Salāt: Obligatory Ritual Prayers in Islam
The five obligatory ritual prayers or salāt are the foundations of both Islamic practice and belief. Salāt is the primary means through which a relationship between a person and God is established. Without salāt, there is no Islam.
Bismillāhir Rahmānir Rahīm, As-salāmu ʿAlaykum wa rahmatullāhi wa barakātuh. Peace be upon you brothers and sisters.
Welcome back to the Muslim Converts Channel! In this lesson, we will have an overview of the first and the most important of the furūʿ al-dīn called salāt.
More specifically, we will look into the difference between ritual prayer and supplication as well as the different kinds of obligatory and non-obligatory prayers in Islamic law.
BODY OF TEXT
And observe prayer (salāt) for it restrains one from immorality and wrongdoing and remembrance of God is indeed the greatest [good.] (Chapter 29, verse 45 of the Holy Qur’an)
The term for ritual prayer in Islam is called salāt. In pre-Islamic Arabic, salāt meant different things. The most common meaning, however, was that of an invocation, as in invoking God. The meaning, of course, is much more specific in Islam. When we talk about salāt in the furūʿ al-dīn we are talking about the five obligatory ritual prayers which all Muslims must believe in.
The times of these prayers are not static but dynamic as they follow the movement of the sun.
The first prayer is the morning prayer. In Arabic it is called salāt al-fajr and it begins at dawn.
The second prayer begins at noon and is called salāt al-dhuhur,
the third is the afternoon prayer and it is called salāt al-ʿasr,
the fourth praying is the sunset prayer called salāt al-maghrib
and finally, the last prayer is called salāt al-ʿishā which is the night-time prayer.
Each prayer has units called rakʿats where you bow with your hands on your knees. The total amount of times a Muslim must do this is 17 times across 5 prayers throughout the day.
The five obligatory salāt are the most important rituals of Islam. Knowingly dismissing their obligatory nature is tantamount to apostasy in Islam. It is important for it is the foremost method of worship in Islam and it is the central practice which keeps a Muslim connected to Allah.
In one hadīth from our fifth Imām Muhammad al-Bāqir (as), he said the following about salāt:
The prayer is the pillar of religion and its parable is that of the pole of a tent – when the pole remains upright, the pegs and ropes remain straight and upright, but when the pole bends or breaks neither the pegs nor ropes remain straight.
Salāt is the foundation of religion. Without it, none of Islam’s other practices or beliefs will stand. We say this because salāt is what establishes our relationship with God.
But prayer must be done on God’s terms. We often think of praying to God in the form of a supplication where we supplicate to him in our own personal manner and on our own time.
In Islam this is called a duʿā, which is different from salāt as the latter is obligatory and involves special physical movements such as bowing and prostrating. Duʿā, although a highly recommended act, is not obligatory to do.
But a relationship of servitude means that we must pray to God the way He wants and how He wants. This is how ritual prayer develops with its own specific movements and recitations.
Prayer is the only ritual in Islam that a person cannot be free from. One may be relieved from fasting, or Hajj, or any other ritual, but with prayer one may not do away with it as long as one is conscious, sane and reached puberty.
If we are too sick to pray for example, we can pray sitting down. If we are too sick for that, then we can pray lying down. If we cannot pray this way either, we can pray with our eyelids by opening and closing them as a sign of prostration. If our eyelids don’t open, then we can pray inside our minds. Either way, we cannot escape from this obligation as long as one we are conscious.
There is another set of obligatory prayers in Islam, but they are less regular. These are called the Prayers of the Signs called salāt al-ayāt. These prayers are performed when special natural events happen. As a response to these events, like earthquakes, or special eclipses, it is obligatory for a Muslim to perform the salāt.
There are also funeral prayers for the dead called salāt al-mayyit which are obligatory on the community. This means that as long as a group of people fulfill this obligation, then others are relieved of it.
The other set of prayers in Islam are what we call “recommended” prayers. The word for recommended in Arabic is mustahab. Among other prayers, these include the Friday Prayers (called Salāt al-Jumuʿa in Arabic) and the two Eid Prayers. The first Eid prayer marks the end of Ramadan, and the other marks the end of the Hajj season.
Connected to the daily obligatory salāt is a set of prayers we called nāfila. Nāfila prayers are extra prayers that one offers after an obligatory prayer. The most important of all of these extra prayers is what we call the late night prayer. The late night prayer is known as salāt al-layl in Arabic. This prayer is the most recommended of all extra prayers and it is the one prayer that is characteristic of spiritually high achieving Muslims.
In one hadīth from the Prophet Muhammad (s), he said the following about salāt al-layl:
When the servant of Allah turns to his Lord in the middle of the dark night, and whispers to Him, Allah establishes His light in his heart . . . then He tells the angels: O my angels, look at my servant. He has turned to Me in the middle of the dark night while the false ones are playing, and the heedless ones are sleeping; bear witness that I have forgiven him.
Until Next Time, Thank you for watching. As-salāmu ʿAlaykum wa rahmatullāhi wa barakātuh
Prayers performed when special (awesome) natural events happen
Supererogatory prayers offered after one’s daily obligatory salāt
What is the difference between duʿā and the five daily salāt?
Duʿā is a supplication and not obligatory on its own, salāt is a ritual prayer and is obligatory.
How many daily obligatory prayers/salāt do we have?
Is salāt performed at the same time every day?
Not exactly, the daily prayers follow the movement of the sun.
Can I be a Muslim and not pray?
If you dismiss it entirely, no you cannot.
Is it ok that I perform salāt on my own time if I’m too busy?
No, you must pray on God’s time. The various times can be found in Muslim prayer calendars.
five daily prayers
Adabus Salat by Imam Khomeini
Salat al-Jumah by Murtaza Mutahhari
Sound of Salat by Amir Khorooshi