- Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
What are the five daily prayers in Islam?
Prayer is form of worship of God. Prayer has been enjoined on believers five times a day at appointed hours:
Believers are under the obligation to say their prayers at the appointed hours. (Quran 4:103)
These prayers are performed either individually at home or in congregation in mosques. A believer begins his prayer by uttering the words “God is Great”. These words acknowledge that all greatness belongs to God and that the worshipper will lead a life of modesty and humility. Each prayer is segmented into several rak’ah, or units. In each rak’ah a person stands, bows and prostrates, reciting verses from the Quran and other prayers. These are the five obligatory prayers:
1. Early morning prayer (Fajr): two rak’ahs between dawn and sunrise
2. Noon prayer (Zuhr): four rak’ahs, between noon and mid-afternoon
3. Afternoon prayer (Asr): four rak’ahs. The time for prayer starts when the length of any object’s shadow reaches a factor (usually 1 or 2) of the length of the object itself plus the length of that object’s shadow at noon. The time for the prayer ends at sunset.
4. Sunset prayer (Maghrib): three rak’ahs between sunset and early evening
5. Evening prayer (Ishaa): four rak’ah from the disappearance of twilight until dawn
During the prayer, a believer refreshes his memory about God’s commandments regarding himself. Then he kneels and prostrates himself before God, in physical expression of the idea that the only course that befits him is to lead his life according to the creation plan of God. The prayer is concluded by turning the face first to the right side, then to the left, and uttering the words Assalamu-alaykum, which means, ‘May the peace and blessings of God be upon you!’ This is a demonstration that spiritually conditioned by prayer, the worshipper is now entering into the world with no other thoughts and feelings in his mind but those of mercy towards others and peace for all mankind.
Prayer strengthens a believer’s resolve to remain a peaceful member of the society, and to harbour no illfeelings towards anyone. Prayer in one respect is to surrender before God, attributing all kinds of greatness to Him alone. In yet another respect, prayer prepares the individual to lead a worthy life among fellow humanbeings, adopting an attitude of modesty, sympathy and good-will in all his dealings. In short, prayer perfects a person’s relation with God as well as with other human beings. According to a verse, a believer is enjoined thus:
Prostrate yourself and come closer to God. (Quran 96:19)
The cadence of praying five times formally was prescribed so that congregational prayers could be undertaken. A believer otherwise must engage in prayer in an informal way throughout the day, whereby he remembers the blessings of God and shows gratefulness to his Creator. This has been alluded to in the Quran in the following words:
When you have finished the prayer, remember God while standing, and sitting, and lying on your sides. When you feel secure, say your prayers in the prescribed form. (Quran 4:103)