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Scrupulousness Regarding Religious Observances

A believer reveals himself through the care he takes over his religious observances; he enthusiastically performs the prayer 5 times, fasting and ablutions commanded by Allah throughout the course of his life, for so long as his health permits. Allah has described Muslims' enthusiasm regarding such observances in many verses of the Qur'an:

Those who are steadfast in seeking the face of their Lord, and perform prayer and give from the provision We have given them, secretly and openly, and stave off evil with good, it is they who will have the Ultimate Abode. (Surat ar-Ra'd: 22)

Whose hearts quake at the mention of Allah, and who are steadfast in the face of all that happens to them, those who perform prayer and give of what We have provided for them. (Surat al-Hajj: 35)

The Importance of the Prayer

The prayer, one of the most important observances after faith itself, is an act of worship which believers are commanded to carry out throughout their lives at the specific times appointed.

Human beings are prone to forgetfulness and heedlessness. If they fail to use their will and become caught up in the flow of their day-to-day activities, then they become distanced from those subjects they really ought to be concentrating on. They may forget that Allah surrounds them in every possible way, that He sees and hears them at every moment, that they will account to Him for all their deeds, the existence of Paradise and Hell, that nothing takes place outside destiny and that there is good in in all events. Falling into heedlessness may cause people to neglect the true purpose behind their lives.

The prayer, however, which is performed five times daily, eliminates this forgetfulness and neglect, and keeps a believer's consciousness and will alive. It ensures that the believer constantly turns to Allah and helps him lead a life directed towards the observance of our Creator's commandments. The believer who stands in the presence of Allah ready to perform the prayer establishes a powerful spiritual bond with our Lord. One verse describes how the prayer reminds a person of Allah and prevents him from all forms of wickedness:

Recite what has been revealed to you of the Book and perform prayer. Prayer precludes indecency and wrongdoing. And remembrance of Allah is greater still. Allah knows what you do. (Surat al-'Ankabut: 45)

The prayer has been made obligatory for all believers, from the prophets on down. All the prophets sent to mankind throughout the course of history have preached this observance, made obligatory by Allah, and have been role models for all believers throughout their lives by performing that obligation in the finest and truest manner possible. In those terms, the prayer is a form of active preaching communicated by the prophets to their peoples.

The Qur'an contains several verses regarding the prophets being commanded to perform the prayer, the scrupulous way they performed and maintained it, and the way they passed that command on to their own societies. Some of these verses read:

  • For the Prophet Abraham (pbuh):
"My Lord! Make me and my descendants people who perform prayer. My Lord! Accept my prayer." (Surah Ibrahim: 40)

 

  • For the Prophet Ishmael (pbuh):
Mention Ishmael in the Book. He was true to his promise and was a Messenger and a Prophet. He used to command his people to perform prayer and give the alms and he was pleasing to his Lord. (Surah Maryam: 54-55)

 

  • For the Prophet Moses (pbuh):
I am Allah. There is no deity but Me, so worship Me and perform prayer to remember Me. (Surah Ta Ha: 14)

The blessed Maryam, a role model for female believers, was also commanded to perform the prayer:

Maryam, obey your Lord and prostrate and bow with those who bow. (Surah Al 'Imran: 43)

The Prophet Jesus (pbuh) also received that same commandment from Allah:

He said, "I am the servant of Allah, He has given me the Book and made me a Prophet. He has made me blessed wherever I am and directed me to perform prayer and give the alms as long as I live." (Surah Maryam: 30-31)

At what Times has the Prayer been Made Obligatory?

The times of this obligatory observance have been stipulated for believers in the Qur'an. The relevant verse reads:

When you have finished prayer remember Allah standing, sitting and lying on your sides. When you are safe again perform the prayer in the normal way. The prayer is prescribed for the believers at specific times. (Surat an-Nisa': 103)

There are five timings for the prayer; "morning," "noon," "afternoon," "evening" and "night." These are clearly set out in several verses in the Qur'an, one of which reads:

So be steadfast in the face of what they say and glorify your Lord with praise before the rising of theSun and before its setting. And glorify Him during part of the night and at both ends of the day, so that hopefully you will be pleased. (Surah Ta Ha: 130)

Our Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), who best understood and commented on the Qur'an through the revelation and inspiration of Allah, also described the timings of the five prayers in the day. One of the best known hadiths in which the timings of the prayer are revealed is that reported by 'Abdullah b. 'Amr reported:

The time of the noon prayer is when theSun passes the meridian and a man's shadow is the same (length) as his height, (and it lasts) as long as the time for the afternoon prayer has not come; the time for the afternoon prayer is as long as theSun has not become pale; the time of the evening prayer is as long as the twilight has not ended; the time of the night prayer is up to the middle of the average night and the time of the morning prayer is from the appearance of dawn, as long as theSun has not risen. (Sahih Muslim)

The five daily prayers, with their fards (obligatory), wajibs (compulsory) and sunnahs, consist of 40 rakats (units), as follows:

 

  • Salat al-fajr (morning prayer): sunnah prayer consisting of 2 rakats, fard prayer consisting of 2 rakats
  • Salat al-zuhr (noon prayer): initial sunnah prayer consisting of 4 rakats, fard prayer consisting of 4 rakats, final sunnah prayer consisting of 2 rakats
  • Salat al-'asr (afternoon prayer): sunnah prayer consisting of 4 rakats, fard prayer consisting of 4 rakats
  • Salat al-maghrib (evening prayer): fard prayer consisting of 3 rakats, sunnah prayer consisting of 2 rakats
  • Salat al-'isha (night prayer): initial sunnah prayer consisting of 4 rakats, fard prayer consisting of 4 rakats, final sunnah prayer consisting of 2 rakats and witr prayer consisting of 3 rakats.

Muslims Perform the Prayer with Khushu'

Performing the prayer with khushu' means performing this obligation through feeling an enormous awe of Allah, in the consciousness of being in His presence and feeling His majesty and greatness in one's heart. In the prayer, a believer who is aware that he is in the presence of Allah, the Lord of the worlds, will experience that majesty and fear, and the closeness he feels to Allah will be proportionate to that fear and awe.

A believer who wishes to perform the obligation of the prayer in a proper manner must take precautions against anything that might prevent that state of the heart and try to establish the requisite attention and concentration.

Allah tells us that when we stand in His presence we must remember Him alone, praise Him and express His Oneness, as the One Who is unfettered by any deficiency. Performing the prayer in the proper manner is a great opportunity for doing all these things. Indeed, in one verse Allah states the prayer is to be performed in remembrance of Him:

I am Allah. There is no deity but Me, so worship Me and perform prayer to remember Me. (Surah Ta Ha: 14)

The Fards of the Prayer

There are seven preconditions of the prayer. These are also known as the conditions of the prayer.

  • Taharat from hadas (purification from the state of being without ablution)
  • Taharat from najasat (purification from substances which are prescribed as dirty in Islam)
  • Satr al-awrat (covering the bodily parts that need to be covered)
  • Istiqbal al-qibla (facing the qibla)
  • Waqt (prescribed time)
  • Niyyat (intention)
  • Takbir al-tahrima (glorifying Allah before beginning the prayer)

Five of the fards of the prayer are inside the prayer. Each of these is also called rukn.

  • Qiyam
  • Qiraah
  • Ruku
  • Sajdah
  • Qadah Akheerah

Taharat from hadas: the ritual cleansing of someone who is without ablution, and ghusl when necessary.

Taharat from najasat: the cleaning of the body, one's clothing or the area where the prayer is to be performed, ridding them of all dirt that might hinder the prayer.

Waqt: performing the five daily prayers at the prescribed times.

Istiqbal al-qibla: performing the prayer facing the qibla, in other words the Kaaba in Mecca.

Niyyat: remembering which prayer is to be performed and performing it with that intent in mind.

Takbir: praising our Lord in the words "Allahu akbar".

Takbir al-tahrima: the first glorification of Allah uttered on commencing the prayer.

Qiyam: standing upright when performing the prayer, unless one has a legitimate excuse.

Qiraah: reciting one or more verses from the Noble Qur'an during the prayer, while standing upright.

Ruku: placing the palms of the hands over the kneecaps and bending forward, keeping the head and back straight.

Sajdah: placing the nose, forehead, hands, knees and feet on the ground.

Qadah akheerah as long as the recitation of tashahhud: remaining seated after the completion of the prayer until the recitation of Attahiyaat.

It will be useful here to further clarify certain of these items.

What is satr al-awrat?

Those bodily parts of a responsible person which are forbidden for him or her to uncover and show others and for others to look upon while in prayer or any other time are called awrat parts. A man's awrat parts for prayer are between lower part of his navel and lower parts of his knees. All parts of free women, except their hands and faces, including their wrists, hanging parts of their hair and under their feet are awrat for the prayer.

Ablution

A Muslim has to clean his or her body before beginning the prayer. There are various obligatory elements to this:

  • to wash the face once
  • to wash both arms together with the elbows once
  • to rub one quarter of the head
  • to wash the feet, together with the ankle-bones on both sides, once

There are also sunnah elements to the ablution. The sunnahs to be performed in carrying out ablutions are:

  • to recite the Basmala
  • to wash the hands including the wrists three times
  • to rinse the mouth three times by using new water each time
  • to wash both nostrils three times, taking fresh water each time
  • to wet the skin lying invisible under the eyebrows, beard and moustache
  • to wet the section lying under the eyebrows when washing the face
  • to rub the hanging part of the beard
  • to comb the hanging part of the beard with the wetted fingers of the right hand
  • to rub and clean the teeth with something
  • to wipe the whole head once
  • to wipe both ears once
  • to wipe the neck once, with three adjacent fingers
  • to wash (takhlil) between the fingers and toes
  • to wash every limb to be washed three times in such a way as to moisten every part of the limb
  • to offer genuine intent through the heart during washing the face
  • to wash the two hands, mouth, nostrils, face, arms, wipe the head, ears, neck and wash the feet successively, and not to change this order
  • to rub the limbs washed
  • to wash the limbs one right after another, with no interval.

Qibla

The qibla is the Kaaba in the Masjid al-Haram in the city of Mecca, and Muslims must face in that direction in performing the prayer. The prayer, one of the five pillars of Islam, is performed facing the qibla. It is revealed in the Qur'an that the direction to be faced by Muslims in performing the prayer is that of the Kaaba. Those Muslims outside and far away from Mecca only need to face in the direction of the qibla.

Islam regards the Kaaba as the centre of worship of Allah, the One and Only, and commands Muslims to face in that direction in order that there should be oneness, unison and order among those performing the prayer and worshipers.

Facing in the direction of the qibla when performing the prayer is an excellent example of remembering the Prophets Abraham (pbuh) and Ishmael (pbuh), who restored the Kaaba, and of drawing towards Allah. It is also best for Muslims to face that direction when sleeping or eating. They should also be placed to face the qibla when they are buried.

How is the Qibla to Be Established?

The qibla is not the building of the Kaaba; it is its building plot. That is, that space from the Earth to the 'arsh is the qibla. For this reason, a person who is under the sea, or up in the air can perform prayer in that direction.

The qibla can be determined by means of mathematical calculations or with the assistance of a compass or Polaris (the Polestar). Even if the exact position cannot be determined in calculations using various equipment, a likely estimate can be made. Such estimates regarding the qibla are acceptable.

At places where there is no mihrab and qibla cannot be identified by calculation or with the help of the Polestar, one must consult other Muslims who know the qibla.

A Muslim travelling on a ship or train must begin the prayer by standing towards the qibla and put a compass somewhere near the place he or she will prostrate. As the vehicle changes direction, so should the worshiper turn towards the qibla. Alternatively, someone else should make the worshiper turn to the right or left.

If someone who does not know the qibla performs the prayer without looking at the mihrab, or asking someone else who knows, or trying to identify it, then he has actually failed to fulfil the conditions of the prayer, even if he happens to face in the right direction.

 

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