Details of the Five Prescribed Prayers


Before a Muslim can begin the daily prayers, there are some preconditions that must be fulfilled, which include the following:


  1. The dawn prayer (Fajr): This prayer must be done between the time the first ray of light appears in the sky until the time of sunrise.

  2. The noon prayer (Dhuhr): The specific time for this prayer is right after the sun passes over its noon position. However, it can be done up until sunset.

  3. The afternoon prayer (Asr): This prayer can be done any time after the noon prayer until sunset.

  4. The sunset prayer (Maghrib): This prayer is to be performed
    after the sun sets at the time when the red sky on the eastern horizon disappears. Yet, it can be done up until midnight.

  5. The night prayer (Isha): This prayer can be done any time after the sunset prayer and before midnight.

Direction (al-Qiblah)

During prayer, all Muslims must face the Kabah, the House of God, built by Prophet Abraham and his son Ishmael. The Kabah is located in the city of Mecca, in the Arabian Peninsula. One way to determine the precise direction of the prayer (called al-qiblah) is to use a compass. In North America, Muslims face northeast to locate the shortest path to Mecca.


The place where a person is going to recite his or her prayer should either belong to that person or one must have permission to pray in that area (unless the place is a public one). The spot where the forehead touches the ground must be clean (tahir), and free from any impurities, and prostration must be done on earth or inedible plants (including paper or wood).

Purity of the body

Just as the soul must be pure, concentrating on the Almighty and being in a state of complete calm before one can perform the prayers is essential, the body must also be free from impurities. Certain items are considered ritually impure and must be avoided, removed, or purified before the prayers. A specified washing (wudhu) must also be performed before the prayers as the Quran instructs, “O you who believe, when you intend to offer prayers, wash your faces and your hands from the elbows to the fingertips. Rub [with wet hands] your heads and your feet up to the ankles, and if you are in a state of sexual impurity, purify yourself [by bathing your entire body].” (5:6)

If water is unavailable, dust may be used out of necessity, just as the Quran explains, “But if you are ill or on a journey and you come from the call of nature or have been in sexual contact with women and do not find water, then take clean sand and rub your faces and your hands. Allah does not want to place you in any difficulty, but He wants to purify you and to complete His favor upon you that you may be thankful.” (5:6)


During prayer, a man must wear enough clothing to cover most of his body, and a woman must cover her entire body (including the head and hair), except for the face and hands. Clothing worn during prayer must be clean and lawfully obtained; it must not be stolen or borrowed without the owner’s permission.

The call to prayer (adhaan)

The call for prayer is highly recommended and is one of the distinguishing emblems of the Islamic faith. Whereas other religions use a bell or a musical instrument to call its faithful to pray, Islam instructs its followers to use the voice and to proclaim the prayer in this fashion.

The call to prayer consists of two parts: the adhaan and the iqaama. The adhaan is the general announcement to the prayers and instructs the believers to prepare for the beginning of the prayers while the iqaama is the specific proclamation that the prayers are just about to start.

The person reciting the adhaan should stand facing the direction of prayer and say:

Allahu Akbar (4 times)
Allah is the Greatest

Ashhadu an laa ilaaha illa Allah (2 times)
I testify that there is no god but Allah

Ashhadu anna Muhammadan-rasul Allah (2 times)
I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah

Ashhadu anna Alyan waliullah (2 times)
I testify that Ali is the friend of Allah[1]

Hayya ‘alaas Salaah (2 times)
Hasten to prayer

Hayya ‘alaal falaah (2 times)
Hasten to success

Hayya ‘alaa khayril amal (2 times)
Hasten to the best of deeds

Allahu Akbar (2 times)
Allah is the Greatest

Laa ilaaha illa Allah (2 times)
There is no god but Allah

The iqaama should be said immediately before the prayer. It is identical to the adhaan with three exceptions:

  1. The initial phrase, “Allahu Akbar,” is only said twice.

  2. The final phrase, “La ilaaha illa Allah,” is said only once.

  3. The phrase “Qad qaamatis salaah” which means “prayer is being offered” is said twice and is inserted after “Hayya ‘alaa khayril -amal ” which is repeated twice as well.

The prayers

Each of the prayers consists of a specific number of units (rakat). The dawn prayer has two units, the noon and afternoon prayers each have four units, the sunset prayer has three units, and the night prayer has four units. The simplest prayer to learn is the two-unit dawn prayer, which will be described here.

Once all of the preconditions above have been fulfilled, and the person intending to offer the prayer is facing the proper direction (qiblah), and a sincere intention has been made for that particular prayer (in this case the dawn prayer), then the prayer may begin. The hands are raised up to be parallel to the ears with the palms facing the direction of prayer and the following is said:

Allahu Akbar
Allah is the Greatest

The hands are then put down again to the sides of the body or rested on the thighs and the first chapter of the Quran (al-Fatiha) is recited.

Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim
In the name of Allah, the most Merciful, the most Compassionate.

Al-hamdu lillaahi Rabb al‘aalamin.
Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.

Ar-Rahman ar-Rahim
The Merciful, the Compassionate.

Maaliki Yawm-id-Din
Master of the Day of Judgment.

Iyyaaka na’budu wa iyyaaka nasta’in
You alone do we worship, and from You alone do we seek help.

Ihdina-s-siraat al-mustaqim.
Guide us the straight path.

Siraat alladhina an’amta ‘alayhim ghayr al-maghdubi ‘alayhim wa laa adh-dhaalin.
The path of those whom You have blessed, not of those on whom is Your wrath, nor of those who have gone astray.

Next, another full chapter of the Quran must be recited. The example given below is the chapter entitled, “The Oneness of Allah.”[2]

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim.
In the name of Allah, the most Merciful, the most Compassionate.

Qul huwa Allahu Ahad
Say, He is Allah, the One

Allah, the Eternal

Lam yalid wa lam yulad
He begets not, nor was He begotten

Wa lam yakun lahu kufwaan Ahad.
And there is nothing comparable to Him.

At this point, “Allahu Akbar” should be said and the person should bow, placing the hands on the knees and keeping the back horizontal to the ground. While bowing, the following should be recited:

Subhaana Rabbi al-Athim wa bihamdih.
Glory be to my Lord, the Great, and praise be to Him.

Then, one must stand up straight again and in the standing position, the following should be said:

Sami’a Allahu liman hamidah
Allah hears the one who praises Him.

Then “Allahu Akbar” is said, and the person prostrates (sajdah) on the ground. In sajdah, seven parts of the body must be on the ground, namely: the forehead, palms of both hands, knees, and tip of the big toes. The following must be said either once or three times:

Subhaana Rabbi al-a’laa wa bihamdih.
Glory be to my Exalted Lord, and praise be to Him

The person should then sit up on his or her knees, say “Allahu Akbar” and then say:

Astaghfirullaaha Rabbi wa atubu ilayh.
I seek forgiveness from Allah, my Lord, and turn towards Him.

Again, “Allahu Akbar” should be said and sajdah (as mentioned above) is repeated. Then, the person should sit up on his or her knees for a moment and say “Allahu Akbar” and then stand up and repeat the same process (e.g. recite the first chapter of the Quran; recite another chapter of the Quran, bow, and do the two sajdahs). Finally, sitting down again, the following must be said:

Ashhadu an laa ilaaha illa Allah, wahdahu la sharikalah wa ashhadu anna Muhammadan, abdahu warasuluh.
I testify that there is no god but Allah, alone without associate, and that Muhammad is His servant and messenger.

Allahumma salli ‘alaa Muhammadin wa aal-i Muhammad.
O Allah, bless Muhammad and the family of Muhammad.

Assalaamu ‘alayka ayyuha annabiy wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuhu.
Peace be upon you, O Prophet, and the mercy of Allah and His blessings.

Assalaamu ‘alayna wa ‘alaa ‘ibaad allahi-s-saalihi.
Peace be upon us, and upon all the righteous Servants of Allah.

Assalaamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuhu.
Peace be upon you, and the mercy of Allah, and His blessings.

It is recommended that “Allahu Akbar” be pronounced three times by raising the hands to be parallel to the ears. This action concludes the two-unit prayer. However, it is recommended to follow the prayers with supplications or other recitations.

[1] This particular line is recommended not mandatory.
[2] Al-Tawhid, c.112.

Discovering Islam by Sayed Moustafa Al-Qazwini

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