Muslims bowing during a prayer
|Also called||Prayer in Islam|
|Significance||A Muslim prayer offered to God according to legal jurisprudence.|
|Related to||Tilawa, Ruku, Sujud|
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1Al-Ahbash; Barelvis 2Deobandi
3Salafis (Ahl-i Hadith & Wahhabis)
4Sevener-Qarmatians, Assassins & Druzes
5Alawites, Qizilbash & Bektashism; 6Jahmīyya
7Ajardi, Azariqa, Bayhasiyya, Najdat & Sūfrī 8Nukkari; 9Bektashis & Qalandaris; Mevlevis, Süleymancıs & various Ṭarīqah
10Bahshamiyya, Bishriyya & Ikhshîdiyya
Salah (Arabic: صَلاة, romanized: ṣalāh, lit. 'prayer'), also known as namāz (Persian: نماز), are prayers performed by Muslims. Facing the qibla, the direction of the Kaaba with respect to those praying, Muslims pray first standing and later kneeling or sitting on the ground, reciting from the Qur'an and glorifying and praising Allah as they bow and prostrate themselves in between. Salah is composed of prescribed repetitive cycles of bows and prostrations, called rakat (sing. rak'ah). The number of rak'ahs, also known as units of prayer, varies from prayer to prayer. Ritual purity and wudu are prerequisites for performing the prayers.
The daily obligatory prayers collectively form the second of the five pillars in Islam, observed five times every day at prescribed times. These are Fajr (observed at dawn), Zuhr prayer (observed at noon), Asr (observed late in the afternoon), Maghrib (observed at dusk), and Isha (observed after sunset). Salah can be performed either in solitude, or collectively (known as jama'ah). When performed in jama'ah, worshippers line up in parallel rows behind a leader, known as the imam. Special prayers are exclusively performed in congregation, such as the Friday prayer and the Eid prayers, and are coupled with two sermons each, delivered by the imam.
Outside the Arab world, the most widespread terms are the Persian word namāz (Persian: نماز) and its derivatives. It is used by speakers of the Indo-Iranian languages (e.g. Persian and some languages of South Asia), as well as by speakers of the Turkic and Slavic languages. In Lak and Avar, chak (чак) and kak (как) are used, respectively. In Malaysia and Indonesia, the term solat is used, as well as a local term, sembahyang (meaning "communication", from the words sembah - worship, and hyang - god or deity).
In the Quran
The noun ṣalāh (صلاة) is used 82 times in the Qur'an, with about 15 other derivatives of its triliteral root ṣ-l. Words connected to salah (such as mosque, wudu, dhikr, etc.) are used in approximately one-sixth of Qur'anic verses. "Surely my prayer, and my sacrifice and my life and my death are (all) for God",[a] and "I am Allah, there is no god but I, therefore serve Me and keep up prayer for My remembrance"[b] are both examples of this.
The primary purpose of salah is to act as a person's communication with Allah. Purification of the heart is the ultimate religious objective of Salah. Via namaz, a believer can grow closer to Allah and in turn strengthen their faith. Just as humans physically require food and supplement to stay healthy and alive, the soul requires prayer and closeness to God to stay sustained and healthy. In short, it spiritually sustains the human soul.
Tafsir of the Qur'an can give four reasons for the observation of salah. First, in order to commend God's servants, God, together with the angels, do salah ("blessing, salutations")[c] Second, salah is done involuntarily by all beings in Creation, in the sense that they are always in contact with God by virtue of Him creating and sustaining them.[d] Third, Muslims voluntarily offer salah to reveal that it is the particular form of worship that belongs to the prophets.[e] Fourth, salah is described as the second pillar of Islam.
Gestures and postures
Each Salah is made up of repeating units known as rakat (Arabic: رَكَعَات sing. rak'ah). Each prayer may consist of two to four rakat. Each rak'ah consists of specific movements and recitations. On the major elements there is consensus, but on minor details there may be different views. Between each position there is a very slight pause. The takbir is recited between each position.
Intention, known as niyyah, is a prerequisite for salah, and what distinguishes real worship from 'going through the motions'. Some authorities hold that intention suffices in the heart, and some require that it be spoken, usually under the breath.
The person praying begins in a standing position known as qiyam, although people who find it difficult to do so may begin while sitting or laying on the ground. This is followed by the raising of the hands to the head and recitation of the takbīr, known in combination as takbīrat al-iḥrām or takbīrat at-taḥrīmah (consecratory takbir). From this point forward one praying may not converse, eat, or do things that are otherwise halal. One then lowers their hands.
Common elements of each rakat
Still standing, the next principal act is the recitation of Al-Fatiha, the first chapter of the Quran. This chapter takes the form of a supplication. In the first and second rakat, another portion of the Qur'an is recited following the Fatiha. This is followed by bowing from the waist, with palms placed on the knees (depending on the madhhab, rules may differ for women). While bowing, those praying generally utter words of praise under their breath, such as سبحان ربي العظيم (lit. "Glory be to my Lord, the Most Magnificent"), thrice or more. As the worshipper straightens their back, they say سمع الله لمن حمده (lit. "God hears the one who praises him.") and ربنا لك الحمد (rabbanā laka l-ḥamd, "Our Lord, all praise be to you.")
Then the worshipper kneels and prostrates with the forehead, nose, knees, palms and toes touching the floor, saying سبحان ربى الأعلى (lit. "Glory be to my Lord, the Most High"). After a short while in prostration the worshipper very briefly rises to sit, then returns to the ground a second time. Lifting the head from the second prostration completes a rak'ah. If this is an odd (first or third) rak'ah, one returns to a standing position and begins another rak'ah. If an even (second or fourth) unit, the worshiper proceeds to sit and recite the tashahhud, salawat and other prayers. Many schools hold that the right index finger is raised when reciting the salawat. If the worshipper then intends to finish their prayer, they perform the taslim (illustrated below), or continue with a new rak'ah. Mistakes in salah are believed to be compensated for by prostrating twice at the end of the prayer, known as sujud sahwi.
Performing the Taslim Reciting the salam facing the right direction Reciting the salam facing the left direction
Types of salah
The five daily prayers are obligatory on every Muslim who has reached the age of puberty, with the exception of those for whom it may not be possible due to physical or mental disabilities, and those menstruating (hayd) or experiencing postnatal bleeding (nifas). Those who are sick or otherwise physically unable to offer their prayers in the traditional form are permitted to offer their prayers while sitting or lying, as they are able. Each of the five prayers has a prescribed time, depending on the movement of the sun. These are the Fajr prayer (2 rakat, observed at dawn), Zuhr prayer (4 rakat, observed at noon), Asr prayer (4 rakat, observed late in the afternoon), Maghrib prayer (3 rakat, observed at dusk), and the Isha prayer (4 rakat, observed after sunset). Salah must be prayed in its time. In certain circumstances, one may be unable to offer one's prayer within the prescribed time. In this case, the prayer must be offered as soon as possible. Several hadith narrate that Muhammad stated that it is permissible to pray salah out of its permissible time if a person accidentally sleeps through the prescribed time. However, knowingly sleeping through the prescribed time for Salah is deemed impermissible by most scholars.
When travelling over long distances, one may shorten the Zuhr, Asr, and Isha prayers to 2 rakat, a practice known as qasr. One may also perform jam' bayn as-salātayn, which refers to praying the Zuhr and Asr prayers in combination as two prayers of 2 rakat each between noon and sunset, and the Maghrib and Isha prayers into two prayers of 3 and 2 rakat each, performed between dusk and dawn. Neither qasr nor jam' bayn as-salātayn can be applied to the Fajr prayer.
Of the fard category are the five daily prayers, as well as the Friday prayer (Jumu'ah), while the Eid prayers and Witr are of the wajib category. Negligence of any of the obligatory prayers renders one a non-Muslim according to the stricter Hanbali madhhab of Sunni Islam, while the other Sunni madhhabs consider doing so a major sin. However, all four madhhabs agree that denial of the mandatory status of these prayers invalidates the faith of those who do so, rendering them non-Muslim. Fard prayers (as with all fard actions) are further classed as either fard al-ayn (obligation of the self) and fard al-kifayah (obligation of sufficiency). Fard al-Ayn are actions considered obligatory on individuals, for which the individual will be held to account if the actions are neglected. Fard al-Kifayah are actions considered obligatory on the Muslim community at large, so that if some people within the community carry it out no Muslim is considered blameworthy, but if no one carries it out, all incur a collective punishment.
Men are required to offer the mandatory salat in congregation (jama'ah), behind an imam when they are able. According to most Islamic scholars, prayer in congregation is mustahabb (recommended) for men, when they are able.
Muslims who reject the Hadith and Quranists, some pray five times and some thrice a day. Quranists in Algeria for example "pray with unlike their usual postures, and do not bow, but believe that prostration is the next posture on completion of recitation (of the Quran)."
Special congregational prayers
The Jumu'ah is a congregational prayer on Friday, which replaces the Zuhr prayer. It is compulsory upon men to pray this in congregation, while women may pray it so or offer Zuhr prayer instead. Jumu'ah consists of a sermon (khutbah), after which two rakats are prayed. Since the khutbah replaces the two rakat of Zuhr, it is believed that listening to it carefully compensates the thawāb of 2 rakat.
The salah of the 'Idayn is said on the mornings of 'Id al-Fitr and 'Id an-nahr. The Eid prayer is classified by some as fard, likely an individual obligation (fard al-ayn) though some Islamic scholars argue it is only a collective obligation (fard al-kifayah). It consists of two rakats, with seven (or three for the followers Imam Hanafi) takbirs offered before the start of the first rakat and five (or three for the followers of Imam Hanafi) before the second. After the salah is completed, a sermon (khutbah) is offered. However, the khutbah is not an integral part of the Eid salah. The Eid salah must be offered between sunrise and true noon i.e. between the time periods for Fajr and Zuhr.
Sunnah and nafl
Sunni Muslims perform optional sunnah salah (voluntary prayers offered by Muhammad) of two categories: sunnah mu'akkadah (verified sunnah) and sunnah ghair-mu'akkadah (unverified sunnah). The primary difference between the two being the frequency of Muhammad having performed the relevant salah. Certain sunnah prayers have prescribed times. Those ordained for before each of the fard prayers must be offered between the first call to prayer (adhan) and the second call (iqamah), which signifies the start of the fard prayer. Those sunnah ordained for after the fard prayers can be said any time between the end of the fard prayers and the end of the current prayer's waqt.
While Sunni Muslims classify these prayers as sunnah, Shia consider them nafl. Nafl salah are voluntary and can be offered at any time. Many Sunni Muslims also offer two rakats of nafl salah after the Zuhr and Maghrib prayers. During the Isha prayer, they pray the two rakats of nafl after the two sunnah mu'akkadah and wajib prayers. There are many specific conditions or situations when one may wish to offer nafl prayers. They cannot be offered at sunrise, true noon, or sunset. The prohibition against salah at these times is to prevent the practice of sun worship. Some Muslims offer voluntary prayers immediately before and after the five prescribed prayers. A table of these prayers is given below.
|Compulsory (fard) prayer||Prescribed time||Voluntary before fard[t 1]||Obligatory||Voluntary after fard[t 1]||Total|
|Fajr||Begins at dawn, may be performed up to sunrise after Fajr nafl prayer||2 rakat¤||2 rakat[t 1]||2 rakat[t 1]||None||2 rakat[t 1]||4 r.||6 r.|
|Zuhr||From when the sun has passed the zenith, may be performed up to the time of Asr.||4 rakat¤||4 rakat||4 rakat[t 2]||2 rakat¤[t 3]||8 r.[t 1][t 4][t 5]||10 r.||16 r.|
|Asr||From when the shadow cast by an object is twice its length, may be performed up to the time of Maghrib.[t 6][t 7]||4 rakat‡||4 rakat||4 rakat||None||8 r.[t 1][t 4][t 5]||8 r.||16 r.|
|Maghrib||Begins at sunset, may be performed up to the end of dusk.||2 rakat||3 rakat||3 rakat||2 rakat¤[t 3]||2 r.[t 1][t 4][t 5]||7 r.||11 r.|
|Isha[t 8]||Begins with the night, may be performed up to dawn[t 7]||4 rakat‡||4 rakat||7 r.×||4 r.||2 rakat¤[t 3]||2 r.[t 1][t 4][t 5]||13 r.||10 r.|
|Jumu'ah||From when the sun has passed the zenith, may be performed up to the time of Asr, on Fridays.||4 rakat‡||2 rakat||2 rakat with khutbah||4 rakat¤
2 r. nafl
|2 rakat||14 r.||6 r.|
|¤: denotes sunnah mu'akkadah (verified sunnah), which must be offered by adherents of the Hanafi madhhab.
‡: denotes sunnah ghair-mu'akkadah (unverified sunnah).
×: offered as two prayers of 4 and 3 rakat each, with the 3 rakat considered wajib and performed after the 4 fard rakat.
Prayers of the night
Tahajjud (Arabic: تَهَجُّد) are supererogatory prayers offered late at night. Prayers of this kind are observed from midnight to the prescribed time of the Fajr prayer. The prayer includes any number of even rakat, performed in twos or fours, followed by three or more odd rakat of witr prayer. Shia Muslims offer similar prayers, simply called nightly prayers (Arabic: صَلَوَات اللَّيل). These are considered highly meritorious, and can be offered in the same time as tahajjud. These prayers include eleven rakat: 8 nafl (4 prayers of 2 rakat each), 2 rakat shaf' prayer and 1 rakat witr. Witr (Arabic: وِتر lit. 'string') are prayers offered either with the Isha prayer or with the tahajjud/salawat al-layl. Some consider this prayer compulsory (wajib), while others consider it supererogatory. These are performed in odd numbers of rakats, with slight differences between madhhabs. The prayer usually includes the qunūt.
The word istikharah is derived from the root ḵ-y-r (خير) "well-being, goodness, choice, selection". Salat al-Istikhaarah is a prayer offered when a Muslim needs guidance on a particular matter. To say this salah one should pray two rakats of non-obligatory salah to completion. After completion one should request God that which on is better. The intention for the salah should be in one's heart to pray two rakats of salah followed by Istikhaarah. The salah can be offered at any of the times where salah is not forbidden. Other prayers include the tahiyyat al-masjid, which Muslims are encouraged to offer these two rakat.
Differences in practice
Muslims believe that Muhammad practiced, taught, and disseminated the worship ritual in the whole community of Muslims and made it part of their life. The practice has, therefore, been concurrently and perpetually practiced by the community in each of the generations. The authority for the basic forms of the salah is neither the hadiths nor the Qur'an, but rather the consensus of Muslims.
This is not inconsistent with another fact that Muslims have shown diversity in their practice since the earliest days of practice, so the salah practiced by one Muslim may differ from another's in minor details. In some cases the Hadith suggest some of this diversity of practice was known of and approved by the Prophet himself.
Most differences arise because of different interpretations of the Islamic legal sources by the different schools of law (madhhabs) in Sunni Islam, and by different legal traditions within Shia Islam. In the case of ritual worship these differences are generally minor, and should rarely cause dispute.
- Position of legs and feet.
- Position of hands, including fingers
- Place where eyes should focus
- The minimum amount of recitation
- Loudness of recitation: audible, or moving of lips, or just listening (Loud prayer, Silent prayer)
- Which of the principal elements of the prayer are indispensable, versus recommended, optional, etc.
Shia Muslims, after the end of the prayer, raise their hands three times, reciting Allahu akbar whereas Sunnis look at the right and then left shoulder saying taslim. Also, Shias often read "Qunoot" in the second Rakat, while Sunnis usually do this after salah. The use of a turbah is compulsory in most Shi'a schools of Islam, and disapproved among many Sunnis.
Prayer in congregation
Prayer in the congregation (jama'ah) is considered to have more social and spiritual benefits than praying by oneself. When praying in congregation, the people stand in straight parallel rows behind one person who conducts the prayer, called imam, also called the ‘leader’. The imam must be above the rest in knowledge, action, piety, and justness and possess faith and commitment the people trust, Balanced Perception of Religion and the best knowledge of the Qur'an. The prayer is offered as normal, with the congregation following the imam in order as he/she offers the salah.
For two people of the same gender, the imam would stand on the left, and the other person is on the right. For more than two people, the imam stands one row ahead of the rest.
When the Worshippers consist of men and women combined, a man is chosen as the imam. In this situation, women are typically forbidden from assuming this role. This point, though unanimously agreed on by the major schools of Islam, is disputed by some groups, based partly on a hadith whose interpretation is controversial. When the congregation consists entirely of women and pre-pubescent children, one woman is chosen as imam. When men, women, and children are praying, the children's rows are usually between the men's and women's rows, with the men at the front and women at the back. Another configuration is where the men's and women's rows are side by side, separated by a curtain or other barrier, with the primary intention being for there to be no direct line of sight between male and female Worshippers, following a Qur'anic injunction toward men and women each lowering their gazes (Qur'an 24:30–31).
- According to Shia Muslims, these are to be said in two and two rakats (four in total). This is not the case for Sunni Muslims.
- Replaced by Jumu'ah on Fridays, which consists of two rakats.
- According to Sunni Muslims, there is a difference between Sunnat-Mu'akkadah (obligatory) and Sunnat-Ghair-Mu'akkadah (voluntary). Unlike for the Sunnat-Ghair-Mu'akkadah, the Sunnat-Mu'akkadah was prayed by Muhammed daily.
- Mustahab (praiseworthy) to do everyday. (Shias)
- According to Shia Muslims, this prayer is termed nawafil.
- According to Imam Abu Hanifa, "Asr starts when the shadow of an object becomes twice its height (plus the length of its shadow at the start time of Zuhr)." For the rest of Imams, "Asr starts when the shadow of an object becomes equal to its length (plus the length of its shadow at the start time of Zuhr)." Asr ends as the sun begins to set.
- According to Shia Muslims, Asr prayer and Isha prayer have no set times but are said any time starting from midday. Zuhr and Asr prayers must be offered before sunset, and the time for Asr starts after Zuhr has been prayed. Maghrib and Isha prayers must be offered before midnight, and the time for Isha prayer can start after Maghrib has been prayed, as long as no more light remains in the western sky signifying the arrival of the true night.
- Further information on the usage of the word "Isha" (evening) see Quran 12:16, Quran 79:46
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