How to pray in Islam?
The five prayers are among the best acts of worship that the Muslim performs. Performing them is the best deed after having the correct belief in God and His Messenger. Prophet Muhammad, may Allah raise his rank, was asked what the best deed was and he said it was performing the obligatory prayers at the beginning of their times (al-Bayhaqiyy):
روى البيهقي أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم سئيل عن أفضل الأعمال فقال: "الصلاة لوقتِها" أي في أول وقتها.
When we say “prayers” we are referring to an act of worshipping God which has a specific format as God revealed to Prophet Muhammad, may Allah raise his rank. The prophets from Prophet Adam to Prophet Muhammad, may Allah raise their rank, ordered their followers to pray as per God’s orders.
Since the prayer is the most important matter of Islam after having the correct belief in God and His Messenger, one must plan his life around the prayer. It would be a great sin to neglect praying when at work if a prayer was required at that time. If a believer is shopping at the mall or waiting at the airport and there is no way to get home or to a mosque, he is still obligated to perform the prayer within its due time instead of purposely leaving out or delaying the prayer. This indicates the importance of the obligatory prayer. Doing the obligatory prayer on time takes priority over other non-obligatory matters.
Preparations Before Praying
There are five prayers which are obligatory and rewardable. There are other prayers which are rewardable but optional to perform. The optional prayers require the same preparation as the five required prayers. There are several requirements of the person who performs the prayer. The person praying must be Muslim and must have reached the state of mental discrimination which is usually around seven lunar years (about 6 3/4 solar years).
The Muslim must have the proper Taharah (purification) before performing the prayers. This comprises the removal of najas (filthy) substances and performing wudu’ (ablution) or ghusl (full shower).
Removal of Najas (Filthy substances)
Islamically, there are substances that are considered filthy and must not be on the person’s body, clothes, place of prayer, or even carried when praying. Some of these substances include urine, feces, blood, vomit, pus, and discharges from the penis and vagina, except maniyy (semen and the woman’s fluid of orgasm) which is not filthy.
To clean oneself after urinating and defecating, the person dries himself of all urine with toilet paper after urinating, and then pours water on the areas where the urine was. In the case of defecation, the person is correct if he removes the defecation with toilet paper and then pours water on the stained area to remove the traces. It is also acceptable to use either toilet paper or water only. However, the exclusive use of toilet paper has conditions. The urine must not go beyond the exit area and must not dry there. Also, one’s defecation must not spread past the area of the buttocks which comes together when one is standing.
قال الله تعالى:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءامَنُواْ إِذَا قُمْتُمْ إِلَى الصَّلاةِ فاغْسِلُواْ وُجُوهَكُمْ وَأَيْدِيَكُمْ إِلَى الْمَرَافِقِ وَامْسَحُواْ بِرُؤُوسِكُمْ وَأَرْجُلَكُمْ إِلَى الْكَعْبَينِ
This verse from the Qur’an means: “0 you who believe, if you stand up for prayer, wash your face and arms up to [and including] the elbows and wet wipe [part of] your head and wash your feet up to [and including] the ankles.” (al-Ma’idah, 6)
Wudu' (Ablution) has obligatory and recommended parts. The obligatory parts are those parts which if left out the wudu' is not valid. The recommended parts are those parts which if left out the wudu' would still be valid, but one misses out on that reward. The wudu’ must be made with water only.
How to Perform Wudu’
1. It is recommended to say بِسم الله “Bismillah” (with the Name of Allah) while washing the hands.
2. It is recommended to wash the two hands with the wrists three times (figure-1
3. It is recommended to rinse the mouth three times using the right hand (figure
4. It is recommended to draw water into the nose with the right hand and to blow it out of the nose with the left hand three times (figure-3- ).
5. It is an obligation to have the proper intention. When the water touches the first part of your face say in your heart “I intend to perform wudu'”.
6. It is an obligation to wash your face, from the normal hairline to the chin and from one ear to the other including the hair and skin. The inner part of the man’s thick beard is excluded (figure-4- ).
If a string was put at the middle of the forehead at the normal hairline and drawn to the top of the ear, then one washes all that would be below that string, both hair and skin, with the ears excluded (figure-4a-4b).
It is recommended to wash the face three times.
7. It is an obligation to wash the hands, forearms, and elbows.
It is recommended to wash them three times each. Start with the right and then the left (figure-5- ).
8. It is an obligation to wet wipe part of the head, between the normal hairline and the occiput (figure-6- ).
9. It is recommended to wet wipe both ears three times (figure-7- ).
10. It is an obligation to wash the feet with the ankles. It is recommended to wash them three times starting with the right foot (figure-8- ).
11. Do the obligatory parts (from step 1 to 10) in the aforementioned order.
12. It is recommended to say a supplication after finishing wudu’ (see Appendix 1).
It is preferred to use a small amount of water in wudu’ and ghusl. It is mentioned in Sahih Muslim that the Messenger of Allah used a mudd مد (about half a cup) of water for wudu' and a sa^ صاع (about a pint) for ghusl. A mudd is the fill of a pair of average-sized hands cupped together. The sa^ is four mudds. It is also mentioned in Sahih Muslim that the Messenger of Allah used six (6) mudds (about 3 cups) of water for wudu’ and thirty (30) mudds (about one cup less than a gallon) for ghusl.
Invalidators of Wudu'
If you have wudu' and any of the matters which invalidate wudu’ takes place, you must not pray until you make a new wudu' Among the invalidators of wudu' are:
1. The emission of any substance from the eliminatory outlets, such as urine, defecation, or gas, except maniyy.
2. Touching the penis or vagina, or the anus with the inside of the bare hand (the palm).
3. Losing the mind or losing consciousness
4. Sleeping without having the buttocks firmly seated, such as sleeping on the stomach, back, and on the side.
5.Skin to skin contact with a member of the opposite sex, who has reached an age where he or she is normally desired. (the females whom one is not allowed to marry in any circumstance such as his mother, sister etc. (are not included).
6. If one of these matters happens to you during prayer, you stop the actions of the prayer, perform wudu' and then start the prayer from the beginning.
Knowing the Prayers and their Times
You can pray only after being sure that the prayer time is in. Hence, you need to learn how to recognize when the prayer times come in and go out.
The Five Obligatory Prayers
حافظوا على الصلوات
which means: “Perform the [five obligatory] prayers” (al-Baqarah, 238).
The Messenger of Allah said:
which means: “There are five prayers that Allah obligated the slaves to perform. Whoever performs them properly without belittling their obligation, Allah promised to admit him into Paradise. Whoever leaves them out does not have a promise from Allah to have Paradise without torture before. If He willed, He tortures him, and if He willed, He forgives him”. Narrated by Ahmad in his Musnad.
It is obligatory to perform each of these five prayers in its due time. It is better to perform each prayer early in its time.
Dhuhr (Noon) Prayer [Four rak^ahs (cycles)]:
Its time begins when the sun has declined westward from the middle of the sky (zenith). The time remains until the length of the shadow of an object becomes equal to that of the object per Se, in addition to the length of the shadow of that object when the sun was at its zenith. For example, if the length of your shadow when the sun is at its zenith is 5 feet and you are 6 feet high, then once your shadow becomes 11 feet long the Dhuhr prayer time ends.
^Asr (Mid-afternoon) Prayer [Four rak^ahs]
As soon as the Dhuhr prayer time ends the ^Asr prayer time starts. Its time remains until sunset.
Maghrib (Sunset) Prayer [Three rak^ahs]
After the entire disk of the sun has set, then the Maghrib prayer time begins. This prayer time lasts until the redness has disappeared in the western horizon.
^Isha' (Nightfall) Prayer [Four rak^ahs]
As soon as the Maghrib prayer time is finished the ^isha' prayer time begins. You can be certain that this prayer time is in when you can see many small stars in the sky on a clear night. This prayer time lasts until the true dawn appears.
Subh or Fajr (Dawn) Prayer [Two rak ^ahs]
The true dawn begins when we see light spread at the horizon in the East. When the true dawn appears the Fajr prayer time has begun and this prayer time remains until the first glimpse of the disk of the sun appears on the Eastern horizon.
The Covering for the Prayer
The women must cover everything but their faces and hands with a material which conceals the color of their skin. The body must remain covered throughout the various movements of the prayer. So if, for example upon bending, the woman’s scarf hangs forward exposing her neck from an angle, this is not acceptable. Either the woman needs to be sure that her clothing is tucked in properly to prevent exposure, or she may put clothing over her normal clothing which does not allow exposure at angles. This clothing has an added benefit in that it conceals the shape of the body, for it is disliked for the shape of the woman’s body to be apparent while she is praying.
For the man, his area between his navel and his knees must be covered during the prayer. Like for the woman, the material with which he covers this area must not be see-through; that is, it must be opaque so as to conceal the color of the skin.
The Salah (Prayer)
There are five (5) prayers which must be performed by the Muslims and are called “obligatory” prayers. It is a great sin to neglect performing any of these obligatory prayers. Among the merits of performing the obligatory prayers is that one’s small sins, which may be committed between prayers, are forgiven. The Prophet , may Allah raise his rank, said:
which means: “Whoever makes a complete wudu', his sins will depart his body, until they leave from under his nails” (Muslim).
How to Perform the Dhuhr (Noon) Prayer
The Dhuhr Prayer is four rak^ahs
1.Facing the Qiblah: It is obligatory to stand directing your chest to the honorable Qiblah. The Qiblah is the Ka ^ bah in Makkah.
2.Intention: It is obligatory to intend in your heart performing the obligatory Dhuhr prayer. Do that while saying الله اكبر Allahu akbar (God is great).
An example is to say in your heart “I intend to pray the obligatory Dhuhr prayer”.
3.The Opening Takbir: It is obligatory to say Allahu akbar at least as loud as you can hear yourself, while raising your hands next to your ears. Raising your hands is a recommended part (figure-1-).
4. Standing: It is obligatory to stand in the obligatory prayer when able. It is recommended to hold the wrist of the left hand with the right hand, placing both above the navel (figure-2a-2b).
5. Reciting the Fatihah: It is obligatory to recite the Fatihah (the first chapter of the Qur’an) at least as loud as you can hear yourself. It is an obligation to recite the Fatihah properly, that is, to pronounce all the letters correctly. Learn the recitation of the Fatihah from a qualified teacher (see Appendix 3).
Whoever cannot recite the Fatihah correctly must recite other parts of the Qur’an, the number of letters of which should be at least equal to that of the Fajihah (156 letters). If one knows one or more qyahs of the Fatihah, one may repeat them as many times as would render minimally the same number of letters in the Fatihah. If one cannot recite any ayah of the Fatihah, one recites other ayahs of the Qur'an the letters of which add up to at least the same number of letters of the Fatihah. If one cannot recite any part of the Qur’an, one must recite certain words of dhikr, such as
subhanallah, al-hamdulillah, la ilaha illallah, and Allahu akbar (I declare that Allah is clear of all imperfections, praise and thanks to Allah, no one is God but Allah, and Allah is the Greatest) as many times as would render minimally the same number of letters in the Fatihah (Ibn Hibban an-Nawawiyy):
For example, reciting Allahu akbar twenty times is sufficient. In the unusual case of someone being unable to recite the Fatihah, other parts of the Qur’an, or dhikr statements one stands as long as reciting the Fatihah with moderate speed takes.
It is recommended to say ءامين Amin (0 Allah, fulfill my request) after finishing the Fatihah, and to recite at least one verse from another chapter of the Qur’an in the first and second rak ah (see Appendix 5).
It is also recommended before reciting the Fajihah in the first cycle to say the Tawajjuh supplication and then the isti adhah (asking for Allah’s protection from the cursed devil) (see Appendix 2).
6. The Ruku^” (Bowing): It is obligatory to bend at the waist until your palms can reach your knees (figure-3-) and stay still in this position for at least the time it takes to say سبحان الله subhanallah.
It is recommended upon bending to raise your hands next to your ears and say Allahu akbar. Also it is recommended while in ruku^, to say three times: سُبحانَ رَبِّيَ العظيم subhana Rabbiyal- ^Adhim (Praise be to my Great Lord).
7. The I^ tidal (Straightening up): It is obligatory to straighten your back and stay still in this position for at least the time it takes to say subhanallah (figure-4-). It is recommended while raising your trunk to raise your hands next to your ears and to say سَمعَ اللهُ لِمَنْ حَمِدَهُ sami^ allahu liman hamidah (Allah hears who praises Him). While your back is straight up it is recommended to say رَبّنَا لَكَ الحَمدُ Rabbana lakal-hamd (0 our Lord, to You the praise is due).
8.The Sujiud (Prostration): It is obligatory to go down to the floor and prostrate by pressing your bare forehead, and putting your palms, knees, and pads of the toes on the floor. Both feet are kept vertical with the heels up and the toepads down touching the floor. Stay still in this position for at least the time it takes to say subhanallah (figure-5-).
It is recommended upon going down to the floor to raise your hands next to your ears and to say Allahu akbar.
Also it is recommended while in sujud to say three times subhana Rabbiyal-'a la (Praise be to my Supreme Lord).
It is also recommended while in sujud to place your hands next to your shoulders, having your fingers together directed towards the Qiblah.
It is recommended for the male to keep his elbows away from his sides in his sujud and in his ruku ^, and to keep his abdomen lifted away from his thighs in his sujud (figure5a-5b). However, the female keeps her elbows pulled in to her sides in her sujud and ruku and keeps her trunk close to her thighs in her sujud (figure-5c-).
9. he Sitting between the two Sujuds: It is obligatory to raise your trunk from prostration and sit, staying still in this position for at least the time it takes to say subhanallah (figure-6a-).
It is recommended to say Allahu akbar while coming to sitting.
Also, it is recommended while sitting to say:
Rabbighfir li warhamni wajburni warfa ^ ^ni warzuqni wahdini wa ^afini (0 my Lord, forgive me, have mercy on me, fulfill my needs, raise me, provide for me, guide me, and protect me from sickness). It is also recommended to do the sitting with the left foot tucked under the buttocks while the right foot is kept vertical as in sujud (figure-6b-).
An alternate recommended way of sitting is to rest the buttocks on the heels of both feet which are kept as in sujud (figure-6c-)
It is recommended that the hands be placed on the thighs at the knees with the fingers extended and spread slightly towards the Qiblah.
10. It is obligatory to perform a second sujud from your sitting position. This sujud is similar to the first sujud.
After the second sujud is fulfilled you have completed the first rak^ah (cycle) of the prayer.
11.It is obligatory to stand up for the second rak^ah . It is recommended while doing so to say Allahu akbar. Repeat steps 5 to 10. This ends your second rak^ah .
12.It is recommended at this time to sit up from sujud, recite the Tashahhud (see Appendix 4), and say اللهم صلي على سيدنا محمد Allahumma salli ^ala Muhammad (see Appendix 4) at least as loud as you can hear yourself.
It is recommended to sit with the feet as in step 9. An alternate way of sitting is to rest the buttocks on both crossed feet (figure-7-). It is also recommended to keep both hands on your thighs. The fingertips of your left hand should be spread towards your knee. In this sitting, the fingers of the right hand are lightly fisted except for the index finger which is extended slightly down (figure-8a-). The index finger is lifted slightly at saying إلاّ الله illallah (in the Tashahhud) and is kept as such until the end of this sitting (figure-8b-).
13.It is obligatory to stand up and do two more rak^ahs in the same way that you did from steps 5 to 11. It is recommended while rising for the third rak ^ah to raise your hands next to your ears and say Allahu akbar. However, raising the hands is not recommended while rising for the fourth rak^ah .
14.Upon completion of the second sujud of the last rak^ah, it is obligatory to sit up, recite the Tashahhud, and say Allahumma salli ^ala Muhammad (see Appendix 4).
It is recommended to keep the hands as in step 12. However, after the index finger is lifted slightly at saying illallah it is kept as such until the end of the prayer.
For this sitting it is also recommended to pass the left foot past the right leg and place the buttocks on the floor, keeping the right foot as in sujuji (figure-9-).
Afterwards, it is recommended to say (see Appendix 4). Then it is recommended to say a supplication such as:
Rabbana atina fid-dunya hasanah, wa fil- ‘akhirati hasanah, wa qina ^adhaban-nar, which means: “0 our Lord, grant us in this life and in the Hereafter good things, and protect us from the torture of the Hellfire”.
15.The Ending Salam: It is obligatory to say " السلام عليكم " assalamu ^alaykum at least as loud as you can hear yourself. It is recommended to say " السلام عليكم و رحمة الله و بركاته " as-salamu ^alaykum wa Rahmatullah first to one’s right and then to one’s left (figure-10-).
By saying this your Dhuhr prayer is ended.
How to Perform the ^Asr (Mid-afternoon) and ^Isha' (Nightfall) Prayers
The ^Asr and ^Isha' prayers are performed exactly as the Dhuhr prayer. However, in step 2 you intend the obligatory ^Asr and ^ ^Isha’ prayers, respectively. Moreover, it is recommended to recite the Qur'an in a louder manner in the first two rak^ahs “ of the ^Isha’ prayer.
How to Perform the Maghrib (Sunset) Prayer
The three rak^ahs ^ of the Maghrib prayer are performed exactly as the first three rak^ahs of ^Isha’. After the second sujud of the third rak^ah it is obligatory to sit up and do steps 14 and 15.
How to Perform the Subh or Fajr (Dawn) Prayer
The two rak^ahs “ of the Fajr (or Subh) prayer are performed exactly like the first two rak^ahs of the ^Isha’ prayer, but with the intention of performing the obligatory Fajr (or Subh) prayer.
After the second sujud of the second rak^ah ^ , do steps 14 and 15. Also after saying Rabbana lakal-hamd in the I^tidal (step 7) of the second rak^ah ^ , it is recommended to say the Qunut supplication (see Appendix 6) at least as loud as you can hear yourself.
By Fatma Dawod