THE METHOD AND ETIQUETTE OF RITUAL PRAYER
When you have finished purifying yourself and purifying your body, clothes, and surroundings of any impurities, and after you have covered your nakedness from your navel to your knees*, face the qibla standing with your feet apart, not touching each other. Stand up straight and recite Surat al-Nãs, seeking protection with it from Satan the accursed. Make your heart present and empty yourself of other thoughts. Consider before whom you are standing and upon whom you are calling; you should be ashamed to enter into intimate discourse with your Master with a heart that is heedless and a breast full of thoughts of this world and the dross of lowly desires.
Know that Allah Most High is observing your inner self and beholding your heart. Truly Allah Almighty accepts your prayer based only on the degree of your awe, humility, surrender, and submissive entreaty. Worship Him in your prayer as if you see Him, or [knowing] that even though you do not see Him, He sees you**. If your heart does not come to presence, this is due to a shortcoming in your gnosis of the magnificence of Allah Most High. Therefore, imagine that a pious man from among the respected people of your community is watching you to see how your prayer is. At this your heart will become present and your limbs peaceful.
Then ask yourself, are you not embarrassed in front of your Creator and Master? When you imagined being observed by one of His humble slaves, who has no means to benefit or harm you, your limbs became submissive and your prayer improved. Yet you know that Allah is observing you and you do not humble yourself before His majesty? Is He Most High lower to you than one of His slaves? How great is your tyranny, how severe your ignorance, and how greatly you wrong yourself.
Treat your heart with these remedies in the hope that it will be present with you in your prayer, for verily nothing of your prayer counts except that in which you are mindful. As for the part that you performed with heedlessness, it is more in need of repentance and expiation.
Once your heart is present, do not omit the call to commence, even if you are alone. If you are waiting for a group of worshippers to be present, make the call to prayer, then the call to commence.
Once you have made the call to commence, form the intention in your heart of performing the obligatory rak’as of Zuhr for Allah Most High. This intention should be present in your heart as you make the opening takbir and should not leave your heart before you finish the takbir.
After letting your hands hang looser [by your sides], raise them to your shoulders when saying the takbir, with palms open and fingers spread out. Do not burden yourself with trying to keep the fingers together or separate; raise them such that your thumb is on a level with your earlobe, your fingertips with the top parts of your ears, and your palms parallel with your shoulders. Once they have settled in this position, say the takbir, then lower your hands gently. In raising your hands or lowering them, do not push them forward or backward, nor shake them from side to side.
Once you have let your hands go***, raise them toward your chest. Honor the right hand by placing it over the left, spread out the fingers of your right hand along the length of your left forearm and hold onto your left hand at the wrist.
After the takbir, say, “Allah is Most Great! Praise be to Allah in abundance, and glory be to Allah morning and evening.”
I have turned my face to the One who created the heavens and earth, in submission as a pure monotheist, and I am not of those who associate others with Him. Indeed, my prayer, my worship, my life, and my death are for Allah Most High, Lord of the Worlds, Who has no partner. Thus have I been commanded, and I am of those who submit****.
Then say [the ta’awwudh]: “I seek refuge in Allah from the accursed Satan” (A’udhu bi ‘Llahi mina ‘sh-Shaytãni ‘r-rajim).
Then recite the Fãtiha with all its double consonants, and make an effort to distinguish clearly between the letters dãd and zã. Then say ãmin (“answer our prayer”), without joining it immediately to your saying “nor those who went astray” (wa la ‘d-dãllin). Recite aloud in your Fajr, Maghrib, and ‘Isha prayers –that is, in the first two rak’as of each prayer, unless you are a follower [behind the imãm0 –and say ãmin out loud*****.
After the Fãtiha in the Fajr prayer, recite from the longer mufassal suras [al-Hujurãt (49) to al-Buruj (85)], and in Maghrib from the shorter mufassal suras [Al-Zilzal (99) to al-Nãs (114)]; and in Zur, ‘Asr and ‘Isha from the medium mufassal suras [al-Tãriq (86) to al-Bayyina (98)]******, such as al-Buruj and those of similar length. In the Fajr prayer, when traveling, recite al-Kãfirun and al-Ikhlãs.
Do not join the end of the sura with the takbir of the bowing, rather pause between them for as long as it takes to say Subhãna ‘Llãh ‘Glory be to Allah.”
The whole time that you are standing, keep your head lowered and your gaze on your prayer area, for this provides for greater concentration and encourages more the attentiveness of your heart. You are cautioned not to glance right or left in your prayer.
Then say the takbir for bowing, raising your hands as described earlier*******, and prolong the takbir until you reach the bowing posture. Put your hands on your knees, with your fingers spread out. Keep your knees straight; your back, head, and neck should be level in one line, and your elbows should be kept apart from your sides. A woman does not do this [but keeps her limbs close together]. Then say: “Glory be to Allah the Mighty” (Subhãna Rabbiya ‘l-‘azim) three times. If you are praying alone and would like to do more, repeat it seven or ten times********, for it is virtuous to do so.
Then return to the upright position, raising your hands and saying: “Allah has heard the one who praised Him” (Sami-‘a ‘Llãhu liman hamidah). When you are completely upright, say: “O Our Lord, to You is praise filling the heavens and the earth and filling whatever You will thereafter.”
If you are praying by yourself in the Fajr prayer, then recite the supplication********* in the second rak’a when standing up from the ruku**********.
Then go into prostration, saying the takbir without raising your hands. First put your knees on the ground, followed by your hands, then your forehead, which should be uncovered. The nose [should touch the ground] along with the forehead, and you should keep your elbows away from your sides and your stomach separate from your thighs, though a woman should not do this. Place your hands on the ground, level with your shoulders, but do not lay your forearms on the ground. Say, “Glory be to the Lord Most High” (Subhãna Rabbiya ‘l-A’lã) three, seven, or ten times if you are by yourself.
Then rise from the prostration, while saying the takbir, until you are sitting upright. Sit on your left leg [and foot], and keep your right foot erect. Put your hands on your thighs, with your fingers spread out, and say, “O Lord, forgive me and have mercy on me, provide for me and guide me, heal me, grant me well-being, and pardon me.”
Then prostrate a second time in the same manner. In every rak’a in which there is no tashahhud, sit up straight for a moment to rest. Then stand, placing your hands on the ground but not putting one of your legs before the other while rising. Begin the takbir when you are near the end of the sitting for rest position and prolong it until you reach halfway to the standing position. This sitting should be brief, as if it were snatched***********. Then perform the second rak’a as you did the first, and repeat the ta’awwudh at the beginning of it.
Then sit in the second rak’a for the first tashahhud, and put your right hand on your right thigh, with the fingers closed, except for the index finger and the thumb, which are left spread out. Point with your right forefinger when you say “except Allah” (illa ‘Llãh), not when you say “there is no god” (lã ilãha). Place your left hand with the fingers extended on your left thigh************. Sit on your left leg in this sitting, just as between the two prostrations. In the final tashahhud, sit on your left haunch with your left foot going out from under you and keep the right foot erect*************. Complete the transmitted well-known supplication after sending blessings on the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه و سلم.
After completing this, say: “peace and Allah’s mercy be upon you” (Assalãmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatu ‘Llãh) twice, once to each side, turning so that your cheek can be seen by whoever is to your side [behind you]. Intend by your greetings peace toward those angels and Muslims who are on either side of you.
This is the method of the prayer for one performing it alone.
The pillars of the prayer are humility and presence of heart, together with the recitation of the Qur’an and the remembrance of Allah with comprehension. Hasan al-Basri (may Allah Most High have mercy on him) said, “Every prayer in which the heart is not present is more likely to receive punishment [than reward].” Allah’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم said, “Verily, the slave of Allah performs the prayer and not even a sixth or a tenth of it is recorded for him; verily, only as much of a slave’s prayer as he is conscious of is recorded for him” (Abu Dãwud).
*This is a juridicial condition for men and is the minimum requirement for the validity of the prayer, as it would be disliked to cover just from the navel to the knee if one had clothes to cover the rest of the body. For women, the condition is to cover the whole body except the face and the hands and, according to some, the feet.
**This is the status of ihsãn as expounded in the well-known hadith of Jibril, transmitted on the authority of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattãb by Bukhãri and Muslim.
***In the Hanafi school, the preferred place to fold the hands is below the navel (Al-Lubãb 1 : 81). Similarly, the preferred opinion in the Shãfi’i school is that the hands be dropped only to chest level whereupon they are folded above the navel.
سبحانك اللهم و بحمدك، وتبارك اسمك، و تعالى جدك، ولا إله غيرك
Glory be to You, O Allah, and all praise to You. Blessed is Your Name, elevated is Your greatness and magnified is Your praise” (Ihyã’ ‘Ulum al-Din 1 : 154).
According to the Hanafi school, it is preferred to read this du’ã’ to the exclusion of others before the Fãtiha at the start of the prayer (Al-Lubãb 1 : 181).
*****Hanafis will say it silently (Ibid.).
******There is a difference of opinion about where the mufassal suras begin. Nawawi considers the strongest opinion to be that it begins from Surat al-Hujurãt. For the details of their distribution, see Mubãrakpuri’s Tuhfat al-Ahwadhi under “Chapter on that which has been transmitted on the recitation in the Morning Prayer” and Qãri’s Mirqãt al-Mafãtih under “Chapter on recitation in prayer,” where Qãri quotes the distribution as mentioned above in the text as the opinion of the majority.
*******In the Hanafi school, the hands are not raised for any posture after the initial takbir (Al-Durr al-Mukhtãr 1 : 340).
********In the Hanafi school, it is recommended to say this prayer, and the prayer in prostration (mentioned below), an odd number of times (Radd al-Muhtãr 1 : 320).
*********[H] The supplication referred to here is one transmitted through an authenticated chain on the authority of the Master of the Youth of Heaven, Hasan ibn ‘Ali رضي الله عنه, from the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم:
O my Lord, guide me among those whom You have guided, and grant me well-being among those to whom You have granted well-being, and take care of me among those whom You take care of, and bless me in what You have given me, and protect me from the evil of what You have ordained. For truly You decree, and no one decrees over You; and verily the one you befriend is never debased, and the one You hold in enmity will never be honored. Hallowed be You, our Lord, and Exalted (Tirmidhi).
**********In the Hanafi school, the qunut is recited after standing up from bowing in the second rak’a of the Fajr prayer when calamity befalls Muslims. The hands are to be kept to the sides and not raised (see Radd al-Muhtãr 1 : 449, 541).
***********In the Hanafi school, one stands up from the prostration without sitting for rest (Al-Lubãb 1 : 83), as this was not established as a regular practice of Allah’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم.
************In the Hanafi school, both palms are placed on the thighs with the fingers outstretched. Then during the testification of faith (shahãda) with the right hand one folds the little finger and ring finger, forms a circle with the middle finger and thumb, and raises the index finger during the negation “There is no god” and lowers it during the affirmation “except Allah” (Al-Lubãb 1 : 84).
*************In the Hanafi school, the iftirãsh position is used by men for all sittings of the prayer (Al-Lubãb 1 : 85). This is the position mentioned earlier for sitting in between the prostrations.