Sunday, December 19, 2004

Description of the Prayer

The description of the prayer.

Prerequisites of prayer

  1. Ritual impurity (hadath) has been removed by ablution or a full body wash
  2. Filth (naj√Ęsat - substances which Islam prescribes as filthy) has been removed from the body, clothes and place of prayer
  3. The color of the skin of those areas one is not allowed to show publicly has been covered: all the body except the face and hands for the woman, everything between the navel to below the knee for the man
  4. One is facing in the direction of the prayer (qibla)
  5. The prescribed prayer time has entered
  6. One has the intention of the prayer if it is a duty, or simply to pray if it is not.
  7. Proscription (beginning the prayer by saying "Allahu’akbar")

The prayer obligations (fard)

  1. Standing, if able (when making proscription and reciting Quran) .
  2. Reciting Quran (at least one aayah) , while standing, in two rak^ahs (subsets).
  3. The bow from the hip (rukuu').
  4. Prostration (sujuud).
  5. Order between standing, bowing at the hip and prostration.
  6. To sit at the end of the prayer the amount of time it takes to say the tashahhud.
  7. To exit the prayer by one's own doing.
There are more, but these are the "headlines" mentioned in basic texts.

The prayer duties (waajib)

  1. Reciting the Faatihah in the two first subsets.
  2. Reciting a short suurah after the Faatihah and in that order.
  3. Order between repeated actions in the same subset, i.e. the two prostrations.
  4. Sitting after the two first subsets in prayers with more than two.
  5. Saying the tashahhud in the last sitting.
  6. Saying the qunuut supplication in Witr Prayer.
  7. Reciting loudly or quietly as prescribed.
  8. The repeated sayings of Allahu'akbar in the Eiid Prayer.
  9. Remaining calm for at least a moment in the bow at the hip and the prostration.
  10. Standing after the bow at the hip
  11. Sitting between the two prostrations
  12. To not say something more than the equivalent of the length of "subhaanallaah" in the first sitting after saying the creedal statement.
  13. To say "assalaam" to end the prayer.
  14. To recite loudly or silently as prescribed (more later.)
  15. Recite the Faatihah and suurah in the two first subsets in obligatory prayers, and all subsets in other prayers.
If one leaves out an obligation of a prayer, then the prayer is invalid. If one leaves out something waajib from the prayer intentionally, then one needs to pray again. If one left it unintentionally, then one needs to make the two prostrations of omitting (sujuud al-sahw).

How to pray

  1. Say "Allaahu 'akbar" while standing and simultaneously making the intention of the prayer you want to pray.
    • This is what is called the "tahriimah," or in English "proscription" and it is a prerequisite.
    • If one is unable to pronounce "Allaahu 'akbar", then one may say something equivalent.
    • The leader of the prayer says “Allaahu 'akbar” loudly in all prescribed places as an ascertained merit (sunnah).

  2. It is a sunnah to lift ones hands when making the proscription.
    • The man raises them so that the thumbs are at the level of the ear lobes, and the inside of ones hands are facing forward, and the fingers are slightly spread.
    • The woman on the other hand, only raises her hands to the level of her shoulders, since this catches less attention.
    • This is the way one raises ones hands in any prayer, including the Burial Prayer, Witr Prayer and the Eiid Prayer, but also in Tawaaf

  3. While standing it is better (but not a duty) to:
    • Keep one's eyes on the floor at the place where one would put one's head in prostration
    • Put the right hand on top of the left hand's wrist around the wrist with the little finger and thumb of the right hand.
      • Under the navel for the man or on the chest for the woman
      • This is the way one should keep ones hands whenever one is standing and saying something that is prescribed in the prayer.

  4. At this point, as a merit (sunnah), the person praying starts quietly saying the "thanaa': "subhaanaka-llaahumma-wa-bi-hamdika-wa-tabaarak-asmuka-wa-ta^aalaa-jadduka-wa-laa-’ilaaha-ghairuka"
    • Like all sayings in the religion, it must be learned properly from a teacher.

  5. After this, as a merit (sunnah), and only if he wants to start reciting Quran (either by being alone or being the leader), he quietly says the expression for asking protection from Satan, "a^uudhu-billaahi-min-ash-shaytaan-ir-rajiim"

  6. After that, the one who wants to recite quietly says the basmalah, which is: "bismi-llaahi-r-Rahmaani-r-Rahiim"
    • The basmalah is repeated before the FaatiHah throughout the prayer, but not for what is read after it.

  7. After this one reads FaatiHah as a duty: "al-hamdu li-llaahi Rabbi-l-^Aalamin. ar-Rahmaani-r-Rahiim. Maaliki Yawmi-d-Din. 'iyyaaka na^budu wa 'iyyaaka nasta^iin. 'ihdina-s-siraata-l-mustaqiim. siraata-lladhiina 'an^amta ^alayhim ghayri-l-maghduubi ^alayhim wa la-d-daalliin."
    • It is absolutely necessary that the Faatihah is pronounced correctly. This means that all the letters have to be pronounced correctly and no mistakes are made that change the meaning. Reciting it incorrectly is invalid. One should instead resort to reciting something else from the Qura'aan if one is able to do so. (See this article for minimum prayer knowledge).

  8. As a leader or praying single, it is sunnah to say “'aamiin” after the FatiHah.
    • If the leader of the prayer was reading loudly, then the followers say ”'aamiin” immediately after he finishes the Faatihah.
    • One should make sure not to emphasize the "m" in "'aamiin."

  9. After FaatiHah it is a duty to read another suurah.

  10. After finishing the suurah, one says "Allaahu 'akbar" (loudly if one is leading the prayer only) as one's starts to bow the upper body down from the hip until one places ones hands on one's knees while the legs are straight.

  11. It is obligatory to bow deep enough to reach one's knees, but holding them is sunnah. This is called rukuu3 in Arabic, but let's refer to it as the "bow from the hip."
    • It is a duty to stay still (without movement) for at least a moment
    • One should spread one's fingers across one's knees as a man (but keep them close together as a woman.)
    • Other than in the bow from the hip and in the prostration (where they are kept tightly together), one keeps one's fingers spread naturally.
    • The man should keep his back flat and parallel to the floor and his head in line with it, while keeping one's elbows out
    • The woman only goes down as much as she has to in order to reach her knees and keeps her arms close together.
    • One should not bend one's neck up or down
    • One should keep one's eyes on one's feet.
    • One should say silently "subhaana-Rabbiy-al-^athiim" at least three times.

  12. After the bow one rises to stand while loudly saying:
    • "sami^a-llaahu-li-man-hamidah" if one is leading the prayer.
    • "rabbanaa-lak-al-hamd” as a follower in immediate response to that.
    • If one is praying by oneself, one should silently say both sayings.

  13. After standing up (a duty) one says "Allaahu 'akbar" (which is a sunnah) as one descends to prostrate.
    • It is better if one first puts the knees on the ground, then the hands, then the nose, and finally the forehead.

  14. One prostrates by putting the forehead on the ground (obligatory) as well as the hard part of the nose (waajib).
    • It is waajib to put all of one's toes on the ground in the direction of the prayer.
    • It is waajib to put one's hands and knees as well. Some say that putting all of these seven places is an obligation, i.e. that the prostration is invalid without this, so one should take care to do this.
    • It is sunnah to keep the stomack away from the thighs and to spread ones elbows out for the man, but the woman does the opposite in both.
    • One should keep ones fingers close together and in the direction of the prayer.
    • One should put one’s head at the level of his hands in the prostration, but in a group prayer one should not spread one’s elbows so much as to annoy the neighbor.
    • One should not let the elbows touch the floor.
    • One should say "subhaana-Rabbii-al-'a^laa" at least 3 times and end up with an odd number of times, but not so many as to test the patience of any followers.

  15. After the first prostration one rises to sit while saying "Allaahu 'akbar". The least one has to do is to rise enough so that one would be considered to be sitting.
    • The best way of sitting for a man is to lay the left foot down sideways and flat under one's buttocks, while having the right foot at one's right side and the toes in the direction of the prayer.
    • The woman sits on her left hip while putting both legs out on her right side, with the right leg on top of the left

  16. Prostrate a second time.

  17. At this point, one has completed one rak3ah, or a complete subset of the prayer, i.e. standing, reciting, bowing, and then prostrating twice. All obligatory prayers have at least two subsets. The number of subsets in the obligatory daily prayers are:
    • Fajr Prayer two subsets
    • Thuhr Prayer four subsets
    • Asr Prayer four subsets
    • Maghrib Prayer three subsets.
    • Eishaa' Prayer four subsets.

  18. When one gets up for the next subset, i.e. to stand, one first lifts the forehead, then the nose, then the hands, then the knees without the support of the hands. All of this while saying "Allaahu akbar".

  19. In the subsets other than the first one does NOT:
    • raise ones hands at the beginning,
    • say the "thanaa'," ("subhaanakallaahumma.... etc.") or "a^uudhu...etc."

  20. Whenever one has done two subsets, one sits to say the tashahhud (which is a duty): "At-tahiyyaatu li-llaah wa-ssalawaatu w-attayyibaat. As-salaamu ^alayka 'ayyuha n-nabiyyu wa rahmatu-llaahi wa barakatuh. As-salamu ^alaynaa wa ^alaa ^ibaadi llaahi s-saalihin. 'Ashhadu 'allaa 'ilaaha 'illa-llaah, wa 'ashhadu 'anna Muhammadan ^abduhuu wa rasuuluh".
    • One places ones hands on top of the thighs near the knees, fingers pointing in the direction of the prayer.
    • One lifts the right index-finger while saying the first part of the creedal statement.
    • If one has more subsets to do, then one stops after the two professions of Islam.

  21. In the obligatory prayers, unlike optional prayers, one does not read more than Faatihah in other subsets than the first two.
    • Reading Faatihah in the 3rd and 4th subsets of obligatory prayers is a sunnah, and not a duty.
    • In optional prayers and Witr one must recite the FaatiHah and a suurah in all subsets.

  22. After the final subset, one says the tashahhud, which is a duty, and adds the prophetic habit of praising the Prophet Mohammed with the Abrahamic praise: "Allaahumma salli ^alaa Muhammad, wa ^alaa 'aali Muhammad, kamaa sallayta ^alaa 'Ibraahiim wa ^ alaa 'aali 'Ibrahiim. wa baarki ^alaa Muhammad wa ^alaa 'aali Muhammad, kamaa baarakta ^alaa 'Ibraahiim wa ^ alaa 'aali 'Ibrahiim, fi-l-^aalamiin. 'innaka hamiid-um-Majiid".
    • Outside the prayer, saying the Prophet's Praise once is a duty if one hears his name mentioned, even several times, in a single sitting.

  23. At the end, one makes supplication for whatever one wants, in expressions similar to those in the prophetic teachings or the Quran. Not something that sounds like ordinary speech, such as, if someone said "O God let me find a beautiful woman to marry."

  24. Finally, one says "as-salaamu-^alaykum-wa-rahmatu-llaah" first to the right then to the left.
    • The minimum (duty) here is to say "as-salaam" to end the prayer. If one did not say this, and simply got up and left on purpose, then one has a sin, and it is a duty (wajib) to repeat the prayer.
    • One should turn one's head only and look at the right shoulder when turning right and the left shoulder when turning left.
    • There is no nodding in these movements as you see some people do.
    • When saying the salaam, one intends to say it to all the people to the left and right respectively, as well as any angels and pious jinn present.
    • If the leader of the prayer is right in front of you, then you include him in both salaams.
    • The person who is praying alone intends only any angels present.