Some Important Points Concerning the Laws of Prayer

This is not the proper place to give a detailed discussion of the laws concerning the prayers. However, a few points shall be made.

The five daily prayers are obligatory upon every adult214, sane Muslim.
However, women who are experiencing their menses or post-partum bleeding are not to perform the prayers, as they are not in a state of ritual purity (described below). Furthermore, such women do not make up those prayers at a later time.

Before commencing with the ritual prayer, one must also be in a state of physical purity. Allah says, “O you who believe! When you intend to offer the prayer, wash your faces and your arms up to the elbows, rub (by passing wet hands over) your heads, and (wash) your feet up to the ankles” (5:6). The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “The prayer is not accepted without purification.”215 Thus, for example, if one is “sexually defiled,” either through sexual activity or a wet dream, of if a woman has just completed her menses or post-partum bleeding, a complete washing, known as ghusl, must be made before commencing the prayer. Otherwise, one must be in a state of purity via ablution or wudoo, which involves washing the face, head, arms and feet. The ablution is to be repeated before the next prayer if one has relieved oneself, passed gas, had a deep sleep or lost consciousness. This prerequisite for the prayer further emphasizes the fact that worship of God involves all of one’s being. However, outside of the ritual prayer, if one simply wants to supplicate to Allah, then ablution is not required.

In addition to being in a state of purity, one’s clothing and place of prayer must also be free of impurities. In other words, the clothing and area should be free of urine, feces, blood and any other impure substance. Hence, the entire atmosphere and the feeling of the individual should be one of purity as he begins to enter into this noble state of prayers and communication directly with his Lord.

It is important to realize that the times of the daily prayers are fixed. Allah says, “Verily, the prayers are enjoined on the believers at stated times” (4:103). These mings are delineated in the following hadith: “The Angel Gabriel came to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and said, ‘Stand and pray.’ He prayed the Noon Prayer when the sun had passed its zenith. Then he came in the afternoon and said, ‘Stand and pray.’ Then he prayed the Afternoon Prayer when every object and its shadow had become the same length. Then he came at sunset and said, ‘Stand and pray.’ He prayed when the sun had disappeared. Then he came in the night and said, ‘Stand and pray.’ He prayed when the twilight had disappeared. Then he came at dawn and said, ‘Stand and pray.’ He prayed when the dawn had lit up—or he said became brightened. Then he came on the next day for the Noon prayer and said, ‘Stand and pray.’ He prayed the Noon Prayer when an object and its shade were the same length. Then he came for the Afternoon Prayer and said, ‘Stand and pray.’ He prayed the Afternoon Prayer when the shadow of an object was twice the object’s length. Then he came for the Sunset Prayer, and it has only one time. Then he came for the Night Prayer and it was when half or one third of the night had passed and he prayed the Night Prayer. Then he came in the dawn when it was very light and said, ‘Stand and pray,’ and he prayed the Dawn Prayer. Then he said, ‘The timings [for the prayers] are between these two,’ [that is, between the two sets of times in which he prayed with him].”216

Unfortunately, sometimes some Muslims find themselves busy during the day and therefore delay all of their prayers until nighttime, when they combine the Noon, Afternoon, Sunset and Night Prayers together at home. Converts in particular may find that the prayers are difficult with their work schedule and, at the same time, they may not have the confidence to pray in front of others or to ask for space at work to pray and so forth. This practice of delaying the prayers is incompatible with Islamic Law. The prayers must be said at their proper times and the individual should not take this matter lightly. He should exert himself for the sake of Allah and discover some way by which he will be able to perform the prayers during their proper times. At the very most, if he does need to combine some prayers, he may combine the Noon and Afternoon Prayers during the time of either the Noon or Afternoon Prayers.

Similarly, he may also combine the Sunset and Night Prayers at the time of either the Sunset or Night Prayers. However, no other combination is permissible. Furthermore, the individual should resist combining the prayers as a matter of being lackadaisical and, again, should strive to perform each prayer in its proper time.

Thus, in order for the prayer to be sound and proper, the following conditions must be met:
(1) One must have knowledge that the time of the prayer has begun;
(2) the individual must be in a state of purity;
(3) the clothing, body and place of prayer must also be free of impurities;
(4) the private parts must be covered in a proper fashion—for the man, the area between the navel and the knees must be covered with clothing that does not reveal what is supposed to be covered and the man should wear a garment that covers at least one shoulder; for the woman, all of her except her face and hands is to be covered in the prayer;
(5) the individual must face the qiblah, or the direction towards Allah’s Sacred Kaabah in Makkah;
(6) the individual must have the proper intention for prayer.

It is especially important for the individual to perform the five daily prayers in a congregation in a mosque. Numerous texts of the Quran and Sunnah indicate the importance of prayer in congregation. For example, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “The prayer of a person in congregation is twenty-five levels better than the prayer of a person prayed in his house or in the market. This is because when one of you performs ablution in an excellent manner and then goes to the mosque desiring only the prayer, he will not walk a step except that he will be raised a rank and a sin will be expiated. While he prays, the Angels invoke prayers upon him for as long as he remains seated in his place of worship, saying, ‘O Allah have mercy on him, O Allah forgive him, O Allah turn towards him.’ And you are continually considered in the prayer as long as you are waiting for the prayer.”217 Actually, many scholars state that performing the five daily prayers in a congregation is obligatory upon men. In addition to the obvious importance of congregational prayers in general, this author believes, based on his own experience, that it is extremely important for new converts to attend the prayers in congregation as much as possible.

First, it demonstrates the convert’s seriousness in Islam; it shows that he is zealous about performing the most basic act of his new faith. This will immediately send a good sign to the Muslims in his community and they will be more willing to invest their time in such an individual.

Second, it is a good opportunity for the convert to befriend Muslims and learn from their example. It is very difficult to try to change one’s life to an Islamic life while remaining within one’s circle of non-Muslim friends. Hence, attending the mosque will open the door for the convert to make new Muslim friends.

Third, it is an important opportunity for the convert to learn about Islam. In the mosques, usually, one will find people who have knowledge of Islam. The new convert will not have to feel lost and on his own but will find devout Muslim who will be able to guide him and assist him. Obviously, these advantages apply equally to the male as well as the female convert. Hence, the female convert should also take advantage of this opportunity and try to perform some of her congregational prayers in the mosque as well.

The Quran, of course, is in Arabic.218 The first chapter of the Quran is known as soorah al-Faatihah. This chapter forms an essential portion of the prayer and is read in every unit of the prayer. Obviously, it takes time for an individual to learn how to read this short chapter and to be able to memorize it. Until he is able to memorize this chapter, he applies the principle found in the following hadith: A man came to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and told him that he was not able to learn anything of the Quran and requested that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) teach him some words that would suffice him. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) taught him to say, “Subhaanallah. Wa-lhamdulillaah. Wa laa ilaahah illa-llah. Wallahu akbar. Wa la haula wa la quwwata illa-billaah al-Alee al-Adheem.”219 The individual said, “Those are [words of praise] for Allah. What can I say for myself?” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) told him to say, “Allahumma, irhamni. Wa-rzuqni. Wa-‘afini. Wa-hdini.”220 When the man stood and left, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “He has filled his hand with goodness.”221

This author would also advise the convert to learn Arabic expressions and passages of the Quran directly from people who speak Arabic properly. The convert should not rely upon transliterations, as such transliterations cannot convey the true manner of pronouncing the words if the individual is ignorant of the Arabic language in the first place. This author knows from his own personal experience that if the convert learns the phrases of the prayer or portions of the Quran incorrectly, it becomes all the more difficult for him to correct himself later. Thus, from the beginning, one should learn the pronunciation of the Arabic in the best manner possible directly from those who speak it correctly.

214 Meaning: past the age of puberty.

215 Recorded by Muslim.

216 This hadith is sahih. See al-Albaani, Irwaa #250. Recorded by Ahmad, al-Nasaa`ee and al- Tirmidhi.

217 Recorded by al-Bukhari,Muslim and Abu Dawood.

218 A “translation” of the Quran is not considered the Quran. The Quran is only the Arabic text.

219 These phrases mean, respectively, “Exalted and perfect is Allah. All praise and thanks be to Allah. There is none worthy of worship except Allah. Allah is the greatest. There is no power or might except in Allah, the Exalted, the Great.”

220 These phrases mean, respectively, “O Allah, have mercy of me, provide for me, pardon me and guide me.”

221 Recorded by Abu Dawood and others. According to al-Albaani, it is hasan.