How to Pray

Preparations for Prayer

Be Clean

Before performing salah, you must ensure that you are spiritually clean by first having performed wudu.

Wudu is where you wash your hands, rinse your mouth and nose, wash your face, wash your arms, wash your head and ears, and finally wash your feet.

To learn more about cleansing yourself for prayer, go to Wudu on the menu line at the top of this page or click on this link wudu.

Once you have cleansed yourself for salah, Muslims often refer to this as “having wudu”.

 

Dress Appropriately

The clothes you wear for performing salah should be clean and free from impurities (filth).

Clothing should be appropriate so that you are dressed modestly.

Your clothing should be reasonably loose and not be too tight so that your body shape is not obvious through your clothes. Loose fitting clothes will also be much more comfortable when you are bowing and prostrating during salah.

Men should dress so that from the neck down to the below the knees is covered. No part of the body between the navel and the knees should be visible, or become uncovered (watch out for this when prostrating, so that your shirt does not ride up, exposing the small of your back).

Women should dress so that everything is covered except for the face and the hands.

 

Prayer Area

The area you are praying on should be clean and should be free from any obvious impurities.

This is why Muslims will often use a prayer rug to pray on.

It is also why Muslims remove their shoes before entering a mosque or entering their home – so that dirt from outside cannot be carried on to the areas you perform your salah on.

 

Qibla

All Muslims, wherever they are in the world, face in the direction of the qibla. This is in the direction of the Sacred Mosque in Makkah.

If you do not know the precise direction of the qibla, then you must make your best estimate and rely on that.

You can use a qibla compass which will point you in the direction to pray. These are available from Islamic stores and you can also shop for them on-line.

Apps are available for your mobile phone/ cell phone which will show you qibla direction for your geographical position. They will also inform you of the local prayer times for salah.

 

How To Perform Salah

Make Intention

Stand upright, facing the qibla, with your head level, your eyes lowered and your feet slightly apart.

Make a clear inward intention for the particular prayer you are about to perform. This is called making niyat.

 

Begin the Prayer

Raise both hands with the palms facing forward so that your thumbs are level with your ear lobes and say

Alahu Akbar

Allahu Akbar means “God is Greater”.

This marks the beginning of the prayer. Nothing else is allowed to interrupt the prayer until the prayer has ended (unless something happens, for example, your life is in danger, there is a fire etc).

Lower your arms until they are by your sides or so that your hands are crossed across your mid-section, your right hand on top of the left hand and grasping your left wrist.

Most Muslims will pray with their hands clasped like this across their stomach but some will prefer to pray with their arms by their side. Both methods are permissible.

 

Pray the first Rak’at

Recite Surat al-Fatiha, followed by another surah, or passage, from the Qur’an. This recitation must be done in Arabic.

The recitation may be either silent or audible, depending on the particular salah being performed.

On completion of the recitation,say

Alahu Akbar

and bend forward from the waist, placing your hands on your knees, with your back level to the ground.

Men’s elbows should be held away from the body. Women should keep their arms close to their body.

This position is called ruku’.

Remain in this position for several seconds, silently repeating three times

Subhana Rabbi al-Azim

Then stand upright again, saying the words

Sami’a Allahu liman hamidah (out loud)

Rabbana walakal-hamd (silently)

Remain upright for a few moments and then say

Allahu Akbar

and proceed to go into the prostration position by bending your knees and placing your hands palms down on the ground in front of you.

Your forehead, nose, palms, knees and toes should all be touching the ground. Your palms should be level with your head, with the fingers forward. Your elbows should be raised off the ground. Your feet should be upright with the toes bent, facing forwards.

Men should keep their elbows away from their body. Women should hold their elbows close to their body and should keep their knees together.

This position is called sujud or sajdah.

Remain in sujud for several seconds, silently repeating three times

Subhan Rabbi al-‘Ala

Then, while saying

Allahu Akbar

sit back in the kneeling position. Remain like this for several seconds whilst silently reciting two times

Rabbighfirligh

Then say

Allahu Akbar

once more and then go into the sujud position for a second time, with your forehead on the ground, silently repeating three times

Subhana Rabbi al-‘Ala

This completes the first rak’at of salah.

You know stand upright again, saying as you rise

Allahu Akbar

 

Pray the Second Rak’at

Standing upright, recite Surat al-Fatihah followed by another surah from the Qur’an and then follow the same steps as you did in the first rak’at.

After the second prostration in sujood, remain kneeling, do not stand up.

Silently recite the tashahhud at this point …

At-Tahiyyatu Lillahi Was-Salawatu Wat-Tayyibatu

As-salamu ‘Alayka Ayyuhan-Nabiyyu

Wa Rahmatullahi WaBarakatuhu

As-salamu ‘Alayna wa ‘Ala Ibadillahis-Salihin

Ashhadu an la illaha illallah

Wa ashhadu anna Muhammadan ‘Abduhuwa Rasuluh

If your salah is a two rak’at prayer (e.g. Fajr), you would now also recite blessings upon the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ

Allahumma salli ‘ala Muhammad

wa ‘ala ali Muhammad

kama sallayta ‘ala Ibrahim

wa ‘alaali Ibrahim

innaka hamidun majid

Allahumma Barik ‘ala Muhammad

wa ‘ala ali Muhammad

kama barakta ‘ala Ibrahim

wa ‘ala ali Ibrahim

innaka hamidun majid

then end your salah by turning your head to the right and then to the left, saying both times

As-salumu ‘Alaykum wa rahmatullah

Your salah has now ended and you can now remain on your knees, offering up your personal prayers and supplications to Allah ﷻ.

If your salah consists of more than two rak’at, instead of ending your salah you would stand up again after reciting the tashahhud, saying as you rise up

Allahu Akbar

 

Pray the Third Rak’at

Once standing upright, recite Surah al-Fatihah silently. Do not recite a second surah.

Then follow the steps for ruku’ and sujud as before.

If your salah is a three rak’at prayer (e.g. Maghrib) you would remain kneeling after the second prostration. You would then silently recite the tashahhud and the blessings upon the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ before ending your salah by turning your head to the right and the left, saying

As-salumu ‘Alaykum wa rahmatullah

If your salah is a four rak’at prayer (e.g. Dhuhr) you would instead stand up after the second prostration, saying

Allahu Akbar

 

Pray the Fourth Rak’at

Standing upright, recite Surat al-Fatihah silently. Do not recite a second surah but proceed to perform ruku’ and sujud as before.

After the second prostration in sujud, remain kneeling. Silently recite the tashahhud and the blessings upon the Prophet ﷺ . Then end your salah by turning your head to the right and to the left saying

As-salumu ‘Alaykum wa rahmatullah

You can now make personal prayer and supplications to Allah subhanu wa ta’ala at this point.

 

Different Methods of Praying Salah

The instructions above for performing salah are fairly generic. They include all the necessary integrals that make the performance of your salah valid.

There can be some differences, however, in the way that different Muslims pray.

This may depend on the geographical region a Muslim comes from, or the tradition or school of fiqh (madhab) that she/he follows.

As a new Muslim, you don’t really have to worry about this too much at the start. You should learn the basics and concentrate on getting those right.

Where people follow different schools and there are differences in the way that they do things, none of these can be said to be the “correct” way of doing things.

They are all equally valid and acceptable.

You will find differences, therefore, in the way that a Shi’i Muslim prays compared to a Sunni Muslim.

Or within Sunni Islam, there are four main recognised madhabs (schools) with slight differences between them.

The point is that they are all valid and the fundamental elements are the same.

 

Learning to Pray Resources and Videos

There are a number of good resources around that will help you learn how to perform Salah.

Here are just a few of the helpful resources we found useful when we first started to learn about Islam and how to practice it.

The best way to learn is to contact your local mosque and ask them if they can provide help in teaching you to pray.

Performing Salah in congregation in the mosque is a most effective way of polishing your Salah. Learn from the knowledgeable sisters and brothers praying alongside you.

 

Guide Book

A book that many new Muslims find very helpful in learning to perform Salah is  “A Simple Guide to Prayer for Beginners”  by Batool Al-Toma.

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 which is very good at taking you through each prayer and giving you the correct Arabic pronunciation.

You can get this book and  CD directly from Kube Publishing or from various Islamic bookstores.

Book :-       http://www.kubepublishing.com/shop/a-simple-guide-to-prayer-3/

CD :-           http://www.kubepublishing.com/shop/a-simple-guide-to-prayer-cd-2

 

Video Tutorials

This first video is a really simple guide – Learn How to Pray (Salah) – and is a good basic introduction to what is involved in performing Salah.

 

For more detailed help on how to perform Salah, 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.

Part 1  

Part 2  

Part 3  

The important thing to remember is that these videos are guides.

Some Muslims pray in slightly different ways from others, according to the particular school of Islamic thinking they follow – and this is largely determined on a geographical basis.