and, in
some situations, it shall not be possible to offer the practices of the prayer
according to the prescribed method.
If such a situation arises during a
journey, the Qur’ān has further said that people can shorten the prayer. In
religious parlance, this is called qasr. The sunnah established by the Prophet (sws)
in this regard is that the four rak‘āt prayer shall be shortened to two. No
reduction shall be made in two and three rak‘āt prayers. Consequently, the fajr
and the maghrib prayers will be offered in full in such circumstances. The
reason is that while the former already has two rak‘āt, the latter is considered
as the witr of daytime, and this status of the maghrib prayer cannot be changed.
concession granted in the prayer, concession has also been deduced in the times
it is offered. Consequently, in such journeys the zuhr and the ‘asr prayers can
be combined and the maghrib and the ‘ishā can also be combined and offered
viii. The Congregational Prayer
Although the prayer can be offered
alone, it is desirable that it be offered in congregation and if possible in a
place of worship. For this very purpose, the Prophet (sws) built a mosque as
soon as he reached Madīnah and with this the practice of building mosques in all
localities and settlements of Muslims was initiated. Praying in a mosque and
showing diligence in praying in congregation is a highly rewarding practice
earning the blessings of the Almighty. Though women are exempted from this, men
should not deprive themselves of this without any valid reason.
Following is the prescribed way of
offering the congregational prayer:
a. Before this prayer, the adhān shall
be called out so that people are able to join the prayer after hearing this
call. The words which the Prophet (sws) has prescribed for the adhān are:
اللهُ اَكْبَر،ُ اَشْهَدُ اَنْ لاَ اِلهَ اِلاَّ اللهَُ ،
اَشْهَدُ اَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُولُ اللهِ ، حَيَّ عَلَى الصَّلوةِ ، حَيَّ عَلَى
الْفَلَاحِ ، اللهُ اَكْبَرُ ؛
لاَ اِلهَ اِلاَّ اللهَُ
the greatest; I bear witness that there is no god besides Him; I bear witness
that Muhammad is God’s messenger; Come towards the prayer; come towards
salvation; God is the greatest; there is no god besides Him.
b. If there is only one follower, he
will stand adjacent to the imām on his right side and if there are many
followers they shall stand behind him and he shall stand in the centre ahead of
iqāmah shall be called before the prayer begins. All the words of the adhān
shall be uttered in it; however, after حَيَّ عَلَى
الْفَلَاحِ the words قَدْ
قَامَتِ الَّصلَاة (the prayer is ready to be offered)
shall be said by the person who says the iqāmah.
d. The words of the adhān can be
repeated more than once for the purpose they are said.
e. The words of the iqāmah also can
similarly be repeated if there is a need.
Rectifying Mistakes in the Prayer
In case a
person makes a mistake or thinks that he has made a mistake in the utterances
and practices of the prayer, the amendment prescribed as a sunnah is that if
amends can be made for the mistake, then they should be made and two
prostrations should be offered before ending the prayer, and if making amends is
not possible, then only the prostrations should be offered.
Fridays, it has been made incumbent upon Muslims to pray in congregation at the
time of the zuhr prayer and in place of it. Following is the way prescribed for
are two rak‘āt of this prayer.
contrast with the zuhr prayer, the recital shall not be silent in both its
iqāmah shall be said before the prayer.
the prayer, the imām shall deliver two sermons to remind and urge people about
various teachings of Islam. He shall deliver these sermons while standing. The
imām shall sit for a short while after he ends the first sermon and shall then
stand up to deliver the second one.
adhān for the prayer shall be recited when the imām reaches the place where he
is to deliver the sermon.
soon as the adhān is said, it is incumbent upon all Muslim men to leave all
their involvements and come to the mosque if they have no excuse.
sermon shall be delivered and the prayer shall be led by the rulers of the
Muslims and this prayer shall only be offered at places which have been
specified by them or where a representative of theirs is present to lead the
days of ‘īd al-adhā and ‘īd al-fitr, it is essential for the Muslims that they
arrange a collective prayer like that of the Friday prayer. It should be offered
between the time of sunrise and the sun’s descent. Following is the prescribed
way in which it should be offered:
prayer shall consist of two rak‘āt.
both rak‘āt, the recital shall be loud.
standing in qiyām some additional takbīrs shall be recited.
Neither will there be any adhān for the prayer nor iqāmah.
the prayer, the imām shall deliver two sermons to remind and urge people
regarding the basic message of Islam. Both these sermons shall be delivered with
the imām standing. He shall sit for a while in between the two.
the Friday prayer, this prayer too shall be led and its sermon delivered by the
rulers of the Muslims and their representatives and it shall be offered only at
those places which have been specified by them, where either they or their
representatives are present to lead the prayer.
religion of the prophets, the prayer for a deceased is held obligatory.
dead body of the deceased is bathed and enshrouded, this prayer shall be offered
in the following manner:
shall stand in rows behind the imām while placing the dead body between
themselves and the qiblah.
prayer shall begin by saying the takbīr and by raising hands.
‘īd prayer, some additional takbīrs shall be said in this prayer.
prayer shall end after the salām is said while a person is standing once the
takbīrs and the supplications have been offered.
refers to the minimum obligatory worship related to prayer. However, the Qur’ān
says that he who did some virtuous act out of his own desire, God will accept
it. Similarly, it is stated in the Qur’ān that help should be sought from
perseverance and from the prayer in times of hardship. Consequently, while
complying with these directives, Muslims, besides offering the obligatory
prayers, show diligence and vigilance in offering optional prayers. The details
of such optional prayers which the Prophet (sws) offered or urged others to
offer can be looked up in various Hadīth narratives.
(Translated by Dr