Prayer: The Basic Duty and Pivotal Concept in Islam

Prayer: The Basic Duty and Pivotal Concept in Islam

By Abdur Raheem Kidwai

Remember Me; I will remember you. Be grateful to Me and do not deny Me. O Believers! Seek help with patience and Prayer. For Allah is with the patient ones. (Al-Baqarah 2:152-153)

Prayer (Salah) being one of the five pillars of Islam is mentioned many times in the Qur’an as an obligatory duty for every adult Muslim. It is to be offered five times a day and certain prerequisites are to be met before offering it.

Praer in Islam

monotheism permeates both the concept and form of prayer in Islam, as it is devoted wholly to Allah.

In the above Qur’anic passage, however, the focus is on the essence or underlying spirit of prayer, which helps one grasp this basic duty and pivotal concept in Islam.

Needless to add, prayer in some form features in every religious tradition. Some of its popular forms are: incantations, spells and devotional acts and rituals. It varies from being silent to vocal, often assuming the form of meditation.

In Christianity, it is prayer to God the Trinity; to the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit. It may include elements of adoration, confession, intercession, petition or thanksgiving, following the pattern of the so-called “Lord’s Prayer” which Jesus taught his disciples (Matthew 6:9-15, Luke 11:2-4) and other biblical examples of prayer, especially those found in the New Testament epistles and the Old Testament psalms. Use is also made of the prayers of saints and spiritual writers. Posture in prayer varies. Some traditions teach kneeling, some standing, some sitting. Forms and types of prayer also vary.

One True God

By comparison, monotheism permeates both the concept and form of prayer in Islam, as it is devoted wholly to Allah, the One True God.

Like any other Muslim, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) performed the same prayer, bowing and prostrating to Allah.

Furthermore, unlike other faiths which recommend private or public forms of prayer, which usually turn into exercises in inner contemplation or meditation, Islam prescribes prayer as an obligatory duty, to be performed in congregation in a mosque, a particular structure set apart for this specific purpose. It is to be offered at appointed hours and in a particular manner, of which details are to be found in the Qur’an and Hadith, and as exemplified by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

His Companions faithfully followed the way he said prayers and the same has been the practice of billions of Muslims down the ages. Remarkably, its form and features have remained unaltered all along.  Every Muslim performs it alike at the same hours, regardless of the place of his residence and in the same direction of Makkah.

Both literally and symbolically prayer has been the most distinct bond of Muslim fraternity in all time and place.

Conditions for Prayer

Certain prerequisites must be fulfilled before offering prayer. For example, the washing of some body parts is a precondition for prayer:

O you who believe! When ye rise up for prayer, wash you faces, and your hands up to the elbows, and lightly rub your heads and (wash) your feet up to the ankles. And if ye are unclean, purify yourselves. And if you are sick or on a journey, or one of you cometh from the closet, or you have had contact with women, and you find not water, then go to clean, high ground and rub your faces and your hands with some of it. Allah would not place a burden on you, but He would purify you and would perfect His grace upon you, that you may give thanks. (Al-Ma’idah 5:6)

If one is in a state of impurity, one should take a bath,

O you who believe! Draw not near unto prayer when you are drunken, till you know that which you utter, nor when you are polluted, save when journeying upon the road, till you have bathed. And if you be ill, or on a journey, or one of you cometh from the closet, or you have touched women, and you find not water, then go to high clean soil and rub your faces and your hands (therewith). Lo! Allah is Benign, Forgiving. (An-Nisaa’ 4:43)

Likewise, one should put on clean clothes when offering prayer, O Children of Adam! Look to your adornment at every place of worship, and eat and drink, but be not prodigal. Lo! He loveth not the prodigals. (Al-A`raf 7:31) One should also face the direction of prayer, “And from wherever you go out (for prayer), turn your face toward Al-Masjid Al-Haram”. (Al-Baqarah 2:150)

It is imperative that prayer be said at its appointed hours – at dawn (Fajr), at noon (Zhuhr), in the afternoon (`Asr), after sunset (Maghrib) and in the late evening (`Isha’), (An-Nisaa’ 4:103, Hud 11:114, Al-Israa’ 17:78-80 and Ta-Ha 20:130-132).

It is preferable and more rewarding to pray in congregation, (Al-Baqarah 2:43 and al-Nisa’ 4:102).

Some other conditions governing prayer are that Allah’s excellent names and attributes be mentioned and a portion of the Qur’an be recited in prayer.

Furthermore, the Qur’an recitation should be in a distinct tone, (Al-Israa’ 17:110, Al-`Ankabut 29:45 and Al-Muzzammil 73:4).

An extensive account of these and other norms to be observed during prayer feature in standard works on Muslim theology and jurisprudence.

The passage we are concerned with here examines only the spirit of prayer defining what it is, its components and its benefits for man. For its better appreciation this passage should be read together with the following Qur’anic extracts which bring into further relief the objectives and essence of prayer:

Successful are the Believers, those who humble themselves in Prayer. (Al-Mu’minun 23:1-2)

And seek (Allah’s) help in patience and Prayer. Surely it is hard, except for those who fear Allah. (Al-Baqarah 2:45)

Those who pray, they are constant in their Prayer, and in whose wealth there is a portion for the beggar and the poor. They testify to the Day of Judgment and are fearful of their Lord’s punishment. (Al-Ma`arij 70:23-27)

Woe be to such performers of Prayer, who are negligent of their Prayer, who aim to be seen and who withhold even common items from others. (Al-Ma`un 107:4-7)

The ayah cited at the outset opens with the exhortation that man should remember Allah.

Since He is man’s Creator, Sustainer and Benefactor par excellence, it is perfectly in order that man’s mind and heart be filled with the thought of His majesty, glory and numerous favors.

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The article is an excerpt from Abdur Raheem Kidwai’s book “The Qur’an: Essential Teachings”, published by the Islamic Foundation, 2005/1426 H.

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A Beginners Guide to Prayer in Islam

A Beginners Guide to Prayer in Islam

By Editorial Staff

We, as Muslims, have to purify ourselves before offering prayer. Therefore, a Muslim is required to follow certain purification procedure known as wudu’ (ablution). The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Allah does not accept prayer of anyone of you if he does hadath (passes wind) till he performs the ablution (anew). (Al-Bukhari)

A Beginners Guide to Prayer in Islam

Point the index finger straight in the direction of the qiblah and move it through the recitation of the Tashahhud.

But before ablution, you have to perform Istinja’ whenever one passes impurity from any of passages (front & back). One can use either stone (tissue in modern times) or water. To perform it with water is preferred.  The best is to combine both water and tissue, first by wiping with the tissue and then washing.

How to Perform Istinja’

First it is preferred to use toilet paper three times. If Istinja’ is being done on a hot day, then the person should start from the front to the back and then from the back to the front and the third time from the front to the back. If Istinja’ is being done on a cold day, then he should begin from the back to the front.

The female would always wipe first from the front (part closest to the vagina) wiping towards the back, and with the second stone (tissue) wiping from the back to the front and so on.

Then, one should wash both his/her hands in case of any impurity that could be on the skin.

After that, one should pour water over the anus area and rub the area using the inner part of one’s fingers. One should continue until all the impurity and smell is removed. (Nur Al-Idhah, pp. 27-30)

This completes the first step of purification that precedes the prayer. Now, you are ready to perform ablution

Wudu’ or ablution means using clean and cleansing water on certain parts of the body.

How to Perform Ablution

1- Make intention (niyyah) to perform ablution for prayer.

2- Say, “Bismillah” (In the name of Allah).

3- Wash both hands up to the wrist three times and make sure that water has reached between fingers.

4- Take a handful of water; rinse your mouth three times and spit it out every time.

5- Inhale water into your nostrils and then exhale it, three times.

6- Wash your face three times from one ear to the other, and from the forehead to the chin.

7- Wash both your arms up to the elbows, starting with the right and then the left three times.

8- Wipe over head with your wet palms from the top of the forehead to the back of the head.

9- Wash the front and back of your ears by using your index and thumb fingers.

10- Finally, wash both feet to the ankles starting from the right, making sure that water has reached between the toes and all other parts of the feet.

Note: You do not have to repeat ablution unless it is nullified.

Note: Hadath refers to what emanates from the body of wind, urine, stool, seminal fluids, menstrual blood or post-natal bleeding.

 How to Offer Prayer in Islam

There are five obligatory prayers that are offered at certain times during the day and the night. They are called Fajr (Dawn) prayer, Zhuhr (Noon) Prayer, `Asr (Afternoon) Prayer, Maghrib (Sunset) Prayer, and `Ishaa’ (Night) Prayer. These five daily prayers become obligatory once a person converts to Islam.

After performing ablution, make sure that you are covering your `Awrah (what is between navel and knees for male, and the whole body including the head except the face and hands for female). You have to make sure that your clothes and the place of prayer are free from impurities.

Now You Are Ready to Pray;

  • Make the intention in your heart for the prayer you want to pray.
  • Stand up right and face the Qibla (direction of the Ka`bah).
  • Raise your hands to your shoulder or ears level and say in a moderate voice “Allahu Akbar” which means Allah is the greatest.
  • Place your right hand over the left on your chest. Look downward at the place of prostration.
  • Recite the opening supplication in the first rak`ah only, “Subhanaka allahumma wa bi hamdika wa tabara kasmuka wa ta’ala jadduka wa la ilaha ghairuka.” It means, “O Allah, how perfect You are and praise be to You. Blessed is Your name, and exalted is Your majesty. There is none worthy of worship except You.”

Then recite, “A`udhu billahi mina Ash-shaitan Ar-rajim.”

Then, recite, “Bismillah Ar-rahman Ar-rahim.”

  • Recite Surat Al-Fatihah (the Opening Chapter of the Qur’an).

“Al-hamdu lillahi rabbil-`alamin, ar-rahma nir-rahiem, maliki yawmiddin, iyyaaka na’budu wa iyyaaka nastain, ihdinas-siraatal mustaqim, siraatallazina anamta alaihim, ghairil maghdoobi alahim wa ladalin.”

  • Bend down and place your palms on your knees (ruku`) while your head and back are straight. Look downward at the place of prostration. Then recite silently, “Subhana Rabbiyal `Azhim” (How Perfect is my Lord, the Supreme) three times.
  • Stand up from bowing (ruku`) and say, “Sami` Allahu liman hamidah” (Allah hears the one who praises Him). Then say, “Rabana Walak Al-hamd (Our Lord, Praise be to You), just one time.
  • Prostrate and place your forehead, nose, palms, knees, and toes on the floor (sujud) while saying, “Allahu Akbar”. Then say, “Subhana Rabbiyal Al-`Ala” (How Perfect is my Lord, the Highest) three times.
  • Rise from prostration while saying, “Allahu Akbar”. Sit on your left foot and place your right foot upright, and place your palms flat on your knees. Then say, “Rabb ighfir li” (O my Lord! Forgive me.)
  • After that, make another prostration in the same manner

Now, you complete one rak`ah (unit of prayer). Stand up while saying “Allahu Akbar” and perform another rak`ah. Do it in the same manner as you did the first one, but without reciting the opening supplication.

  • After the second prostration of the second rak`ah, sit on your left foot and place your right foot upright. Place your palms on your thighs with all fingers together in a fist except the index finger. Point the index finger straight in the direction of the qiblah and move it through the recitation of the Tashahhud:

“At-Tahiyatu lillahi Was-Salawatu Wat-Tayyibatu. As-Salamu `alaika ayiuh-annabiyu wa-rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu. Assalamu `alaina wa`ala ibadil-Lahi As –Salihin. Ash-hadu an la ilaha illallah wa-ash-hadu anna Muhammadan `abduhu wa rasuluh.”  

It means:

“All respect, worship and all glory is due to Allah alone. Peace be upon you, O Prophet, and the Mercy and Blessings of Allah be upon you. Peace be on us and on those who are the righteous servants of Allah. I testify that there is no one worthy of worship except Allah, and I testify that Muhammad is His Servant and Messenger”.

  • In the three-rak`ah prayer (as in Maghrib) or the four-rak`ah prayer (Zhuhr, `Asr and `Ishaa’), after performing the second rak`ah and the first tashahhud, stand up while raising your hands and say, “Allahu Akbar” and perform another rak`ah. In case you are performing a four-rak`ah prayer, you perform two rak`ahs after the first
  • In case of Fajr (Dawn) Prayer, after offering two rak`ahs and reciting tashahhud, you recite “Allahumma salli `ala Muhammad wa-`ala aali Muhammad kama sallaita `ala Ibrahim wa-`ala aali Ibrahim innaka Hamidun Majeed, wabaarik `ala Muhammad wa `ala aali Muhamad kama barakta `ala Ibrahim wa `ala aali Ibrahim innaka Hamidun Majeed.”

It means:

“O Allah! Praise Muhammad, and on the family of Muhammad, as You Praised Ibrahim, and the family of Ibrahim; You are indeed Worthy of Praise, Full of Glory. And send blessings on Muhammad, and on the family of Muhammad, as you sent blessings on Ibrahim, and the family of Ibrahim; You are indeed Worthy of Praise, Full of Glory.”

  • After that, you turn your face the right side saying, “As-salamu `alikum wa Rahmatullh” (peace and mercy of Allah be upon you) and then to the left repeating the same words.
  • In case of the three-rak`ah prayer (as Maghrib), you recite the full tashahhud and make tasleem after the third rak`ah.
  • In case of the four-rak`ah prayer (Zhuhr, `Asr and `Ishaa’) you recite the full tashahhud and make tasleem after the fourth rak`ah.

Times and Number of Rak`ahs of Each Prayer

Name Rak`ahs Time
Fajr (Dawn) Prayer Two From dawn to sunrise.
Zhuhr (Noon) Prayer Four From noon until mid-afternoon.
`Asr (Afternoon) Prayer Four When the shadow of a vertical stick equals its length to sunset.
Maghrib (Sunset) Prayer Three From sunset to the disappearance of red twilight (glow) in the sky.
`Ishaa’ (Night) Prayer Four From the disappearance of red twilight (glow) in the sky to dawn.

 

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`Asr: The Middle Prayer

`Asr: The Middle Prayer

The Middle Prayer

`Asr: The Middle Prayer

The Messenger of Allah said, ‘Whoever prays the two cool prayers (`Asr and Fajr) will go to Paradise.” (Al-Bukhari)

By: Editorial Staff

Allah, Almighty has addressed the Ummah (Muslim nation) to keep on the salah (prayer) at its fixed times, taking into consideration the conditions of validity of prayer. Keeping on something means to maintain and devote oneself assiduously to abide by it. Almighty Allah has singled out the mention of the middle prayer after ordering the Muslims to offer the prayer in general which gives the honor and importance to this specific prayer. It is known in the “Science of Rhetoric” as mentioning something specific after something general. There are many examples in the Qur’an such as:

In both of them are fruit and palm trees and pomegranates. (Ar-Rahman 55:68)

In the previous verse, Allah has specified the palm trees and pomegranates among all other kinds of fruits due to their importance.

What is the Middle Prayer?

There are two views among Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and scholars regarding the middle prayer as follows:

1- That is Fajr Prayer

This is the view of Abu Umamah, Anas, Jabir, Abu Al-‘Aaliyah, ‘Ubaydah ibn ‘Umair, ‘Ata’, ‘Ikrimah, Mujahid and others, and it is one of the two views of Ibn ‘Umar and Ibn ‘Abbas.

It is also the view of Malik and of Ash-Shafa’i as stated in Al-Umm. (Fath Al-Bari).

2- That is `Asr Prayer

This is the view of most of the scholars, and it is the correct and reliable view.

`Ali ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said on the day (of the Battle) of Al-Ahzab: “They distracted us from offering the middle prayer, i.e. the `Asr prayer. May Allah fill their houses and graves with fire; he then observed this prayer between the evening prayer and the night prayer.” (Muslim)

Samurah ibn Jundab (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The middle prayer is the prayer of Al-`Asr.” (At-Tirmidhi)

This report states that it is ‘Asr prayer according to the words of the Prophet (peace be upon him).

This is also the view of Ibn Mas’ud and Abu Hurairah, and it is the correct view according to the school of Abu Hanifah. It is also the view of Ahmad ibn Hanbal and the view which most of the Shafa`is agreed on.

At-Tirmidhi said that it is the view of most of the scholars among the Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Al-Mawardi also said that it the correct view of most of the righteous predecessors.

Time of `Asr Prayer

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: The time of `Asr Prayer is as long as the sun has not become yellow…” (Muslim)

The time for `Asr begins after the time of Zhuhr Prayer comes to an end, i.e., when the length of an object’s shadow becomes equal to the length of the object itself.

1- The Preferred Time

This begins from the time of `Asr Prayer until the sun begins to turn yellow due to the previous hadith.

2- The Time of Necessity

This begins after the sun turns yellow until the sunset. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever catches up with one rak’ah of ‘Asr before the sun sets has caught up with ‘Asr.” (Agreed Upon)

Virtues of `Asr Prayer

1- Double reward for One who keeps on it

It was narrated that Abu Basrah Al-Ghifari said: “The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) led us in praying `Asr in Al-Mukhamas. He (the Prophet) said: ‘This prayer was enjoined upon those who came before you, but they neglected it. Whoever prays it regularly will have a two-fold reward, and there is no prayer after it until the Shahid appears.” (Shahid is the star) (An-Nasa’i)

2- It is a cause of entering Paradise

Abu Bakr ibn Abi Musa said my father narrated that the “Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, ‘Whoever prays the two cool prayers (`Asr and Fajr) will go to Paradise.” (Al-Bukhari)

They were called the “two cool prayers” as they are offered during the cool time of the day. Fajr is before the sun rise and therefore it is a cool time. And `Asr is when the sun changes its angle and starts coming towards the sun set. At this time, it has lost much of its hotness and therefore it is a cool time.

They were called the “two cool prayers” as they are offered during the cool time of the day. Fajr is before the sun rise and therefore it is a cool time. And `Asr is when the sun changes its angle and starts coming towards the sun set. At this time, it has lost much of its hotness and therefore it is a cool time.

3- It is a cause of seeing Allah on the Day of Judgment

Jarir (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated: We were sitting with the Prophet (peace be upon him) and he looked at the moon on the night of the full-moon and said, “You people will see your Lord as you see this full moon, and you will have no trouble in seeing Him, so if you can avoid missing (through sleep or business, etc.) a prayer before sunrise (Fajr) and a prayer before sunset (`Asr) you must do so.” (Al-Bukhari)

4- Angels gather at the time of Fajr and `Asr

Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Angels keep on descending from and ascending to the Heaven in turn, some at night and some by daytime, and all of them assemble together at the time of the Fajr and `Asr prayers. Then those who have stayed with you over-night, ascent unto Allah Who asks them, and He knows the answer better than they, “How have you left My slaves?” They reply, “We have left them praying as we found them praying.” If anyone of you says “Amin” (during the Prayer at the end of the recitation of Surat Al-Faitihah), and the angels in Heaven say the same, and the two sayings coincide, all his past sins will be forgiven.” (Al-Bukhari)

Leaving the `Asr Prayer is a great loss

Buraidah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “He who misses the ‘Asr Prayer (deliberately), his deeds will be rendered null and void.” (Al-Bukhari)

Ibn `Umar (may Allah be pleased with them) said that, Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever misses the `Asr prayer (intentionally) then it is as if he lost his family and property.” (Agreed Upon)

No doubt, the middle prayer (‘Asr) has a great importance. This does not mean that the other prayers are any less significant. It is just to emphasize and remind that we better not leave our prayers, especially the ‘Asr prayer as people usually tend to forget this prayer either we are busy working, or studying, or even resting. May Allah make us of those who keep on the prayer at its proper time.

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