In this first series of 'Back to Basics' we will cover the second pillar of Islam - Salah. Many of us read it without knowing the importance, the benefits and even the rulings of salah. So sit back and relax and increase your knowledge and understanding of salah.
The answer shouldn't be 'because my dad said so!' After believing in the shahada (declaration of faith), the most important worship and also a pillar of Islam is salah. The Prophet (pbuh) said, "The link between a Muslim and disbelief, kufr, is his or her neglect of prayer." [Muslim].
He (pbuh) also said that, "Whoever takes care to regularly perform one's fard prayers will have light, status, and success on the Day of Judgement. And whoever was neglectful will have no light, no status, and no success. Instead, one will be joined with Fir'aun, Haman, Qarun, and Ubayy bin Khalaf." [Ahmad].
It is therefore of great importance that one prays salah, as neglecting it one suffers in this world and the hereafter.
The Prophet (pbuh) said, "The first thing the servant is reckoned about on the Day of Resurrection of his works is his prayer. If it was sound, he attains ultimate success and salvation. If it was deficient, he lost and failed."
So just imagine yourself standing on the Day of Judgement, and seeing others being questioned about their salah. Can one use the excuse that one was working so they didn't pray, or that they couldn't be bothered even though Allah gave them a long life and intellect?! Abdullah bin Shaqiq narrates that the Companions (ra) knew nothing if neglected would lead to disbelief, except prayer. [Tirmidhi].
Based on the very strong implications of neglecting salah, a very famous scholar by the name of Ahmad ibn Hanbal came to conclusion that by neglecting even one salah a person becomes a disbeliever; kāfir. The majority of scholars however disagree with this opinion but it still outlines the importance of praying salah.
Benefits of salah
You're probably asking: 'what's in it for me?' Some benefits of salah have already been mentioned but there are many more virtues and rewards.
- If a person prays salah properly, then the salah addresses the person by saying to him "May Allah protect you as you have protected me." Then the salah rises towards the heaven in a state of illumination and light. The gates of heaven are opened for it (so that it may enter and be accepted). [Tabarani]
- The Prophet (pbuh) said, "Each salah wipes out the forthcoming sins." [Ahmad] (This is referring to the minor sins.)
- The Prophet (pbuh) said, "When a Muslim worshipper performs wudu and washes his face, then every sin that he incurred by what his eyes fell upon comes out from his face with the last drop of water. When he washes his hands, every sin that he incurred by way of his grasp comes out from his hands with the last drop of water. When he washes his feet, every sin that he incurred by way of his walking comes out from his feet with the last drop of water. Ultimately, he comes forth free of sin.” [Bukhari]
- A person came to the Prophet (pbuh) and said, "There is a certain person who spends the night in offering salah, but in the morning he steals." The Prophet (pbuh) said, "Certainly salah will soon prevent him from this act you are mentioning." [Ahmad] (Meaning he will give up this sin.)
- By praying in congregation, the reward is multiplied 27 times. [Bukhari]
- Even the footsteps that one takes to walk towards the mosque have reward in them. [Muslim].
Who has to pray?
A person who is sane; not a lunatic, and has reached the age of puberty... so I'm afraid you can't get out of it that easily!
Pre-conditions of salah
Before starting salah, one must make sure that:
- their body is pure; free from minor and major impurity. So one is not in need of a fard ghusl and has wudhu
- their clothes are pure
- the place where one is praying is pure
- ones nakedness or awrah is covered. For women this is covering the entire body except for the hands, face and feet. For men this is from the navel to the knees (so no salah in your shorts), although it is makruh to uncover other parts unnecessarily.
- you face the Qibla (the direction towards the Ka'bah)
- intention is made for the salah (after the time has come in for that prayer). One should be careful in avoiding praying during haram and makruh times.
Times for salah
Fajr - time starts when the whiteness spreads from the horizon and it becomes visible and bright (true dawn) and ends when a small portion of the sun appears.
Zuhr - time starts when the sun starts declining after zenith (midday) and ends when the shadow of an upright object becomes double in addition to its original shadow.
Asr - time starts when zuhr time ends and remains until sunset. However it is makruh to delay asr salah unnecessarily after the suns rays become yellow/orange (meaning when one is able to look at the sun without being dazzled).
Maghrib - time starts after sunset and remains until before the redness on the horizon disappears, although it is makruh to unnecessarily delay the salah until this time.
Isha - time starts when maghrib time ends and remains until fajr. However it is makruh to delay it after midnight. Witr salah is exempt from this rule as one can choose to pray it just before fajr time if they wish.
If the above sounds a wee bit gibberish then just follow your local mosque prayer timetable! In any case because of the hardship of calculating the times of the 5 daily prayers, one is advised to follow the timetable of their local mosque.
How many rak'ats for each prayer?
Before going into how many rakats one needs to pray, some terms need to be understood.
Fard and Witr - has to be prayed and cannot be missed out.
Sunnah Muakkadah - something which the Prophet normally did, missing it out occasionally. It is blameworthy to leave it out without excuse and sinful if left out persistently.
Sunnah Ghair Muakkadah - something which the Prophet occasionally did. One is rewarded for doing it and not sinful for missing it out.
Nafl - optional prayer where one is rewarded for praying it and not sinful if left out.
Now that you know the nitty gritty, lets have a look at the rakats for each salah:
Fajr - 2 sunnah muakkadah, 2 fard
Zuhr - 4 sunnah muakkadah, 4 fard, 2 sunnah muakkadah, 2 nafl
Jummah - 4 sunnah muakkadah, 2 fard, 4 sunnah muakkadah, 2 sunnah ghair muakkadah, 2 nafl
Asr - 4 sunnah ghair muakkadah, 4 fard
Maghrib - 3 fard, 2 sunnah muakkadah, 2 nafl
Isha - 4 sunnah ghair muakkadah, 4 fard, 2 sunnah muakkadah, 2 nafl, 3 witr, 2 nafl
Fard acts of salah
If any of the fard acts are left out then the salah will become invalid, regardless of whether it is done intentionally or unintentionally.
- Saying 'Allahu Akbar' after making intention for salah
- Standing up (if one is unable to stand up then one sits down, if they are unable to sit down then they lie down and pray)
- Recitation of verses from the Quran
- Making ruku (bowing down)
- Making both sajdahs (prostrating)
- Sitting down at the end of the salah for the duration of tashahhud
Wajib acts of salah
If any of the wajib acts are left out unintentionally then by doing sajda sahw (prostration of forgetfulness) the salah will be valid. If however, wajib acts are left out intentionally then the salah will become invalid, regardless of whether one does sajda sahw or not.
- Reciting Surah Al-Fātiha
- Reciting some other surah after it
- Doing the fard acts in their specific places (e.g. doing ruku before doing sajdah)
- Doing Qawmah; standing up after ruku
- Doing Jalsah; sitting between the two sajdahs
- Sitting down after two rackets for the duration that one can read tashahhud
- Reciting tashahhud in both sitting postures (applies to salah with 3 or 4 rakats)
- Reciting Du'a Qunoot in witr salah
- Ending salah by saying salams
- Performing salah without rushing and with contentment (related to point no. 4 & 5)
Sunnah and Makruh acts of salah
There are too many to list here so if one is interested they can find it in any good Hanafi fiqh text books, such as Nur-ul-Idah or Quduri (English translations are available for both texts).
What breaks the salah?
Missing out a condition of salah or a fard act invalidates salah, these have already been listed so I will not mention them here. However there are many other acts which also invalidate salah and because they are too many to list, I will mention the most common ones.
- Speaking intentionally or unintentionally. This includes giving salam to someone, or replying to someone who sneezes by saying 'Yarhamukallah'
- Looking at and reciting verses from the Quran
- Laughing out loud (this also breaks the wudu)
- Eating or drinking. The exception is that if someone had a food particle stuck between their teeth and they swallowed it, their salah would only break if it was bigger than a chickpea.
- Excessive movement
- Crying or moaning in pain (due to worldly reasons)