Islam 2.4 The Practice Of Prayer
Each prayer out of the Five Daily prayers consists of a fixed number of Rak’ahs (or units) that consist of a sequence of movements and sayings. So the dawn prayer (Fajr) has two rak’ahs, the early afternoon prayer (Dhuhr) has four rak’ahs, the mid afternoon prayer (‘Asr) has four rak’ahs, the after sunset prayer (Maghrib) has three rak’ahs and the late evening prayer (‘Ishā) has four rak’ahs. Every Muslim is obligated to know this and how to perform them. Each rak’ah consists of:
- Takbeer (saying: Allāhu akbar) – God is the Greatest.
- Recital of the opening chapter, Sūratul-Fātihah from the Qur’ān followed by whatever is easy from the rest of the Qur’ān.
- Another Takbeer followed by a bowing (rukoo’) in which Allāh is glorified and His Might exalted.
- Two prostrations (sajdahs) in which Allāh is glorified and His Highness exalted.
So in general each rak’ah consists of these acts. When Muslims pray in jamā’ah (congregation) in a Mosque or in a group elsewhere, they appoint someone to call the Adhān (which is the call to prayer) and the Iqāmah (the imminent call to pray), and then someone proficient to lead them (the Imām) in these rak’ahs. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “The Imām is appointed to be followed, so if he makes takbīr, then make takbīr; if he enters into rukū’, then enter into rukū’ (after him); when he rises from that, then rise; when he says: samiʿ Allāhu liman hamida (Allah hears the one who praises Him), then say: Rabbanā walakal-hamd (Our Lord, and for you is all praise). If he prays sitting, then all of you pray seated.” (Bukhārī, 722)
The Muslims love to pray in congregation and the follow the movements of the Imām, never going ahead of him, nor being lazy behind him. They remain focussed on the prayer. This is an impressive sight, and more impressive when the people are praying properly. The prayer is an act of submission, obedience and unity before Allāh. The words in the Salāh are all recited in Arabic. The Muslims are expected to pray just as the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) prayed, and in doing so they follow the example of the last Prophet.
Jumu’ah (Friday) Prayers: The Jumu’ah prayer is prayed on Friday just after midday. Every adult male Muslim is obligated to attend, and the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Between each of the five prayers and one Friday prayer to the next Friday prayer are expiations for the sins committed in the intervals between them.” (Muslim, 233) He also said: “The best day that the sun has risen upon is Friday. On it Adam was created, on it he entered Paradise, and on it, he was expelled from it. And the Hour will not be established except on Friday.” (Tirmidhī, 488) He (peace and blessings be upon him) also said: “If one performs ablution, doing it well, then comes to the Friday prayer, listens and keeps silent, his sins between that time and the next Friday will be forgiven, and three days extra; but he who touches pebbles during the sermon has caused an interruption.” (Abu Dawūd, 1050). Women are not obligated but are welcome to attend. The Imām delivers a sermon (khutbah) and then leads the prayer. Whichever adult does not attend three Jumu’ahs in row then “his heart is sealed” as the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, meaning it is closed off from goodness and guidance. So missing one Jumu’ah is forbidden, and missing three is even worse. Students at schools and colleges, and employees at work are required to negotiate with the administration to attend Jumu’ah for faith reasons, without allowing studies or work to be neglected. A Muslim must not neglect his responsibilities to work or school. Most organisations that are forward thinking and reasonable will not refuse. Muslim businesses and shops shut during the Friday prayer and then return after it is concluded. Friday is not a “day of rest” for Muslims as Sunday is for the Christians. But it is a day of bathing oneself, grooming, wearing nice clothes and applying perfume (for men).
Du’ā (Supplications): Non-Muslims refer to these as simply ‘prayers’, however in Islam they are referred to as supplications (or du’ās) because in them you call upon Allāh for guidance, forgiveness, help, good health, cure from sickness, tranquillity, rescue from harm, mercy, provision, a good life, a good death and a good hereafter. They can be offered anytime, and are quite often recited in the Salāh (the formal five daily prayers), and especially during the sajdah (prostration), and at the end of the prayer. Even though there are hundreds of supplications that are reported in the ahādeeth in Arabic, one is allowed to supplicate in other languages if they do not speak Arabic – and that is a mercy from Allāh that allows people from any background to call upon their Lord. Allāh said: “Call upon Me and I will answer your supplication.” (Qur’an 40:60). A Muslim may not always get what he wants but Allāh does hear the supplications and answers in a way that is best: maybe Allāh will not give you what you ask for and instead give you a better alternative that you did not know was better for you; or He withholds what you asked for and forgives your sins instead; or He withholds what you seek because he will replace it with Paradise and raise your level in it. Most of the time Allāh gives to His believing, pious servants what they ask for (so long it is not sinful). An example of a supplication when one is tried with suffering: The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) taught his Companions to say: “Keep me alive as long as it is good for me, and give me death when it is good for me.” A supplication like this prevents one from wishing for death, and makes him realise that his life and death are in the Hands of Allāh, and ultimately one should always ask for what is best, and not necessarily convenient. A Muslim makes du’ā and asks Allāh even though Allah knows what he needs – but by asking Allah sincerely, the human realises that there is no power and movement except if Allah wills, so the Muslim acknowledges that and reminds himself of that, and glorifies his Creator and seeks his aid, and humbles himself in front of his Lord, and recognises his weaknesses and inability in achieving anything without the aid of his Lord, so he turns to Allāh, and thus Allāh is pleased with him, and grants his servant success – and so du’ā is a necessary act of worship.
The importance of Salāh: The Muslims believe that these prayers are so important that anyone who stops praying regularly will lose his faith (Imān). Please see previous worksheets Islam 2.2 and Islam 2.3. A Muslim can never underestimate the importance of the Prayers.
- According to Muslims, Allāh is All-Knowing, so He already knows what you want, so why make du’ā?
- Why does a Muslim pray?