Faith Friday: The Muslim Prayer {Part I}

At varsity last year, there was an issue involving female Muslim students praying inside the Women's Room which was provided for female students to make themselves a cup of hot chocolate, eat lunch or and just hang out. This made some women feel uncomfortable because they didn't know what was going on or they felt they were being disrespectful when talking while a Muslim girl was in the midst of a prayer. In effort to solve this problem, one of the university's staff me asked why these girls didn't choose to pray in the mussolah  (prayer room) which was already provided for Muslim students by the varsity. Most of the Muslim girls said it was a hassle for them to walk all the way there because they were already in the library or they were rushing in between classes. The staff also asked, "What happens if you miss your prayers? Do you have to pray at a specific time?" 

This incident made me realise that Muslims need to be more open about Islamic practices. While I don't claim to be an expert or a scholar on Islam I do want to explain a few things I've learned about the Muslim prayer because I'm aware some of my readers are not of the Muslim faith and I'm more than happy to elucidate Islamic practices to them. It's important to break down barriers. At the same time, I do receive e-mails from my readers regarding the Muslim prayer or solah / salah (pronounced as saw-lâ-h). In this post I'd like to explain the basics about the Muslim prayer and then address some questions  inshaa Allah (God willing).

In a lecture given by Mufti Menk entitled "What Do I Gain with All This Pain?" it was said that the Muslim prayer, solah, is different than what many non-Muslims usually think of when the word 'prayer' is raised. A prayer is commonly referred to as something people do when they want to ask something from God, be it good grades or the well-being of a loved one, etc.. In Islam we call this a du'a (supplication). There is no specific time for a du'a (pronounced as doo-â) and it can be said in one's heart or out loud while lifting up  the hands in a cupped manner and raising them to the same level of the chest. However, the solah is a prayer for which there are specific movements and specific/recommended times.

Solah is divided into two categories: obligatory and supererogatory otherwise known as fardh' and sunnah in Muslim terms. The obligatory or fardh' prayers are regarded the most important ones in Islam. The fardh' prayers are one of the components of the pillars of Islam which are the foundations of the Muslim way of life. There are 5 obligatory prayers in a day. There are specific times or time-frames for them to be done and prescribed number of rakaats or repetitions / laps. For example, there are 2 rakaats for the Fajr solah (dawn prayer) and 3 rakaats for the Maghreb solah (sundown prayer). Here's a video of the Fajr prayer being performed including translations of what is said during the prayer. The way Muslims pray is also very similar to how a Jewish prayer or ancient Christian prayer is performed. A common question non-Muslims ask me is 'What do you say when you're praying?'. The simplest answer to that is we praise and glorify God and we ask Him for divine guidance.

Visit Emir Isovic's blog for awesome illustrations like the one of the hands in prayer mode I've used above
This is an infograph I've created to help me explain the Muslim prayer. If you spot any mistakes let me know. Otherwise, please feel free to print it out or e-mail it to your friends. I think it would be very useful for interfaith clubs or to share with someone who wants to understand Islam better.

Part II of 'The Muslim Prayer' will answer frequently asked questions about the solah, such as: 'What is the importance of the obligatory and supererogatory prayers in a Muslim's life?' and popular questions by Muslims 'How  do we pray on time amidst our busy schedule?' (something I'm always working on myself).

Do you have any questions about the Muslim prayer? If yes, leave a comment or drop me an e-mail.  I'm not a scholar but inshaa Allah I'll be able to answer basic questions and share personal tips or advice about praying on time and things like that. 


amirah said…
Subhanallah. What a very informative way of explaining facts about solah. And I totally understand the feeling of performing solah just at any where and at any time when we are living in a non muslim environment.

Tell me more about praying at specific time. I do feel bad when I choose to pray at the last hour of the prayer time so that I can keep my wudhu' for the next prayer. You know how its like to perform wudhu' at their public restroom right? I know we can't simply delay our prayer time, but I have no other choice.
anonymous said…
Absolutley amazing diagram masha'Allah! may Allah reward you!
Nemo said…
I like the diagram and the way you explain it :) Alhamdulillah~
Nice info too ;)
on345667755 said…
i dont have any questions but, i love this <3
Anonymous said…
Thanks on creating one of the most stylish blogs I have come across in a long time! It's truly incredible how much you are able to take away from some thing simply because of how aesthetically gorgeous it is. Youve created a fantastic be site fantastic graphics , structure. site!
shea said…
SubhanAllah sha!!
the graphical explanation screams!! XD

thank you for the infos luv!

Zara A said…
Subhanallah! What a beautifully written post sister! May Allah (SWT) reward you for your kind efforts. I just love the diagram and how its explained. So informative and just what I've needed to hear lately!
Much love for you sis <3
Mr. DesBarres said…
As a non-Muslim interested in learning about the Islamic faith, I found your graphic and video extremely helpful.
Most of my learning has been reading with some short emails with Muslims.
I look forward to following your blog in the future.
Thank you.
Shahirah Elaiza said…
@amirah, Inshaa Allah Part II will discuss issues similar to the one you have raised =)

@SARAH, JazakaAllah Khair for your kind words.

@Nawal Shariff, Alhamdulillah! Thank you.

@Modestly Me, Thank you =)

@Shea, More than welcome. Glad you like it alhamdulillah!

@Zara A, *hugs from Malaysia*

@Mr DesBarres, I'm so glad this post has helped you, alhamdulillah. I can't take any credit for the video though as I didn't make it. E-mails can be quite limiting. I hope you get to meet and converse with Muslims in your area /community. I'm sure they will be more than happy to talk to you. Inshaa Allah (God willing), I'll continue to write about Islam and help others and myself to learn about Islam.
Safiyyah said…
May Allaah t'ala reward you for the fantastic infograph!
Ikhlas said…
Great post, as usual! Even as a Muslim reading this, there's definitely something I learned while reading this, like the difference in describing dua and salat to non-Muslims.

Looking forward to more of your posts! Your blog is truly inspirational and a treasure-trove of knowledge (and gorgeous pictures!)

Lots of love