Preparations for Salah
Before performing salah, you must ensure that you are in a state of ritual purification by having performing wudu. Please see our page on Wudu.
The clothes you wear for performing salah should be clean and free from impurities such as urine or faeces.
You should be dressed moderately and your clothing should be reasonably loose and not too tight-fitting so that your body is not obvious through the clothes. Loose-fitting clothes are also much more comfortable and help when you are bowing and prostrating during salah.
Men should dress such that the body is covered from the neck down to just below the knees.
No part of the body between the navel and the knees should be visible and you should wear clothes that will not ride up and so that the body area between the navel and knees is revealed when you are prostrating e.g. exposing the small of your back.
Women should be dressed such that everything is covered except for the face and the hands. It is especially important that the clothing is loose and does not reveal the body outline.
The area you are praying on should be clean and free from any obvious impurities.
This is one of the reasons why Muslims will often use a prayer rug on which to pray.
It is also why Muslims will remove their shoes before entering a mosque or someone’s home. This is so that dirt and impurities cannot be carried on to the areas where you might perform salah.
Wherever they are in the world, Muslims will face in the direction of the Ka’bah in Makkah when they pray. This direction is called the Qibla.
In mosques, the direction of the qibla is clearly marked by the mihrab. This is a large semi-circular niche in the wall of the mosque.
In some places such as hotel rooms and multifunctional faith rooms, you may find the direction of the qibla is marked by an arrow on the ceiling, pointing in the direction of the ka’bah. You might also find it marked on a wall or piece of furniture, like a table.
You may use a qibla compass to help you find the direction of the qibla. These compasses are available from Islamic stores and you can also purchase them on the internet.
if you do not know the exact direction of the qibla, then you must make your best estimate of it’s direction and pray facing that way.
Apps are available to download for use on your smart phone which will show you the direction of the qibla from your geographical location.
Different Ways of Praying Salah
All Muslims follow the same basic pattern of performing prayers but there can be some differences in the way that people pray depending upon which area of the world they come from or which particular school of thought they follow.
Where people follow different schools of practice and pray in slightly different ways, all are seen to be valid and there is no one “correct” method. They are all equally valid and acceptable.
Within Sunni Islam, for example, there are 4 different schools of thought. There are some slight differences in the way that each school may do something, but the overall prayer structure is exactly the same.
You will also find some differences between the way a Sunni Muslim prays compared to a Shi’i Muslim. Once again, though, the overall prayer structure is the same.
As a new Muslim, just beginning to pray, you do not really have to worry about these differences at the start. You should learn the basics and concentrate on getting those right.
You will probably begin to follow the way of praying that is found in the local mosque that you go to. That is easiest for you as you can watch others pray salah and learn to emulate them.
Later on in your Muslim life, you might decide to follow a particular school and adopt their way of performing salah, but most new Muslims probably continue to follow the way of praying they learned when they first came to Islam.
So, you might stand next to someone in salah who does things slightly differently from you. This does not matter.
You should concentrate on your own salah and make sure you get that right and not be distracted by anything outside of your own prayer.
Learning How to Pray
You can learn how to perform salah from online tutorials on media like YouTube.
There are also some very good books which are available that will take you through the different steps in performing salah.
The Imam or teacher at your local mosque or Islamic centre should also be able to give you some lessons on how to perform salah or they can arrange for you to attend some lessons.
The Best Way to learn
The best way to learn how to pray as a new Muslim is to actually pray in congregation with other Muslims. You will quickly learn the actions and motions needed in performing the salah.
This is also a very beneficial way of learning how to pray as you will be following the Imam or the person leading the salah. They will be taking the responsibility of reciting the Arabic phrases of the salah and for the salah being performed in the correct order. This will take an enormous amount of pressure from you as a new Muslim as they are responsible for the correctness of the prayer and you are just following them.
Salah is performed in Arabic
Salah must be prayed in Arabic.
You do not need to know a great deal of Arabic, just a few phrases and some short chapters of the Qur’an.
If you pray with other Muslims then whoever is leading the salah has the responsibility of praying in the correct Arabic and you can just follow them at first.
It does take some time until you may be able to pray a complete salah for yourself from beginning to end. Do not worry about this.
Build your salah up by learning small sections as you progress.
Start off with the very basics, the minimum that is required to perform salah. You can expand on these building blocks once you are comfortable and proficient with the basic salah.
Tutorial Videos and Books
Most people who convert to Islam will probably be following a Sunni Islam way of doing things. This is because most mosques and most Muslims are Sunni. Most of the videos you will find online teaching how to pray salah will be following a Sunni method, but there are some Shi’a videos out there too.
The videos that follow here mainly explain the Sunni method but there is also one showing the Shi’a way.
The way of praying salah in the two different strands of Islam is very similar and both follow the same basic structure of salah.
Here are some of the videos that we have found helpful in learning how to pray salah.
A Basic Tutorial on Salah in the Sunni way of Islam
Detailed Instructions on Salah in the Sunni method
The “Pray as you have seen me pray” videos are very useful. Part 1 explains a bit about Salah and describes how to perform wudu before you perform prayer. Part 2 and Part 3 then go on to explain the different steps in performing the prayers in more detail.
Pray as you have seen me pray – Part 1
Pray as you have seen me pray – Part 2
Pray as you have seen me pray – Part 3
A Basic Tutorial on Salah in the Shi’a way of Islam
Performing Salah for Fajr in the Shi’a School
How To Pray Salah – Guide Book
A book that many new Muslims find very helpful in learning to perform Salah is “A Simple Guide to Prayer for Beginners” and is the one that we used when we were learning how to pray salah.
It is written by converts for converts.
It describes how to perform wudu, the meaning of the prayers, how to perform each prayer, how to pronounce the prayers and how to use Islamic greetings and expressions.
There is also an accompanying CD you can purchase which is very good at taking you through each prayer and giving you the correct Arabic pronunciation.
You can purchase the book from a variety of Islamic bookshops and it can also be purchased through Amazon.