Salah/Salat is the prayer which Muslims perform a mandatory amount of five times a day. This is one of the fundamental pillars of Islam.
Why is Salah practiced ?
Muslims pray as a form of obedience and glorification of God. Salah became an obligation for Muslims to perform Salah after direct instructions were given to the Prophet Muhammad by God. Muslims remember this day as Al Isra Wal Miraj (the night journey) which is the miraculous journey from Mecca to Jerusalem and then from Jerusalem to the heavens. The Prophet Muhammad conducted his journey on a horse like creature called Buraaq who was blessed with the ability to complete this entire journey (and back to Mecca) all within one night.
When is Salah performed ?
The five daily prayers are to be performed based on the position of the sun is. This means that the prayer times change every day by a few minutes and this is also the reason why the Islamic prayer timetable is massively different in the summer as compared to the winter (as well as by location).
The general timings for prayer are :
- Fajr – near dawn
- Zuhr – just after midday
- Asr – late afternoon
- Maghrib – just after sunset
- Isha – after dark
How is Salah performed ?
Salah can be broken down into two parts: purification and the act of prayer itself.
- Purification: Muslims must purify themselves before they pray. This means they must firstly wash themselves in order to deem themselves clean. This purification ritual involves washing the hands, mouth, nose, face, arms (up until the elbows), head and feet (up until the ankles) with water.
- Prayer: The prayer generally involves recitation of passages from the Muslim holy book (The Quran) and involves standing, bowing and prostrating.
What is the significance of Salah in the after-life ?
Muslims believe that on the Day of Judgement (which is when every living being will be raised from the dead and will questioned about their deeds on Earth) the first question they will be asked is about their Salah. The understanding is that if their Salah is good then the rest of their account will be good and if their Salah is bad (or lacking) then the rest of their account will be bad (or lacking). This is based on the fact that praying Salah brings about God-consciousness and encourages the believers to stay away from bad and evil acts.