ṢALĀT . The ṣalāt is a ritually prescribed prayer in the Islamic faith. Although the Qurʾān mentions ṣalāt many times, the specific details of how, when, where, and under what conditions to perform the ritual prayer are not minutely described in the Qurʾān. Rather, the early Muslim community formalized the ritual on the basis of the Prophet Muḥammad's example, or sunnah. Such matters as the exact postures, times, conditions, and recitations of the ṣalāt were arrived at thanks to the early community's recollections of the prophet's practice. Inspired by the Qurʾanic decree to emulate Muḥammad as their most beautiful model (uswa al-ḥasana ), oral reports called ḥadīth recalling what Muḥammad said or did began to circulate soon after his death. As many spurious ḥadīth also proliferated, eventually they had to be sifted in terms of their reliability on the basis of criteria developed by ḥadīth scholars. In the century after Muḥammad's demise, Muslims sought to consolidate their faith and identity in institutional, legal, and theological terms. To this end, scholars (ʿulamāʾ ) and jurists (fuqahā ) devoted considerable attention to debating and determining the religious duties of Muslims. What it meant to be a Muslim in terms of doctrines and practices was still in a state of flux, and ṣalāt was part of this process of discovery and construction of identity.
Prayer in the QurʾĀn
Prayer is of central significance in Islam. At the core of Islamic faith is the act of submission to God expressed in the first place through worship (ʿībādat). The Qurʾān repeatedly emphasizes the necessity of prayer, especially in the form of praise and self-surrender: "Establish regular prayer, enjoin what is just, and forbid what is wrong; and bear with patient constancy" (31:17); "And be steadfast in prayer; practice regular charity; and bow down your heads with those who bow down [in worship]" (2:43). Indeed, faith without prayer is simply meaningless in Islam. The Qurʾān uses several terms connoting prayer, including supplication (duʿāʾ ), remembrance (dhikr ), repentance (istighfār ), glorification (tasbīḥ ), litany (wird ), and ritual (ṣalāt ). Worship in Islam thus encompasses a wide variety of expressions, and the ṣalāt must be seen within this broader context.
The Qurʾān places the origin of forms of worship under divine guidance and declares that all the prophets established ritual prayers that were divinely inspired. For instance, Abraham begged God to bless him and his descendants with the privilege of performing worship (ṣalāt ): "O Lord! Make me one to establish proper worship, and some of my posterity [also] and Lord accept Thou my prayer!" (14:40). In Islam, the primary sense of worship and devotion is to fulfill God's will. This is conveyed by the term ʿībādat, which is derived from the root ʿabada, meaning "to serve."
Etymology of ṢalĀt
The delineation of ṣalāt as a specific form of ritual prayer and as a distinct religious obligation (farḍ ) was part of the historical development of sharīʿah, or Islamic law. The word ṣalāt is not found in pre-Islamic sources. Most likely, the term entered Arabic usage through monotheists in Arabia, notably Christians and Jews living in Muḥammad's time. The ritual of ṣalāt has several formal features that suggests it drew inspiration from contemporary Jewish services. The Arabic term ṣalāt was probably derived from the Aramaic word śloṭā. In Aramaic, the root ś-l-' means "to bow, bend, stretch"; śloṭā is the act of bending or bowing. The Arabic verb ṣallā means to perform ṣalāt.
The form and content of ṣalāt evolved even during Muḥammad's lifetime. For instance, in the earliest Meccan revelations, the term ṣalāt was used in the sense of worship or prayer in general: "Those will prosper who purify themselves, and glorify the name of the Lord and pray" (87:14–15). Ṣalāt as a ritual with specific formal elements occurs more frequently in the Medinan revelations during the formation of Islam as an institutional religion. For example, the Qurʾān gives guidance on how to conduct prayers under special circumstances, such as while traveling or in battle: "And when you travel through the land, there is no blame on you to shorten your prayers if you fear that those who disbelieve may attack you" (4:101–103). It is clear, given its use in the Qurʾān in both the general sense of prayer and the specific sense of formal ritual performed by Muḥammad, that the word ṣalāt had a wider meaning at the beginning of Islam. However, it is this latter, more specific usage that became the basis of the codified and obligatory ritual consisting of certain prescribed gestures and acts by which the ṣalāt is known today. It should also be noted that from Turkey to India, the Persian word for ṣalāt, namāz, is commonly used to designate the obligatory ritual prayer.
Diversity of Interpretation
Influenced by historical events, political interests, theological approaches, and exposure to other faiths and cultures, Muslims had already begun to diversify into communities of interpretation in the first centuries after Muḥammad's life (570–532 ce). One of the most important questions on which the earliest generation of Muslims differed was how much emphasis to give to the authority of ʿAli (598–661 ce), Muḥammad's cousin and son-in-law, as his interpreter and successor. Difference of opinion led to the formation of many groups in Islam, of which the two major movements are the Shīʿah and Sunnī.
Ḥadīth, Fiqh, and the Pillars of Islam
Although ṣalāt has remained fairly uniform since Muḥammad's time, slight variations in practice do exist between various Muslim groups. Shīʿah and Sunnī schools appeal to different sources of authority to ascertain and establish the fundamentals of Muslim faith and practice. All Muslims turn to the Qurʾān as the primary source of authority in religious matters. Next in authority for the Shīʿah are the memory of prophetic example (sunnah ) inscribed in the collections of ḥadīth, and the teachings of the imāms. The Sunnī give greater emphasis to the sunnah, and consider the ḥadīth collections of al-Bukhārī (d. 870) and al-Muslim (d. 875) to be the two most trustworthy ones (as-ṣaḥīhan ). The Shīʿah have their own ḥadīth compilations which give priority to traditions narrated by ʿAli, Muḥammad's daughter Fatimah, and the hereditary imāms. Authoritative Shīʿah collections include those of al-Kulaynī (d. 939), Ibn-Bābūya (d. 991), and al-Ṭusī (d. 1067), and great importance is given to ʿAli' s sermons in Najhul Balāgha and the teachings of Imām Jaʿfar al-Ṣādiq (d. 765). In addition to the Qurʾān, the teachings of the imāms, and the ḥadīth, of great practical importance are the writings of scholars and jurists of the different schools of law which form the day-to-day basis of sharīʿah, or Islamic law. Muslim religious practices are anchored in different schools of Islamic jurisprudence called madhāhib al-fiqh, whose authority is founded upon the law books and manuals written by such famous jurists as Mālik ibn Anas (d. 795), al-Shāfiʿī (d. 820), Aḥmad Ḥanbal (d. 855), and Abū Ḥanīfah (d. 767) for Sunnī jurisprudence, and Imām Jaʿfar aṣ-Ṣādiq, ʿAllāma al-Ḥillī (d. 1325), and Qāḍī an-Nuʿmān (d. 974) for Shīʿah jurisprudence.
Fiqh, or Islamic jurisprudence, is the summation of rules and regulations formulated by the leader of the madhhab, or law school, according to its own methodology. The part of Islamic law (sharīʿah ) dealing with rites and rituals is called fiqh al-ʿībādat. The canonical collections of ḥadīth (both among the Shīʿah and Sunnī) begin with the requirements of worship, or ʿībādat, and include the pillars of Islam (arkān al-dīn ). Although they are not mentioned in the Qurʾān, by the time the essential doctrines had been articulated in the ninth century, all branches of Islam accepted the fundamental tenets or requirements expressed in shorthand as the five pillars, which include the shahādah (testifying to the oneness of God and Muḥammad as God's messenger), ṣalāt (five daily ritual prayers), zakāt (alms for the poor), ṣawm (fasting during Ramadan), and ḥājj (pilgrimage to Mecca once in one's lifetime). The Shīʿah have additional pillars, including wilāyah (devotion to the imāms of the ahl al-bayt ) and jihād (defending one's faith; striving for moral and spiritual perfection).
The ṣalāt was legally the most important pillar after the shahādah (which it included), and rules regarding conditions of prayer occupy a vast volume of ḥadīth and fiqh literature. Thus, it can be surmised that the ṣalāt and its details were crystallized once the major ḥadīth were compiled in the ninth century. That there was vigorous discussion and interpretation of the sources prior to this time can be seen from the fact that numerous slight distinctions in ṣalāt performance were adopted and justified by the different madhhabs in their legal texts (for example, whether to say āmīn silently or loudly after the opening Qurʾanic verse al-Fātiḥah ). Obviously, the final conclusions regarding the details of worship were shaped by the different methods and historical situations of the jurists. Generally speaking, the Sunnī schools of law have shown considerable tolerance for each other's differences. For the most part, however, they have contested or rejected the legitimacy of the Shīʿah madhhabs.
Description, Variations, and Requirements of ṢalĀt
We now turn to a discussion of the requirements and description of the ṣalāt. The ṣalāt is obligatory when one attains the age of reason, usually deemed to be seven years of age, but certainly once one has reached the age of puberty. An individual must be of sound mind to perform ṣalāt, which is an act of personal choice and self-conscious submission to God's will. There are both obligatory (farḍ ) and voluntary (nafl ) ṣalāt. The obligatory ṣalāt is one of the five (or seven) pillars of Islam and the foundation of faith. Punctuating the day and night with deliberate prayer acts as a reminder that life is a gift from God and that time itself is sacred. All schools are in agreement that the obligatory ṣalāt must be performed in Arabic, a regulation which was essential in preserving the identity and solidarity of the early Arab Muslim communities in the context of the new lands and cultures in which they lived.
Conditions for ṣalāt
In addition to being clean and sober, proper clothing must be worn during ṣalāt. Shoes or sandals are removed, although some imāms wear special slippers in the mosque. The earliest regulations on dress were primarily concerned with decency, humility, and sobriety. This applied to men and women, both of whom are equally obliged to perform the ṣalāt and other pillars. In Muḥammad's time, it is clear that women prayed alongside men and participated fully in the religious and political life of the community. However, numerous ḥadīth linking women to the concept of disorder, or fitnah, came into circulation after Muḥammad died, partly as a result of historical events (such as Muḥammad's youngest wife ʿĀʾishah's battle against ʿAli, which started the first civil war between Muslims) and partly in reaction against Muḥammad's reforms to improve women's status. These ḥadīth have been used to discourage women from praying in public spaces. Arguing that the very presence of women is disruptive because they arouse sexual desire in men, Sunnī jurists in particular have allowed women permission to attend mosques only under strict conditions: they may not wear perfume; they must be fully covered; they may not interact with men; they must sit separately or at the back of the mosque; they must ask permission from their husbands or male guardians to attend prayers. Additionally, women are not allowed to pray or fast during menstruation. Generally, among the Shīʿah and Sufis, women have had greater latitude to engage actively in communal prayers and religious life. Muslim women's actual participation in the mosque and the practice of segregation and seclusion, however, has varied in different historical periods and regions of the world. In contemporary times, patriarchal restrictions on women's full religious participation have been called into question by both Muslim men and women, but normative gender roles and practices remain relatively unchanged.
Place for ṣalāt
Ṣalāt may be recited individually or in congregation. It is recommended that the ritual prayer be performed collectively if possible, although nonobligatory ṣalāt (nafl ) may be offered individually. Congregational prayers are led by a leader (imām ) selected from the assembly by virtue of his piety and religious knowledge. If a male is not present, a woman may lead a group of only women in prayer. Although all schools of law permit women to attend mosque, in practice they are encouraged to pray at home. Ṣalāt can be performed anywhere as long as the place is clean. Usually, if a mosque is accessible, Muslim men pray there, but if they are on the street or elsewhere at the prescribed time for prayer, they roll out prayer rugs to perform the ṣalāt. The word masjid means, literally, a "place of prostration." A key requirement when performing the ṣalāt is to face in the direction of Mecca. A typical mosque has a qiblah wall with an arched recess or prayer niche called miḥrāb which indicates the direction facing Mecca. Worshipers make straight rows behind the imām facing the qiblah. Mosques may also have a pulpit, or mimbar, to the right of the miḥrāb where the imām gives his khuṭbah, or sermon; a minaret from which the call to prayer (adhān ) is recited; a fountain or other public facility for ablutions (wuḍūʾ ); and a central prayer hall. Mosques do not have chairs of pews and seldom have figural images and murals on the walls. Instead, the interior and exterior of mosques are usually decorated with delicate geometric designs and inscribed with Qurʾanic verses rendered in the splendid styles of Islamic calligraphy.
Times for ṣalāt : Qurʾān and sunnah
The five times of ṣalāt in current practice are not named in the Qurʾān. Rather, the number of times to perform ṣalāt was established and given legal force by the sharīʿah. The rich vocabulary used in reference to times of day for prayer in the Qurʾān indicates that such matters were still at an evolutionary stage during Muḥammad's life. The Qurʾān mentions three essential times for ṣalāt, to which a middle prayer was added in the Medinan period. Verses describing the three times of prayer include: "And establish prayer at two ends of the day and the first hours of the night" (11:114); "Establish prayers at the setting of the sun till the darkness of night, and the recital of the Qurʾān at dawn. Verily, the morning recital is witnessed" (17:78). Nightly prayers and vigils (tahajjud ) were closely associated with the first Muslim community in Mecca: "Truly, the vigil by night is most keen and most certain for words [of prayer]" (73:6). In the Medinan period, emphasis upon the nocturnal prayer appears to have decreased, but a midday prayer, possibly influenced by the practice of the Jews, was added: "So glorify God in the evening and the morning; to Him be praise in the heavens and the earth at the sun's decline and at midday" (30:17–18).
In addition to the Qurʾān, jurists drew on ḥadīth to settle upon the requirement for performing ṣalāt five times a day. According to tradition (sunnah ), the divine injunction to pray five times was received during Muḥammad's famous night journey, the Miʿrāj. The original account is very terse and is tied to the Qurʾānic verse 17:1–2, which refers to a journey from the holy sanctuary to the further mosque (later interpreted to be the Kaʿbah in Mecca and Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem). Tradition and the Muslim literary imagination has furnished details and embellished the story over the centuries. Muḥammad is depicted as being transported to Jerusalem (isrāʿ ) and thence on to the heavens (miʿrāj ) by the angel Gabriel on a winged beast called Burāq. During his ascension to heaven, he meets the biblical prophets Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. Upon reaching the summit, God commands Muḥammad that his community must perform fifty ṣalāt every day. When Moses hears this he tells Muḥammad to return to God, make a plea of mercy, and beg for a lighter obligation. Muḥammad goes back and forth between God and Moses several times until God reduces the number of obligatory prayers to five. The traditions offer an origin for the ṣalāt while at the same time linking it to the biblical prophets, and establishing a heavenly bond between the Peoples of the Book (ahl alkitāb ). The symbolism connecting the Kaʿbah, Jerusalem, biblical prophets, and the throne of God to the ṣalāt anchors it in an ancient genealogy of monotheism. The five-times prayer thus acquires the quality of a fixed duty.
The five ṣalāt
The five daily prayers have specific requirements. The dawn prayer (ṣalāt al-subh or al-fajr ) is performed between daybreak and the actual rising of the sun, and requires two cycles of prostration (rakaʿāt ). The noonday prayer (ṣalāt al-ẓuhr ) is performed anytime from midday until afternoon, and requires four rakaʿāts. The late afternoon prayer (ṣalāt al-ʿaṣr ) must be performed between the ẓuhr prayer and sunset, and requires four rakaʿāts. The evening prayer (ṣalāt al-maghrib ) is performed after sunset and before dusk, and requires three rakaʿāts. The night prayer (ṣalāt al-ʿishaʾ ) is performed after darkness sets in but before the middle of the night, and requires four rakaʿāts. A missed prayer can be made up at a later time. The Shīʿah perform the five obligatory prayers thrice a day by joining the noon and late afternoon prayers and the evening and night prayers. As noted earlier, the three times of prayer are mentioned in the Qurʾān, and this practice was prevalent in Muḥammad's time as well.
Call to prayer: adhān and iqāmah
Each prayer time is announced by the call to prayer (adhān ) from a mosque. About fifteen minutes before the ṣalāt begins, a muezzin ascends the minaret—a tower adjoining the mosque—or stands at the door of the mosque to recite the call. These days, the adhān is often recorded and broadcast over loudspeakers located atop the minaret or mosque dome. Muslims living outside Islamic countries can also use electronic ṣalāt clocks which announce prayer times. These "global Bilals" (named after the first muezzin in Medina, known for his powerful voice) display the ṣalāt times and play the adhān before each ṣalāt. Some timepieces also come equipped with compasses showing the qiblah, or direction to Mecca. Just prior to starting the ṣalāt, another call to prayer (iqāmah ) is repeated, ending with the phrase, "the prayer has begun." The text of the adhān in translation is as follows:
God is Great! [recited four times]; I bear witness there is no God but God; I bear witness that Muḥammad is God's messenger; [after this phrase, the Shīʿah add: "I bear witness that ʿAli is the friend of God and the prophet's viceregent"]; Come to prayer [twice]; Come to salvation [twice]; [the Shīʿah say: "Come to the best of deeds"]; God is Great [twice]; There is no God but God. [Sunnīs add, "And prayer is better than sleep" prior to the takbīr in the early morning adhān.]
The slightly different phrasing of the adhāns helps to differentiate between a Shīʿah and Sunnī mosque.
Preparations for ṣalāt : ablutions
Ritual purity (ṭahārah ) is a prerequisite for prayer. To perform ṣalāt, one must be clean. An oft-quoted ḥadīth reports that Muḥammad said "Purity is half of faith." Before touching the Qurʾān, performing ṣalāt, going on pilgrimage, and participating in religious festivals, a Muslim must be ritually clean. As with other faiths, concepts of purity and impurity play a role in many areas of Islamic life. There are two types of purification rituals; their use depends upon the degree of one's impurity. Major impurities require a complete bath (ghusl ) to wash the whole body. The wuḍūʿ (lesser ablution) is performed to remove minor impurities. To indicate which is required, wuḍūʿ or ghusl, the sharīʿah specifies in great detail various actions that cause minor and major impurity. Opinions vary on what constitutes major and minor pollution among the different schools of law. Major impurities generally include sexual intercourse, menstruation, ejaculation, childbirth, and contact with a corpse. Any emission from the body, exposure to death and decay, loss of blood, and sexual activity is ritually polluting. Minor impurities include touching one's private parts, visiting the toilet, touching a person of the opposite sex, and intoxication. In general, wuḍūʿ is performed in the mosque before prayer.
The washing ritual draws inspiration from Qurʾanic verses such as the following: "O ye who believe! When you rise up for prayer, wash your faces and your hands up to the elbows; and lightly rub your heads and your feet up to your ankles. And if you are unclean, purify yourselves. And if you are sick or on a journey, or one of you comes from the toilet, or you have had contact with women, and you find not water, then take some clean earth or sand and rub your faces and your hands with it" (5:6). The wuḍūʿ ritual is quite brief and economical, and involves a sequence of cleansing acts: washing the hands; rinsing the mouth and nose; washing the face; washing the arms and elbows; washing the feet and ankles; and wiping the ears, neck, and head. The Shīʿah usually wipe or rub their feet rather than wash them. The washing routine is repeated thrice. Mosques often have fountains and basins in their courtyards for this purpose. If water is not available, a Muslim may use sand or dust to wash using the same gestures; this is called tayammum. Tayammum is also permitted for those who are sick or are traveling. The wuḍūʿ is preceded by making an intention, or nīyah, to perform it, and is concluded with a short prayer.
Mental preparation for ṣalāt : intention
Repetitive rituals can become habitual and lifeless. The sharīʿah addresses this problem by requiring that deliberate intention (niyyah ) precede any act of worship. Before the ṣalāt is performed, one must make a niyyah, that is, one must declare one's intention to pray. Whether the intention is to be pronounced audibly or made silently depends on the school of law one follows. Some schools of law argue that niyyah is an action of the heart, not the tongue, so it should be made silently. Others say it should be softly pronounced. Nevertheless, there is consensus that niyyah must accompany worship. Just as purification with water or sand before ṣalāt cleanses the body for prayer, so also intention prepares the mind and heart to pay attention during ṣalāt. Expressed as a decision or goal, niyyah is an act of recognition that one is about to do something. Thus, it gathers the mind's energies to focus on the act of obedience and worship. As an exercise of the will, it also signifies a personal choice to surrender one's destiny to God. Niyyah brings mindfulness and self-awareness to the performance of ṣalāt.
Performance of ṣalāt
The actual prayer ritual is quite simple and short. Each ṣalāt consists of two or four cycles of bowing, called rakʿah. A rakʿah (pl. rakaʿāt ) is a cycle of movements accompanied by certain recitations. A minimum of seventeen rakaʿāts must be completed in the course of the five daily prayers. After making the niyyah, the worshiper goes through a series of steps, with slight variations according to the madhhab. The words of the prayer must be recited from memory.
Standing with feet slightly apart, one raises the hands to the ears palms facing outwards and recites aloud the takbīr : "Allāhu akbar!" ("God is Great"). In this standing position, called qiyām, with the hands either brought back down to the sides (Mālikī and Shīʿā) or clasped above the navel (Ḥanafī), above the heart (Shāfiʿī), or at the center of the chest (Hanbalī), the first sūrah of the Qurʾān, al-Fātiḥah, is recited. The Sunnī say "āmīn" after the Fātiḥah, but the Shīʿah do not. This is followed by reciting (qirāʾah ) another passage from the Qurʾān. The Sunnī may recite any portion of a sūrah after the Fātiḥah ; the Shīʿah require a complete sūrah to be recited, and most often it is sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ (112:1–4). This is then followed by a takbīr.
One then bows with hands placed on the knees (rukūʿ ) and says silently three times, "Glory be to God!" (the Shīʿah add, "And praise be to God"). Standing erect again in a position called wuqūf, one says, "God hears one who praises Him," followed by "O Lord, Praise be to you!" and then recites another takbīr, "God is Great!" Then, one prostrates oneself (sujūd ), touching the forehead to the ground with the palms flat on the ground, and silently says three times "Praise be to God Almighty, the most High!" The Shīʿah place a tiny tablet of clay from one of the holy Shīʿī shrines (Kerbala, Mashad, or Najaf) on the spot where the forehead touches the ground and add the phrase, "Glory be to God!" Then one raises oneself and says takbīr.
In this seated position, called julūs, one asks for forgiveness (Ḥanafīs), says nothing (Mālikīs), or offers petitions, or duʿāʾ, called qunūt. Then another takbīr is recited. The exact sitting posture varies: Sunnīs sit with toes touching the floor but heels upright; Shīʿah sit with their feet folded. One completes the rakʿah by making a second prostration and returning to the sitting position. Then one stands and the cycle is repeated again. At the end of the second cycle (or third or fourth, depending on the time of prayer), a formal greeting (taḥiyyah ) calling for God's blessings on Muḥammad and God's servants is recited, followed by the tashahhud (literally, "witnessing"), in which the shahādah (testimony of faith) is pronounced. While reciting the tashahhud, it is common among Sunnī madhhabs to point the forefinger and move it in circles; however, this is not permitted by the Shīʿah. The text of the tashahud differs based on the madhhab ; the Shīʿah add to the shahādah the phrase attesting to ʿAli's special position. A final prayer for peace, called taslīm, is said; while turning the head right and left one declares, "Peace be upon you" ("as-salāmu alaykum"). Again, there are slight variations in words among the different schools. After the ṣalāt, worshipers may remain seated to offer duʿāʾ, or superarogatory prayers. The Shīʿah recite duʿāʾ to keep alive the memory of their imāms and their spiritual link with them through devotional prayers.
Friday Prayer and Other Festivals
Although the ṣalāt may be performed individually, there are numerous ḥadīth stressing the excellence of communal prayer. A famous ḥadīth says: "Prayer which a man performs in congregation is worth twenty-five times the prayer performed at home or the market place." Several Qurʾanic verses provide scriptural basis for communal prayer service held on Friday. For instance: "O ye who believe! When the call to prayer is proclaimed on the day of assembly, hasten to remember God and cease your business. This is best for you if you understand" (62–9). The congregational prayer (ṣalāt al-jumʿah ) held on Fridays is obligatory for males in most madhhabs. Attending Friday services is not compulsory for women and, in fact, women are not encouraged to participate. Major Muslim cities have huge congregational mosques called jumʿah masjid to accommodate large gatherings. Jumʿah is performed at the time of the noonday prayer, which it replaces. Upon entering the mosque, worshipers perform two rakaʿāts. Then, the imām ascends to the pulpit (minbar ) and gives two short sermons (khuṭbah ), after which he leads the jumʿah ṣalāt. Generally, the sermons explain an Islamic ethical principle or practice on the basis of a Qurʾanic verse. In Islamic countries, sermons provide a means to mobilize the faithful; therefore, the ruler or state frequently maintains close control over jumʿah mosques. Major Muslim festivals are also held in the jumʿah masjids, where the whole community gathers to celebrate and offer special prayers. These festivals include the feasts that follow the end of the fast during the month of Ramaḍān (ʿĪd al-Fiṭr), and the end of the ḥājj, or pilgrimage to Mecca (ʿĪd al-Aḍḥā).
Significance of ṢalĀt
In conclusion, the ṣalāt is a focal point of Muslim religious life. At the eve of Islam, the ṣalāt played a crucial formative role in the transformation of religious identity, for both pre-Islamic Arabs and those who adopted Islam as it spread. Undoubtedly, the ṣalāt demands discipline, and the question remains as to what degree Muslims do, in fact, observe the five prayers. Over the course of Islamic history, the ṣalāt has enjoyed different interpretations ranging from esoteric to exoteric. Esoteric interpretations look upon ṣalāt as an act leading to a spiritual encounter and relationship with God, a method of transformation of individual consciousness through the disciplined practice of continual submission and self-surrender. Exoteric interpretations tend to emphasize ṣalāt as primarily an act of ritual observance and submission to God's law. In the former case, emphasis on ṣalāt performance may diminish or take on symbolic import, whereas in the latter case, faithful performance of ṣalāt is always essential. The two views are not mutually exclusive. They have influenced each other but also been suspicious of one another for excesses of liberalism or literalism, as the case may be. The majority of Muslims, however, affirm that ṣalāt is a means of purification and submission of the body, mind, and soul, and that it embodies total surrender of the human being to God's will.
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