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The Muslim Prayer: Its Rules and Timing

What are the rules of Muslim prayer? How do we shorten the prayer? And when is it applicable? When should we make for the missed prayer? Are there times when it is wrong to pray?

Shortening the Prayer

When a person is travelling with the intention of proceeding forty eight miles or over from his home he should shorten the obligatory prayers of four units to two each.

What are the rules of Muslim prayer?

As a rule, every Muslim, male or female, should offer the prayer in its due time.

The curtailment is applicable to the Noon (Zhuhr) Prayer, the Mid-Afternoon (`Asr) Prayer, and the Evening (`Ishaa’) Prayer. The Early Morning (Fajr) Prayer and the Sunset (Maghrib) Prayers remain unchanged.

This advantage remains effective even after the traveler arrives at his destination, if he does not intend to prolong his stay there for fifteen days or more. Otherwise, he should offer the reducible prayers in their original and complete number of units.

While traveling under these circumstances, he is exempt from all supererogatory prayers (sunnah) except the two sunnah units of the Early Morning (Fajr) and Witr which follows the Evening (`Ishaa’) prayers

There are some minor differences of interpretation between the various schools of law regarding the travel distance and the travel duration.

Times When Muslim Prayer is Forbidden

The Muslim is forbidden to offer either obligatory or supererogatory prayers at:

1- The time when the sun is rising;

2- The time when the sun is at its zenith;

3- The time when the sun is setting;

4- The period of menstruation or confinement due to childbirth

5- The time of impurity, partial or complete

It must be clarified that if a person forgets, oversleeps or misses a prayer, he must perform it immediately when he remembers regardless of the position of the sun.

Making up for Delayed Prayers

1- As a rule, every Muslim, male or female, should offer the prayer in its due time. Failing to do so is a punishable sin unless there is a reasonable excuse for delay.

2- With the exception of women in confinement or menstruation and any who remain insane or unconscious for some time, every Muslim must make up for his or her delayed obligatory prayers.

3- When making up for the delayed prayers one must offer them in their original form, e.g., if they were due shortened they should be offered so and vice-versa.

4- Order between the delayed prayers and between these and the present ones should be maintained, i.e., the first in due-ness is offered first unless the missed prayers are too many to remember their exact dates, or the time available is not sufficient for both missed and present prayers.

In this case, the present prayer comes first and the missed ones may be offered later. At any rate, the Muslim must make certain that his record is clear to the best of his knowledge, and that there are no missed prayers.

The Taraweeh Prayers

These prayers are special characteristic of the month of Ramadan. They follow the Evening (‘Ishaa’ ) Prayers. They consist of eight to twenty units (Rak’ ahs) offered two by two with short break between each two units. It is much more preferable to say them in a congregational form and before the Witr, which is the last part of the Evening Prayer.

Invalidation of Prayers

Any prayer becomes invalid and nullified by any act of the following:

1- To anticipate the Imam in any act or movement of prayer;

2- To eat or drink during the prayer;

3- To talk or say something out of the prescribed course of prayers;

4- To shift the position away from the direction of qiblah in Mecca; unless it is

impossible to the worshipper to face the qiblah;

5- To do intentionally and unnecessary any noticeable act or movement outside the acts and movements of prayer;

6- To do anything that nullifies the ablution, e.g., discharge of urine, stool, gas, blood, etc.; unless due to a medical condition not in the worshipper’ s control, in this case the worshipper needs to perform ablution only once for every fard (obligatory) prayer, and he should not repeat the ablution to perform the Sunnah prayer relative to that Fard prayer

7- To fail in observing any of the essential acts of prayers, like standing, reciting the Qur’an, ruku’, sujud, etc.; unless for reasons of disability or physical ailment.

8- To uncover the body between the navel and knees during the prayer in the case of males; and in the case of females, to uncover any part of the body, except the face and the hands.

Any prayer which becomes invalidated must be repeated properly.

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The article is excerpted from the author’s well-known book “Islam in Focus”.

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