Salat: The Ritual Prayer of Muslims


salat positions
“Salat positions” by Sureyya Aydin, Norway (Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share)

[dropcaps]A[/dropcaps] graceful solitude is evoked through the utterance of words. A moment of peace and a regression into the confines of a deprived mind enacts the restless and the hopeful to strive to be in touch with a self that is outside the existence of what is tangible.

People throughout the history of time have longed for a moment of peace and a connection with a spiritual world or being. Whether it is through a tribal dance, a fixation upon an ancient relic, a prophetic oration, or a ritual in the style of a primitive spoken word piece, people have had the need to bridge the gap between the world known and unknown.

Just as language is the bridge between human beings and words are a form of transportation carrying passengers of thoughts, prayer is a staple for the religious, the hopeful, and the faithful.

The way one prays differs according to the religion. Found in some religions, prayer is an act of submission before a higher being. Islam in Arabic means a submission and surrender to the one true God, and a Muslim is one who submits to God’s laws.

The second Surah (chapter) and 153rd Ayah (verse) in the Quran states, “O you who believe, seek courage in fortitude and prayer, for God is with those who are patient and persevere.”

The fourth Surah and 103rd Ayah of the Quran states that there are specified times of prayer. Muslims give prayer at five given times throughout the day. There is the dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset, and night prayers.

Also in Islam, a prayer is comprised of a process within a unit of prayer called the Rak’ah. Muslims cleanse themselves before prayer in a cleansing process called the ablution.

In the fifth Surah and sixth Ayah of the Quran it states, “O believers, when you stand up for the service of prayer wash your faces and hands up to elbows, and also wipe your heads, and wash your feet up to the ankles. If you are in a state of seminal pollution, then bathe and purify yourself well. But in case you are ill or are travelling, or you have satisfied the call of nature, or have slept with a woman, and you cannot find water, then take wholesome dust and pass it over your face and your hands, for God does not wish to impose any hardship on you. He wishes to purify you, and grace you with His favors in full so that you may be grateful.”

After the ablution a cardinal direction is faced by all Muslims as they go into prayer. “Remember, We made the House (of Ka’bah) a place of congregation and safe retreat, and said: “Make the spot where Abraham stood the place of worship;” and enjoined upon Abraham and Ishmael to keep Our House immaculate for those who shall walk around it and stay in it for contemplation and prayer, and for bowing in adoration,” as recorded in the second Surah and 125th Ayah of the Quran.

The actual location faced by Muslims is the Ka’bah located in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Then, the intent of the prayer and what prayer it is according to the time of day is said. The hands are raised to the sides of the face, the thumbs touching the ears and the palms facing forward. Simultaneously “Allahu Akbar” or “God is great” is recited so that a connection with God may be established. This opens the prayer.

Once this is done, either hand is placed on the stomach in preparation of reciting the first Surah of the Quran. This recitation is solely done in Arabic while standing.

The English translation of the Key reads: “All praise be to Allah, Lord of all the worlds, Most beneficent, ever-merciful, King of the Day of Judgment. You alone we worship, and to You alone turn for help.

Guide us (O Lord) to the path that is straight, The path of those You have blessed, Not of those who have earned Your anger, nor those who have gone astray.”

From the standing position the believer goes into the Rukoo or bowing position. The knees are kept straight and the hands are placed on the knees as one bows. The eyes are kept looking at a point a few feet ahead. Simultaneously, Allahu Akbar is recited. Then while in the Rukoo position, the one in prayer recites “Subhaana Rabbiyal Azeem” or “God be Glorfied.” While one returns to the standing position, “Sami Allahu Limaan Hamidah” or “God responds to those who praise Him” is recited. One remains in this position for a second.

The next position is the prostrate position or the Sujood. While going to this position Allahu Akbar is recited once again. In this position the knees and forehead are touching the floor. In the Sujood position, “Subhaana Rabbiyal Alaa” or God be glorified” is recited.

After, the one in prayer goes to the sitting position while saying Allahu Akbar. One remains in this position for a second before one goes into a second time of Sujood. As one goes into Sujood, Allahu Akbar is said once again. During this Sujood, Subhanna Rabbiyal Alaa is recited. This concludes a full unit of the Rak’ah.

Consequently, Allahu Akbar is recited as one stands up to begin another unit of prayer. At the end of a prayer one goes into the sitting position and recites the First Pillar of Submission or the “Shahaadah.”

“I bear witness that there is no other god beside God. He alone is God; He has no partner.” Finally, one looks to the right and recites “Assalaamu Alaikum” or “Peace be to you”, and this is repeated again as one looks to the left.

The dawn prayer consists of two units of the Rak’ah, the noon and afternoon prayers contain four, the sunset prayer contains three, and the night prayer has four units. Contrary to the beliefs of some Muslims, there is supposedly only three prescribed times of prayers stated in the Quran. These are the dawn, middle, and night prayers.

The 24th Surah and 58th Ayah of the Quran states: “O you who believe, let your dependents and those who have not yet reached the age of puberty, ask permission (to enter your presence) on three occasions: Before the early morning prayer; when you disrobe for the mid-day siesta; and after prayer at night. These are the three occasions of dishabille for you. There is no harm if you or they visit one another at other times (without permission). God thus explains things to you clearly, for God is all-knowing and all-wise.”

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