Islam considers Praying (Salat) five times a day  as one of the most important practical principles. The more times one does something, the more it becomes part of him/her and his/her character; so does prayer. Also, if there were just one prayer a day, people would be more at risk of skipping it by telling themselves: it is only one! Let’s do it tomorrow! But, essentially, why should Muslims perform the daily prayers? Here are some of the answers to this question.
Of the prerequisites of the prayer is the purity of the body from major impurities [i], minor ones [ii], and the purity of clothes and place. These conditions need a state of physical and spiritual cleanliness to stand before God. So, praying five times a day bounds Muslims to take a bath regularly, wash the face and hands at least five times a day.
These are the practices of personal and public hygiene. According to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), the prayers act like a river passes nearby one’s house: “If there was a river at your door and you took a bath in it five times a day, would you notice any dirt on you? That is the parable of the five prayers by which Allah removes sins from one’s soul.”.
Moreover, several narrations recommend wearing perfume and brushing the teeth before ablution (Wudu) and prayers (Salat) [2,3,4]. These and other narrations, emphasize the importance of appearing clean in public and private.
Muslims, all, should pray in the same uniform way, and manner, facing the same direction. No matter what their social position is, where they are on this planet, and what language they speak. This, particularly, means that all human beings are the same before God. Moreover, all the identical acts and words during prayer and positioning towards the same direction, are the practices of promoting solidarity among Muslims, especially when repeated at some times every day.
Praying five times a day at certain intervals is an important tool. Since it allows a Muslim to organize his/her day, be aware of time, practice and take the control over his/her daily life.
Much of what we say in our prayers is actually asking for divine help to be righteous in our decisions and actions. And, God has promised in the Quran to respond to whoever that calls him (40:60). This gives a good feeling. Knowing that a kind, wise and superior power hears us and will help us through the hard moments. He also makes us more confident and determined in our decisions.
Just as we need food to meet our physical needs, Islam teaches us to pray and worship to get the food for our souls. That is inner peace and tranquility.
One of the main objectives of daily prayers (Salat) is to remember God. It also helps to purify ourselves and keep away all the evil thoughts and actions. "Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing ... And Allah knows that which you do." (29:45).
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) said that Satan is afraid of the faithful Muslim who performs the prayers (Salat) in their right times. Once a Muslim forgets to do the prayer at the right time, Satan becomes encouraged to tempt him/her to do great sins .
If we once do wrong to someone, we will be ashamed of him/her, or we do not even dare to face him/her the next time we meet. Prayer has the same effect. It is the confrontation of one's conscience, knowing that nothing can be hidden from God, whether manifested or concealed. Then, it becomes more difficult to commit evil deeds when we have to stand five times a day in front of God who knows every detail about us.
Another purpose of prayer for a Muslim is to remember. At fixed intervals, no matter how busy a Muslim is, he/she might ask himself, “OK, why am I here, what do I do in this world?” Also, prayer helps Muslims to be accountable for their daily actions which greatly change their perceptions of life.
On top of everything, worshiping God is the purpose for which the humankind was created: “And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” (51:56).
Last but not least, what do we usually do to one who has done a favor to us? The answer is: try our best to compensate, or at least to thank him/her even several times. Now, how can we compensate the blessings that God has given us? It is not possible! Then, we pray to thank Him for all the wonderful, beautiful blessings that He has given us. Although we do not deserve many of them.
[i] Can be removed by ritual bathing (Ghusl)
[ii] Can be removed by ablution (Wudu)
- Ibn Babawayh, “Man la yahduruhu al-Faqih”, vol.1, p. 316.
- M. al-Kulaynī, “Al-Kafi”, vol. 5, p. 511.
- M. al-Kulaynī, “Al-Kafi”, vol. 5, p. 515.
- Ibn Babawayh, “Al-Khisal”, p. 481.
- Ibn Babawayh, “Uyun akhbar al-Rida”, ch. 30, T. 21.
Prayer in Islam (Salat) is one of the most important practical principles of Islam . It is a physical, mental and spiritual act of worship consisting of prescribed actions and words. Every action in the prayer in Islam (Salat) is meaningful and if you want to know the Philosophy of Prayer in Islam, we will see what each movement in the prayer means and represents.
The prayer in Islam starts with standing. That is to appear in front of God gently and courtly with your whole heart and body; that is how one demonstrates the respect for others. Having the gaze down in Qiyam demonstrates the modesty towards God. It makes one forget about his\her superiority and helps to overcome his\her arrogance . Also, knowing that one should stand five times a day in front of a superior power, who knows every overt and covert act and behavior, will eventually prevent from evil deeds and sins .
We do many things every day, some of which are repetitive and by habit, and we are not even aware of why we are doing them. Prayer in Islam, one of those works, seems to be a physical practice. That is why the prayer must have a Niyyah to prevent the prayer from becoming a daily habit and to help the Muslim to recall the reason behind that. Hence, a prayer without Niyyah will be a set of physical movements, and it won’t be accepted.
Niyyah reminds one that he\she is showing up to demonstrate the submission to the divine orders. Having a pure intention in the prayer teaches to avoid duplicity. It is not necessary to repeat the words of the Niyyah. That is enough to recall it and to consider it throughout the prayer. Indeed, this should be considered during any other act or practice in daily life; firstly, to purify our intentions for God; then, to stick to that intention until the end.
The sayings in the prayer in Islam (Salat) start with Takbir. Takbir means to regard God as great. By saying Takbir, we express our belief that God is great. There exists nothing similar to Him. He cannot be perceived or touched by our physical senses and understanding . Takbir reminds us of the Monotheism (Tawhid) which is the first pillar of Islam .
Bowing (Ruku) is a perfect demonstration of the gratitude and respect that a human being has for God, as a divine source and a higher power. And, this is a unique posture that a Muslim will never have in front of anyone else . In Ruku, every individual, in whatever position and grade, bows to God which consequently reduces the arrogance and pride within him\her. Lady Fatima (AS) said: “God has ordered […] the prayer to purify you from arrogance and pride” .
According to Imam Ali (AS), holding the neck straight during Ruku shows that one believes firmly in Islam such that he\she won’t give up even if he loses his\her life (to have the neck cut) for this belief. Another point in Ruku is that it is a unique posture that only exists in the Islamic ritual and distinguishes the Islamic prayer.
Prostration (Sujood) is exhibiting the maximum humility and dignity for God. Imam Sadiq (AS) describes that one is closest than ever to God in this posture . According to the Quran: “to Allah prostrates whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth of creatures…” (16:49). This means that in that posture, the human being is in harmony with the whole universe and creatures.
Imam Ali (AS) explained that the first Sujood means that God has created us from the earth. Coming up from the first Sujood is the symbol of this worldly life. The second Sujood represents the death and returning to the earth. Finally, rising from the second Sujood symbolizes the afterlife . According to the interpreters of the Quran, this refers to the fact that: “From the earth, We created you, and into it, We will return you, and from it, We will extract you another time” (20:55).
There have been some attempts in the recent years to analyze and justify the physical benefits of performing the prayer. Those discussions might be true, but they are not the whole reason behind this practical principle of Islam. The prayer is a means of worship that engages the body and soul and is beneficial to both. The reasons above are a small part of the philosophy behind the acts of the prayer. One might refer to the advanced references for more details.
- Shaikh al-Hur al-Aamili, "Wasail al-Shia", p. 214.
- J. Maleki Tabrizi, “The Mysteries of the Prayer”, vol. 1, p. 323.
- Ibn Babawayh, "Man la yahduruhu al-Faqih", Book Salat, Chap. 17
- Monotheism Tawhid
- A. Hosseini Khamenei, “The Prayer in Depth”, p. 5.
- M. Majlisi, "Bihar al-Anwar", vol. 29, p. 223.
- Shaykh al-Kulayni, "al-Kafi", vol. 3, p. 324, T. 11.
- Ibn Babawayh, "Man la yahduruhu al-Faqih", vol. 1, p. 311.
The best way to begin this article is by this beautiful saying of Imam Sadiq (AS) regarding Hajj: “The pilgrims, i.e., performers of Hajj or ‘Umrah’ are the guests of Allah, if they ask for something, He will answer them; if they supplicate to Him, He will answer them; if they intercede, He will accept it; and if they keep quiet, He will be the beginner, and they will be compensated instead of one Dirham, a million Dirhams” [i].
Literally speaking, Hajj means heading to a place for the sake of visiting. In Islamic terminology, Hajj is a pilgrimage made to Kaaba, the ‘House of God’, in the sacred city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. It is obligatory for every Muslim to perform Hajj at least once in their lifetime provided that he/she is physically and financially able to do so. The rites of Hajj, which go back to the time of Prophet Abraham who built Kaaba after it had been first built by Prophet Adam, are performed over five or six days, beginning on the eighth and ending on the thirteenth day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic calendar.
Hajj is the ultimate form of worship, as it involves the spirit of all the other rituals. Nearly two million Muslims from all over the world meet each other and refresh in themselves the faith that all Muslims are equal and deserve the love and sympathy of others, regardless of their race, wealth, status, class, culture and ethnic origin .
Generally, there are three kinds of Hajj: Hajj al-tamattu, Ifrad, and Qiran. The first is the duty of a person whose home is located 16 farsakhs (about 90 km) away from Mecca. The second and the third (Ifrad and Qiran) are the duties of those who live in Mecca or outside it within this distance. Hajj al-tamattu differs from the two other kinds in its rituals and practices which is the focus of this article. It is also noteworthy that even Hajj al-tamattu becomes obligatory under certain circumstances, including sanity, adulthood [ii] and Istita’ah [iii] .
In the context of Hajj al-tamattu, the question of ability to perform this task (Istita’ah) and who is capable of it (Mustati) is of utmost importance and a very sensitive issue. To be Mustati, you should have the following abilities:
financial ability – i.e., you have enough money to support yourself and your family on your journey,
physical ability- i.e., Hajj is not obligatory for the sick, the old or those who are either unable or would face severe hardship,
Sirbi ability - i.e., the route is open and safe,
Time ability- i.e., that there should be enough time to go on Hajj after becoming Mustati .
Bearing these conditions in mind, let’s take a brief look at the rituals a person should perform when they go on Hajj.
Basically, Hajj al-tamattu consists of two parts: Umrah of Tamattu [iv] and the Hajjah, both have to be performed in the same year in Dhu al-Hijjah.
Prayer of Tawaf
The pilgrims who visit Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH&HP) shrine and Imams' sepulcher in Medina before performing Hajj rituals, become Muhrim in Masjid al-Shajarah, and those who travel to Mecca from Jeddah become Muhrim in Juhfah.
To be Muhrim, men should take out all the clothes that are stitched and instead wear a two-part unsewn and clean white garment, one covering the lower parts of their body and the other their shoulders. Women, however, can wear stitched clothes provided that they are clean and white, and their face is not covered by anything. Then intending to perform the Umrah of Tamattu, they should say: LabbaikAllahommalabbaik,labbaika la sharikalakalabbaikm [vi].
Now you are Muhrim and ready for entering the sacred house of God.
Hunting the land animal
Kissing the woman.
Touching the woman
Looking at the woman and indulging in foreplay
For men only: wearing the sewn clothes
Applying kohl on the eyes
Looking in a mirror
Wearing shoes or socks (For men only)
Cursing other people
Quarreling with others
Killing the insects on one’s body
Applying oil on the body
Getting rid of the bodily hair
For men only: covering the head. (Even submerging the head in a body of water is not allowed, for both men as well as women.)
Covering the face (For women)
For men: shading themselves from sun or rain.
Causing blood to come out of one’s body
Clipping the nail
Pulling out the teeth 
After saying your intention (Niyyah), you have to circumambulate (turn around) Kaaba located in Masjid al-haram seven times; “a fixed point in the center and everything else moving round it; a circular movement… sun in the center and turning round it are people, each a star in their own sky” ; you are performing Tawaf.
The reason for this rite is that the heart and soul of the pilgrim should move around the House of Allah and his love for Allah should become so great that no worldly attraction, neither the East nor the West, would distract him from this path. Only the Oneness of Allah (Tawhid) should attract him. Tawaf also conveys the message of unity. The pilgrims have come from different countries in the world; they have all gathered in Masjid al-haram circumambulating around Kaaba. It seems as though they were drops of water that now have made a huge ocean altogether .
When circumambulating, note that Kaaba should be on your left side, your clothes should be completely clean, and you should perform Wudu (ablution) before starting. Also, be careful not to bump into other pilgrims and keep your shoulders straight. After completing this holy task, you should perform a Salat which is called prayer of Tawaf (Tawaf’s Salat) and is performed like Morning Prayer behind Maqam Ibrahim.
Now, you have done your Tawaf and performed the Salat after it; what you will go through next is called Sa’y. You should walk the distance between Safa and Marwah seven times, starting from Safa and terminate the first lap at Marwah, then walk the second lap from it to Safa and so on till you terminate the seventh lap at Marwah. Don’t worry, if you get tired you are allowed to take a brief rest and start over from where you stopped.
Last but not least, in the rituals that should be performed throughout Umrah al-tamattu is called Taqsir, meaning that you have to cut a short piece of your hair or nails. With this task done, your Ihram will be finished, and everything that was Haram in this process will become Halal again, and you can take off your Ihram clothes.
Congratulations! You made it; you have completed the first part of your pilgrimage. Now, you will enter the next phase, called Hajjah.
Staying at Arafat
Staying at Muzdalifah (Mash'arul Haram)
Going to Mina
Stoning the Jamratul Uqba
Sacrificing an animal
Tawaf of Hajj
Prayer of Tawaf of Hajj
Prayer of Tawaf-un Nisa
Staying at Mina
Stoning the three pillars (Jamaraat) on the 11th and 12th of the month
On the 8th day of Dhul-Hijja, pilgrims become Muhrim again and go to Arafah -a plain about 20 km Southeast of Mecca- and stay there on the 9th of Dhul-Hijja from noon to sunset. You can walk, sit or sleep, talk or keep quiet and think in there, but it is strongly recommended to spend the entire day, especially the afternoon, in supplication and Dua.
At sunset, you have to set out to Muzdalifah (Mash’arul Haram) where you are supposed to stay until sunrise and at which you gather pebbles for hitting the Jamaraat. Then on the 10th day, you leave for the land of Mina. You need to stone the Jamratul Uqba (biggest pillar) with seven pebbles, sacrifice a sheep, a camel or a cow, and shave your head or perform Taqsir [vii].
After performing three of these you can come out of Ihram, but there are still acts you have to do and ones that are forbidden like wearing perfume, hunting, and marital relations.
Tawaf of Kaaba; you turn around Kaaba, seven times as you did for Umrah.
Salat of Tawaf; after performing Tawaf, recite two-Rak’at Salat behind Maqam-e- Ibrahim.
Sa’y; perform Sa’y the same as the one did for Umrah except for the intention which has to be of Hajj-al-Tamattu.
Tawaf-un-Nisa; return to Kaaba and perform another Tawaf with the intention of Tawaf-un-Nisa of Hajj-e-Tamattu.
Salat of Tawaf-un-Nisa; recite another two Rak’at Salat behind Maqam-e-Ibrahim with the intention of Salat of Tawaf-un-Nisa of Hajj-al-Tamattu.
Spending the night in the land of Mina; it is obligatory (Wajib) to spend the night of 11th and 12th of Dhu al-Hijjah in Mina.
Rami al Jamaraat; while in Mina, you have to stone all the three pillars (Jamaraat) with seven pebbles between sunrise and sunset on both the 11th and 12th day.
After stoning the three Jamaraat on the 12th day, you will leave Mina for Mecca before sunset. Your Hajj is complete, and you are free to do everything you were allowed to do before Ihram. There is also a great emphasis on visiting the Prophet's mosque in Madinah before or after Hajj. Pilgrims return to their countries after Hajj rituals, and they are as pure as a newborn baby.
May God accept your Hajj.
[i] A unit of currency in several Arab states
[ii] People who have reached the age of shar‘ī puberty
[iii] Having the capacity to perform Hajj
[iv] Not to be confused with the Umrah al-mufradah which refers to Umrah that is performed independently of Hajj. However, they have some rituals in common.
[vi] «لَبَّيْكَ اللّهُمَّ لَبَّيْكَ، لَبَّيْكَ لا شَرِيكَ لَكَ لَبَّيْكَ»: "Here I am (for Hajj). Oh Allah, here I am. Here I am. You have no partner. Here I am."
[vii] Women clip their hair or the tip of their fingernail.