Muslims are obligated to pray to Allāh five set times each day. This prayer is called the Salāh. It is the second pillar of Islām. Muslims take time out throughout the day to focus upon this special act where they focus on supplications and recitations to Allāh. The term Salāh in the Arabic language means “Supplication (Du’ā)”; and in the religious usage it refers to the Five Daily Prayers that are obligated upon every adult, able, sane Muslim male and female.
Prayer Times: The prayer times are worked out from the authentic hadeeth of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). There is a narration when the Angel Jibreel visited the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) over two days. On the first day he led the Prophet at the earliest times of the Prayers. On the second day, he led him at the end times of each of the Prayers. The prayer times are based around three daily events: sunrise, midday, and sunset. And of course these times alter greatly between the seasons of summer and winter – even by country. In Britain, winter prayer times are very different to summer prayer times. Each prayer is announced by the Adhān (the call to prayer), which is traditionally called by the Mu’adhin who stands just outside the mosque. Nowadays people have the Adhān recorded into their phones or clocks to remind them of the prayer times.
Prayer times: Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Jibrīl led me in Salāh twice at the House. So he prayed Dhuhr the first day when the shadow was similar to the length of the strap of a sandal (just after midday). Then he prayed ‘Asr when an object was similar to the length of its shadow. Then he prayed Maghrib when the sun had set and the fasting person breaks the fast. Then he prayed ‘Ishā when the twilight had vanished. Then he prayed Fajr when the true dawn began (before sunrise), and when eating is prohibited for the fasting person. The second occasion he prayed Dhuhr when the shadow of everything was similar to the length of it, which was the time of ‘Asr the day before. He prayed ‘Asr when the shadow of an object was about twice as long as it. Then he prayed Maghrib at the same time as he did the first time. Then he prayed ‘Ishā, the later one, when a third of the night had gone. Then he prayed Fajr when the land glowed (before sunrise). Then Jibrīl turned towards me and said: “O Muhammad! These are the times of the Prophets before you, and the time is what is between these two times (for each prayer).” (At-Tirmidhī no. 146) So in summary we have:
|Fajr||After the true dawn but before sunrise|
|Dhuhr||Just after midday till the shadow of an object is the same as its the length|
|‘Asr||When the shadow of an object is the same as its length until it is twice|
|Maghrib||Just after the sunset|
|‘Ishā||When the twilight vanishes till half the night has passed|
Twilight: The light (or glow) that remains in the western sky after the sun goes down.
The prayer has conditions without which, it is not accepted by Allāh. These are: 1. Purification: usually ablution with water, and if it is not available then with soil. 2. Covering the important parts of the body (‘awrah) with loose thick garments (The woman: covers everything except the face and hands. The man: covers the navel to the knees and shoulders). 3. One’s skin and garments must be clean from impurities such as urine, excrement, etc. 4. Facing the direction of the Qiblah (Makkah) during the prayer. 5. A sincere intention in the heart (not by speaking it), knowing the prayer about to be prayed (e.g. is it Fajr or Dhuhr, etc), and making it solely for Allāh. 6. Making sure that it is prayed at the correct time.
The method of Wudhū (ablution) is stated in the Qur’ān: “When you stand for prayer, wash you faces, and your hands up to the elbows. Then wipe your heads and wash your feet up to your ankles.” (Qur’an 5:6) In a hadeeth: “Uthmān (may Allah be pleased with him) called for water to perform ablution. He washed palms of his hands three times, then rinsed his mouth and sniffed water in his nose (in one motion) and then blew it out. He then washed his face three times. Thereafter he washed his right hand up to his elbow three times, then the left one likewise, then he passed wet hands on his head (and pushed the index fingers into each ear and the thumb behind the ear lobes). Then he washed his right foot up to the ankle three times, then the left one likewise. He then said, “I saw Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) performing ablution (wudhū) like this ablution of mine”.” [Agreed upon]
When water is not available, then a dry purification (tayammum) is performed, showing that the most important purpose of purification is not just physical cleanliness, (which is very important in Islām) but also spiritual purification. It is reported by Al-Bukhārī (no. 343) that: “The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) stroked the earth with his hands and then passed them over his face and the backs of his hands (while demonstrating Tayammum).” The earth and its soil are physical and spiritual purifiers.
The spiritual purpose of wudhū: 1. To separate the prayer from other worldly activities of life and help Muslims focus on the worship of Allāh. 2. To prepare them to face their Lord whilst being both physically and spiritually pure. 3. It is not befitting that one stands before his Creator whilst being physically or spiritually unclean. 4. It therefore reminds them of the Greatness of their Lord.
Facing Makkah: Muslims face Makkah during the prayer. So hundreds of millions of Muslims collectively throughout the world stand united in worship focussed in a singular direction (the Qiblah) worshipping Allāh alone, and rejecting the worship of idols. This prayer is normally performed in Mosques (and is obligatory for a man to pray in them if he hears the Adhān emanating from a Mosque). However, if one does not hear the Adhān, he is obligated to pray wherever he (or she) is. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “The whole of the earth has been made for me as a place of purification and prayer.” So an able bodied, adult, sane Muslim has no excuse to miss the prayer. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Between a person and his committing Shirk and disbelief (kufr) is the abandonment of the Prayer.” (Muslim, no. 88)
- According to the evidences in the Qur’ān and Sunnah, which parts of the body must be washed in wudhu before the Salāh?
- What does one do if he cannot find water to perform wudhu?
- Which is the earliest prayer of the day?
- Why would it be difficult for some Muslims to prayer the earliest prayer? How would you advise the one who misses the earliest prayer? What could a person do to be consistent in praying it?
- Muslims in Britain live in a society that does not (generally) take into account the fact that Muslims must pray five times a day. How would go about praying if were at university or work, and balance between study and work and your prayer? Think about this and discuss before answering.
I initially compiled these worksheets for my students at the Redstone Academy (aged between 13 and 16 years), Moseley Road, Birmingham, UK who are working towards their General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE). I felt that others who do not attend the school can also benefit from these topics since they are presented in simple bitesize chapters. I have relied upon GCSE text books and adapted them for my classes.