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Shalat (Prayer), A History and Philosophy

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shalatIn Arabic, shalat means pray. According to terminology, shalat is a series of prayers for muslim that starts with takbiratul ihram and ends with salaam. It’s a ritual that muslims do five times a day.

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Shalat was brought by Prophet Muhammad SAW from an event of Isra Miraj. However, it was done by some earlier prophets and was mentioned implicitly in some verses of holy books.

  • Subuh prayer was first performed by Prophet Adam AS when he got out of heaven and saw the dark night on earth. When he saw the dawn, he prayed 2 rakaats.
  • Dhuhr prayer was first performed by Prophet Ibrahim AS when he was asked to slaughter his son. As his gratitude for having his son replaced with a sheep, he prayed 4 rakaats after the sun slipped.
  • Asr prayer was first performed by Prophet Yunus AS after he got out of whale’s stomach at Asr time. He prayed 4 rakaats as his gratitude of getting out of the darkness.
  • Maghrib prayer was first performed by Prophet Isa AS when he got out of his folk at dusk.
  • Isha prayer was first performed by Prophet Musa AS when he got lost on his way from Madyan.

There are also different references about the prayers of the prophets. What we can take note is that prayer is a form of the gratitude upon the blessings from Allah Almighty. Finally, the 5 prayers become the obligation for muslims who follow Prophet Muhammad SAW.

Types of Prayers

It’s a mandatory for all muslims to pray five times a day on the specified time, as shown below:

  • Subuh/Fajr: 2 rakaats in the dawn, before the sun goes up
  • Dhuhr: 4 rakaats in the midday, after the sun has reached its zenith
  • Asr: 4 rakaats in the afternoon
  • Maghrib: 3 rakaats after the sun goes down
  • Isha: 4 rakaats in the night

Besides the 5 fardhu prayers time, there are also sunnah prayers. Although sunnah prayers are not compulsory, they’re highly suggested.

  • Dhuha prayer

In the morning until before Dhuhr comes is the time for Dhuha prayer. It’s not allowed to pray Dhuha right after Subuh time, when the sun hasn’t risen, and when the sun goes down. Dhuha prayer is like a charity for the body in the morning. Praying in Dhuha time will ease the sustenance and get rid of poverty.

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  • Tahajjud prayer

Tahajjud prayer can be done in the night, when it’s the last third of the night before subuh. It’s suggested to pray Tahajjud after waking up from night sleep, but it doesn’t matter to pray before getting some sleep before. Tahajjud prayer is a very special time to pray and will bring many blessings.

  • Witr prayer

The time to pray Witr is after Isha prayer. The number of rakaat is odd, from one to eleven. The most common rakaat for Witr is three. This prayer is supposedly to close the shalat for the day.

  • Eid prayer

When Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha come, muslims pray Eid for two rakaats with seven takbirs before the first rakaat and five takbirs before the second. The time for Eid prayer is between the sunrise and the true noon. Eid prayer in congregation at Masjid is followed with a khutbah (sermon).

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  • Istikharaah prayer

When a muslim needs a guidance for a particular purpose, they can pray istikharaah to help them find a way out. Istikharaah can be done in two rakaats anytime except the forbidden times to pray.

There are still so many other sunnah prayers to complete the worship and to gain more rewards.

Conditions to pray                        

To be able to perform shalat, these conditions must be fulfilled

  • The time has come. Subuh prayer is done when Subuh time has come, and so as for the other prayers.
  • Clean from hadas. To be clean from hadas, a muslim must perform wudhu (ablution)
  • Body, clothes and area are clean from najis. Junub bath is to clean the body from najis after menstrual period or sexual intercourse. To clean other najis will need different cleaning.
  • Cover the body. Men must cover their body from belly button to the knees, while women must cover the whole body except face and hands.
  • Face the qibla. Backfacing the qibla will cancel the shalat.
  • Intention. Each prayer has different intention.

Rules of prayer

Here are the words and the movement that form shalat. Leaving one of them will make shalat unaccepted.

  1. Stand (for those who are capable)
  2. Takbiratul Ihram
  3. Read Surah Al-Fathihah in every rakaat
  4. Ruku’ (bowing) and tuma’ninah
  5. Iktidal after ruku’ and tuma’ninah
  6. Two prostrations with tuma’ninah
  7. Sit between two prostrations with tuma’ninah
  8. Sit and read tasyahud
  9. Say salaam
  10. Do the order in the right sequence

Things that cancel the prayer

These are things that can cancel the prayer.

  1. Eat and drink deliberately.
  2. Talk deliberately for a purpose other than shalat.
  3. Leave one condition or one rule, and do not replace it before finishing the prayer.
  4. Do a lot of movement other than for prayer.
  5. Laugh so hard.
  6. Do the prayer not in the right order.

Philosophy of prayers

What can we get from shalat? There are so many blessings we can get if we maintain shalat. Abu ‘Aliyah once said

“There are 3 things in shalat that if it doesn’t exist, shalat won’t mean anything. Those are ikhlas (sincerity), fear, and dzikr to Allah. Ikhlas leads us to ma’ruf (kebaikan). Fear prevents us from bad will. Dzikr through Al Qur’an commands and forbids of any deed.”

That philosophy tells us if we pray sincerely, we will find peace and it will grow the feeling to do good things. Fear will make us think twice about doing bad things because we understand the consequences. If we understand the meaning of what we read in shalat, we will know shalat is the way to erase sins and increase our devotion.

By maintaining shalat, someone can be safe from getting lost. The world is full of temptation to follow the lust. Following the lust like drinking khamr, having free sex, doing drugs, stealing, murdering, etc. are what we might do if we get lost in malice. Devil will try to invite us to do evil things we don’t guard ourselves. Shalat is a protetion from devil’s whispers.

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Tips for a mindful prayer

Though it seems simple, shalat in mindfulness isn’t easy. In the middle of shalat, it’s very often we think about something else. That makes us lose our concentration. However, we can try to minimize those intrusive thoughts in the midddle of shalat through these tips.

  1. If you haven’t eaten, it’s better to eat first. Feeling hungry may disturb your prayer.
  2. Finish and clear all the hadas before wudhu.
  3. Try to understand the meaning of what we read in every movement.
  4. Try to pray on time.
  5. Seek a refugee from Allah.
  6. Remind yourself that you’re standing in front of Allah and that he watches you.
  7. Imagine if it’s the last prayer.

Those are some insights about Shalat (Prayer), A History and Philosophy). Allah knows best. Wallahu a’lam.

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