What Are the Conditions that Must Be Met before Engaging in Prayer?
- Removing physical impurity and ritual impurity (See page 93)
- Covering the intimate parts of the body (‛awrah)
The ‛awrah must be covered with clothing that is neither skin-tight, nor skimpy, nor see-through.
The ‛awrah during the prayer is of three types:
For an adult woman: All her body is considered ‛awrah except for the face and hands.
For a small child: His ‛awrah includes his private parts and the buttocks.
For a man: His ‛awrah is from the navel to the knees.
As Allah ﷻ says in the Qur’an, “Children of Adam! Wear fine clothing for every prayer.” (Soorat Al-A‛raaf, 7:31) In fact, covering the intimate parts of the body is the minimum amount of clothing.
When a Muslim woman offers the prayer, she must cover her entire body except for the face and hands. .
- Facing the qiblah
Allah I says, “Wherever you come from, turn your face to the Holy Mosque [in Makkah].” (Soorat Al-Baqarah, 2:149)
“The prayers are enjoined on the believers at stated times.” (4:103) .
- The direction Muslims face in prayer (qiblah) is the Ka‛bah, a cube-shaped building located inside the Holy Mosque in Makkah, which was originally constructed by Abraham u and to which the prophets had made a pilgrimage. It is true that it is a stone structure which can do neither harm nor good, but Allah ﷻ commands the Muslims to face it during the prayer to serve as a focal and unifying point among them.
- A Muslim is required to face the Ka‛bah if he can see it in front of him. However, if he is far away from it and cannot see it, being in a different country, for instance, he can only face Makkah. The prayer is still considered valid with slight deviation from the direction of the qiblah, for the prophet ﷺ said, “Whatever is between the east and the west is the qiblah.” (Sunan At-Tirmidhee: 342)
- If he cannot possibly face it due to illness, for instance, then he does not have to do so, for all obligatory acts are normally dropped in case of inability, as the Qur’an states, “Therefore, do your duty towards Allah to the best of your ability.” (Soorat At-Taghaabun, 64:16)
- When its Appointed time Becomes Due
The prayer will not be valid if it is offered before its time has started, and delaying it beyond its designated time is strictly forbidden, as the Qur’an states, “The prayers are enjoined on the believers at stated times.” (Soorat An-Nisaa’,4:103)
The following facts must be stressed regarding this point:
- It is better to offer the prayer as soon as its actual time becomes due.
- It must be offered at its stated times
- If a prayer is missed due to sleep or forgetfulness, it must be made up for as soon as it is remembered.
The Five Obligatory Prayers and Their Times
Allah ﷻ has enjoined upon Muslims five prayers throughout the day and night and has specified the following times for them:
The Dawn Prayer (Salaat-ul-Fajr): It consists of two units (rak‛aat, singular: rak‛ah); it begins at daybreak, the time of day when light first appears, and lasts until sunrise.
The Afternoon Prayer (Salaat-udh-Dhuhr): It consists of four units; its time begins when the sun declines westward from the middle of the sky and ends when the shadow of an object becomes equal in length to the object itself plus the length of its shadow when the sun was at its zenith.
The Late Afternoon Prayer (Salaat-ul-‛Asr): It consists of four units; its time begins after the time of Dhuhr ends and ends with the setting of the sun. Hence, if the shadow of an object becomes equal to the length of that object plus its length when the sun was at its zenith, then the time of Dhuhr ends and the ‛Asr time begins. A Muslim must perform it before the sun loses some of its intensity and turns yellow.
The Sunset Prayer (Salaat-ul-Maghrib): It consists of three units; its time begins with sunset, that is, when the sun disappears below the horizon and finishes with the disappearance of the red glow (evening twilight) in the western horizon.
The Late Evening Prayer (Salaat-ul-‛Ishaa’): It consists of four units; its time begins when the twilight has completely faded away and lasts until midnight. It could be offered, however, a little before dawn, if need be, and the reason is acceptable in Islam.
A Muslim may use prayer timetables and does not have to find out if the prayer appointed time has become due by himself.