Salat is prayer in Islam. It, along with Shahada, Sawm (The fasting for Ramadan), Zakat, and Hajj, is one of the five pillars of Islam. Salat consists of units of prayer, called rakat(plural) or rakah(singular). Each prayer has a set number of rakats. There are 5 fard (obligitory) prayers. Additionally, there are sunnah prayers which are highly recommended but often neglected these days. Prayer times cover periods. There is a window in which the prayer is still on time, even if two people start them at different times. Islam is a religion which is to be practicable for people at all times, so visual confirmation of the position of the sun is how salat times are done if one does not have access to precise astronomical equipment. There were sun worshippers among the pagan Arabs during the days of the Messenger of God (SAW) and there are some times when prayers are at least discouraged, and some would say forbidden due to the position of the sun. In this way, the Muslims were never confused with sun worshippers. The prayers are organized as follows:

Fajr: (Morning) This is the prayer said just before sunrise at dawn. It ends before sunrise. Muslims should not pray while the sun is rising.

Zuhr (Midday) This prayer begins with the decline of the sun after noon and the ends before Asr. Muslims should not pray when the sun is at its zenith directly overhead.

Asr (Afternoon) This prayer begins midway between noon and sunset and ends before sunset.

Maghrib (Sunset) This prayer starts after sunset and continues until it is dark. Muslims should not pray while the sun is setting.

Isha (Evening) The Isha prayer begins at nightfall and lasts until halfway between nightfall and fajr time.

Additionally, voluntary prayers should not be offered between Asr and Maghrib.

On friday, there is a prayer called the jumu'ah which takes the place of zuhr. All prayers should be prayed as early in the period allotted for them as possible with the exceptions of: Fajr when fasting(The Prophets told them ummah to eat as late as possible before beginning the fast to make it easier), and isha, which should be performed just before retiring for the night. Fajr is composed of two rakats. Zuhr and Asr are composed of four each. Maghrib three, and Isha four.

The Sunnah prayers are two rakats prior to Fajr, four before zuhr and two after according to the Hanafi maghdab (school of thought within Sunni Islam.) Others perform four after zuhr. Two rakats after Maghrib, and two after Isha.

It is permissible to combine Zuhr and Asr, or Maghrib and Isha, but no others (though my understanding is that the Hanafi madhab does not permit this joining of prayers). These combination prayers may be offered at either time of the two prayers, so one may combine Zuhr and Asr by saying the Asr early, at the time of Zuhr, or by saying the Zuhr late, at the time of Asr. Similarly, one may combine Maghrib and Isha. This is indeed a mercy upon the ummah, particularly those of us, such as myself, who live in the West.

note added 12/18/01

I was just listening to a Shaykh talk about this, and he said that the stronger opinion is that prayers may be combined only during the time they share, so for zuhr and asr, the early time of asr would be that time, and for mahgrib and isha, the early part of isha. I'll go with the stronger opinion, as that will be our defense to our Lord on the Day of Judgement.


The translations below beginning with (I) and explanations are taken from islamicity.com:

There is a diagram which cannot be reproduced on E2, but, briefly, Qiyam is the standing position, Ruku is the bow, and sajda is the prostration which I am sure many of you have seen on television.

The prayers are to be said in a pleasing voice, which is not quite singing, but is more melodic than your normal office voice (unless your corporate mission statement was written by Rodgers and Hammerstein:)).

One must be in a state of ritual purity prior to praying in order for salat to be valid. This purity is acheived through wudu, unless one has either menstruated or had sexual contact, in which case a full body wash called ghusl is required. One remains in this state of purity until something is done to violate it, such as urinating, defecating, passing gas (through the behind, not burping) menstruating or sexual penetration or ejaculation. The first three require wudu, the last three ghusl. When first standing for pray, the Niyat or intention must be made in the heart. It is not said aloud. Basically, think of your intention to perform the particular prayer and desire to obey God.


INSTRUCTIONS FOR PERFORMING PRAYERS

HOW TO PRAY TWO RAKA'S

position 1: this posture is called Qiyam and it is assumed after having made the intention to pray. Raising both hands upto the ears (palms facing the Qibla) "Allahu Akbar" (1) is said and then holding the left hand with the right hand on top. This position is assumed as shown in position 1. In this position the following prayers are recited: (A) Thana (B) Ta'awaz (C) Tasmia (D) Al-Fatiha, and any short sura or a few verses from the Holy Qur'an.

position 2: Saying Allahu Akbar this position is assumed as shown in the position. This position is called 'Ruku' and the prayers as given under (E) are recited.

position 3: While going back to "Qiyam" position the prayer as given under (F) is said. Then having taken this position prayer (G) is said.

position 4: This position is called 'Sajda'. Saying Allahu Akbar one prostrates as shown and then prayer (H) is said.

position 5: Saying Allahu Akbar and rising from the 'Sajda' position this posture is assumed and prayer (I) is said.

position 6: Saying Allahu Akbar the Sajda position is resumed and prayer (H) is recited.

This completes one 'Raka'.

position 7: Saying Allahu Akbar this position of 'Qiyam' is assumed once again to begin the second Raka, and the following prayers are recited:

(1) 'Al Fatiha' as given under (D) and (2) Any short sura or some verses of the Holy Quran. positions 2,3,4,5 and 6: These are to be assumed as in the first raka and the same prayers to be recited.

position 8: In this posture these prayers are to be recited (J) called "Tashahud" (K) Salat Alan-nabi (L) A short prayer position 9: Having said the above mentioned prayers, turning the face to the right. This prayer is recited as given under (M). position 10: Then turning the face to the left prayer (M) is said again. This completes a two-raka' prayer. In order to perform a THREE RAKA' PRAYER. All the postures and the prayers are the same upto position 8. But this time in this posture only prayer (J) will be recited and then the Qiyam position (position 1) will be resumed to begin the third raka'. This time only Al Fatiha (prayer D) alone will be recited without adding any sura of the Holy Quran. Then all prayers and postures are the same as shown from position 2 to 6 and then 8 to 10..

In order to perform a FOUR RAKA' PRAYER

Positions 1-6 complete the first raka' then positions 7,1 through 6, and 8 complete the second raka'. In position 8 only prayer (J) will be recited and the Qiyam position 1 will be resumed. In position 1 only prayer (D) will be recited without adding any sura. Up to Figure 6 all the prayers are the same as in the first raka'. In Figure 8 only prayer (D) will be recited. Then from position 2-6 all prayers are the same as given for each posture. In position 8 prayer (J), (K), (L) will be recited. Then positions 9-10 are to end the prayer.

(I)Allah is Great.

(A) Praise and glory be to you O Allah. Blessed be Your Name, exalted be Your Majesty and Glory. There is no God but You.

(B) I seek Allah's shelter from Satan, the condemned.

(C) In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

(D) Praise be to Allah, The Cherisher and Sustainer of the Worlds; Most Gracious, Most Merciful; Master of the Day of Judgement Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek, Show us the straight way, the way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace, Those whose(portion) is not wrath, And who go not astray.

(E) "Glorified is my Lord, the Great".

(F) Allah Listens to him who praises Him"

(G) "Our Lord, praise be for you only".

(H) "Glorified is my Lord, the Exalted"

(I) O my Lord forgive me and have Mercy on me"

(J) "All our oral, physical and monetary ways of worship are only for Allah. Peace, mercy and blessing of Allah be on you, O Prophet. May peace be upon us and on the devout slaves of Allah. I testify that there is no God but Allah and I testify that Muhammad is His slave and messenger".

(K) "O God send your mercy on Muhammad and his posterity as you sent Your mercy on Abraham and his posterity. You are the Most Praised, The Most Glorious".

(K) "O God, send your Blessings on Muhammad and his posterity as you have blessed Abraham and his posterity. You are the Most praised, The Most Glorious".

(L) "Our Lord, grant us the good of this world and that of the Hereafter and save us from the torture of hell.

(M) Peace and mercy of Allah be on you".

From the 2 letter Arabic root verb Sad'Lam, meaning connect.

The 2 letter root verb 'Sal' can be manipulated in many ways by adding accent marks and it all means connect.

Silato al walidain = Connecting to parents. (being good to them and honoring them).

Hamzat Wasil = Accent mark used on top of letters and give them an 'OO' sound.

A'sil = origin.

Fa-sil and Fa-sal = negative of sal and sil, meaning break.

Salat = Connecting to Allah thorugh prayers.

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