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The development of the Muslim daily prayer ritual, known as Salat or Salah, was influenced by various traditions.

Scholars suggest that syncretism contributed to the formation of Salat. Wudu, the ritual washing before prayer, was likely derived from Jewish and Zoroastrian traditions, while Indigenous Arabian traditions influenced Sujood, the act of prostration during prayer, the practice of facing a specific direction during prayer (Qibla) was influenced by Jewish tradition, and the frequency of prayer was primarily influenced by Zoroastrian tradition.

Salat does not simply describe the physical act of prayer; rather, it is a spiritual connection with the Divine. Thus, Muslims strive to perform it consistently and with devotion.

Salat is of immense importance in Islam. It is the Second Pillar of Islam and the first act for which a Muslim will be held accountable. Before his passing, the Prophet Muhammad recommended Salat to his followers. It serves as the primary method of worship, keeping Muslims connected to Allah.

In Salat, five obligatory prayers exist. Fajr is the pre-dawn prayer that signifies the start of the day, Dhuhr is the noon prayer, Asr is the afternoon prayer, which offers a moment for reflection, Maghrib is the evening prayer, after sunset, and Isha is said before bedtime. Each prayer consists of a specific number of units called rak'ahs, although the structure varies for each prayer. During Salat, Muslims recite verses from the Qur'an in Arabic. Salat involves standing, bowing, prostrating, and sitting. Muslims face the Kaaba in Mecca during Salat, a practice known as Qibla. A sincere intention, known as Niyyah, is essential before starting Salat.

Apart from the obligatory prayers, Islam includes additional non-obligatory prayers. Sunnah prayers are recommended, as they were practiced by the Prophet. Nafl prayers are voluntary and may be performed at any time. Taraweeh are special nightly prayers during Ramadan. Tahajjud are late-night prayers intended to bring one closer to Allah. Salat al-Janazah is a funeral prayer for deceased Muslims.

Generally speaking, the Muslim who knows the Qur'an and knows it the best should be given preference in leading the prayer. When those present are equally qualified in that respect, then the one who is the most knowledgeable in the rules of the religion should lead.

Congregational prayers should take place in the mosque, as this act is one of the virtuous acts that are dearest to Allah. If the prayer cannot possibly be offered in the mosque, a place should be chosen that is pure and clean, where others will not be disturbed, and where the prayer is unlikely to be distracted.

A traveler may shorten his prayers during his travels. Therefore, a four-rakah prayer might become two rakahs each. He may discontinue the supererogatory prayers that are regularly offered with the obligatory ones with the exception of the Fajr. He may discontinue the supererogatory prayers that are regularly offered with the obligatory ones, with the exception of the Fajr supererogatory prayer. He may combine the afternoon prayer with the late afternoon prayer, and the sunset prayer with the late evening prayer.

A prayer is invalidated when any of its pillars (arkaan) or obligatory actions (waajibaat) are intentionally or forgetfully omitted despite one's ability to perform them, or if they are intentionally left out. Deliberately speaking or laughing aloud during the prayer will also invalidate the prayer, as would unnecessary, continuous movements.

Other actions might decrease the value of a prayer, while not fully invalidating it. These include turning the head during prayer, fiddling with hands or face, or praying while distracted.

This portion of our web guide focuses on Islamic prayer.



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