Prayer in Islam (Salat and Du’aa)
Prayer in Islam has the same function as prayer in other religions; it is a way to speak to God. During prayer we reaffirm our devotion towards Him, thank Him, and Him ask for guidance and blessings. There are basically two types of prayers in Islam, and the two types of prayer are very different in function and practice. Again being limited by the English language (see the section of Quran) , to English speakers Muslims simply say ‘prayers’. The first type of prayer is a mandated involuntary worship of God, in the way He told the prophets to teach their communities to pray. This type of mandatory daily worship of God is called ‘salat’ in Arabic.
Muslims believe that every prophet did worship God with salat, from Adam to Muhammad, including but not limited to: Moses, Jesus, David, Joseph, Jacob, and Jonah (see the page about ‘Adam and the 124,000 Messengers’ for further information), peace and blessings upon them all. However, the practice wasn’t perfected with the exact required timings and postures until the last Prophet, Muhammed (pbuh) had it reveled to him. There is actually a beautiful story about that revelation of prayer called ‘The Journey of Ascension’ or ‘Isra’ in Arabic. Please see the page on ‘Muhammed the Arabian Prophet’ for more explanation. Salat is mandated to Muslims five times a day at specific times. There is the ‘Morning Salat (Fajr)’, ‘Afternoon Salat (Duhr)’, ‘Later Afternoon Salat (Asr)’, ‘Evening Salat (Meghrib)’, and ‘Night Salat (Isha)’. Besides from the main reason for all these prayers, that God mandated them, there are other stated possible reasons for them. One of these secondary reasons is to take little 5-10 minute breaks throughout the day to remember and thank God for all His blessings to us. The Muslim considers their eyes to see, ears to hear, job to finance them, nature to beautify life, food to give them substance, and every other part of life a blessing to be thankful for.
Another secondary reason is to keep one’s Nefs in check. Nefs is an Arabic word that relates to the ‘inner emotional self’ including one’s feelings, aspirations, desires, despises, and loves in regards to both the material and spiritual world. After all if you are praying this much to God, how could you then turn around and commit a sin, or desire something immoral? To learn more about the mandatory Salat, see the last section of this page entitled: ‘How to Perform Salat’.
The du’aa is the second type of prayer in Islam. Unlike salat, the du’aa can be made at anytime and in any posture. It is more in practice like the prayers of the Christians. There are both personally constructed du’aas and regulated constructed du’aas to choose from. In fact, du’aa is a wonderfully simple practice to keep up with. The shortest du’aa consists of just one word, ‘Bismillah’. Muslims say ‘Bismillah’ before sleeping, eating, going on a journey, or starting any activity in which they would like to thank God for and ask him for his help. The translation of Bismillah in English can be best described as, “By, for, and with the Aid of Allah”. It can be said before any action you do for God (swt) or that you want the help of God (swt) in. There are du’aas for just about any action, situation, or thing you can think of. Many are much longer and memorized, or you can simply talk to God yourself in your own words. The du’aa brings us closer to Him, and is a simple and beautiful way to pray. You can do it anywhere and at anytime, and usually it is said silently in your head so no-one even knows that you are praying. Often after the daily salat(s) Muslims cup their hands over their knees and say their own du’aas, but du’aa is not limited to such.
(Bismillah in Arabic Calligraphy)
How to Perform Salat
How to Perform Salat
A. The first thing one must know about prayer in Islam, is that Muslims worship only One God, the Creator and Sustainer of all the heavens and the earth. We will never call upon any wali (helper) other than God (Allah) to help us through our trials. No prophet or saint, natural wonder like the stars or trees, or any person will ever be prayed TO in Islam. Direct all of your efforts to God alone, without any partners.
B. The second thing one must know before beginning salat, is that you must be clean to perform the prescribed prayers. This purification ritual is known as wudoo, and is a series of motions performed with water:
1. One must say ‘Bismillah’ to show the intent to perform wudoo
2. One must wash their hands with water (as water is pure) three times
3. The mouth with water three times (like after brushing your teeth including the back of the throat)
4. Then rinse the nose out three times (suck water in and blow it out)
5. The face
6. The head (from the crown of the hair line to the back of the neck)
7. The ears (inside and out with the water on the fingers)
8. The arms up to the elbows (including the hands again)
9. And finally the feet up to the ankles
This is to be done each time before the five daily salats, especially if the wudoo (state of purification) is broken by passing wind, going to the bathroom, sleeping, touching a wet dog or pig (or getting licked or wet nosed by a dog). Anytime you think you might have come out of your purified state, just do the wudoo again.
If you had martial relations or a women just finished her menses, you must take a full shower (including washing your hair and privates), then perform wudoo.
C. Ok now that know to Whom we are praising, and we are all cleaned up, let us learn the steps for a proper salat: http://muslim-canada.org/salaat.html
Additional Tips for Salat:
1. Pray only in a clean area (preferably on a prayer mat, carpet, or clean towel).
2. Pray towards Mecca (that towards the East/South East for most of North America), use a compos.
*To be continued...