I thought it may be good to help Muslims, new and old, by explaining the actions of prayer. I have previously covered some issues around washing and cleanliness: How to Pray Part 1: Cleanliness
When praying, your clothing should be clean. For a man, his shoulders need to be covered. Umm Hani (radiAllahanha) reported that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) wrapped his body with a single garment and crossed its ends over his shoulders [Bukhari and Muslim].
When praying, your awra should be covered. Awra is that part of the body which should be covered and not shown publicly. For men, it is between the navel and the knee and for the woman, it is everything except the face and hands. Clothing should not contain pictures of living things. The rules of clothing for women still applies (I have not described these rules here but there are many websites/books/scholars that can help women to know what the ruling of dress is).
If you are praying inside (eg. home, Masjid, other building), shoes are always taken off before praying.
Helpful tip: Ensure that you wear clothes that will not reveal any part of your awra, when you are perfoming prayers. For example, the fashion nowadays is for men to wear jeans that hang very low around the waist. This has the effect that when a man bends over, eg. for prostration, then the skin between his waist and the top of his behind becomes exposed to the public.
GOING TO THE MASJID
Performing the obligatory prayers in the Masjid is a duty that Muslim men should do [Bukhari and Muslim], whenever possible (without feeble excuse as well). It is not as much of an obligation for women to pray at the Masjid. Enter the Masjid with the right foot first (when you leave, leave with the left foot first). When you enter the masjid, you should pray two rak’at before sitting [Bukhari]. In addition you should not raise your voice in the masjid [Bukhari].
However, Abdullah ibn Umar (ra) narrated, ‘The Prophet (pbuh) used to ask the Mu’adhin on every cold and rainy night, to announce, “Pray in your houses.”‘ [Bukhari and Muslim]. The Mu’adhin is the person who makes the Call for Prayer.
PRAYING AT HOME
If you are praying at home, ensure there are no pictures or statues in the room you are praying in. [from Bukhari].
PRAYER IN CONGREGATION
Prayer in congregation is highly recommended. The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Prayer in congregation in superior by 27 degrees to prayer performed individually.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
PRAYING AT THE PRESCRIBED TIMES
There are presecribed times for prayer (as described in Bukhari). The five obligatory prayers (ie. the prayers that you MUST do) are:
Fajr (morning prayer)
This is between the break of dawn and sunrise
Dhuhr (noon prayer)
This starts when the sun declines from the meridian and ends when the shadow of an object is the same as the length of that object.
Asr (afternoon prayer)
This starts from the end of Dhuhr up until sunset.
Maghrib (prayer after sunset)
This starts from sunset and ends with the disappearance of the red line from the horizon.
Isha (night/evening prayer)
This starts when Maghrib ends and remains until the start of Fajr prayer.
To make it easier for you to know what the times are, simply get hold of a prayer timetable from your local Masjid. There are three forbidden times for prayer. These are:
- When the sun begins to rise until it is fully up
- When the sun is at its height at midday til it passes the merdian
- When the sun draws near to setting, til it has set.
- [Narrated from Muslim]
However, if you have missed an obligatory prayer, you are allowed to pray this, even at the forbidden times. This is because the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, “Whoever has forgotten the prayer should pray it whenever he remembers it.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
Move on to “How to Pray Part 3: The Call to Prayer”
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