5 Prayers

Prayer in Islam evolved over the ages, and was repeatedly modified. After Prophet Muhammad’s migration to Medina, the number of prayers was increased, taking the form that Muslims practice today. Only then, Muslims could pray in public after being forced to pray in secret, fearing persecution by Quraysh in Mecca.

When were Muslims commanded to pray?

There are numerous narratives about the history, emergence, and evolution of prayer in Islam, one of the basic pillars of the faith.

According to As-Seerah Al Halabiyah, the Prophet and his people had not been commanded to pray before his night journey and ascension to heaven. In his book “Tuhfatu’l Muhtaj li Sharh Al-Minhaj”, Ibn Hajar Al-Haythami further proves this when he says that “people were only commanded to believe in the oneness of the Creator, and the only prayers they were commanded to perform were those mentioned in Surat Al-Muzammil”. This refers to night prayers, performed by Prophet Muhammad and later reduced in the Koran to half.

However, others affirm that people were commanded to pray when Prophet Muhammad received his first revelation in the Hira Cave, where he had been used to worshipping God in solitude before the spread of Islam. Ibn Ishaq writes:

“when the Prophet was commanded to pray, Archangel Gabriel came to him when he was atop a mountain in Mecca, and pointed to a corner of the valley, where a spring of water later gushed out from the rocks. The Prophet watched as Gabriel performed ablution, showing him how to purify oneself for prayer, and then did the same. Gabriel got up, prayed with him and left. Prophet Muhammad later went to his wife, Khadija, and performed ablution to show her what he had learned from Gabriel. He prayed with her, just like Gabriel had prayed with him, and then she prayed his prayer”.

This narrative, however, runs against what the Koran mentions about ablution in Surat Al-Ma’idah. Describing ablution and purification for prayer, the Koran says “O you who believe! When you get ready for ritual prayer [šalāt], wash your faces, and your hands up to the elbows, and lightly rub your heads and (wash) your feet up to the ankles.”

The aforementioned Surat was revealed after the Prophet’s migration to Medina, meaning it is incompatible with Ibn Ishaq’s narrative. The latter believes that people were commanded to perform ablution when they were first commanded to pray.

After reflecting on Prophet Muhammad’s state of mind at the time of revelation, the narrative suggesting that prayer was commanded at that point is unlikely to be true. The Prophet felt hesitant, frightened and uncomfortable, and was overwhelmed with doubts and fears about what had really appeared before his eyes in the cave.

According to one Hadith, the Prophet, perplexed after his first encounter with Archangel Gabriel, told Khadija, “I feared that something might happen to me”. She took him to Waraqa Ibn Nawfal, a Christian priest, who affirmed that what the Prophet had seen was the same angel whom Allah had sent to Prophet Moses and other prophets. He confirmed he had seen an angel from heaven.

The Prophet’s Prayer in Mecca

According to Dr. Jawad Ali’s book The History of Prayer in Islam, the Prophet’s first prayer in Mecca consisted of two cycles (Rakaah). The author mentioned that “the prophet left his home shortly after the sunrise to pray Duhr (forenoon prayer), which he could perform in the Kaaba, as Quraysh did not oppose it. When it was time for Asr (afternoon prayer), he and his friends would disperse in alleys to pray either alone or in pairs”.

Fajr prayer

The Fajr prayer (Arabic: صلاة الفجر‎ ṣalāt al-faǧr, “dawn prayer”) is the third[1] of the five daily prayers (salat) performed daily by practicing Muslims.[2]:470 Fajr means dawn in the Arabic language.

The five daily prayers collectively form one pillar of the Five Pillars of Islam, in Sunni Islam, and one of the ten Practices of the Religion (Furū al-Dīn) according to Shia Islam.

The Fajr prayer is mentioned by name in the Qur’an at sura 24 (An-Nurayah.[3] Inspired by the tafsir of the two hadiths that were transmitted on behalf of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, the worth of the Fajr daily prayer is explained as being God’s most-favoured prayer since others are asleep.

During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan the call to Fajr prayer marks the beginning of the obligatory daily fasting (sawm).

Al-Fajr is also the name of eighty-ninth chapter (sura) of the Qur’an.

Zuhr prayer

The Zuhr prayer (Arabic: صلاة الظهر‎, ṣalāt adh-dhuhr  IPA: [sˤalaːt aðˤðˤuhr], “noon prayer”; also transliterated DuhrDhuhr or Duhur) is the fourth[1] of the five daily prayers (salah) performed daily by practicing Muslims.

On Friday the Dhuhr prayer is replaced by Jumu’ah, which is obligatory for Muslim men who are above the age of puberty and meet certain requirements to pray in congregation either in the mosque of the city they live in or with a group of Muslims. Women are recommended to also do so at home, but not obligated. The Friday prayer is led by a sermon given by the leader of the mosque to educate, guide, and improve the quality of the community as well as propagate Islam.

Time of Zuhr prayer

The waqt (prescribed time) of the dhuhr salat is determined differently by the different branches of Islam. In each case, however, it is best to perform the prayer as soon as the waqt is “in”, and it is inadvisable to unnecessarily delay it.[2]

The time frame of the dhuhr daily prayer is as follows:

  • Time begins: once the sun has crossed the celestial meridian (true noon), exactly halfway between sunrise and sunset. This is when the sun is at the highest point in the sky.[3]
  • Time ends: before the time of the daily Asr prayer (afternoon prayer) (there is scholarly disagreement as to exactly when that occurs). Also, according to the Maliki school, the dharoori time (Time of Necessity for those who had a legitimate excuse to miss the prayer during the Prescribed Time) for dhuhr lasts all the way until a little before sunset, the beginning of Maghrib prayer. Thus, according to the Maliki school, if someone prays dhuhr 30 minutes before sunset, he is considered to have prayed the prayer “on time”, though he would be sinful if he had delayed that long without a legitimate excuse.

Asr prayer

The Asr prayer (Arabicصلاة العصر‎ ṣalāt al-ʿaṣr, “afternoon prayer”) is the fifth[1] of the five daily prayers (salat) performed daily by practicing Muslims.

The five daily prayers collectively are one pillar of the Five Pillars of Islam, in Sunni Islam, and one of the ten Practices of the Religion (Furū al-Dīn) according to Shia Islam.

The Asr daily prayer is mentioned as the middle prayer in the Qur’an at sura 2 (Al-Baqara), ayat 238.[2]

al-Asr is also the title of the 103rd chapter (sura) of the Qur’ān.

The Asr prayer consist of four rakats, although according to some madh’habs, it may be reduced to two rakaʿāt when travelling.

Maghrib prayer

The Maghrib prayer (Arabic: صلاة المغرب‎ ṣalāt al-maġrib, ‘”sunset prayer”), prayed just after sunset, is the first[1] of five obligatory daily prayers (salat) performed by practicing Muslims.[2]

The formal daily prayers of Islam comprise different numbers of units, called rakat.[2]

The Maghrib prayer has three obligatory (fard) rak’at and two recommended sunnah and two non-obligatory nafls. The first two fard rak’ats are prayed aloud by the Imam in congregation (the person who misses the congregation and is offering prayer alone is not bound to speak the first two rak’ats aloud), and the third is prayed silently.[2]

To be considered valid salat, the formal daily prayers must each be performed within their own prescribed time period. People with a legitimate reason have a longer period during which their prayers will be valid

Isha prayer

The Isha prayer (Arabic: صلاة العشاء‎ ṣalāt al-ʿišāʾ  IPA: [sˤalaːt alʕiʃaːʔ], “night prayer”) is the night-time daily prayer recited by practicing Muslims. It is the second[1] of the five daily prayers– (salat) [Islamic evening begins at maghrib].[2][3] The five daily prayers collectively are one pillar of the Five Pillars of Islam, in Sunni Islam, and one of the ten Practices of the Religion (Furū al-Dīn) according to Shia Islam. It is a four rak’ah prayer and in Sunni Islam, the two Sunnah rak’ah following the Isha’ are highly recommended and so is the three rakat WajibWitr. There are a few optional prayers that can be recited after the Isha’ prayer, including the Nafilat ul-Layl prayers (together termed tahajjud), as well as the tarawih in Ramadan.