Islam is a complete way of life. It is based on five basic duties which are known as the five pillars of Islam. Salah is the second pillar of Islam and the most important of all acts of worship. The other three pillars are: Zakat, Sawm and Hajj.
Salah is prayer offered to Allah using specific words and actions as taught by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Allah says in the Quran: “Indeed I created Jinn and human beings for no other purpose but to worship me.” [51:56]
The purpose of establishing Salah in our daily lives is to remember Allah (swt). It brings us closer to our Creator, and motivates us to obey Him. In return, Allah (swt) gives us peace and happiness in this life (Dunya) and the life hereafter (Akhirah). In a Hadith Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “The first thing that the slave of Allah will be called upon to account for on the Day of Judgement will be Salah. If it was good, his actions will be taken as good; if it was bad, his actions will be taken as bad.”
A Muslim must offer Salah five times a day at fixed times. The five daily Salah are:
- Fajr – between dawn and sunrise
- Zuhr – between midday and mid-afternoon
- ‘Asr – between mid-afternoon and sunset
- Maghrib – just after sunset
- ‘Isha – between nightfall and dawn
Each prayer has a specific number of units. Each unit of prayer is called a Rak’ah. These Rak’ahs can be Fard (compulsory), Wajib (obligatory), Sunnah (recommended) or Nafl (optional).
The Rak’ahs in each of the five daily Salah are:
- Fajr – 2 Sunnah, 2 Fard
- Zuhr – 4 Sunnah, 4 Fard, 2 Sunnah, 2 Nafl
- ‘Asr – 4 Sunnah, 4 Fard
- Maghrib – 3 Fard, 2 Sunnah, 2 Nafl
- ‘Isha – 4 Sunnah, 4 Fard, 2 Sunnah, 2 Nafl, 3 Witr, 2 Nafl
Muslim men and older boys should offer their Fard (compulsory) Salah in congregation in a mosque. Women and girls may also offer their Salah in a mosque, however the reward is the same for them as praying at home.
Before performing Salah one must ensure they are in a state of purification; if required one must perform Ghusl (fully wash all the body), otherwise one must perform Wudu (ablution - washing parts of the body in a particular way).
When one has a clean body, clean clothes and a clean place to pray they are ready to begin their Salah:
One must stand upright, facing the Qibla - the direction of the Ka’bah in Makkah, Saudi Arabia. In the UK the Qibla is towards the south-east. This standing position in prayer is called Qiyam.
One must then make Niyyah – the intention to pray. This can be either out loud or in the mind. For example, if one wanted to offer the 2 Sunnah Rak’ah of Fajr Salah you would say:
“I intend to say 2 Sunnah Rak’ah of Salatul Fajr for Allah, facing the Qibla.”
One must make sure they have the correct intention for each Salah. One can use the above wording each time and just change it according to the number of units they are offering and for which particular Salah.
After making the intention to pray, males should raise their hands to the lobes of their ears, and females should raise their hands to their shoulders (the palms should be facing towards the Qibla and the fingers should be slightly spread out), and say the Takbeer:
[Allah is the Greatest]
Then place the palm of the right hand over the back of the left hand - males should position their hands under the navel and females are to place their hands on their chest. Then quietly read Thana:
Subhānakallāhumma wa bihamdika wa thabārakasmuka wa tha'ālā jadduka wa lā ilāha ghairuk
[You are glorified oh Allah and praised. Blessed is Your name and elevated is Your majesty. There is no God besides You]
Then read Ta'awwudh:
A'ūdhu billahi minash-shaythānir-rajīm
[I seek refuge in Allah from the accursed Satan]
Then read Basmalah:
[In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful]
This next part of the Salah is known as Qirat.
One now reads Surah Al-Fātiha (the opening chapter of the Qu’ran):
Alhamdu lillāhi rabbil' ālamīn. Arrahmānir-rahīm. Māliki yawmid-dīn. Iyyaka na'budhu wa iyyaka nastha'īn. Ihdhinas-sirāthal mustaqīm. Sirāthal ladhina an'amtha 'alayhim ghairil maghdhūbi 'alaihim wa ladh-dhāālīn, Amīn
[Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Master of the Day of Judgement. It is You alone we worship and is it You alone we ask for help. Guide us to the straight path. The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favour, not of those who have evoked Your anger or of those who are astray]
(The recitation of Surah Al-Fātiha is a must in all prayers.)
One now recites any Surah (or at least one long verse or three short verses) from the Qur’an.
For example one can recite Surah Ikhlās:
Qul huwallāhu ahad. Allāhus-samad. Lam yalid wa lam yūlad. Wa lam yakul lahū kufuwan ahad
[In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
Say, He is Allah, the One. Allah is Eternal and Absolute .None is born of Him nor is He born. And there is none like Him]
You then say Takbeer: Allāhu Akbar [Allah is the Greatest] as you bow down placing your hands on your knees. This position in Salah is called Ruku. Males should bow so their back is horizontal, making sure their arms are straight and kept free from the body. Their fingers should be spread out. Females should bend enough to merely place their hands on their knees, keep their fingers together, and tuck their arms into their body. One should then say a minimum of three times:
Subhāna rabbiyal adhīm
[Glorified is my Lord, the Most Great]
One should then rise from Ruku to a standing position whilst saying:
Sami alla-huliman hamida
[Allah hears the one who praises Him]
Rabbanā lakal hamd
[Our Lord, You are Praised]
Returning to the standing position (Qiyam), is called I’tidāl or Quwma.
One should now go into Sajda (prostration) whilst saying the Takbeer: Allāhu Akbar [Allah is the Greatest]. The knees should first touch the ground, then the hands. For males the forearms should not touch the ground and should be away from the body. The abdomen should not be pressed against the thighs and toes should be facing the Qibla. Females should have their forearms touching the ground, their abdomen should touch their thighs, and their feet should face the right side. Whilst in this position of Sujood one should then say a minimum of three times:
Subhāna rabbiyal a'alā
[Glorified is my Lord, the Most High]
One should raise their head and assume the sitting position whilst saying the Takbeer: Allāhu Akbar [Allah is the Greatest]. Males should sit with both legs tucked beneath them, the right foot should be upright on the toes, with the toes facing the Qibla. The left foot should be in a reclining position under the buttocks. Females should sit with both their legs to the right side of their body and their feet facing towards the right also. The hands for men and women should be resting on the thighs with the fingers facing towards the Qibla. This is the sitting position which should be adopted whenever one is sitting down in Salah.
One then says the Takbeer: Allāhu Akbar [Allah is the Greatest] whilst going into the second Sajda. Again, while in the position of Sujood, one should say a minimum of three times:
Subhāna rabbiyal a'alā
[Glorified is my Lord, the Most High]
After this second Sajda one says the Takbeer: Allāhu Akbar [Allah is the Greatest] and stands up.
One should try not to support oneself while getting up, unless they really need to.
This completes one Rak’ah of Salah.
The 2nd Rak’ah is performed in the same way except one doesn’t recite Thana or Ta'awwudh at the beginning. So one starts with Basmalah, then reads Surah Al-Fātiha and then another Surah.
Just as was done in the first Rak’ah one then performs the Ruku and Sajda parts of the prayer and then assumes the sitting position.
Now in the 2nd Rak’ah one reads Tashahhud:
Ath-thahiyātu lillahi was-salawātu wath-thayyibāt as-salāmu 'alaika ayyuhan-nabiyu wa rahmatullāhi wa barakātuh, as-salāmu 'alainā wa 'ala 'ibādillāhis-sālihīn ash-hadu allā ilāha illallāhu wa-ash-haduanna muhammadan 'abduhu warasūluh
[All worship, through words, actions, and wealth is for Allah. Peace be upon you, oh Prophet, and the mercy of Allah and His blessings. Peace be upon us and on those who are righteous servants of Allah. I testify that there is no God except Allah and I testify that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger]
Whilst reading Tashahhud, when one reaches the words 'ash-hadu allā ilāha', they should raise the index finger and tuck the middle, third and little finger into the palm, with the thumb and middle finger touching and forming a circle. When reaching 'wa-ash-haduanna' one should lower the index finger.
After finishing reading Tashahhud, one now reads Durood:
Allāhumma salli' alā muhammadiw wa 'alā āli muhammadin kamā sallaytha 'alā ibrāhīma wa 'alā āli ibrāhīma innaka hamīdum-majīd
Allāhumma bārik 'alā muhammadiw wa 'alā āli muhammadin kamā bāraktha 'alā ibrāhīma, wa 'alā āli ibrāhīma innaka hamīdum-majīd
[Oh Allah, have mercy on Muhammad and the family of Muhammad just as You had mercy on Ibrahim and the family of Ibrahim, indeed You are the Praiseworthy, the Glorious.
Oh Allah, send blessings on Muhammad and the family of Muhammad just as You have sent blessings on Ibrahim and the family of Ibrahim. Iindeed You are the Praiseworthy, the Glorious]
After Durood, one reads a Du’a (supplication) which can be found in the Quran or Hadith. Any of the following Du’as can be read:
The following Du’a is from the Quran, Surah Ibrahim [14:40-41]:
Rabbij’alni muqīmas-salāthi wa min dhur-riyatī rabbanā wa taqabbal du’ā. Rabbanaghfir lī wa liwālidaya wa lilmu’minīna yawma yaqūmul hisāb.
[My Lord, make me steadfast in Salah and also my descendents, our Lord and accept my prayer. Our Lord, forgive me and my parents and the believers on the Day of Judgement]
The following Du'a is one which the Prophet (pbuh) taught Abu Bakr (ra):
Allāhumma innī zalamthu nafsī zulmun kathīra, walā waghfiruz-zunūba illā antha faghfir li maghfiratham-min 'indika warhumnī innaka anthal ghafūrur-rahīm
[Oh Allah, I did great injustice to myself, and surely no-one can forgive sins except You. Bestow forgiveness on me from You, and have mercy on me. You are Most Forgiving, the Most Merciful]
Finally to end the Salah, one turns the head towards the right whilst saying:
Assalāmu 'alaikum wa rahmatullāh
[Peace be on you and the mercy of Allah]
One then turns the head to the left and says the above Salaam again.
This then completes 2 Rak’ah Salah.
This above method of performing Salah applies to any Salah which are 2 Rak’ahs.
For Salah which are 4 Fard Rak’ahs, after reciting Tashahhud in the 2nd Rak’ah one should immediately stand up whilst reciting Takbeer. After standing up, Basmalah and Surah Al-Fātiha should be recited. No other Surah is recited so one goes straight into Ruku and then Sujood. After performing Sujood one immediately stands up whilst reciting Takbeer. To complete the last and 4th Rak’ah one reads Basmalah and Surah Al-Fātiha, then performs Ruku, and then Sujood. One then remains sitting to read Tashahhud, Durood and a Du’a before completing the Salah by saying Salaam first to the right side and then to the left.
If one is praying 4 Rak’ah Sunnah Salah then it is the same as praying 4 Fard Rak’ah but the difference is that in the 3rd and 4th Rak’ah one does recite a Surah after Surah Al-Fātiha before going into Ruku.
If one is praying the 3 Fard Rak’ah of Maghrib Salah, then after after reciting Tashahhud in the 2nd Rak’ah one should immediately stand up whilst reciting Takbeer. After standing up, Basmalah and Surah Al-Fātiha should be recited. No other Surah is recited so one goes straight into Ruku and then Sujood. After performing Sujood one remains sitting to read Tashahhud, Durood and a Du’a before completing the Salah by saying Salaam first to the right side and then to the left.
If one is praying 3 Rak’ah Witr Salah then the first 2 Rak’ahs are like the first 2 Rak’ahs of the Maghrib prayer. Then, after Tashahhud in the 2nd Rak’ah one should immediately stand up whilst reciting Takbeer. In the 3rd Rak’ah one recites Surah Al-Fātiha, then another Surah, but before going into Ruku one says Takbeer whilst raising their hands (to their ear lobes if one is male, and up to the shoulders if female) and then folds them again. Then one recites Du'a Qunoot:
Allāhumma innā nastha'eenuka wa nasthaghfiruka wa nu'minubika wa nathawakkalu 'alaika wa nuthnī 'alaikal khaīr wa nashkuruka wa lānakfuruka wa nakhla'ū wa nathruku may-yafjuruk. Allahumma iyyāka na'budu wa laka nu-sallī wa nasjudu wa ilaika nas'ā wa nahfidu wa narjū rahmathaka wa nakhshā 'azābaka inna 'azābaka bil kuf-fāri mulhiq
[Oh Allah, We beseech Your help and we ask Your pardon and we believe in You and we put our trust in You and we praise You in the best manner and we thank You and we are not ungrateful to You and we cast off and leave one who disobeys You. Oh Allah, You alone we serve and to You do we pray and we prostrate and to You do we flee and we are quick and we hope for Your mercy and we fear Your punishment. No doubt Your punishment overtakes the unbelievers]
After reciting Du’a Qunoot one says Takbeer and goes into Ruku. One then performs Sujood, reads Tashahhud, Durood and a Du’a before making Salaam and completing the Salah.
(Note: The method of prayer described is according to the Hanafi school of thought.)