Salāt (صلاة) is the name for the formal prayers that are performed by Muslims. Salāt is an Arabic word whose basic meaning is “supplication”. In its English usage the reference of the word is defined as ‘obligatory prayer’. The other major term is namāz (نماز) meaning ‘to bow or prostrate’). These formal prayers are a direct link between the worshipper and Allah and must be performed five times a day.
Why must we pray? It’s very simple, we pray because Allah has asked us to.
These five daily prayers are considered to be one of the most important pillars in Islam and all Muslims must strive to say their prayers regularly and on time. Children are encouraged to pray at the age of 7, and it becomes obligatory when they reach the age of 10.
The five daily prayers are measured according to the movement of the sun and these are:
- Fajr: The dawn prayer, just before sunrise
- Dhuhr: The midday prayer
- Asr: The late afternoon prayer
- Maghrib: The prayer just after sunset
- Isha’a: The prayer at nightfall
Each prayer consists of the repetition of a prescribed sequence of actions and words. One complete sequence is known as a raka’āt. The number of obligatory raka’āt (sequences) for each prayer are:
- Fajr: 2
- Dhuhr: 4
- Asr: 4
- Maghrib: 3
- Isha’a: 4
Salāt al-Jumu’ah is a congregational prayer on Friday which replaces the Dhuhr prayer. It is compulsory upon men to perform it in congregation. Salāt al-Jumu’ah consists of a khutba (sermon) given by the Khatib (speaker) after which two raka’ah are performed. There is no Salāt al-Jumu’ah without a khutba.
The prayer is not a mere recitation of God’s words, rather it is a reflection within one’s self to reach out to the Creator. The prayer acts as a person’s communication with Allah. It is physically, mentally and spiritually uplifting for a Muslim, as it allows one to forget worldly concerns and focus on praising and worshipping Allah alone. It serves as a constant reminder to be good, refrain from wrong and moral deviancy.
In the Holy Qur’an, it is written that:
“To those whose hearts, when Allah is mentioned, are filled with fear, who show patient perseverance over their afflictions, keep up regular prayer, and spend (in charity) out of what We have bestowed upon them.” (Qur’an Surat 22, Verse 35)
According to hadith the Prophet Muhammad (صلي الله عليه وسلم) considered Salāt “the best deed.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)