Salat

Salat is the ritual worship of the Muslim community; as worship through prayer, and it is distinguished from¬†du’a, personal prayer or supplication by an individual or group. The words of salat are always in Arabic. It is derived from Syriac, or from Aramaic, where the root¬†si’¬†means to bow or bend, the Arabic verb¬†salla, to perform the salat, is derived from the noun.

The salat, one of the five pillars of the faith, is mentioned in the Qur’an as a duty performed by believers who give the¬†Zakat, or alms. The times and regulations for the salat are given in detail in the hadith, and were eventually fixed at five times: Dawn, Noon, Afternoon, Sunset, and Night. According to tradition,¬†Muhammad¬†was given these instructions by Allah on the occasion of his¬†Isra, Night Journey, to heaven.

The salat should be said in common in a mosque, especially the Noon prayer on Friday, jum’a. However, the Muslims may pray individually or in small groups, when one member is chosen as the Imam; and this may be in any ritually clean area, marked off by¬†sutra. A prayer mat, sajjada, is commonly used. The salat must be performed facing the¬†qibla, the direction of Mecca, which in a mosque is indicated by the mihrab.

Ritual ablution (wudu’,¬†ghusl¬†or¬†tayammum) precedes the salat as appropriate. Ablution is divided into distinct movements, followed by formula. First, in a standing position facing the¬†qibla, is the pronouncement of the¬†my(y)a, intention, to perform the salat; then the¬†takbir¬†followed by the¬†Fatiha¬†and a verse or two from the Qur’an.

The movements then are¬†ruku’, bending till the palms are level with the knees; kneeling; a prostration, supid, back again into a¬†julus, between sitting and standing, another sujud, At most movements, the¬†takbir¬†is repeated.

This set of movements, from the standing position to the end of the second¬†sujud, constitutes one¬†rak’a, the number is fixed for each prayer time. After the final¬†rak’a, in a sitting position, the worshipper pronounces the tashahhud (profession of faith,¬†shahada); the prayer upon the Prophet Muhammad; finally the¬†taslima, greeting, Al-Salam “alaykum” (Peace be upon you), even when the person is alone. Extra¬†rak’as¬†may be added by the individual. The ritual may vary slightly according to the madhhab, direction as to thought or teaching.

The salat, as an obligation upon all Muslims and a sign of submission and humility, and adherence to the Islamic community, is held to be a sign of the true believer, who thus, for his devout and conscientious regular worship, will gain admittance to paradise. A.G.H.


Source:

Bowker, John, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, New York, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 843