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Mystic Mantra: In Islam, prayer is directly to God alone

Moin Qazi is a well-known banker, author and Islamic researcher. He can be reached at
Published : Jul 31, 2019, 1:43 am IST
Updated : Jul 31, 2019, 1:43 am IST

There is a direct relationship between every man and his Creator.

The raka’h is repeated two, three or four times, depending on the time of prayer.
 The raka’h is repeated two, three or four times, depending on the time of prayer.

Salat, also spelled salah, Arabic ?al?t — the daily ritual prayer enjoined upon all Muslims as one of the five Pillars of Islam (ark?n al-Isl?m) — it is a universal symbol of brotherhood and is identical everywhere. It has not altered in its form since its inception. It is a touchstone of a Muslim’s commitment to belief in one God, to whom he bows in every prayer.

In Islam, prayer is directly to God alone, without any intermediary or intercessor. Islam does not have an ordained clergy. There is a direct relationship between every man and his Creator.

 This particular closeness between the individual and God is paramount in belief as well as in practice. Every believer is alone before God, even when worshipping shoulder to shoulder with others.

It is seen as more meritorious for a Muslim to pray in a mosque and with a congregation, but it is acceptable to pray alone. God ordered Muslims to pray at five set times of the day — the five prayer times are determined by the position of the sun, thereby putting the supplicant in close tune with the rhythms of the day — salat al-faj at dawn, before sunrise; salat al-zuhr at midday, after the sun passes its highest; salat al-’asr in the late part of the afternoon; salat al-maghrib just after sunset; and salat al-’ishaween sunset and midnight.

The more elaborate determinants of prayer time are: the afternoon prayer occurring when the shadow of an object stretches to twice its height; the evening prayer ending when the last bit of red disappears from the sunset and actually begins at the first ray of dawn, or, as it says in the Quran, “when the white thread of day becomes distinct from the blackness of night”.

On Fridays, a congregational prayer (?al?t al- jum?ah) is performed just after noon. This includes two sermons (khutbah) delivered from the pulpit. Special congregational prayers are offered in the middle of the morning on the two festival days (??ds), one immediately following the month of fasting, Ramadan, and the other following the pilgrimage, or hajj.

The set prayers are not just phrases to be spoken but a series of ritualised gestures and a sequence of movements and postures that go with the recitation of the prayer and unite mind, soul and body in worship. The words are intended to glorify God and proclaim devotion to Him. This prayer cycle, linking the body like a string of prayer beads, is called raka’h.

The body rhythms of the raka’h include solemn bowings (rukuh) and kneeling (sujud), evoking the Islamic notion of the close bonding of body and spirit. They represent humility before the Creator .The final transition is into a seated pose, feet beneath them and hands on laps, called tashahhud. This is a moment to pause and reflect on one’s prayer. The raka’h is repeated two, three or four times, depending on the time of prayer. Wherever they are, Muslims men kneel in orderly rows, placing their foreheads on the ground in the direction of the Kaaba, the black cube at the centre of the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

In the Islamic tradition, the funeral prayer, called salat al-janaza, is not a special condition for the afterlife or a sacrament that’s necessary for salvation. It is, however, considered a communal duty: Muslims pray for the forgiveness of the dead. Similarly, there are communal prayers for brotherhood and relief from natural calamities. They do not follow the regimen prescribed for the mandatory prayers.

Tags: mecca grand mosque, islamic tradition