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The Prayer: Some Directives
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
(Tr. by:Dr. Shehzad Saleem)


The Rak‘at of the Prayer

The rak‘at of the prayer which have been fixed by the shari‘ah are:

 Fajr: two

Zuhr: four

‘Asr: four

Maghrib: three

‘Isha: four

These are the obligatory rak‘at of each of these prayers, leaving which a person would be held accountable on the Day of Judgement. Thus, they must necessarily be offered except in cases when qasr has been permitted. All other rak‘at apart from them are optional; they earn great reward for a person but will not hold him accountable on the Day of Judgement if he does not offer them.

Concession in the Prayer

If the time of the prayer arrives in dangerous circumstances, the Almighty has allowed a person to pray while on foot or riding in whatever way possible. In these circumstances, it is evident that there shall be no congregational prayer, facing the qiblah shall not be necessary, and, in some situations, it shall not be possible to offer the prayer according to the prescribed method. The Qur’an says:

فَإنْ خِفْتُمْ فَرِجَالاً أَوْ رُكْبَانًا فَإِذَا أَمِنتُمْ فَاذْكُرُواْ اللّهَ كَمَا عَلَّمَكُم مَّا لَمْ تَكُونُواْ تَعْلَمُونَ (٢٣٩:٢)

When you are exposed to danger, pray on foot or while riding; but when you are safe remember God in the manner He has taught you which you did not know. (2:239)

If such a situation arises during a journey, the Qur’an has further said that people can shorten the prayer. In religious parlance, this is called qasr. The sunnah established by the Prophet (sws) in this regard is that the four rak‘at prayer shall be shortened to two. No reduction shall be made in two and three rak‘at prayers. Consequently, the fajr and the maghrib prayers were offered in full in such circumstances. The reason is that while the former already has two rak‘at, the latter is considered as the witrs of daytime, and this status of the maghrib prayer cannot be changed.

In Surah Nisa, this directive has been revealed in the following words:

وَإِذَا ضَرَبْتُمْ فِي الأَرْضِ فَلَيْسَ عَلَيْكُمْ جُنَاحٌ أَن تَقْصُرُواْ مِنَ الصَّلاَةِ إِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَن يَفْتِنَكُمُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ إِنَّ الْكَافِرِينَ كَانُواْ لَكُمْ عَدُوًّا مُّبِينًا (١٠١:٤)

And when you travel, there is no offence for you to shorten your prayers if you fear that the disbelievers may put you through some trial because these disbelievers are your open enemies. (4:101)

The concession of shortening the prayer and that of offering it while on foot or while riding are stated in these verses with the condition: إِنْ خِفْتُمْ (if you fear). It is evident from the Ahadith that on the basis of this condition the Prophet (sws) analogously offered the qasr prayer when there was uneasiness and discomfort while travelling in general. He similarly offered the optional prayer while riding his camel in order to save the caravan from bother.1 ‘Umar (rta) says that he deemed it strange for the Prophet to offer the qasr prayer in such circumstances, and therefore he asked the Prophet (sws). Upon this, he replied: “This is a favour of God upon you; so you should accept it”.2

From this concession granted in the prayer, the Prophet (sws) has also deduced a concession in the times it is offered, and in such journeys he has led the Muslims in prayer by combining the zuhr and ‘asr prayers together and the maghrib and ‘isha prayers together. It is narrated by Mu‘adh Ibn Jabal that in the journey undertaken by the Prophet (sws) for the battle of tabuk he would combine the zuhr and ‘asr prayers if the sun would descend before the caravan set off, and if the caravan began its journey before the sun’s descent, he would defer the zuhr prayer and combine it with the ‘asr prayer. Similar was the case with the maghrib prayer. If the sun would set before the caravan set off, he would combine the maghrib and ‘isha prayers together and if the caravan set off before sunset he would pray the maghrib and ‘isha prayers together at the time of ‘isha.3

A similar situation arose at the time the Prophet (sws) offered the hajj. Since in the hajj, the battle against Satan is symbolized through various rituals, he established the Sunnah in consideration of this symbolism that whether people are residents or outsiders, they shall shorten the prayers at Mina and shorten and combine them at ‘Arafat.

A subtle reference to this deduction of the Prophet (sws) that prayers can be combined in such situations is found in the Qur’an itself. The words of Surah Nisa on which this directive ends: إِنَّ الصَّلاَةَ كَانَتْ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ كِتَابًا مَّوْقُوتًا (because the prayer is incumbent upon the Muslims at appointed times) require that words like “and pray at the appointed times” or similar to these be understood to be present before them as per the linguistic principles of Arabic. It is evident from this understood expression that besides shortening the prayer, people can also reduce its timings. Consequently, the succeeding words are that once peace is restored Muslims should pray the full rak‘at and pray at the appointed times because the prayer is incumbent upon the Muslims at appointed times.

In the lifetime of the Prophet (sws), an important issue was that no Muslim could have agreed to have been left out from a prayer that the Prophet (sws) led right in a battlefield. Every soldier desired to pray behind him. Though this was a very natural desire, it was essential that proper arrangements of defence be made in the battlefield. One solution to this problem could have been that the Prophet (sws) pray four rak‘at and the army be divided into half with each half praying two rak‘at behind him. At some instances, this solution was adopted as well. However, to save the Prophet (sws) from difficulty that this way could have created, the Qur’an suggested another way: the Prophet (sws) as the imam and all the soldiers should shorten their prayers and each half of the army should pray one rak‘at each behind the Prophet (sws) and pray the other rak‘at by themselves. Consequently, the first half after completing the first rak‘at including its prostrations should retreat and take up the task of defence and the other section should now stand behind the Prophet (sws) to pray in the Prophet’s second rak‘at. The Qur’an says:

وَإِذَا كُنتَ فِيهِمْ فَأَقَمْتَ لَهُمُ الصَّلاَةَ فَلْتَقُمْ طَآئِفَةٌ مِّنْهُم مَّعَكَ وَلْيَأْخُذُواْ أَسْلِحَتَهُمْ فَإِذَا سَجَدُواْ فَلْيَكُونُواْ مِن وَرَآئِكُمْ وَلْتَأْتِ طَآئِفَةٌ أُخْرَى لَمْ يُصَلُّواْ فَلْيُصَلُّواْ مَعَكَ وَلْيَأْخُذُواْ حِذْرَهُمْ وَأَسْلِحَتَهُمْ وَدَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ لَوْ تَغْفُلُونَ عَنْ أَسْلِحَتِكُمْ وَأَمْتِعَتِكُمْ فَيَمِيلُونَ عَلَيْكُم مَّيْلَةً وَاحِدَةً وَلاَ جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ إِن كَانَ بِكُمْ أَذًى مِّن مَّطَرٍ أَوْ كُنتُم مَّرْضَى أَن تَضَعُواْ أَسْلِحَتَكُمْ وَخُذُواْ حِذْرَكُمْ إِنَّ اللّهَ أَعَدَّ لِلْكَافِرِينَ عَذَابًا مُّهِينًا فَإِذَا قَضَيْتُمُ الصَّلاَةَ فَاذْكُرُواْ اللّهَ قِيَامًا وَقُعُودًا وَعَلَى جُنُوبِكُمْ فَإِذَا اطْمَأْنَنتُمْ فَأَقِيمُواْ الصَّلاَةَ إِنَّ الصَّلاَةَ كَانَتْ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ كِتَابًا مَّوْقُوتًا (٤: ١٠٢-١٠٣)

And [O Prophet (sws)!] when you are among them, and stand to lead them in the prayer [in a battlefield], let one group stand behind you such that they are armed with their weapons. After making their prostration, let them withdraw to the rear and then let the other group who have yet to pray come forward and pray with you; and let these also be armed with their weapons. The disbelievers desire that if you even slightly desert your arms and your gear, they attack you united together. But it is no offence for you to put aside your weapons if you are inflicted with heavy rain or stricken with an illness, though you should still take necessary protection and you should be certain that God has prepared a humiliating punishment for the disbelievers. When the prayer you have offered in such a manner ends, remember God standing, sitting and lying down [in whatever circumstances you are in]. So when the circumstances become peaceful offer the full prayer, [and, for this, pray at the appointed times] for the prayer is incumbent on the believers at the appointed times. (4:102-103)

It is evident from the narratives that various ways were adopted to offer the rak‘at which each half of the army had to offer on its own as per this directive. At one instant, the Prophet (sws) waited until those behind him completed their rak‘at and then withdrew4 and at another the army later completed the rak‘at5. There remains no need to state the details of this because this measure as is evident from the words وَإِذَا كُنتَ فِيهِمْ (when you are among them) related to the presence of the Prophet (sws). After him, neither can the desire to pray behind one imam be as strong nor as important. Today, if there does arise a possibility of congregational prayers in such circumstances, then soldiers can easily prayer behind different imams.

The Congregational Prayer 

Although the prayer can be offered alone, yet the Sunnah of the religion of the Prophets has always been that for the purification of the collectivity, it be offered in congregation and if possible in a place of worship. For this very purpose the Prophet (sws) built a mosque as soon as he reached Madinah and with this the practice of building mosques in all localities and settlements of Muslims was initiated. These mosques can now be observed all over the world. Islam has not fixed a specific form for their construction. Yet Muslims, with a few differences, have generally maintained a uniform structure for them. In the lifetime of the Prophet (sws), it was essential for all those who heard the adhan to come to the mosque. Later, when the truth had been completely unveiled upon the people of Arabia by the Prophet (sws) and these people became guilty of deliberate denial and various measures were taken to isolate the Muslims from the Hypocrites, a blind person once asked the Prophet relief for coming to the mosque, he was at first given the permission; then the Prophet (sws) asked him: “Do you hear the voice of the adhan?” When he answered in the affirmative, the Prophet (sws) said that he would then have to come to the mosque.6 On this very occasion, the Prophet (sws) warned people: “Those who do not come for the prayer, I want to burn their houses and have them thrown over these people”.7 It is narrated by Ibn Mas‘ud (rta) that even the sick in those times would come to the congregational prayer by limping on the shoulders of two people.8 Obviously, after the departure of the Prophet (sws), the directive of coming to the mosques for the congregational prayer is not incumbent upon the Muslims; however this is a highly rewarding practice earning the blessings of the Almighty. Thus a Muslim should not deprive himself of this without any valid reason.

The narratives ascribed to the Prophet (sws) in this regard are the following:

The congregational prayer is twenty seven times more rewarding than the lone prayer9.

If people knew how highly rewarding is reaching the mosque at the time of the adhan and standing in the first row and if for this they had to caste lots, they would have done this. And if they knew the reward of outdoing others for the zuhr prayer, they would have done so. And if they knew the reward for the fajr and ‘isha prayer they would have reached [the mosque] even if they had to drag themselves for this.10

A person who prayed the ‘isha prayer in congregation is like a person who stood [for worship] till midnight and a person who prayed the fajr prayer in congregation is like a person who spent the whole night standing [in worship]. 11

Women, however, are exempted from this directive. For them the sunnah is that they can come to the mosque for the prayer but the prayer offered at home is better for them. The Prophet (sws) is reported to have said: “Do not stop your women from coming to the mosque, but they should know that it is more appropriate for them to pray at home”.12

Following is the way which has been prescribed by the shari‘ah for offering the congregational prayer.

1. Before this prayer, the adhan shall be called so that people are able to join the prayer after hearing this call. The words which the Prophet (sws) has prescribed for the adhan are:

اللهُ اَكْبَر،ُ اَشْهَدُ اَنْ لاَ اِلهَ اِلَاَ اللهَُ ، اَشْهَدُ اَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُولُ اللهِ ، حَيَّ عَلَى الصَّلوةِ ، حَيَّ عَلَى الْفَلَاحِ ، اللهُ اَكْبَرُ ؛ لاَ اِلهَ اِلاَّ اللهَُ

God is the greatest; I bear witness that there is no god besides Him; I bear witness that Muhammad is God’s messenger; Come towards the prayer; come towards salvation; God is the greatest; there is no god besides Him.

2. If there is only one follower, he will stand adjacent to the imam on his right side and if there are many followers they shall stand behind him and he shall stand in the centre.

3. The iqamah shall be called before the prayer begins. All the words of the adhan shall be uttered in it; however, after حَيَّ عَلَى الْفَلَاحِ the words قَدْ قَامَتْ الَّصلَاة shall be said by the person who says the iqamah.

4. The words of the adhan and the iqamah can be repeated more than once for the purpose they are said.

This method of the congregational prayer has been given to us through the ummah’s consensus and perpetual adherence. The details of this method which are mentioned in the narratives are presented here:

The Adhan

According to the dream of the Companions (rta) regarding the adhan mentioned in the narratives and as per which the Prophet (sws) directed them to say the adhan and the iqamah, the words of the adhan have been repeated in the following manner13:

اللهُ اَكْبَرُ ، اللهُ اَكْبَرُ ، اللهُ اَكْبَرُ ، اللهُ اَكْبَرُ ؛ اَشْهَدُ اَنْ لاَ اِلهَ اِلَاَ اللهَُ ، اَشْهَدُ اَنْ لاَ اِلهَ اِلَاَ اللهَُ ؛ اَشْهَدُ اَنْ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُولُ اللهِ ، اَشْهَدُ اَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُولُ اللهِ ؛ حَيَّ عَلَى الصَّلوةِ ، حَيَّ عَلَى الصَّلوةِ ؛ حَيَّ عَلَى الْفَلَاحِ ، حَيَّ عَلَى الْفَلَاحِ ؛ اللهُ اَكْبَرُ ، اللهُ اَكْبَرُ ؛ لاَ اِلهَ اِلاَّ اللهَُ

Thus it has been reported that in the times of the Prophet (sws), the words of adhan were generally repeated twice.14

Abu Mahdhurah reports that when the Prophet (sws) taught him the adhan, he said: You should say15:

اللهُ اَكْبَرُ ، اللهُ اَكْبَرُ ، اللهُ اَكْبَرُ ، اللهُ اَكْبَرُ ؛ اَشْهَدُ اَنْ لاَ اِلهَ اِلَاَ اللهَُ ، اَشْهَدُ اَنْ لاَ اِلهَ اِلَاَ اللهَُ ؛ اَشْهَدُ اَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُولُ اللهِ ، اَشْهَدُ اَنْ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُولُ اللهِ

Then repeat:

اَشْهَدُ اَنْ لاَ اِلهَ اِلَاَ اللهَُ ، اَشْهَدُ اَنْ لاَ اِلهَ اِلَاَ اللهَُ ؛ اَشْهَدُ اَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُولُ اللهِ ، اَشْهَدُ اَنْ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُولُ اللهِ

Then say:

حَيَّ عَلَى الصَّلوةِ ، حَيَّ عَلَى الصَّلوةِ ؛ حَيَّ عَلَى الْفَلَاحِ ، حَيَّ عَلَى الْفَلَاحِ ؛ اللهُ اَكْبَرُ ، اللهُ اَكْبَرُ ؛ لاَ اِلهَ اِلاَّ اللهَُ

He also reports: “The Prophet (sws) asked me to say اَشْهَدُ اَنْ لاَ اِلهَ اِلَاَ اللهَُ twice in a low tone and twice loudly. He also said that in the fajr prayer say: ‘الصَّلوةُ خَيْرٌ مِنْ النَّوُمِ، الصَّلوةُ خَيْرٌ مِنْ النَّوُمِ’ after ‘حَيَّ عَلَى الْفَلَاحِ’.”16

It is reported that in times of rain and severe cold the Prophet (sws) would ask the pronouncer of the adhan to say: َالَا صَلَّوا فى الرِّحَال (People! Pray at your homes)17.

Similarly, it has also been narrated that in order to raise the voice and transmit it around, Bilal (rta) would insert his fingers into his ears and turn his face right and left.18

‘Uthman Ibn al-‘As says: ‘When I asked the Prophet (sws) to grant him permission to lead the prayers, he said: “Appoint that person as the mu’adhdhin who does not charge money for saying the adhan”.’19

In response to the adhan, the Prophet (sws) urged Muslims to repeat the words of the mu’adhdhin and to send blessings on the Prophet (sws). He also asked Muslims: “Pray for me that I be granted nearness of the Almighty in Paradise because this is a place in Paradise which has been reserved for just one servant of the Almighty and I hope that I would be that one person; so whoever will pray for this will deserve my intercession”.20

In a narrative attributed to ‘Umar (rta), it is further explained that the Prophet (sws) directed Muslims to respond to the words حَيَّ عَلَى الصَّلوةِ and حَيَّ عَلَى الْفَلَاحِ by saying لاَ حَوْلَ وَلاَ قُوَّةَ اِلاَّ بِاللهِ, and said that a person who responded in this manner from the depth of his heart has glad tidings of Paradise.21

The supplications which are attributed to the Prophet (sws) after the prayer are the following:

اللّهُمَّ ، رَبَّ هَذِهِ الدَّعْوَةِ التَّامَّةِ ، وَالصَّلَاةِ الْقَائِمَةِ ، آتِ مُحَمَّدًا الْوَسِيلَةَ وَالْفَضِيلَةَ ، وَ ابْعَثْهُ مَقَامًا مَحْمُودًا الَّذِي وَعَدْتَةُ

O Lord! of this complete call and of the prayer which stands as its result, bless Muhammad (sws) and grant him a rank of nearness and raise him up on the Day of Judgement in a manner that he earns the praise of the people – something which you had promised him.22

 اَشْهَدُ اَنْ لاَ اِلهَ اِلَاَ اللهَُ ، وَحْدَهُ لاَ شَرِيكَ لَهُ، وَأَنَّ مُحَمَّدٌا عَبْدُدُ وَرَسُولُهُ ، رَضِيْتُ بِاللهِ رَبَّا ، وَبِمُحَمَّدٍ رَسُولاً ، وَباِلْإِسْلَامِ دِيناً

I bear witness that there is no Lord except God. He is the one and no one is His partner. I bear witness that Muhammad (sws) is His servant and Messenger. I am happy and content that Allah is my Lord and that Muhammad (sw) is His Messenger and that Islam is my religion.23

About the first supplication, the Prophet (sws) has said: “Whoever vigilantly said it, will deserve my intercession”.24

About the second one, he has said: “the sins of the person who says it will be forgiven”.25

The Iqamah

The iqamah is generally said such that the expressions are said once only.26 The words of the iqamah which have been narrated in the dream of the Companions (rta) referred to above are27:

اللهُ اَكْبَرُ ، اللهُ اَكْبَرُ ؛ اَشْهَدُ اَنْ لاَ اِلهَ اِلَاَ اللهَُ ، اَشْهَدُ اَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُولُ اللهِ ، حَيَّ عَلَى الصَّلوةِ ؛ حَيَّ عَلَى الْفَلَاحِ ؛ قَدْ قَامَتُ الصَّلوةُ ، قَدْ قَامَتُ الصَّلوةُ؛ اللهُ اَكْبَرُ ، اللهُ اَكْبَرُ ؛ لاَ اِلهَ اِلاَّ اللهَُ

Abu Mahdhurah says that the Prophet (sws) taught him the following seventeen expressions28:

اللهُ اَكْبَرُ ، اللهُ اَكْبَرُ ، اللهُ اَكْبَرُ ، اللهُ اَكْبَرُ ؛ اَشْهَدُ اَنْ لاَ اِلهَ اِلَاَ اللهَُ ، اَشْهَدُ اَنْ لاَ اِلهَ اِلَاَ اللهَُ ؛ اَشْهَدُ اَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُولُ اللهِ ، اَشْهَدُ اَنْ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُولُ اللهِ ؛ حَيَّ عَلَى الصَّلوةِ ؛ حَيَّ عَلَى الصَّلوةِ ؛ حَيَّ عَلَى الْفَلَاحِ ؛ حَيَّ عَلَى الْفَلَاحِ ؛ قَدْ قَامَتُ الصَّلوةُ ، قَدْ قَامَتُ الصَّلوةُ؛ اللهُ اَكْبَرُ ، اللهُ اَكْبَرُ ؛ لاَ اِلهَ اِلاَّ اللهَُ

The Imam

The prayer can be offered behind every person whether he is pious or impious. However, if it is possible to select an imam, the Prophet (sws) is reported to have said that this responsibility should be given to the person who reads the Qur’an the most. Then if all the people among whom the selection is to be made are equal as far as reading the Qur’an is concerned, then the one who is the most aware of the Sunnah should be selected and if in this aspect too the concerned individuals are equal, then the person who was the first to migrate and if in this aspect too they are equal then the person who is the eldest. He further said that a person should not lead the prayer when he goes to the place of some other imam; in such a case, he should pray behind that imam.29

The Prophet (sws) has said that an imam should not prolong the prayer because there can be sick people behind him, and the weak and the elderly.30 Anas (rta) reports: “I have never seen anyone offer the prayer lightly and yet in a thorough manner than the Prophet (sws); such was his concern that he would shorten the prayer if he heard a child crying thinking that his mother would be apprehensive for him”.31

An imam should straighten the rows of the prayer with great care and vigilance. Nu‘man Ibn Bashir says that the Prophet (sws) would straighten our rows of the prayer as if he would be straigtening arrows from them.32

The Followers

The Prophet (sws) has directed those who stand behind an imam in prayer to not supersede him; rather they should say the takbir after him. They should say رَبَّنَا وَلَكَ الْحَمْد (Our Lord! All gratitude is for you) after he has recited سَمِعَ اللهُ لِمَنْ حَمِدَه (God heard him who expressed his gratitude to him) and follow this procedure in all practices of the prayer.33 Anas (rta) narrates: “Once the Prophet (sws) turned to us after the prayer and said: ‘O People! I am your imam. Do not supersede me in the ruku’ or the prostration or while standing straight in the prayer or while ending the prayer’.”34

He similarly emphasized that the rows of the prayer should be kept straight35, the shoulders should be in line and there should be no space in between and people should stand right adjacent to one another.36 The mentally mature should stand ahead then those who are younger to them and then those who are even younger.37

The first row of the congregational prayer shall first be filled, then the second and then the third.38 Keeping the rows straight has been regarded by the Prophet (sws) as an essential for the iqamah39. He is reported to have said: “O People! Be gentle with your brothers and do not leave spaces for Satan in between the rows and remember he who endeavoured to unite a row, the Almighty will unite him [with others], and he who broke a row, the Almighty will break his relation with people”.40 He similarly said: “Make rows like the angels do; they stand close to one another before the Almighty and complete the front rows first”.41

One should try to reach the first row. Narratives relate the blessings of praying in the first row.42 However, if at times, a person is not able to reach on time, he should walk with calmness and dignity. Whatever congregational prayer remains, he should offer it in congregation and then complete the remaining himself.43

The rows for the prayer should be made at the arrival of the imam44 and a row should not constitute a single person. It has been narrated that when once the Prophet (sws) saw someone praying in this manner, he asked him to repeat his prayer.45 Women were however exempted from this. Anas (rta) narrates that once the Prophet (sws) led a prayer such that two men stood in the front row and Umm Sulaym stood alone in the row behind.46


The oldest mosque of the world is the bayt al-haram. It was built by Abraham (sws). The founder of the Jerusalem mosque is Da’ud (sws), while the mosque at Madinah was built by Muhammad (sws). All these three mosques carry unique significance. The Prophet (sws) has said that it is toward these three mosques that people can travel to pay homage to them and to pray in them47. Praying in these mosques earns great reward. Consequently, about his mosque at Madinah, the Prophet (sws) has said that praying in it is hundred times more rewarding than praying in any other mosque except the bayt al-haram.48 Apart from these, all mosques of the world have equal status with regard to the reward they earn for a believer who prays in them. These mosques are not made for trade, entertainment or merry-making; they are reserved for the worship of the Almighty. The dearest of buildings in the sight of Allah are these mosques.49 Waiting for prayer time in them is like praying itself.50 The farther people come to these places for worship, the more the reward they will earn.51 Following is the etiquette of coming to the mosques prescribed by the shari‘ah:

1. Once a person comes to the mosque, he should offer two rak‘at before sitting down, unless something prevents him to do so.

2. If a person has already prayed and then has come to a mosque, he should join the congregational prayer if it is in progress unless he has some solid reason for not doing so.

Both these etiquette have been mentioned in the narratives with great emphasis.52 It has also been narrated that when the Prophet (sws) would enter the mosque he would seek the refuge of the Almighty in the following words:

أَعُوذُ باِللهِ الْعَظِيمِ ، وَبِوَجْهِهِ الْكَرِيمِ ، وَسُلْطَانِهِ الْقَدِيمِ ، مِنْ الشَّيْطَان الرَّجِيمِ

I seek refuge of Allah the Almighty, the benevolent, the eternal King from the cursed Satan.53

It is also narrated that the Prophet (sws) said: “When anyone among you enters a mosque, he should say: اللّهُمَّ ، افْتَحْ لِى أَبْوَابَ رَحْمَتِكَ (O God! Open for me the doors of your mercy) and when he leaves it, he should say: اللّهُمَّ ، إِنِّي أَسْأَلُكَ مِنْ فَضْلِكَ (O God! I seek from you your blessings)”.54

Making Mistakes in the Prayer

In case a person makes a mistake or thinks that he has made a mistake in the utterances and practices of the prayer, the amendment prescribed as a sunnah is that if amends can be made for the mistake then they should be made and two prostrations (called “prostrations in lieu of a mistake“) should be offered before ending the prayer, and if making amends is not possible then only the prostrations should be offered.

Following are the details of the incidents which occurred during the lifetime of the Prophet (sws) in which such prostrations were offered.

Abu Buhaynah says that once the Prophet (sws) led our zuhr prayer but did not sit down after the first two rak‘at and stood up for the third rak‘at. People also stood up with him until the time when the prayer was about to end and the people were waiting for the salam to be said, the Prophet (sws) uttered the takbir and before saying the salam offered two prostrations and then said the salam.54a

It is narrated by Ibn Mas‘ud (rta) that once when the Prophet (sws) led the zuhr congregational prayer, he prayed five rak‘at. He was asked: “Has the prayer being lengthened”. He replied: “What happened?” The people declared that he had prayed five rak‘at. At this, the Prophet (sws) turned his feet while sitting and faced the qiblah and then offered two prostrations and then said the salam. Then he turned towards the people and said: “If some new directive had been revealed about the prayer, I would have told you; the fact is that I am a human being like you; I also forget the way you do; so when I forget, remind me and remember that if any of you has any doubt in the prayer, he should ascertain what is the right course and then complete his prayer according to it, say the salam and then offer two prostrations”.55

Abu Hurayrah narrates that [once] the Prophet (sws) prayed two rak‘at  for the zuhr or the ‘asr prayer and then said the salam. There was a wood lying in the front portion of the mosque. He went and rested against it in some anger. Abu Bakr and ‘Umar too were present there but were not able to speak because of great respect for him. In the meantime, some impetuous people came out from the mosque and started saying that the prayer had been reduced. At this a person called Dhu al-Yadayn mustered some courage and went over to the Prophet (sws) and asked him: “Did you forget or has the prayer been shortened”. The Prophet (sws) replied: “I have neither forgotten nor has the prayer been shortened”. “Something has happened, O Messenger of God!” he continued. The Prophet (sws) asked for corroboration from the people. They also declared similarly; so the Prophet (sws) prayed two more rak‘at  and then turned to say the salam and then said the takbir and then offered two prostrations as per his usual routine or increased their length a little. He then raised his head and again said the takbir and then offered two prostrations as per his usual routine or increased their length a little. He then raised his head and said the takbir.56

‘Imran Ibn Husayn says that the Prophet (sws) prayed the ‘asr prayer and then turned to say the salam and then went over to his room. A person called Khirbaq who had very long hands told him of this. He came out in anger dragging his cloak behind him and asked the People: “Is he telling the truth”. When they confirmed it, the Prophet (sws) prayed one more rak‘at then turned to say the salam. He then offered two prostrations and then again turned to say the salam.57

It is evident from a Hadith narrated by Mu‘awiyyah Ibn Hudayj that on one occasion when the Prophet (sws) came back again to the mosque to offer a missed rak‘at, Bilal (rta) said the iqamah at the behest of the Prophet.58

The Prophet (sws) is reported to have said: “When anyone among you is doubtful that whether he has prayed three rak‘at  or four, he should try to base his decision about which he is more sure and leave aside what is doubtful; he should then offer two prostrations before the salam. If [ultimately] he has prayed five rak‘at, these prostrations will make them into an even number and if he has prayed four, then these prostrations will become a source of humiliation for Satan.59

If an imam makes a mistake and does not realize it, the followers should correct him. For this, the Sunnah prescribed is that they shall say سُبْحَانَ الله. If women do not prefer to utter any such word of correction, they should correct him by striking one hand on the other.60 The Prophet (sws) similarly said: “If there is some mistake in the recital of the Qur’an, the listeners should sound a reminder”.61

Etiquette of the Prayer

The prayer is worshipping God and earnestly presenting one’s supplications before Him. So where the Qur’an directed Muslims to safeguard the prayer, it is has said: وَ قُوْمُوا لِلهِ قَانِتِيْنْ (And stand before the Almighty with great respect), (2:238).

Following are the directives of the Prophet (sws) that explain this verse of the Qur’an:

1. Conversation should be avoided during the prayer. He has said: “The prayer is only glorifying the Almighty and declaring His sovereignty and reciting the Qur’an and no one is allowed to converse in any way during it”.62 Zayd Ibn Arqam says: “Previously we used to converse with one another during the prayer, but after the revelation of وَ قُوْمُوا لِلهِ قَانِتِيْنْ, we were stopped from it and we were told to pray in silence”.63 Ibn Mas’ud (rta) narrates: “When we used to say the salam to the Prophet (sws) in the prayer, he would reply; however, once he returned from Negus he did not reply to our salam. We inquired: “O Prophet of God! You used to respond to the salam”. He replied: “One can only have a single involvement in the prayer”64

2. One should not look here and there in the prayer. ‘A’ishah (rta), the mother of the believers, says: “When I asked the Prophet (sws) about it, he replied: ‘This is like Satan snatching the prayer away from a person’.”65 Similarly, the Prophet (sws) severely admonished people for looking towards the sky. He has reported to have said: “What is the matter with people that they raise their eyes during the prayer towards the sky; they should refrain from this, otherwise there is a possibility that their eyesight shall be snatched away”.66

3. The prayer should be offered with complete calmness and serenity. The Prophet (sws) is reported to have said: “What is it that I see you raising your hands the way the tails of unruly horses are raised; remain calm during the prayer”.67

4. During the prayer, hair and clothes should not be tampered with. The Prophet (sws) is reported to have said: “I have been directed to prostrate myself on seven limbs and to not tuck my clothes and hair during the prayer”.68

5. There should not be anything in front of the prayer place which can become a source of distraction. Anas (rta) narrates that the ‘A’ishah (rta) had hung a curtain in the house. When the Prophet saw it, he asked her to remove it because the pictures [imprinted on it] kept coming before him during the prayer.69

6. If food is at hand, then one should eat it and then calmly offer the prayer so that one is not thinking of food during the prayer and is in fact thinking of prayer during food. The same directive was given by the Prophet (sws) if a person felt a call of nature. He is reported to have said: “If food is in front of you or one feels like urinating or defecating, one should not offer the prayer”.70

7. If a person is compelled to do something during the prayer, then one should not prolong it. It has been narrated that a person was levelling the mud at the place of prostration. When the Prophet (sws) saw him, he said: “If you had to do it, you should have done it once only”.71

8. While standing in prayer, a person should not place his hands on his hips, and while sitting he should not take support. The Prophet (sws) has stopped us from this.72

9. Yawning should be refrained from during the prayer. The Prophet (sws) is reported to have said: “If anyone of you feels like yawning during the prayer, he should try to control it as far as possible; otherwise, he should place a hand on his mouth”.73

10. A person should be decently and appropriately dressed while praying. The Prophet (sws) is reported to have said that if there is only one cloth, it should not be worn in a manner that some of its portion is not on the shoulder”.74 He has similarly said that Allah does accept the prayer of mature women who do not wear a cloak during the prayer.75

The above mentioned etiquette relates to the external form of the prayer. There are some inner etiquette too under وَ قُوْمُوا لِلهِ قَانِتِيْنْ, which every Muslim should observe. They are:

1. One should not be lazy and sluggish during the prayer. This is a very common form of negligence in prayer and a person who is guilty of it is neither able to be punctual in his prayer nor vigilant in offering the prayer in congregation. Similarly, a person also is not able to focus his attention towards the Almighty during the prayer. Its apparent reasons can be many. For example, sleep can be one of its causes. Likewise, pre-occupation and worldly involvements can cause laziness. However, if one reflects deeply, its real reason is found within the heart of a person and every Muslim should try his best to remove it. In the words of Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi, the measures which can be adopted for this are:

The first thing is that one should fully understand the importance the prayer has in Islam. The prayer is the first manifestation of faith. The first thing that originates from faith is the prayer, and then it is from the prayer that the rest of Islam originates. The foremost pillar among the pillars on which the edifice of Islam rests is the prayer. So, if anyone razes this pillar to ground, it is as if he has razed to ground the whole structure of Islam. The Companions (rta) of the Prophet (sws) considered the prayer to be the distinction between belief and disbelief. The Caliph ‘Umar (rta) had directed his administrators and representatives that their greatest responsibility is showing vigilance to the prayer; a person who is negligent to the prayer will be even more negligent to the rest of the directives of Islam. Since the source and fountainhead of Islam is the prayer, hence if one has to adhere to religion he must foremost adhere to the prayer. By adhering to the prayer he actually is able to adhere to the rest of religion. If he shows laziness in prayer or is indifferent to it, he breaks all the bounds set by religion and hands over his reins to base desires. About the People of the Book, the Qur’an says that their negligence to the prayer led them to lewdness and vulgarity.

It must also be kept in consideration that each part of religion has a status which the Almighty Himself has ascertained. Something which has been regarded as a pillar of religion is nevertheless a pillar. Unless it is erected the edifice of religion will not be erected. If a person does not adhere to the prayer and is involved in welfare work, all his efforts are in vain as regards adopting religion is concerned because he is constructing a building that has no foundation. Just as nothing can replace the foundations of a building, similarly nothing can replace the role of the prayer in religion. It is to make people comprehend this reality that it is narrated in a hadith that the optional prayers of a person will not be accepted until he offers the obligatory ones.

The second thing which is necessary to curb laziness is that a person should try to become vigilant in showing hastiness in remembering God. This means that as soon as a person hears the adhan, he should leave everything aside and start preparing for the prayer and get ready to go to the mosque. Slackness should not be displayed in this preparation; in fact, it should bear the mark of vigour and liveliness. Just as a dutiful servant is always ready to receive the directive of his master and as soon as he hears his voice he rushes to his presence leaving aside everything, in the same manner a person should attend to the prayer as soon as he hears the adhan. It should be kept in mind that at the time of the prayer, the most important and foremost obligation in the eyes of God is to offer it. Except for compelling circumstances in which a person might have a reason, in no other circumstances can some task be given any preference, even if it concerns religion. If for some period, a person makes it a point to attend to the prayer as soon as he hears the adhan, there is all the probability that the Almighty help him by making this a habit for him and he is able to get rid of this laziness regarding the prayer.

The Prophet (sws) has suggested an excellent remedy to do away with the laziness caused by sleep … No doubt it is really a difficult thing to overcome as long as a person dallies around while lying in bed. However, as soon as he shows resolve and gets up from the bed, remembers the Almighty, does the wudu and offers the prayer, his laziness and lethargy gradually turn into vigor and vitality until he reaches a stage that he no longer has any desire to sleep. In fact, the desire which does remain in him is that why was not he able to acquire this bliss of remaining awake earlier on. It should be remembered that a person will never regret sacrificing his sleep for the prayer. After a small period of this struggle against sleep, the remembrance of the bliss of remaining awake becomes so dominant in a person that it wakes him up from the deepest of slumbers.76

2. The prayer should be protected from latent thoughts and suggestions that keep bombarding a person. Everyone knows that it is not easy to remain shielded from them. The reason for this is that Satan is the enemy of the prayer to the same extent as the Almighty is pleased with it. Thus he launches his onslaught on the heart and mind of a person as soon as a person begins the prayer. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi, while delineating the various measures to counter the onslaught of Satan, writes:

A general remedy for this is that as soon as a person witnesses such a situation, he should seek refuge with Allah and should resolve to complete and show vigilance in the prayer much like the person who has been informed of an imminent enemy attack but he has made up his mind to complete his prayer come what may and will become indifferent to such latent suggestions. Sometimes, it is this resolve and enthusiasm which destroys the spell caste by Satan.

The second thing which becomes effective in this matter is that he should say the words of the prayer in an audible manner and is able to give attention to their meanings. However, it is essential that one must not say them so loudly that others who may be offering the prayer nearby get disturbed. This becomes very helpful in combating such latent murmurs of Satan. When a person’s mind is focused on meanings of the prayer he is greatly protected from such onslaughts.

The third thing which becomes very effective in this regard is that in general life also one should try to keep one’s thoughts very pure. One should try to always think about things which are beneficial to him and to others in both worldly and religious affairs. One should keep in mind that the handmill of one’s mind keeps churning. If he inputs pure raw material in it, it will keep crushing it and produce high quality flour. On the other hand, there are the evil suggestions of Satan. As soon as he gets the opportunity, he throws a handful of stones and pebbles in it and the handmill starts grinding them and this really hampers its working. If this mishap occurs frequently, the handmill starts to malfunction and is unable to churn out pure flour. The best of grains will produce substandard flour.

A person who has endeavoured hard to generally keep his thoughts clean will encounter less evil whisperings from Satan because he will find the spiritual fodder in the prayer which he is generally used to and if certain thoughts do disturb him they are not as improper so that they contradict the objective. Sometimes, a person as near to God as ‘Umar (rta) would find his prayer being invaded with distractive thoughts. At times, during the prayer, he would think of arranging his armies busy fighting in Iran and Syria. A person can object that even such pre-occupation distracts a person during the prayer. No doubt, this is a distraction but there is tremendous difference between getting distracted by evil thoughts and thoughts which are primarily pure and needed.77

3. A person should fully understand and pay full attention to whatever he says in the prayer. The utterances of the prayer delineated earlier consist of celebrating the praises of the Lord, expressing His sovereignty, beseeching Him and to top these all reciting Surah Fatihah and some portion of the Qur’an. The relationship between Surah Fatihah and the Qur’an is that of a supplication and its response and the order in which these utterances occur in a prayer show that they remind us that the very first thing which should be asked from the Almighty in this world is His guidance and it is only the Qur’an which provides guidance now till the Day of Judgement. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:

This [Surah Fatihah] is the greatest supplication that a person can think of in this world. This supplication has been taught to us by the Almighty Himself. A better way of asking from the Almighty than what is expressed in this surah cannot even be imagined and nothing better than what he asks in this prayer can be imagined either. The Almighty Himself has taught us the right way to ask from Him and has also informed us of what to ask from Him. When the prelude to what is being asked is also correct and what is being asked is also befitting and is something which can be asked only from Whom it is being asked and the bestower is the Most gracious of all, then what doubt remains that it will not be granted.78

After this, he has written about the recital of the Qur’an in the following words:

It is the inimitability of the Qur’an that whichever of its portion one reads, featured in it is the basic message of this divine book. Mentioned everyone now and then is the true comprehension of the Almighty, the way one should lead one’s life, the Hereafter and the reward and punishment which will take place in it. The only thing is that the style and manner would be different. At one place, something is set in legal style; at another, one will find the Qur’an earnestly urging the believers to adopt something; at some instances tales and anecdotes would be narrated to drive the point home while in some verses one would find effective parables to convey the meaning. Similarly, at some places, people would be asked in a polite and gentle way and at others they would be threatened because of their misdeeds. However, this much is certain that whatever portion is read, even if it constitutes three verses, one would find that it contains a very powerful and effective reminder of what is really required to keep oneself on the right path.79

It is apparent from the above discussion that it is essential that one must understand what he utters during the prayer. The Prophet (sws) is reported to have said: “A person who prays, whispers to His Lord; thus he should know what he is whispering”.80 Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:

One should not think that there is no need to reflect on the surahs and supplications everyday when they are read repeatedly in every prayer and that understanding them once is enough. Those who hold this view are not aware of the essence of the prayer and its supplications. The prayer is not offered to increase one’s knowledge: it is offered to renew one’s pledge with the Almighty and to seek help, guidance and mercy from Him. How can this purpose be achieved by offering it without knowing what one is uttering unless a person is not attentive.81

4. One should take care that the prayer does not become a pretentious display. This is the most common and most dangerous afflictions of the prayer. In the words of Islahi, the reason that this is the most common affliction is that there are so many variations in being showy of the prayer that even the most careful of persons is unable to ward off its attacks from his prayer; similarly, in his opinion, it is the most dangerous because sincerity is a pre-requisite of the prayer and showing off is opposite to sincerity. In his opinion, two things are required for its remedy. He writes:

One of them is that a person should be well aware of the various forms of pomposity and showing off. Books such as Ghazzali’s Ahya al-‘Ulum are very useful in making a person aware of these forms. It is only after knowing something thoroughly that one is able to check it and get rid of it if he wants to. Whereas this is awareness by the common man, it is required much more by scholars of Islam and the pious. The reason is that pomposity seldom manifests itself through worldly affairs; it often comes in the guise of religiosity and such are its alluring forms and types that the greatest of scholars and religious pundits end up being its targets, and, at times, lose their religiosity and piety they attained in their life.

The second thing that is an effective remedy for this affliction is the tahajjud prayer. This prayer is offered alone at night and it is very taxing for one’s self; it has been emphasized that one should keep it a secret; thus those who only pray to brag and show off they never find the strength to offer the tahajjud prayer; only those people are able to find the strength to offer it who are either miles away from pomposity or are fully aware of its evils and in order to save themselves from these evils have found refuge in this prayer. This prayer is the most effective remedy of this affliction as long as a person is able to maintain its secrecy. There are people who even brag and show off their tahajjud prayer. Either they start advertising this in the guise of various insinuating statements, or their students and disciples do this job for them. In such circumstances, not only does this prayer is of no use as a remedy, it helps a person even more in his tendency of showing off.82

If the prayer is offered while giving due consideration to these etiquette, then in the words of Islahi, it is characterized by the following:

When a person stands in prayer he is an embodiment of humility. With hands tied, eyes lowered, neck bending downwards, feet placed adjacent, he stands while being cut off totally from his surroundings; dignity and honour seem personified in him, he is a portrait of silence and seriosity. At times, he kneels before his Lord, and, at others, places his forehead and nose on the ground and some times spreads his hands in prayer. In short, whatever forms of humility that can be adopted, are with dignity and honour adopted by a person who stands to pray. The picture which thus emerges of this person bears clear evidence that he is observing his Lord and if this is not the case, he knows for sure that the Lord is observing him. It is this prayer which can be termed as a pinnacle among prayers. This prayer is entirely different from the prayer offered with a juristic mind. It is this prayer which is in fact required for the purification of the soul. The prayer is a reflection of a person’s inner self. In this prayer is reflected the humility and meekness for the Almighty present within his heart. Not only is his back bent in the prayer, his heart is also bent before the Almighty. Not only does his forehead touches the ground, his soul also prostrates before the Lord of the worlds.83

(Translated from Ghamidi’s Qanun-i ‘Ibadat by Shehzad Saleem)




1. Bukhari, No: 1042; Muslim, No: 701.

2.Muslim, No: 686. It is evident from this reply that this deduction of

3.Abu Da’ud, No: 1220.

4. Bukhari, No: 3900; Muslim, No: 842.

5.Bukhari, No: 900; Muslim, No: 839.

6.Muslim, No: 653.

7.Bukhari, No: 618.

8. Muslim, No: 654.

9. Bukhari, No: 619.

10. Bukhari, No: 624.

11. Muslim, No: 656.

12. Abu Da’ud, No: 527.

13. Abu Da’ud, No: 499.

14. Bukhari, No: 587; Muslim, No: 378.

15. Abu Da’ud, No: 503.

16. Abu Da’ud, No: 500.

17. Bukhari, No: 635; Muslim, No: 697.

18. Tirmadhi, No: 197.

19. Abu Da’ud, No: 531.

20. Muslim, No: 384.

21. Muslim, No: 385.

22. Bukhari, No: 589.

23. Muslim, No: 386.

24. Bukhari, No: 589.

25. Muslim, No: 386.

26. Bukhari, No: 603; Muslim, No: 378.

27. Abu Da’ud, No: 499.

28. Abu Da’ud, No: 502.

29. Muslim, No: 673.

30. Bukhari, No: 671.

31. Bukhari, No: 676.

32. Muslim, No: 636.

33. Bukhari, No: 700.

34. Muslim, No: 636.

35. Bukhari, No: 687.

36. Abu Da’ud, No: 666.

37. Muslim, No: 432.

38. Abu Da’ud, No: 671.

39. Bukhari, No: 690.

40. Abu Da’ud, No: 666.

41. Muslim, No: 430.

42. Bukhari, No: 590; Muslim, No: 437.

43. Bukhari, No: 610.

44. Bukhari, No: 611.

45. Abu Da’ud, No: 682.

46. Bukhari, No: 694.

47. Bukhari, No: 1132; Muslim, No: 1397.

48. Bukhari, No: 1133; Muslim, No: 1394.

49. Muslim, No: 671.

50. Bukhari, No: 620.

51. Muslim, Nos: 664, 665.

52. Bukhari, Nos: 433, 889; Abu Da’ud, Nos: 575, 577.

53. Abu Da’ud, No: 466.

54. Muslim, No: 713.

54a. Bukhari, Nos: 1166, 1167.

55. Bukhari, Nos: 1168, 392.

56. Bukhari, No: 1172; Muslim, No: 573.

57. Muslim, No: 574.

58. Nasa’i, No: 664.

59. Muslim, No: 571.

60. Bukhari, Nos: 652, 1145; Muslim, No: 422.

61. Abu Da’ud, No: 907.

62. Muslim, No: 537.

63. Muslim, No: 539.

64. Muslim, No: 538.

65. Bukhari, No: 718.

66. Bukhari, No: 717; Muslim, No: 429.

67. Muslim, No: 430.

68. Bukhari, No: 783; Muslim, No: 490.

69. Bukhari, No: 367.

70. Muslim, No: 560.

71. Bukhari, No: 1149; Muslim, No: 546.

72. Bukhari, No: 1161; Muslim, No: 545.

73. Muslim, No: 2995.

74. Muslim, No: 516; Abu Da’ud, No: 947.

75. Abu Da’ud, No: 641.

76. Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tazkiyah Nafs, 250.

77. Ibid., 253.

78. Ibid., 246.

79. Ibid., 248.

80. Musnad Ahmad, No: 4909.

81. Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tazkiyah Nafs, 246.

82. Ibid., 258.

83. Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tazkiyah Nafs, 244.

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