Salah (Arabic: صلاة) are the 5 daily prayers that are Fard (incumbent) upon all Muslims. There are other prayers that are Sunnah (recommended) which are not compulsory but come with reward.
The purpose of salah is primarily to act as an individual’s communication with God.
It enables one to stand in front of God, thank and praise Him, and ask for Him to show one the “right path” (as mentioned in surah al-Fatihah which is recited in every prayer).
In addition, the daily ritual prayers serve as a constant reminder to Muslims that they should be grateful for God’s blessings. It ensures that every Muslim prioritises Islam over all other concerns, thereby revolving their life around God and submitting to His will. Prayer also serves as a formal method of remembering God.
“The true believers are those who feel a fear in their hearts (of the consequences of violating the commands of Allah) when Allah is mentioned. And when His Revelations are recited to them, they find their faith strengthened. They do their best and then put their trust in their Lord.”
“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.”
Types of prayers
- Fard (Obligatory): These have to be performed without exception.
- Sunnah (Optional): These are based on extra prayers the Prophet performed, so they are recommended
- Wajib: These are highly recommended prayers, to the extent that some believe them to be compulsory
- Nafl: Extra prayers that are also based on the Sunnah of the Prophet but were performed less often than the Sunnah prayers
More information on the types of prayers can be found here.
The 5 Fard (obligatory) daily prayers
- Sunrise (Fajr)
- Noon (Zohr)
- Afternoon/Evening (Asr)
- Sunset (Maghrib)
- Nightfall (Isha’a).
These 5 prayers are obligatory for all Muslims once they have reached puberty.
How to pray
The basic steps to praying all the prayers are:
- Cleansing (wudhu or ghusl)
- The actual prayer facing the Kaaba with specified number of Rakats which very per prayer)
A more detailed guide is here.
Requirements to pray
Who should pray
The Fard prayer is compulsory for those who meet these 3 conditions:
- They are muslim
- They have reached puberty
- They are of sound mind
Still, children as young as 7 years old are taught to pray. Children of 10 years old may be disciplined if they miss praying.
Validity of the prayer
There are 5 elements that make a prayer valid:
- Confident of the time of prayer. Being unsure invalidates even if the time turns out correct.
- Facing the qibla, with the chest facing the direction of kaabah. The ill can negotiate, but needs to replace when healthier.
- Covering yourself
- Clean clothes, body, and place of prostration
- Pure from hadath (wudu, tayammum, ghusl)
Exceptions to praying the 5 compulsory prayers
It is permissible to combine two prayers during the time of either one of them while traveling, regardless of whether the person is actually on the road or has stopped at a place for some time.
Ibn ‘Abbas said: “Shall I not inform you of the salah of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ during a journey?” We said: “Certainly.” He said: “If the sun passed its meridian while he stopped, he would combine the zuhr and ‘asr prayers before remounting [i.e., moving on]. If the sun had not passed its meridian while he had stopped [i.e., before breaking camp], he would travel until the time of the ‘asr prayer and then he would combine the zuhr and ‘asr prayers. If the sun set while he had stopped, he would combine the magrib and ‘isha prayers. If that did not occur while he had stopped, he would ride until the ‘isha time and then combine them.”
Ahmad, Narrated by Kuraib
More detailed hadith and information are in QuranandHadith.com
Missing a Fard (obligatory) prayer
Missing a prayer out of negligence and laziness is a grave sin. Some opinions are that it cannot be made up, while some say asking for forgieness and making up the prayer as soon as they remember is allowed. This is a Qadaa prayer and would be prayed the same way you would have prayed the Fard with the same number of rakats.
If a person genuinely misses the prayer (e.g. if they were asleep) they can make it up later according to this hadith:
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said, “When any of you sleeps through the prayer or forgets it, then let him pray it when he remembers, for Allah Mighty and Majestic says, ‘Perform the prayer for my remembrance.;”
More information on missed prayers can be found here on IslamQA.info
“Truly, to a happy state shall attain the believers: those who humble themselves in their prayer, and who turn away from all that is frivolous, and who are intent on inner purity.”
“And I have chosen you, so listen to that which is inspired to you.
Verily, I am Allah! There is none worthy of worship but I, so worship Me and offer prayer perfectly for My remembrance.”
Qur’an, Surah Taha 13-14
“Be ever mindful of prayers, and of praying in the most excellent way; and stand before God in devout obedience.”
“And before God prostrate themselves, willingly or unwillingly, all things and beings that are in the heavens and the earth, as do their shadows in the mornings and the evenings.”
“O you who believe! Seek help in patience and prayer. Truly! Allah is with the patient.”
Qur’an, Surah al Baqarah; 2:153-154
“Verily, the prayer keeps one from the great sins and evil deeds”
Qur’an , Surah Al Ankabut 45
“Extol, then, God’s limitless glory when you enter upon the evening hours, and when you rise at morn; and seeing that unto Him is due all praise in the heavens and earth, glorify Him in the afternoon as well, and when you enter upon the hour of noon.”
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: “Our Lord (glorified and exalted be He) descends each night to the earth’s sky when there remains the final third of the night, and He says: “Who is saying a prayer to Me that I may answer it? Who is asking something of Me that I may give it him? Who is asking forgiveness of Me that I may forgive him?”
Hadith Qudsi 35
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was asked: “Which of the actions is best?”
He replied: “Observing prayer early in its period.”
Abu Dawud 2: 426
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: “The first matter that the slave will be brought to account for on the Day of Judgement is the prayer.
If it is sound, then the rest of his deeds will be sound. And if it is bad, then the rest of his deeds will be bad.”
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: “If a person had a stream outside his door and he bathed in it five times a day, do you think he would have any filth left on him?”
The people said, “No filth would remain on him whatsoever.”
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ then said, “That is like the five daily prayers: Allah wipes away the sins by them.”
Sahih al Bukhari, Muslim
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: “Salah is a pillar of the religion (Islam).
He who establishes it, establishes religion; and he who destroys it, destroys religion.”