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Muslims are encouraged to remember God at all times.

The Term “Prayer” in English can mean different things in Arabic, based on the context in which it is used. It can mean the ritual devotion that is a pillar of Islam termed Salaah in Arabic, or it can mean beseeching God, or Dua in Arabic. Most Muslims will call both these practices “prayer” in English; usually, it is easy to tell which is meant based on the context, with the default use being that of the ritual devotion Salaat.

Muslims are encouraged to remember God at all times. To that end, at five points during the day, based on the position of the sun in relation to the Earth, a Muslim joins the universe’s perfect order of obedience to God by performing a special ritual prayer that can be performed in any clean place. Muslims can, therefore, be observed performing their prayers in many and varied places such as parks, office buildings, shopping centres and airports. The five daily ritual prayers are the most important duty of a Muslim towards God. The prayer is performed as the Prophet himself performed it. The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, taught his followers to pray as they saw him pray. He prayed with grace and simplicity of movement, standing, bowing, prostrating, reciting, contemplating, and glorifying. Today, Muslims all over the world continue to pray in this manner. When performed correctly, the prayer aligns the body, mind, and soul of the worshipper with the will of God, establishing an intimate connection of harmony and submission. The worshipper’s deepest submission is embodied in the moment of prostration when the face is placed on the ground, acknowledging God’s greatness and one’s neediness and humility. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “The servant is never closer to God than when he is prostrating himself in worship.” God says,

“And they were not ordered except to worship God sincerely, being true in faith; and to establish the prayer and give the Zakat (alms). And that is the worthy religion.”
Quran (98:5)

Prayer develops humility and submission before God and those who perform it regularly become transformed and elevated. As the believer persists in the discipline of prayer, his or her heart inclines towards obedience and shuns disobedience. God says in the Quran,

“And establish regular prayer, for prayer restrains from shameful and evil deeds.”
(Quran 29:45)

The Prophet, peace be upon him, described prayer as a means of self-purification. He said, “The five prayers may be compared to a stream of fresh water, flowing in front of your house, into which you bathe five times each day. Do you think any dirt would remain on your body?” Those around him said, “No, none at all!” He replied, “Indeed, the five prayers remove sin, just as water removes dirt.

The five daily prayers are as follows:

  • The Dawn Prayer (Fajr)
  • The Midday Prayer (Duhur)
  • The Afternoon Prayer (Asr)
  • The Dusk Prayer, (Maghrib)
  • and The Nightfall Prayer (Isha).

In addition to the five daily prayers, there are other congregational and individual ritual prayers, some of which are mentioned below.

The Friday Jumuah prayer is prayed in a mosque accompanied by a sermon in place of the Midday Prayer. The Janaza prayer is a communal prayer for someone who has just passed away. The Tarawih prayers are voluntary prayers performed during the nights of Ramadan, while the Eid prayers mark the two festival days of the Islamic year. The Tahajjud prayer is a night vigil prayer that is usually performed in the last third of the night, which is a special and blessed time to pray.

The Mosque

The mosque (masjid) is a sacred space, a House of God. Mosques are usually simple yet beautiful buildings reflecting the heritage and culture of the local community. The main part of every mosque is the prayer area, a large, carpeted area with no furniture, where believers congregate and pray. The congregational prayer is performed in lines facing the direction of Makkah. The position a person takes in the lines reflects the equity of believers before God. It is not determined by social and economic rank. These material matters are left at the doors of the mosque. Every person enters as a worshipper of God alone, taking their place in this sacred space based solely on the availability of space at the timing of their arrival. The carpet is ritually clean, and great care is taken to maintain this cleanliness. For this reason, no shoes are worn inside the prayer area since they may bring in filth. When entering the mosque, shoes are therefore removed and placed on the shoe racks that are usually located near the entrance of the mosque. Most mosques also have a ritual washing (wudu) area, with several faucets where people can perform their ritual wash required before the ritual prayer. At the front of the prayer area, on the side towards the prayer-direction (qiblah), there will usually be a large cove indented into the wall. This is called a prayer niche. Here the prayer leader (Imām) stands to lead the congregation. Next to the prayer niche is a structure, usually with steps and a podium of sorts, where the prayer leader delivers the sermon during the Friday Congregational Prayer (Ṣalāt al-Jumuʿah).

In the prayer area, men and women are separated by the standard formation of the prayer congregation: the prayer leader in front, followed by the men, with the women behind them, as taught by Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Although it is a house of worship, a mosque is also a place of gathering, learning, and celebration, unlike other places of worship which are reserved for prayer alone.