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ṣalāt

Ṣalāt. The ritual worship of the Muslim community.

One of the five pillars of the faith, it is frequently mentioned in the Qurʾān as a duty. Believers are ‘those who perform the Ṣalāt and give the Zakāt (alms)’. Times (mīqāt) and regulations for ṣalāt are given in detail in the ḥadīth, and were eventually fixed at five times: Ṣalāt al-Ṣubḥ or Ṣalāt al-Fajr (Dawn), Ṣalāt al-Ẓuhr (Noon), Ṣalāt al-ʿAṣr (Afternoon), Ṣalāt al-Maghrib (Sunset), Ṣalāt al-ʿIshāʾ (Night). According to tradition, Muḥammad was given these instructions by Allāh on the occasion of his Isrāʾ (Night Journey) to heaven.

Ṣalāt should be performed in common, in a mosque, especially the Noon prayer on Friday (Jumʿa). But the Muslim may pray individually or in small groups, when one member is chosen as the Imām, and this may be in any ritually clean area, marked off by sutra. A prayer mat, sajjāda, is commonly used. Ṣalāt must be performed facing the qibla, the direction of Mecca, which in a mosque is indicated by the miḥrāb (see MOSQUE).

Ṣalāt is preceded by ritual ablution (wuḍūʾ, ghusl, or tayammum) as appropriate. It is divided into distinct movements, accompanied by formulae. First, in a standing position facing the qibla, is the pronouncement of the niy(y)a (intention) to perform the ṣalāt; then the takbīr (Allāhu Akbar), followed by the Fātiḥa and a verse or two from the Qurʾān. The movements then are: ṛukūʿ, bending till the palms are level with the knees; kneeling; a prostration, sujūd; back again into julūs (between sitting and standing); another sujūd. At most movements, the takbīr is repeated. This set of movements, from the standing position to the end of the second sujūd, constitutes one rakʿa, the number of which is fixed for each prayer time. After the final rakʿa, in a sitting position, the worshipper pronounces the tashahhud (profession of faith, shahāda); the prayer upon the Prophet Muḥammad; finally the taslima, greeting, ‘Al-Salām ʿalaykum’ (‘Peace be upon you’), even when he is alone. Extra rakʿas may be added by the individual. The ritual may vary slightly according to the madhhab.

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