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 the most important practical principle such that no one can be exempted from [i]. Soldiers involved in a war, patients in hospitals, passengers on airplanes or ships, all should perform the prayers (Salat) even with some modifications based on their circumstances. Of course, Islam has placed a lot of emphasis on prayer for some reasons. These reasons are reviewed in this article as the Philosophy of Prayer in Islam.
According to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP): “The prayer is the pillar of religion, and its parable is that of the prop of a tent – when the prop remains upright, the pegs and ropes remain straight and upstanding, but when the prop bends or breaks neither the pegs nor the ropes remain upright” . This statement highlights the importance of the prayer in Islam.
The inclination toward goodness and avoiding evils are of the outcomes of practicing the prayers. "Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing ... And Allah knows that which you do" (29:45). In other words, the prayer in Islam is the base, and every other act of a Muslim is influenced by that.
There are two main roles for the prayer in Islam: the spiritual promoter and the permanent reminder. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) said: “The prayer of a person is (in reality) a light in his heart, so whoever desires, can illuminate his/her heart (through the prayers)” .
Doing the prayers every day, one repeatedly remembers God in intervals, renews his\her promise of servitude to God, purifies him\herself and tries to keep away all the evil thoughts and actions . According to Imam Ali (AS), Evil will be jealous of the person who stands up for the prayer because he sees the Mercy of God encompassing that person . Hence, the prayer as a repeated reminder stops from sins and develops Infallibility.
Some discuss that why one should perform the prayers five times a day? Is it to show up every day and remind God that we are there and we are His servants? Of course not! As stated earlier, it is to remind us of God unceasingly and to remember that we are His servants. If one forgets for an instant that He is present everywhere and observes us (“Neither drowsiness befalls Him nor sleep” (2:255)), he\she might be easily at the risk of committing evil deeds. These evil deeds might be harmful to either oneself or even others. So, the prayer has both the individual and social consequences.
A real prayer has some prerequisites; cleansing through ablution (Wudu), standing in the presence of God with the whole heart and body, not wearing usurped clothes or not performing the prayer in a usurped place, etc. According to Imam Ali (AS), the prayer will not be accepted if the clothes of a person and where he\she does the prayer are not lawful (Halal) . Moreover, Imam Ali (AS) said that whoever performs the prayer and perceives what he\she is doing and saying, his\her sins will be forgiven once the prayer ends .
All these demonstrate that the attempt for performing a true prayer results in several accomplishments such as respecting the rights of others, purity of the appearance and the inner self, etc. Having fulfilled all these conditions, one could meet the divine requirements and reach the happiness promised through performing a “complete prayer”.
Some people suppose that they do not need to perform the prayers. They say that serving the human beings who are the creatures of God equals worshipping God. They claim that there is no need to do the prayers as an act of worship. Instead, they try to do good to other humans. To answer, the prayer is a support for the morals and social principles. As stated above, it reminds us of the ethical behavior, the social responsibilities that one has towards others, and prevents from doing wrong to others . Hence, the prayer can never be replaced with any other good deed.
[i] The only exception is about women during menstruation.
- Shaikh al-Hur al-Aamili, "Wasail al-Shia", p. 214.
- A. al-Hindi, “Kanz al-Ummal”, vol. 7, T. 18973.
- Allama Majlisi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 82, p. 207.
- H. Harrani, "Tuhaf al-Uqul", p174.
- " Makarim al-Akhlaq", p. 300.
“…and when you feel secure, perform the [complete] prayers, for the prayer is indeed a timed prescription for the faithful.” (4:103)
It is obligatory to perform the following five prayers every day during the prescribed times:
Dawn prayer (Salat al-Fajr), which consists of two units (each unit of prayer is called a rak`ah)
Midday prayer (Salat al-Zuhr) consisting of four units,
Afternoon prayer (Salat al-`Asr): four units,
Dusk prayer (Salat al-Maghrib): three units,
Night prayer (Salat al-`Isha): four units.
Performing the daily prayers involves taking specific steps in order (Tartib) and in regular succession without undue delay between them (Muwalat).
Adhan is a set of phrases recited to announce the time of prayer. Lexically, Adhan means announcement or declaration. Iqama literally means to keep up or to make upright. Recited after Adhan which is the first declaration, Iqama is the second and last call which indicates the actual start of the prayer. Adhan is the call for gathering, and Iqama is for standing up and preparing for prayers in Islam .
Recital Transliteration Translation
*4 *2 Allāhu Akbar Allah is the greatest
*2 *2 Ash-hadu an-lā ilāha illā allāh I acknowledge that there is no God but Allah.
*2 *2 Ash-hadu anna Muhammadan-Rasul ullāh I acknowledge Muhammad (PBUH) is the Messenger of Allah.
*2 *2 Ash-hadu anna Alian Waliullah I acknowledge that Ali (AS) is the Chosen Guardian (Wali) of Allah
*2 *2 Hayya'alas-Salāt Hasten to prayer (Salat)
*2 *2 Hayya ʿalal-falāḥ Hasten to success
*2 *2 Hayya ʿala Khair-e-lamal Hasten to the best of deeds
*2 *2 Qad Qamat-e-Salat Verily the prayer (Salat) has begun
- *2 Allāhu Akbar Allah is the greatest
*2 *2 Lā ilāha illā-llāh There is no God but Allah
When Muslims hear the call to prayer (Adhan), they must first perform preliminary ablution (Wudu). The manner of performing Wudu and prayer (Salat) based on the Quran and the Prophet’s teachings (Sunnah of the Holy Prophet) is explained below:
“When you stand up for prayer, wash your faces and your hands up to the elbows, and wipe a part of your heads and your feet, up to the ankles” (5:6).
It is stated in a saying (Hadith) from the Holy Prophet (PBUH&HP) that Wudu if performed carefully, increases the presence of your heart when praying.
According to the verse of the Quran above, the act of Wudu consists of four steps and six parts of the body:
Washing the face
Washing the forearms
Wiping the head
Wiping the feet
Evoke your intention (Niyyah) at the beginning as, “I am performing Wudu for the satisfaction of Allah, and to seek closeness to Him.”
First, pour water over your face with your right hand and wipe it from the tip of your hairline to the bottom of your chin in such a way that the water reaches all parts horizontally within reach of the span of the hand from the middle-finger to the thumb.
With your left hand, pour water over the right arm and wipe it over both sides from the elbow to the finger-tips (not vice versa).
Repeat the very same step for your left arm using the right hand.
Note that washing your face and arms once as described is obligatory. Second such washing is recommended while subsequent washings are prohibited.
Then wipe a wet finger of the right hand from the crown of the head to the hair-line. Make sure your hand does not touch your forehead or else the wetness of your hand will get mixed with the water of the forehead which will make the whole act of Wudu invalid.
Finally, wipe your feet with the moisture that is still on your hands. Wipe your right foot with the right, and then your left foot with the left hand, starting from the tip of any toe up till your ankle joint. It is recommended to wash your hands after this last step.
Stand upright facing the direction of Mecca (Qiblah) and recite the Adhan and Iqama. Please note that all the recitations during the prayer must be in Arabic. Although approximate transliteration has been given below for each recitation, it is best to try and learn the Arabic script and pronunciations.
Intention (Niyyah): Form the following solemn intention in your mind: “I offer this ____ (name of a particular prayer) prayer, of ____ (number of units) Rak`ahs seeking closeness to God.”
Takbirat-ul-Ihram: Lift both hands up to the ears and say:
“Allah-u-Akbar (God is Greater)”
This sentence, the Takbir, will be repeated several times during the prayer.
The Standing (Qiyam): Remain in the standing position while performing the recitations in the next step, Qira’ah.
The Recitation (Qira'ah): Initially, recite the first chapter (Surah) of the Holy Qur’an, the chapter of (Surah) al-Fatiha:
“Bismillah- ir-rahmaan-ir-raheem (In the Name of Allah, the All-beneficent, the All-merciful)
Alhamd-u- lillah-i-Rabb-i-l'alameen (All praise belongs to Allah, Lord of all the worlds)
Ar-rahmaan-ir-raheem (the All-beneficent, the All-merciful)
Malik-i-yawm-id-deen (Master of the Day of Retribution)
Iyyaak-a-na`bud-u-wa iyyaak-a- nasta`een (You [alone] do we worship, and to You [alone] do we turn for help)
Ihdina-s-siraat- al-mustaqeem (Guide us on the straight path)
Siraat- al-lazeen-a- an`amta `alayhim (the path of those whom You have blessed)
Qayr-il- maqzoob-i `alayhim (such as have not incurred Your wrath)
wa la-’zzaalleen (nor are astray)”
Secondly, recite another complete Chapter of the Holy Quran (we choose the short chapter number 112, Surah al-Ikhlas):
“Bismillah- ir-rahmaan-ir-raheem (In the Name of Allah, the All-beneficent, the All-merciful)
Qul huw-allah-u-ahad (Say," He is Allah, the One)
Allah-u-samad (Allah is the All-embracing)
Lam yalid wa lam yulad (He neither begat, nor was begotten)
Wa lam yakul-lahu kufuwan ahad (nor has He any equal)”
After completing the second Surah, the worshipper would say the Takbir (see above) and then bow down until the hands can be placed on the knees.
The following Invocation (Zikr) should be recited once in this position:
“Subhana rabbi-al-`azeem-i- wa bi-hamdih (Glory be to my Lord, the Great, and praise belongs to Him)”
Then, resume the standing position, and it is recommended to recite:
“Sami`Allah-u- liman hamidah (God hears the one who praises Him)”
Say Takbir, then go into Prostration (Sujud).
It means that one should place their forehead on earth in a special manner, with the intention of humility before God.
While performing the Sujud, it is obligatory to place the forehead, both the palms and the knees, and the tip of both big toes on the ground. The following Zikr should be recited in the Sujud once:
“Subhana rabbi-al-a`laa wa bi-hamdih (Glory be to my Exalted Lord, and praise belongs to Him)”
After first Sujud, raise the forehead and sit up in a kneeling position with the ankle of one foot on the sole of the other, with hands resting on the thighs and say Takbir, optionally followed by:
“Astaghfir-u-llaah-a- rabbi wa atubu ilayh (I ask forgiveness of God, my Lord, and I turn towards him)”
Followed by Takbir again. Repeat the Sujud again and then sit up in a kneeling position and say Takbir.
Sit up for a moment and then rise while (optionally) saying:
“Bihawl-i-llah-i- wa quwwatih-i aqumu wa aq`ud (With God’s help and through His power I stand and sit)”
After regaining the upright posture, recite Surah al-Fatiha and another Surah of the Holy Quran as in the first unit. Then say Takbir, and then do supplication (Qunut).
Keep your hands in front of your face, turning the palms facing upwards, and keeping both the hands and the fingers close together; it is recommended to recite the following:
“Rabbana aatina fi-’d-dunyaa hasanatan wa fi-’l-akhirat-i hasanatan wa qinaa `azab an-nar (2:201)
(O our Lord! Bestow upon us good in this world and good in the Hereafter, and protect us from the torment of the fire)”
[Note: Qunut is an optional step]
Say Takbir, followed by the Ruku`, then the two Sujuds, both as described for the first unit.
After the second prostration resume the kneeling position and recite:
Ash’had-u al-laa ilaha illa-llah wahdah-u la shareeka lah, (I bear witness that there is no god apart from Allah, Who is unique and without partners.)
wa ash’had-u anna Muhammadan `abduh-u wa rasuluh (I also bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and His Prophet)
Allahumm-a sall-i `ala Muhammadin wa Aale Muhammad (O God, bless Muhammad and the progeny of Muhammad.)
If you are performing the Dawn (Fajr) prayer, please skip the rest and go to section entitled Completion.
If you are performing the Midday (Zuhr), Afternoon (`Asr), Dusk (Maghrib), or Night (`Isha) prayer, continue by standing up for the third unit while optionally reciting “Bihawl-i-llah-i….” as described at the end of the section First unit.
The Four Recitations (Tasbihat al-Arba`ah): after regaining the upright posture, either recite Surat al-Fatiha or recite Tasbihat al-Arba`ah (optionally three times), as follows:
“Subhan-a-llah-i wa-’l-hamd-u lillah-i wa laa ilaha ill-a-llah-u wa-llah-u akbar (Glory be to God, and praise be to God; there is no god but Allah, and Allah is Greater)”
Perform the Ruku`, stand up momentarily and then do the two sujuds. This is exactly as described under section First unit. If you are performing the Dusk (Maghrib) prayers, recite the testimonies (Tashahhud) next. Then skip the rest and go to Completion.
If you are performing the Midday (Zuhr), Afternoon (`Asr), or Night (`Isha) prayer, continue by standing up for the fourth unit while optionally reciting “Bihawl-i-llah-i….” as described at the end of the section First unit.
This is identical to the third unit.
After the second prostration resume the kneeling position and recite the Tashahhud.
After reciting the Tashahhud of the final unit, recite the Salutations (Taslim) which completes your prayer:
“Assalaamu `alayka ayyuhan nabiyyu wa rahmat-u-llah-i wa barakatuh (Peace be upon you, O Prophet, and God’s mercy and blessing.)*
Assalamu `alayna wa `ala `ibadillah-is- saliheen (Peace be upon us, and upon the righteous servants of God)*
Assalamu `alaykum wa rahmat-u-llah-i wa barakatuh (Peace be upon you [all], and God’s mercy and blessing.)”
Thereafter (optionally) say Takbir three times.