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Sunday, 15 January 2017

SALAAT (PRAYER) IS EASY, Don't Make It Difficult!

Islam Is Simple,
Don’t Complicate It!

Salaat (Prayer) Is Easy,
Don’t Make It Difficult!

Salaat is offered to please Allah and should
be a pleasure for humans, not a punishment!

(M. Javed Naseem)

Don’t burden and discourage your children
with 17-Rakaat or 12-Rakaat Salaat (prayers).
There is NO such thing! Allah did not prescribe
Salaat like that. 4-Rakaat Salaat is the maximum
Allah prescribed for Muslims. The rest is called
‘Nafl’ prayer and was added by humans.

In the 1950’s, when we were in the primary school, our teacher of Islamic Studies (this fancy name of the subject was created later and replaced the original ‘Deeniyaat’), used to ask: How many Rakaats (units of prayer) are there in the Isha prayer? He used to say: 17-Rakaats to correct those who did not answer correctly. And then he would give us the break-down of those 17-Rakaats. Similarly, Dhuhur (Zuhar) consisted of 12-Rakaats. We were all scared by the number of Rakaats and were never regular in Salaat (prayer) except for Friday prayer or Eid prayers.

This kind of preaching is discouraging. It’s incorrect and horrifying for the kids. Above all, it is not based on Truth. It’s wrong! The prayer (Salaat) of Isha consists of 4 obligatory Rakaats only. Similarly, the prayer (Salaat) of Dhuhur/Zuhar consists of 4 obligatory (Fardh/Farz) Rakaats. The rest is optional (Nafl, plural Nawafil). And you can offer even 100 Rakaats of Nawafil every day. There is no limit!

Prayer (Salaat) was prescribed by Allah, the Almighty, for His subjects, slaves or servants – we the humans. And He prescribed 5-Salaats (prayers) totaling 17-Rakaat per day for us. We call that prayer ‘obligatory’ or ‘Fardh/Farz’ prayer. Every other prayer falls in the category of optional (Nafl or Nawafil) prayer.

‘Fardh/Farz Only’ Salaat
Make your kids regular in offering Salaat
by ‘Fardh/Farz only’ prayer! Those who are
not regular with Salaat (prayers) can pray
‘Fardh/Farz’ only to start with, and add Nafl
(optional) prayers later on, when comfortable.

Fardh/Farz (obligatory) prayers have a fixed number of Rakaats while Nafl (optional) prayer has no limit on number of Rakaats. You are free to offer as much as you can.

Prayer (Salaat) is one of the most important pillars of the Faith of Islam. Some scholars have called it 'Furqan' (the distinguisher) as it distinguishes between a Muslim and non-Muslim. There are numerous commands of Allah in the Quran that emphasize the establishing of ‘Salaat’ and paying of ‘Zakaat’ (poor-due). It is probably more than any other command for any other obligation! And that’s the reason many scholars have gone too far to declare that the one who does not offer obligatory prayer (Salaat) is not a Muslim.

وَأَقِمِ ٱلصَّلاَةَ طَرَفَى ٱلنَّهَارِ وَزُلَفاً مِّنَ ٱلْلَّيْلِ إِنَّ
 ٱلْحَسَنَاتِ يُذْهِبْنَ ٱلسَّـيِّئَاتِ ذٰلِكَ ذِكْرَىٰ لِلذَّاكِرِينَ
“And establish regular prayers at the two ends
of the day and at the approaches of the night.
For those things, that are good, remove those
that are evil. Be that the word of remembrance
to those who remember (their Lord).”
(al-Quran 11:114)

The deciding factor between the occupants of Paradise and Hell on the Judgment Day would be the remembrance of Allah. Remembering Allah means that we fulfill all commands of Allah and obey Him in discharging all obligations. Muslims are required to offer five obligatory prayers (Salaat) in a 24-hour period every day. As a result, prayer should become an essential part of our daily routine or habit. Allah tells us to keep and preserve that habit and give special attention to the middle prayer.

حَافِظُواْ عَلَى ٱلصَّلَوَاتِ وٱلصَّلاَةِ ٱلْوُسْطَىٰ وَقُومُواْ للَّهِ قَانِتِينَ
“Guard strictly your (habit of) prayers,
especially the middle prayer; and stand before
Allah in a devout (frame of mind).”
(al-Quran 2:238)

Scholars are of the view that the ‘middle prayer’ means the Salaat of ‘Asr’ (late afternoon).

Allah, the Almighty, has commanded the believers to glorify His name day and night. Similarly, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) also told us to remember God as much as possible. Religious teachers recommend that we do Dhikr (Zikr) after every obligatory prayer (Salaat) and offer optional prayers (Nawafil), especially at night.

Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) said: “The coolness of my eyes is in Salaat.”
As per another Hadith, the Prophet (s.a.w.) said:
“The one who performs Salaat is like the one having a private conversation with Allah.”

In another narration it is said: “When you are praying, you are like whispering with God.”
The Prophet (s.a.w.) commanded us: “Pray as you have seen me praying!”

Prayer (Salaat) has different categories but generally we can divide them in two simple categories:
1) Obligatory (Fardh/Farz) prayers; and
2) Optional (Nafl, pl. Nawafil) prayers.

Any Nafl (optional) prayer that was performed by the Prophet (s.a.w.) is also called ‘Sunnah’ (way of the Prophet) prayer.

Obligatory (Fardh/Farz) prayer is the most important prayer because it’s the prayer that has been prescribed by Allah. There are no exemptions and nobody is exempt from these prayers. Every Muslim MUST perform them otherwise he/she would be punished on the Day of Judgment.
Allah gives you concession though, like if you are sick and cannot stand up, you perform by sitting; if you cannot sit then perform it by lying down. If you are handicapped, you perform it in an easy way which is not cumbersome or painful for you. You should have a valid reason to take advantage of these concessions.

For a Muslim, there are five obligatory prayers in a day/night (period of 24 hours). These prayers have names, like Fajr, Dhuhur (Zuhar), Asr, Maghrib and Isha. Each prayer is performed in units that are called ‘Rakaats’. Here’s the break-down of all five prayers:

Fajr: 2 Rakaats.
Dhuhur/Zuhar: 4 Rakaats.
Asr: 4 Rakaats.
Maghrib: 3 Rakaats.
Isha: 4 Rakaats.

Total: 17 Rakaats (per day, 24-hour period).

Normally, if you perform these 17 Rakaats per day and stay away from sin, you are qualified for Paradise. But it’s easier said than done. Nobody can perform these prayers perfectly (with 100% non-disturb concentration). Human beings are always disturbed by the Devil and his disciples. To compensate the shortfall, the Prophet (s.a.w.) recommended and performed some optional (Nafl) prayer. This prayer is called the ‘Sunnah’ prayer. It has two categories:

1)      Sunnah-Muakkada; and
2)      Sunnah non-Muakkada (Ghair-Muakkada).

Muakkada is the prayer the Prophet (s.a.w.) never missed, no matter what. He was very regular and particular about it, just like Fardh/Farz prayer. Ghair-Muakkada (non-Muakkada) is the prayer that Prophet (s.a.w.) performed sometimes and did not perform the other times.
Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) performed 12 Rakaats of Sunnah-Muakkada everyday (24-hour period) along with obligatory (Fardh/Farz) prayers. Here’s the break-down:

Fajr: 2 Rakaats BEFORE Fardh/Farz (obligatory) prayer.
Dhuhur/Zuhar: 6 Rakaats – 4 Rakaats BEFORE the Fardh/Farz prayer; and 2 Rakaats AFTER the Fardh/Farz prayer.
Asr: None.
Maghrib: 2 Rakaats AFTER the Fardh/Farz prayer.
Isha: 2 Rakaats AFTER the Fardh/Farz prayer.

Total: 12 Rakaats (per day, 24-hour period).

Sunnah non-Muakkada (Ghair-Muakkada): The Prophet (s.a.w.) sometimes performed 4 Rakaats before Fardh/Farz prayer of Asr; and 4 Rakaats before the Fardh/Farz prayers of Isha at night.

Apart from that, the Prophet (s.a.w.) generally performed 3 Rakaats of Witr prayer every night before going to sleep or before the Fajr time. In some narrations it is stated that Witr prayer can only be performed in odd number (3, 5, 7 or even 9) of Rakaats. Witr prayer is performed to close the night. You can perform it after Isha prayer or before going to bed or with Tahajjud prayer in the last part of the night, or before the Fajr time.

Note: In Saudi Arabia and many Middle Eastern countries, the followers of Wahabi, Maaliki and Shafa'ee school perform only one Rakaat as Witr prayer. But majority of Muslims support the notion that one-Rakaat of Salaat is not valid at all. There are many Ahadith supporting this opinion.
Abdullah bin Masud (r.a.a.) was informed that Saad (r.a.a.) performed only a single Rakaat of Witr. He said: 'A single Rakaah is not valid in Salaah.'
Mulla Ali Qaari has written that there is a consensus among the companions (Sahaabah, r.a.a.) that it is 'jaaiz' (permissible) and preferable that Witr is of three Rakaats.
Hassan Basri (r.a.a.), a famous 'Muhaddis' (scholar of Hadith), and one of the great Sufis, said that there was a consensus among Muslims that Witr consists of three Rakaats.
Caliph Umar bin Abdel-Aziz, (the Second Umar), passed a law after consulting the scholars (Ulema) of Madinah that Witr must be performed in three Rakaats.
(Author: If you are not convinced about three Rakaats, you can perform Witr prayer in as many odd Rakaats as you like. Prayer is a matter between you and Allah. But do your research before making a decision!)

The number of 12 Rakaats of Sunnah-Muakkada has been confirmed by the Mothers of the Moumineen, Prophet’s wives Aayesha (r.a.a.) and Umm Habibah (r.a.a.), in many authentic Hadiths (Ahadith). Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) never missed 17 Rakaats of Fardh/Farz prayers and 12 Rakaats of Sunnah-Muakkada prayers each day.

Tahajjud: The Best Nafl (Optional) Prayer

The best optional (Nafl) prayer is called “Tahajjud’ and it is performed in the last part of the night, before the Fajr time. This part of the night is the most liked by Allah if spent in His worship or remembrance.
Abu Hurairah (r.a.a.) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (s.a.w.) said:
In the last 1/3rd of every night our Rabb (Cherisher and Sustainer – Allah) descends to the lowest heaven and says:
“Who is calling Me, so that I may answer him?”
“Who is asking Me, so that I may grant him?”
“Who is seeking forgiveness from Me, so that I may forgive him?”
(al-Bukhari, Hadith Qudsi)

Nafl (optional) prayer (or Nawafil) has no limit on number of Rakaats. You can perform as many as you like. It’s for your own benefit in the Hereafter. This prayer is like putting money in your savings bank for the rainy days. The best prayer after the obligatory (Fardh/Farz) prayer is Tahajjud. If you could perform it regularly along with Fardh/Farz prayers, it can save you from the Hellfire.

{From my book: “The Way (Sunnah) of The Prophet (s.a.w.)”, Chapter: ‘Prayer of The Prophet’ (s.a.w.), duly edited.}


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