Essential Parts of Ritual Prayer (Shafii)


What is essential parts of ritual prayer?

  1. INTENTION: means to know by heart the time of prayer, which prayer is to be performed, and that it is performed for the sake of Allah. It is Sunnah to express the intention in words at the beginning of a prayer. One should specifically state in his intention which prayer is going to be performed e.g. Sunnah or obligatory cycles of dawn prayer or noon prayer etc. If the prayer is an unqualified supererogatory prayer, it is enough to state that one only intends to perform the ritual prayer.

If it is an obligatory prayer, it is required in the intention to designate (qasd) which prayer is to be performed and to define (ta’yin) that it is obligatory. If it is a certain supererogatory prayer, it should also be designated and defined. If it is an unqualified supererogatory prayer, only the designation is required.

The intention must coincide with one’s first takbir. In other words, intention must be in the mind when saying the first Allahu Akbar. One should avoid doing things that contradicts with the intention throughout one’s prayer.

The imam who leads a mixed gender congregation should state his intention by saying, “Ana imamun liman tabiani” (I am an imam for those who follow me). It is obligatory for an imam to state his intention for leading the Friday Prayer, when re-performing a prayer, and when combining two prayers due to rain.

Those who are in congregation should not neglect to say in their intentions that “they follow the imam”. However, if one begins to perform a prayer alone, and then sees a group praying in congregation, it is permissible for him to change his intention while praying and follow the imam. His prayer is valid.[1]

  • TAKBIR AL-IHRAM: it means to begin a prayer by saying Allahu Akbar, which is an expression of reverence and exaltedness of Allah Almighty. This takbir is called takbir al-iftitah (beginning takbir) or takbir al-ihram/tahrim (takbir that makes all actions except the acts of prayer prohibited).

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said in one of his traditions defining prayer:“When you get up to pray, recite takbir, and then recite whatever you conveniently can from the Qur’an, then bow down and remain quietly in that position, then raise your- self and stand erect; then prostrate yourself and remain quietly in that attitude; then raise yourself and sit quietly; and do that throughout all your prayers.”[2]The person praying raises his hands when saying the takbir and lowers and ties them under his chest after finishing the takbir.

  • QIYAM: means to stay standing during prayer. It is an essential part to stand during prayer for those who are able to do it. It is stated in verse, “and stand before Allah in a devout (frame of mind).”[3] Standing is not obligatory in supererogatory prayers, but standing up is a manifestation of respect to the prayer.

A hunchback should do his best to stand up as much as possible. Those who cannot stand up may perform their prayers by sitting or by head gestures. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said, “Pray while standing and if you can’t, pray while sitting and if you cannot do even that, then pray lying on your side. Allah would not burden a person more than he can bear.”[4] One who gets ill while praying may finish his prayer by sitting. It is reprehensible to lean on a wall during prayer, but that standing is still valid.If intercity vehicles like coaches or trains do not stop for the prayer times, the traveler should perform his prayers in their proper times by gestures or moving his head. In vehicles, such as a ship and a plane, even though it is permissible to perform prayers by sitting down, it is better to try to stand up and turn towards the qiblah.

  • QIRA’AH (RECITATION OF FATIHA): It is obligatory to recite verses from the Qur’an, and to recite the chapter al-Fatiha for this purpose. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said, “One is not credited with having observed the prayer without the recitation.”[5]

In every cycle of the prayer, it is obligatory to recite chapter al-Fatiha together with basmala at the beginning and in the order of its verses from beginning to the end. The prayer of a person who intentionally neglects the recitation of chapter al-Fatiha, even in one cycle, is not valid. This is expressed in one of the tradition of our Prophet (pbuh) as follows: “He who does not recite Fatihat al-Kitab is not credited with having observed the prayer.”[6]According to the Shafi’i School, it is obligatory for the congregation to recite chapter al-Fatiha as soon as the imam finishes his recitation of Fatiha. Hanafis, on the other hand, say that the congregation should silently wait while the imam is reciting Fatiha, and that it is reprehensible for them to recite Fatiha based on the following hadith, “Whoever has an imam, the recitation of the imam is his recitation.”[7]It is not permissible to recite Fatiha in any language other than Arabic. Those who do not know anything from the Qur’an should repeat 156-letter long remembrances of Allah such as “subhanallah, alhamdulillah, la ilaha illallah, Allahu akbar, la hawla wala quwwata illa billah” in place of chapter al-Fatiha. Those who do not know even such invocations must stay standing for duration of time enough to recite chapter al-Fatiha.One who catches a prayer after the imam completes part of or all of chapter al-Fatiha does not need to recite it. The imam’s recitation will be sufficient for him.

  • RUKU’: means bowing down by keeping the head and back parallel to the ground. Allah Almighty commands in the Qur’an, “O you who have attained faith! Bow down and prostrate yourselves…” (al-Hajj, 22: 77) For ruku’ to be valid it must be done with tuma’nina. Tuma’nina is carried out by keeping the limbs motionless for a while.

Hz. Aisha (r. anha) describes bowing one’s head during ruku’ as follows, “When Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) bowed he neither kept his head up nor bent it down, but kept it between these extremes.”[8]“When Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) bent down, his back would be straight, level and horizontal so much so that if there were a glass of water on his back, it would stay there.”[9]

  • ITIDAL (QAWMA):means to stand upright after rising back from ruku’. The proof for this is the following tradition transmitted by Aisha (r. anha), “When Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) rose from bowing down, he would not go to prostration until he stood upright.”[10] The duration of i’tidal should neither be too much nor too short.
  • SAJDA: It is obligatory two prostrate twice in each cycle. Prostration is done by touching seven limbs to the ground. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said, “I have been ordered to prostrate on seven bones i.e. on the forehead along with the tip of the nose and the Prophet (pbuh) pointed towards his nose, both hands, both knees and the toes of both feet and not to gather the clothes or the hair.”“ [11]

A prostration is not acceptable if where the forehead is placed in prostration is covered with something soft, like cotton, or if the weight of the head is not felt in the place of prostration because of an obstacle like placing one’s hands there. This is because placing the forehead to the ground is obligatory in prostration.The bottom sides of the toes of the feet should also touch the ground while prostrating. It is not enough to touch the upper sides or the tips of the toes to the ground.Prostration (sajdah) is one of the most important acts of prayer. In Islam, prostration is done to nobody and nothing but Allah. It is the best act of showing one’s respect, submission and servitude to Allah.In order to perform a valid prostration, one must do tuma’ninah, i.e. while prostrating stay motionless for an interval.In the obligatory cycles of prayer, one should not extend the prostration for too long: “While offering prayer, the Prophet (pbuh) used to stay in his bowing and his prostration as long as one could utter the words “Glory be to Allah and praise be to Him (subhanaAllahi wa bi hamdihi)” three times.”[12] It is permissible to extend the prostrations in supererogatory prayers. It is stated in a tradition of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh): “The nearest a servant comes to his Lord is when he is prostrating himself, so make supplication (in this state).”[13]One who performs the prayer on a mount or a vehicle performs the ruku’ and prostration by gestures. In other words, traveler bends down a little bit to perform ruku’ and bends down a little bit more to perform prostration. According to Imam Ghazali, if someone has to perform prayer on a vehicle or falls ill and cannot place his head on the ground, it is permissible for him to prostrate on something higher such as a pillow or a chair. According to Imam Rafi’i and other scholars, such a believer should perform the prostration by bending his head as much as possible.

  • JALSA (SITTING): Staying motionless between two prostrations is obligatory. Because Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) would not go down to second prostration before he would lift his head completely from the first prostration and sit upright.[14]

Between the two prostrations in prayers with three of four cycles, the person who is praying sits in a position called iftirash, which is to place the left foot on its side and sitting on it; and keeping the right foot vertical while resting on the bottom of the toes turning them towards the qiblah.

  • FINAL SITTING: means to sit down as long as to recite supplications of tahiyyat and salawat before saying the greetings at the end of a prayer. In the final sitting, the person who is praying sits in a position called tawarruk, which is to sit with the left posterior on the ground; right foot placed vertically with toes pointing towards the qiblah; and the left foot on its side emerging from under the right foot. The textual proof for this is the following hadith reported by Abu Hamid al-Saidi: “I remember the prayer of Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) better than any one of you… On sitting in the last cycle, he pushed his left foot forward and kept the other foot propped up and sat over the buttocks.”[15]
  • RECITATION OF THE SUPPLICATION TAHIYYAT: The recitation of the supplication tahiyyat in the final sitting is one of the essential parts of prayer. Recitation of the supplication tahiyyat in sitting in the second cycle is a Sunnah in prayers with three or four cycles.
  • RECITATION OF SALAWAT: It is obligatory to pray for blessings on the Prophet (pbuh) and the members of his family (ahl al-bayt) in the final sitting. According to the Shafi’i School, one should recite the invocations of “Allahumma salli” and “Allahumma barik” based on the command in the verse “Verily, Allah and His angels bless the Prophet: [hence,] O you who have attained to faith, bless him and give yourselves up [to his guidance]in utter self-surrender!” (al-Ahzab, 33: 56) It is obligatory to recite the above mentioned invocation up to the phrase “Allahumma salli ala Muhammad” and it is a Sunnah to recite the rest.
  • THE GREETING OF PEACE: It is also obligatory to utter the first of the two final greetings of peace. The minimum amount of greeting is to say “Assalamu Alaikum” and its most complete form is to say “Assalamu alaikum wa Rahmatullah”.
  • MAINTAINING THE ORDER OF THE ESSENTIAL ACTS OF PRAYER (TARTIB): The essential acts of prayer must be performed in their required order. If a person intentionally neglects the required order of the essential acts, his prayer becomes invalid. If a person neglects the order of an essential act by mistake, and realizes his error before performing the next essential act, he should immediately go back to the act he neglected. If he realizes his mistake after performing another essential act or after uttering the greeting of peace, he must perform one full cycle (rak’ah) in place of the neglected act and perform the prostration of forgetfulness at the end.
  • TUMA’NINAH: It means staying motionless between two acts. It means staying motionless for a while during ruku’, after standing up from ruku’, during prostrations, and while sitting upright between two prostrations. In other words, it means to wait without any movement for such a time as to be able to say “subhanallah” in the position of i’tidal, while performing ruku’, and while sitting between two prostrations (jalsa).

[1] Al-Shirbini, Mughni al-Muhtaj, 1/342[2] Al-Bukhari, Adhan, 757; Muslim, Salat, 883[3] Al-Baqara, 2: 238[4] Al-Bukhari, Taqsir 19[5] Muslim, Salat 42[6] Abu Dawud, Salat, 136[7] Ibn Maja, Iqama, 13[8] Muslim, Salat 240[9] Al-Bukhari, Adhan 120[10] Al-Bukhari, Adhan 122; Muslim, Salat 196[11] Al-Bukhari, Adhan 133[12] Abu Dawud, Salat 154[13] Muslim, Salat 215[14] Al-Bukhari, Adhan 792; Muslim, Salat 860[15] Al-Bukhari, Adhan 828

Source: Fiqh1 (According To The Shafi’i School Of Islamic Law), Erkam Publications

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