Salat are ritual prayers in Islam. Unlike some other religions, Islam makes a theoretical distinction between supplications (duʿas) and ritual prayers (salat). Here we discuss the difference between the two, and list a few important salats and duʿas.
Bismillāhir Rahmānir Rahīm, As-salāmu ʿAlaykum wa rahmatullāhi wa barakātuh. Peace be upon you brothers and sisters.
Welcome back to the Muslim Converts Channel! If Islam is known by anything, it is its ritualistic prayers. You see it on TV, thousands of Muslims gathered together praying to God, bowing and prostrating at the same time.
Islam has many kinds of ritual prayers called salat. Some of these prayers are obligatory, and some of them are recommended. In addition to this, Islam also has supplications (duʿa). In some other religions, prayers and supplications are often the same thing. In Islam, although both are performed together, they are theoretically distinct.
Prayers are the ritual movements that a person must do. They require special conditions and ablutions before one can perform them. We’ve spoken about these conditions before so we’re not going to go into them now.
Duʿas are a bit different. Duʿas don’t have ritual actions that accompany them, they are simply supplications that one utters to God, either during salāt or outside of it. When done outside of ritual prayers, there is no obligation to do wudu or ghusl, or be in a special place. One can make them at any time.
Duʿas don’t have to be formal either, whereas prayers have to. If you don’t do your salāt the right way, you have to correct yourself somehow, either by making up for some missed units, or repeating the entire salāt again. In duʿas, there is no such thing.
As long as one maintains proper respect to Allah, they are fine. So you can say them in a language other than Arabic, and you can say them in a state of ritual impurity. You can simply pour your heart out to God and you can do it anywhere at anytime.
We do, however, have standard duʿas that are present in the Qur’an as well as in the hadiths of the Prophet Muhammad (s) and his Ahl al-Bayt (as). These are important not only for their majestic beauty, but they are also important because they teach us the proper ethics of how to supplicate to God.
As will follow, we will give you a brief list of the kinds of salat we have in Islam, as well as some of the different duʿas the Prophet and his Ahl al-Bayt (as) taught us. We’re not going to cite all the kinds of prayers and duʿas that we have, but we’ll simply outline some of the most important ones in Islam.
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There are five main obligatory ritual prayers or salāt in Islam. They are as follows:
- Salat al-Fajr (Dawn Prayer)
- Salat al-Dhuhur (Noon Prayer)
- Salat al-Asr (Evening Prayer)
- Salat al-Maghrib (Prayer after Sunset)
- Salat al-Isha (Night-time prayer)
In addition to these prayers, we also have other salat that are obligatory in Islam. Here are some others:
Friday Prayers (Salat al-Jumuʿa). There is a disagreement as to whether this prayer is obligatory during the absence of the 12th Imam, so please make sure to check with your Marja on the subject.
Prayer of the Signs (Salāt al-Ayāt). These salats or ritual prayers are performed when an eclipse, earthquake or any other event that causes fear in people takes place. It is called “Prayer of the Signs” because events like earthquakes are “signs” of Allah’s power. These prayers are reminders that Allah is the Master of this world.
Right when we think we are under control, the witnessing of these events shows us how powerless we actually are! We are in a constant state of forgetfulness, but natural disasters have a mysterious way of reminding us of Allah.
As a result, despite the terrifying nature of these disasters, we should find ways to be grateful for them as well for their potential as reminders of Allah. Salāt al-Ayāt is obligatory. If you happen to miss it for some reason, you need to make up for it whenever you can.
Here are the occasions when the Salāt al-Ayāt are offered:
- Thunder and lighting (that instills fear in people)
- Storms that have black and red winds
- Solar Eclipse
- Lunar Eclipse
Salat al-Mayyit (Prayers for the Dead). Prayers for the dead are a social obligation. This means that when someone dies, the Muslim community in one’s locality must have someone do the prayer for the deceased person. Once this obligation is fulfilled, the obligation is lifted from the other members of the community. If not, then the whole community is sinful.
Other kinds of Salāt
Outside these standard obligatory salat, we also have other prayers which are generally not obligatory. Here are a few:
Salat al-Eidayn (Prayer of the Two Festivities)
There are two festivities where prayers are offered. The first is for Eid al-Fitr which is a prayer offered during the last day of Ramadan. The other one is during Eid al-Adha in the Hajj season where one offers his or her absolute devotion to God.
Salat al-Haja (Prayer of Need)
The prayer of need is a two rakat prayer you offer whenever you are in great need of something. You offer the prayer with a special duʿa, and then you pour your heart out to God.
Salat al-Layl (Late Night Prayer)
This is a late night prayer that usually starts at midnight and ends at dawn. This prayer is one of the most recommended of prayers even if it is not obligatory. The night prayer is especially powerful as it brings about God’s grace into one’s life through His night angels. There is a tradition that states that if you want the world from God, do Salat al-Layl; if you want the Afterlife from God, also do Salat al-Layl!
Duʿas can be both formal and non-formal. Non-formal duʿas are the ones you make yourself and speak to God in your own words. Formal duʿas are the kind of prewritten supplications that come from the Qur’an, the Prophet (s) and his Ahl al-Bayt (as). So all you do here is either read them from a paper or memorize them and just repeat them.
For formal duʿas, we have many of them. Each of the obligatory and non-obligatory prayers have formal duas that are recommended that to recite after they are done. This means that each of the five obligatory prayers have their own specific prewritten duʿa.
Remember that it is important to actually know the meanings of the words you are saying. Formal duʿas, which are in Arabic, are not like the Qur’an. You can recite Qur’an without knowing the meaning and you will still get rewards, but for duʿas, in order for them to be effective, you need to know the meanings of what you’re saying. So make sure to carry some kind of translation with you so you at least have a general idea of what you’re saying!
Outside of prayers, there are other occasions in which we have prewritten duʿas. Please see our further reading list for books that contain these duʿas during special occasions. Here are just some examples of occasions that we have prewritten duʿas for:
- Duʿa for attaining paradise
- Duʿa for release from prison
- Duʿa for avoiding bad thoughts and temptations
- Duʿa for having a child
- Duʿa for wealth and prosperity
- Duʿa for decrease in debts
These are just some examples. Before we let you go though, remember that duʿas are not magic spells. In the end, they’re acceptance by God are dependent on multiple factors. For example, God may not grant our dua if He sees that it will destroy us in the Hereafter, or if we keep sinning over and over again.
What this means is that there is no guarantee that we will get from God what we want. The only guarantee is that we get from God what He deems fit.
Until Next Time, Thank you for watching. As-salāmu ʿAlaykum wa rahmatullāhi wa barakātuh
Further Reading from Islamiclibrary.com