Part II: Prayer (As-Salat)

Chapter 06

Obligation and Prerequists of Prayer

Prayer is obligatory on whom?

         According to the Qur’an and the Sunnah, an adult and sane Muslim is compulsorily required to perform prayer five times a day. Prayer is obligatory on a Muslim whether a male or female, young or old, rich or poor, healthy or sick. Prayer has to be performed at every cost and in all circumstances on its fixed times. A Muslim is obliged to perform it, he may be in the battlefield or in the play ground, he may be in a town or in a village, he may be in school or in office, he may be in factory or in field, he may be in the sea or in the air, he may be at home or on journey, he may be in peace or in war. The prayer is universal in nature and is obligatory on all Muslims unlike other articles of Islam such as Zakat and Hajj which only a wealthy believer is required to perform and unlike fasting which an adult and healthy Muslim is required to do and that too for one month only out of twelve months.

         Although prayer is not obligatory on a Muslim child, but his parents are required by a Hadith of the Prophet to teach him how to offer prayer when he is seven and to be strict to him when he is ten years old (Ahmad, Abu Daud). An insane person is required to start regular prayers the moment he recovers his health, but he is not required to perform the prayers which were missed during the period of his insanity. A sick person is not excused from prayer. If he is unable to perform it standing, he may perform it sitting. And if he is unable to perform it even sitting, he may perform it while lying in the bed.

         Prophet of Islam and his followers used to say prayer from the very beginning of Prophet’s Mission. However, it was made compulsory to pray five times a day during Prophet’s journey or ascention to heaven (called ma’irage). It is reported that initially fifty prayers a day were prescribed but they were reduced to five when Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) requested God again and again at the advice of Prophet Moses (PBUH). God afterwards sent Angel Gibrael to tell the Prophet the timings of the Prayers and to teach him how to pray.

         None is exempt from prayer, he may be a pious one or a sinner, or he may be a saint or an ordinary person. Whosoever denies the obligatory nature of prayer or claims that he has reached the highest spiritual position and is exempt from prayer, as some false peers do, is not a Muslim.

Pre-requisites of Prayer

         In the light of the Qur’an and Hadith, and in the light of the Sunnah of the Prophet and Practice of Prophet’s companions, the Ulema and the Jurists of Islam have prescribed the following pre-requisites or pre-conditions which are to be fulfilled before prayer is performed. In the absence of them or any of them, the prayer will not be deemed to have been performed at all according to Islamic standards.

1. Being a Muslim: One must be a Muslim in order to perform Islamic worship of prayer (Salat). A non-Muslim having no belief in God and in other elements of faith, if he performs prayer, it would not be deemed as valid.

2. Cleanliness of body, clothes and the place: Before performing prayer one must be sure that his body, his clothes and place where he is going to pray are clean, because without cleanliness of these things his prayers is not acceptable and valid.

         If one’s body is unclean on account of minor impurity, it can be cleaned through wudu (ablution). But if it is unclean on account of major impurities like discharge of semen, menstruation or post – partum bleeding (Nafaas), then one must take Ghusl (purification bath). If one’s clothes are unclean, the same must be washed. If the place where one is going to pray is unclean, either its dirt or impurity should be removed or a clean place should be found for the saying of prayer. The Qur’an requires cleanliness of body in Verse 43 of Surah 4 and verse 6 of Surah 5, while it requires cleanliness of clothes in verse 4 of Surah 74.

3. Time of Prayer: In verse no. 103 of Surah An-Nisa, the Qur’an says that Prayer is obligatory for the believers at the fixed hours. Therefore, beforing offering a particular prayer, one must ascertain that its due time has come. We will discuss in detail the times of prayers in the subsequent chapters.

4. Covering of Satar: Satar means those parts of the body of a man or woman which must be covered in order to avoid indecency and shame. The satar of the males, as prescribed by the Prophet, is the part of the body between the navel and the knee; and for the females, it is the whole body excluding face and hands and the feet. At least the Satar must be covered by the men and the women during observance of prayer, though proper and decent dress is recommended at every place of worship for the Muslims by the Qur’an in Verse 31 of its chapter 7.

5. Wudu: To perform Wudu (ablution) is required before offering prayer by verse 6 of chapter (Surah) No. 5 of the Qur’an. It reads: “O you who believe! When you rise up for prayer, wash your faces and your hands up to the elbows, and lightly rub your heads (with wet hands), and (wash) your feet up to the ankles……” So wudu is essential before offering prayer even if one is physically clean. However, if one is suffering from some major impurity, for example on account of sexual discharge, one is required to have full bath (Ghusl). If one is sick or on a journey and water is either not available or its use is harmful, one is allowed to perform Tayyummum (dry cleansing) in place of wudu or Ghusl. We would discuss in detail the injunction regarding Wudu, Ghusl and Tayyummum in the subsequent chapters.

6. Facing the Qiblah: While offering Salat (Prayer), one must turn his face towards Qiblah. The Qiblah, in Islamic terminology, is the direction in which the Muslims turn their faces in prayers from all over the world. This direction is towards the Kaabah (i.e. Bait-ullah or the House of God) which is situated in the premises of the Sacred Mosque (Masjid-al-Haram) at the Holy City of Makah in present day Saudi Arabia. Kaabah or the House of God was built by Prophet Abraham and his son Prophet Ismail about 2000 B.C. It has been prescribed as Qiblah by verses 144, 149 and 150 of Chapter 2 of the Holy Qur’an.

7. Intention to offer Prayer: According to a Hadith, acts are judged by intentions. So every act of worship is preceded by express intention to do it. Intention may be expressed orally in words or be made in the mind, it is valid. Thus one must make up his mind or intention to perform prayer before actually performing it. According to some jurists, to perform wudu is also an expression of intention of prayer.


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