God has ordered Muslims to pray at five set times of day:
Dawn, before sunrise: Fajr.
Midday, after the sun passes its highest point: Dhuhr.
The late part of the afternoon: Asr.
Just after sunset: Maghrib.
Late evening: Isha.
Prayer sets the rhythm of the day
This prayer timetable gives Muslims a pattern for their day.
In Islamic countries, the public call to prayer, or Adhan, from the mosques sets the rhythm of the day for the entire population, including non-Muslims.
A Universal Muslim ritual
The prayer ritual, which is over 1400 years old, is repeated five times a day by hundreds of millions of people all round the world.
Praying is not only highly spiritual, it connects each Muslim to all others around the world, and to all those who have uttered the same words and made the same movements at different times in Islamic history.
The set prayers are not just phrases to be spoken. Prayer for a Muslim involves uniting mind, soul, and body in worship; so a Muslim carrying out these prayers will perform a whole series of set movements that go with the words of the prayer.
Muslims make sure that they are in the right frame of mind before they pray; they put aside all everyday cares and thoughts so that they can concentrate exclusively on God.
If a Muslim prays without the right attitude of mind, it as if they hadn’t bothered to pray at all.
“Woe to those who pray, but are unmindful of their prayer, or who pray only to be seen by people.” [Quran, 107:4-6]
Muslims don’t pray for God’s benefit
Muslims do not pray for the benefit of God. God does not need human prayers because he has no needs at all. Muslims pray because God has told them that they are to do this, and because they believe that they themselves obtain great benefit in doing so.
Muslims pray directly to God
A Muslim prays as if standing in the presence of God.
In the ritual prayers each individual Muslim is in direct contact with God. There is no need of a priest as an intermediary. (While there is a prayer leader in the mosque – the imam – they are not a priest, simply a person who knows a great deal about Islam.)
Muslims can pray anywhere, but it is especially good to pray with others in a mosque. Praying together in a congregation helps Muslims to realize that all humanity is one, and all are equal in the sight of God.
Before starting the prayer, a person is required to perform ablution (wudu). It consists of washing his or her hands, face, arms, head and feet. It is a condition of the prayer that one’s body, clothing and place of prayer are all clean and free from impurities. Impurities in this context refers mainly to bodily fluids such as urine, feces, blood, etc.