Obligatory acts of prayer:
For it to be acceptable, the method of prayer must conform to the norms spelled out in the Islamic law.
Obligatory acts of prayer, Intention:
Says Allah, "And We did not command them save to worship Allah, making the religion sincerely for Him" (al-Bayinah 5). The Prophet, upon whom be peace, said, "Every action is based upon intention. For everyone is what he intended. Whoever made the migration to Allah and His Prophet, then his migration is to Allah and His Prophet. Whoever's migration was for something of this world or for the purpose of marriage, then his migration was to what he migrated to." (Related by al-Bukhari.)
In Ighatha al-Lufan, Ibn al-Qayyim states, "The intention is the aim and purpose of something. It is a condition of the heart, and it does not come from the tongue. For that reason, the Prophet and his companions never spoke their intentions. What has been introduced into this matter during the actions of purity and the prayer comes from Satan and is a trap for those who are unsure about how to make it. You will find them repeating it over and over, but that is not part of the prayer at all."
Obligatory acts of prayer, Saying the Opening Takbir and Beginning the Prayer:
Ali reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said, "The key to prayer is purity. What puts one into its inviolable state is the takbir, and the tasleem releases one from it."
As to the authenticity of the report, it is related by ash-Shai'i, Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah and at-Tirmidhi, who called it the most authentic report on this topic. Al-Hakim and Ibn as-Sakin consider it as sahih. The takbir consists of saying Allahu akbar. Abu Hameed reported that when the Prophet stood for prayer, he would stand straight, raise his hands and say, "Allahu akbar."
This is related by Ibn Majah, and in the Sahihs of Ibn Khuzaimah and Ibn Hibban. Al-Bazzar related something similar to it, but with a chain that is sahih according to Muslim's criterion. 'Ali and others also reported this.
Standing During the Obligatory Prayers:
One must stand during the prayer, if at all possible. Says Allah, "Guard and preserve the prayers and the mid-most prayer, and stand for Allah with devotion." Reported 'Umar ibn Hussain, "I had some physical problem, so I asked the Prophet, upon whom be peace, about the prayer, and he said, 'Pray standing; if you are not able to; pray sitting, if you are not able to; pray (while lying) on your side." (Related by al-Bukhari.) Most scholars say that one should not put his feet together while standing in prayer.
For voluntary prayers, one can pray sitting even if he can stand, but one who stands receives a larger reward than one who sits. 'Abdullah ibn 'Umar related that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said, "The prayer of one who sits is half of the prayer." (Related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.)
If one can not stand, he may pray according to what he is capable of doing, as Allah does not burden a soul beyond its ability. He will get a complete reward for the prayer. Abu Musa reported that the Prophet said, "If a slave (of Allah) is sick or travels, he will get a reward for those acts similar to what he would get if he was healthy and at home."
Obligatory acts of prayer, Reciting al-Fatihah in Every Rak'ah of the Prayer:
There are many authentic hadith which state that it is obligatory to recite al-Fatihah in every rak'ah. Thus, there is no difference of opinion on this point. Some of these hadith are:
'Ibadah ibn as-Samit related that the Prophet said, "There is no prayer for one who does not recite the opening of the Book al-Fatihah)." This is related by "the group."
Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet said, "Whoever prays a prayer and does not recite the opening chapter of the Qur'an has not prayed correctly." (Related by Ahmad, al-Bukhari and Muslim.) Ad-Daraqutni also recorded a hadith with a sahih chain with almost exactly the same wording.
Said Abu Sa'eed, "We were ordered to recite the opening chapter of the Qur'an and what (else) was easy (for us)." This is related by Abu Dawud. Al-Hafez and Ibn Sayyid an-Nass consider its chain as sahih.
In some of the narrations dealing with the prayer's incompleteness, it states, "And then recite the 'Mother of the Book' (al-Fatihah)," and he said, "And do that in every rak'ah."
It is confirmed that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, recited al-Fatihah in every rak'ah of every prayer, obligatory or superogatory. Since this is an act of worship, we can only follow what he did. And the Prophet said, "Pray as you have seen me pray." (Related by al-Bukhari.)
Obligatory acts of prayer, Bismillah:
The scholars are agreed that the bismillah (the words "In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful) is a verse in Surah al-Naml, but they differ over whether or not it constitutes a verse of every surah. There are three opinions on this point:
1. It is a verse of al-Fatihah and of every surah of the Qur'an. Therefore, it is to be recited with al-Fatihah during those prayers that are said aloud or quietly. The strongest support of this opinion comes from the hadith of Na'em al-Mujammir who said, "I prayed behind Abu Hurairah and he recited, 'In the name of Allah...' and then he recited al-Fatihah." At the end of the hadith, he is quoted as saying, "By the One in whose Hand is my soul, I have done what resembles how we prayed with the Messenger of Allah."
2. It is a verse by itself and was revealed to demarcate different surahs. It is allowed to recite it with al-Fatihah (in fact it is preferred), but it is not sunnah to recite it aloud. Anas said, "I prayed behind the Messenger of Allah, Abu Bakr, 'Umar and 'Uthman, and they did not recite it aloud." This hadith is related by an-Nasa'i, Ibn Hibban and at-Tahawi with a sahih chain according to the criterion of the two Sahihs.
3. It is not a verse of al-Fatihah or of any other surah. It is disliked to recite it aloud or quietly during the obligatory prayers, but not for the superogatory prayers. This opinion, however, is not strong. Ibn al-Qayyim has reconciliated the first and second opinions by saying, "Sometimes the Prophet would recite it aloud, but most of the time he would say it quietly and not aloud."
Obligatory acts of prayer, One Who Cannot Recite Properly:
Says al-Khattabi, "Basically, one's prayer does not suffice if he does not recite al-Fatihah. If one can recite neither al-Fatihah nor other portions of the Qur'an, he should recite at least seven verses of a similar meaning from the Qur'an. If he can not learn any part of the Qur'an (due to some innate inability, poor memory, or because it's a foreign language), he should say the tasbeeh (Subhaan Allah - Glory be to Allah), the tamheed (al-Hamdu lillah - All praise is due to Allah), and tahleel (La ilaha illal-lah - There is no God except Allah). It is related that he said, "The best remembrance after the speech of Allah is Subhaan Allah, al-Hamdu lillah, La ilaha illal-lah and Allahu akbar." This is supported by Rafa'ah ibn Rafa', who narrated that the Prophet said, "If you have something from the Qur'an, recite it. If not, then say the tamheed, takbir and the tahleel and then bow."
This hadith is related by Abu Dawud, at-Tirmidhi, an-Nasa'i and al-Baihaqi. The former considers it as hassan.
Obligatory acts of prayer, Ar-Ruku' (Bowing Down):
There is a consensus on the obligatory nature of the ruku'. Says Allah, "O you who believe, bow down and prostrate yourselves.. ." The position of ruku' is established by bending over, putting one's hands on one's knees, and remaining in that position until he attains "calmness." In another hadith the Prophet said, "Then bow until you attain calmness while your are bowing." Abu Qatadah related that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said, "The worst pepole are the thieves who steal part of the prayer." He was asked how this was done, and he replied, "He does not complete his bowings and prostrations," or he said, "He does not straighten his back during his bowings and prostrations."
As to its authenticity, the report is related by Ahmad, at-Tabarani, Ibn Khuzaimah and al-Hakim, who consider its chain as sahih.
Abu Mas'ud al-Badri reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said, "The prayer of one who does not straighten his back in his bendings and prostrations is not accomplished." This hadith is related by "the five,'' and Ibn Khuzaimah, Ibn Hibban, at-Tabarani and al-Baihaqi, who consider its chain as sahih, while at-Tirmidhi grades it as hassan sahih.
Knowledgeable companions act according to the principle that a person is to make his back straight during his bowings and prostrations. Hudhaifah saw someone who did not straighten his back during his bowings and prostrations, and told him, "You have not prayed. And if you were to die, you would not die in the way of Allah and His Messenger." (Related by al-Bukhari.)
Obligatory acts of prayer, Standing Erect After the Bowing:
This is based on Abu Humaid's description of the Prophet's prayer: "He would raise his head from his bowing, then stand straight until all of his backbones returned to their places." (Related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.)
'Aishah related that when the Prophet raised his head from bowing, he would not prostrate until his back was straight. (Related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.)
Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet said, "Allah does not look at the prayer of a person who does not straighten his back between his bowings and his prostrations." (Related by Ahmad. al-Mundhiri considers its chain as good.)
Obligatory acts of prayer, Prostration:
We have already stated the Qur'anic verse dealing with this obligatory act. The Prophet explained it in a hadith by saying, "Then prostrate until you attain calmness in your prostration, then rise (and sit) until you attain calmness in your sitting, and then prostrate until you gain calmness in your prostration. The first prostration, sitting afterwards, the second prostration and calmness during all of these acts are obligatory in every rak'ah of every obligatory or superogatory prayer.
Obligatory acts of prayer, How to Attain Calmness:
The "calmness" comes from sitting in the position until the bones are set and still. Some scholars say that, at a minimum, this would take as long as it takes to say one Subhaan Allah.
Obligatory acts of prayer, Bodily Parts That Touch the Ground During Prostration:
These parts are: the face, hands, knees and feet. Al-'Abbas ibn 'Abdul-Mutallib reported that he heard the Prophet say, "When a slave (of Allah) prostrates, seven bodily parts prostrate with him: his face, his hands, his knees and his feet." (Related by "the group," except for al-Bukhari.) Said Ibn 'Abbas, "The Prophet ordered us to prostrate on seven bodily parts and not to fold back the hair or clothing: the forehead, the hands, the knees and the feet." In another wording, the Prophet said, "I have been ordered to prostrate on seven bodily parts: the forehead, and he pointed to his nose, the hands, the knees and the ends of the feet." (Related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.) In another narration, he said, "I have been ordered to prostrate on seven bodily parts and not to fold back the hair or clothing: the forehead, the nose, the hands, the knees and the feet." (Related by Muslim and an-Nasa'i.)
Abu Humaid reported that when the Prophet, upon whom be peace, prostrated, he placed his nose and forehead on the ground. This hadith is related by Abu Dawud and at-Tirmidhi who said, "The scholars act according to this: a person prostrates on his nose and forehead." According to some scholars, if one prostrates on just the forehead without the nose touching the ground, it will still be sufficient. Others say that it would not be sufficient until his nose touches the ground.
Obligatory acts of prayer, The Final Sitting and Recital of the Tashahud:
The Prophet's practice illustrates that when the final sitting of the prayer has been made, one must recite the tashahud at that time. In one hadith, he said, "When you raise your head from the last prostration and sit for the tashahud, you have completed your prayer."
Says Ibn Qudamah, "It has been related that Ibn 'Abbas said, 'We used to say, before the tashahud was made obligatory upon us, 'Peace be upon Allah before His slaves, peace be upon Gabriel, peace be upon Mikhail.' The Prophet, upon whom be peace, said, 'Do not say, 'Peace be upon Allah,' but say, 'Salutations to Allah.' This proves that the tashah ud was made obligatory, although before it was not." The most authentic report concerning the tashahud is Ibn Mas'ud's, who said, "When we would sit with the Prophet in the prayer, we would say, 'Peace be upon Allah before His slaves, peace be upon so and so.' The Prophet said, 'Do not say peace be upon Allah, for Allah is peace. When one of you sits, he should say salutations be to Allah, and the prayers, and the good deeds, peace be upon us and upon Allah's sincere slaves (if you say that, it applies to all of Allah's sincere slaves in the heavens and the earth). I bear witness that there is no god except Allah. I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger.' Then you may choose whatever supplication you desire." (Related by "the group.")
Says Muslim, "The people are in agreement over the tashahud of Ibn Mas'ud, and the companions do not differ over it." At-Tirmidhi, al-Khattabi, Ibn 'Abdul-Barr and Ibn al-Mundhir all agree that Ibn Mas'ud's hadith is the most authentic one on this topic.
Said Ibn 'Abbas, "The Messenger of Allah used to teach us the tashahud like he taught us the Qur'an. He would say, 'Salutations, blessings, prayers and good deeds for Allah. Peace be upon you, O Prophet, and the mercy of Allah and His blessings. Peace be upon us and the sincere slaves of Allah. I bear witness that there is no god except Allah. I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and messenger." (Related by ash-Shaifi, Muslim, Abu Dawud and anNasa'i.)
Says ash-Shaifi, "Different hadith have been related about the tashahud, but that one is the best in my opinion, for it is the most complete. Al-Hafez states, "Ash-Shaifi was asked about this choice and the tashahud of Ibn 'Abbas, and he replied, 'I have found it to be the most encompassing. I have heard it from Ibn 'Abbas (through) authentic (chains). To me, it is more complete..."
There is another form of the tashahud that Malik chose. In al-Muwatta, it is stated that 'Abdurahman ibn 'Abdul-Qari heard 'Umar ibn al-Khattab teaching the people, from the pulpit, this tashahud: "Salutations to Allah, purifications to Allah, the good deeds and prayers be to Allah. Peace be upon you, O Prophet, and the mercy of Allah and His blessings. Peace be upon us and Allah's sincere slaves. I testify that there is no god but Allah, and I testify that Muhammad is His slave and messenger."
Commenting on the stature of such hadith, an-Nawawi says, "Those hadith concerning the tashahud are all sahih. Hadith scholars are agreed that the strongest of them is the hadith of Ibn Mas'ud, and then the hadith of Ibn 'Abbas. " Ash-Shaf'i said that any tashahud one uses will suffice, for the scholars agree that every one of them is permissible."
Obligatory acts of prayer, The Salaam (Peace Be Upon You and the Mercy of Allah) at the Prayer's End:
Saying the salaam at the end of the prayer is obligatory. 'Ali related that the Prophet said, "The key to prayer is purity. One enters into its inviolable state by the takbir and leaves it by the salaam." As to its authenticity, the report is related by Ahmad, ash-Shaf i, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah and at-Tirmidhi who said, "That is the most authentic report on this topic and the best."
'Amr ibn Sa'd related that his father said, "I saw the Prophet making the salaam on his right side and on his left side until I could see the whiteness of his cheeks." (Related by Ahmad, Muslim, anNasa'i and Ibn Majah.)
Reported Wa'il ibn Hajr, "I prayed with the Messenger of Allah. He would make the salaam on his right side by saying, 'Peace be upon you and the mercy of Allah." In Bulugh al-Maram, Ibn Hajr says that Abu Dawud related it with a sahih chain.
It is obligatory to say one salaam, and it is preferred to say two. Ibn al-Mundhir comments that all scholars agree that making only one salaam is permissible. Ibn Qudamah writes in al-Mughni, "There is no clear text from Ahmad that states that two salaams are obligatory. He only said, 'Two salaams are the most authentic act from the Messenger of Allah.' It is permissible to say that this is the regualtion, although it is not obligatory, and others have the same opinion. This is also pointed out in another of his statements where he said, 'Two salaams are more loved by me. But 'Aishah, Salamah ibn al-Aku' and Sahl ibn Sa'd narrated that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, made only one salaam." We can reconciliate these differences by stating that it is sunnah to say two salaams, but it is obligatory to say one. This is the consensus that Ibn al-Mundhir mentioned, and we have no option to reject that. Says an-Nawawi, "It is the opinion of ash-Shaifi and most of the early and later scholars that it is sunnah to say two salaams." Malik and a group of scholars say that only one salaam is sunnah. They adduce this from a weak hadith that can not be used as a proof. If something of this nature had been confirmed from the Prophet, the act was probably done just to show that it is permissible to say only one salaam. Scholars are agreed that only one salaam is obligatory. If one makes only one salaam, he should turn to his right for the first one and to the left for the second one. He should turn until his cheeks can be seen from behind. That is the most authentic form and it is said, "If one says the two salaams to the right or to the left while facing forward, or the first one on the left and the second one on the right, then his prayer would still be valid and he would have fulfilled the act of the two salaams. But, he would have lost the virtue of how they are to be performed."
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