Requirements of the Islamic Prayer

We gratefully acknowledge and thank Islamic Publications Ltd. for permission to print this excerpt from Everyday Fiqh (vol. 1) by Abdul Aziz Kamal

Fard Parts in the Prayer

There are fourteen things called the Fard (imperative) parts which have to be fulfilled for the Prayer to be valid and proper. Seven of these are prerequisites which must be fulfilled before the commencement of the Prayer. The other seven, called the pillars of the Prayer, have to be observed during the Prayer.


If any of the following seven prerequisites is ignored, the Prayer will not be deemed to have been performed at all :

1. Cleanliness of Body
The body has to be cleaned of all sorts of impurities, whether these are impurities in effect or impurities in fact, and one must have obtained purity either through Wudu or, if need be, through Ghusl.

2. Cleanliness of Garments
All the garments including even the cap, socks, gloves, etc., that one is wearing or having on one's body must be clean and pure beyond any shadow of a doubt.

3. Cleanliness of Place
The minimum requirement is that the place where one intends to stand and where one's knees, hands and forehead would rest in Sajdah, must be clean, whether it is a piece of plain ground or floor, or a mat, etc., bat one should also avoid standing for the Prayer at a place which is stinking with filth and dirt around it.

4. Covering of Satar
For males it is the part of the body between the navel and the knee, and for females it is the whole body excluding the face, hands and feet. Women should see that the ankles do not remain uncovered.

5. Ascertaining the right time for a Prayer
Each Prayer has to be performed within the time limit prescribed for it. If a Prayer is performed before its time, it will be no Prayer at all, and if it is offered after the time for it has elapsed, it will have to be offered as a missed (Qada) Prayer.

6. Facing the Qibla
If a person performs his Prayer with his face turned towards a direction other than that of the Qibla, unless there is a genuine reason for that, his Prayer will not be deemed to have been performed.

7. Intention 
Having the intention in the mind, which may also be expressed with the tongue, to offer a particular Fard Prayer at a prescribed time, or a particular missed Prayer afterwards. For the Sunnat or Nafl Prayers, however, the mention of the time is not necessary. If one is going to offer a Prayer under the leadership of an Imam, one has to express intention to that effect, too.


These are the pillars or principles which have to observed during the Prayer :

1. Takbir Tahrimah
To begin the Prayer with (Allahu Akbar), (Allahu A'zam) or (Allahu A'la) etc., expressing the greatness and glory of Allah. This is called Takbir Tahrimah because after one has pronounced it, one is forbidden to move about, talk or drink, etc.

2. Qiyam 
To stand upright in a Fard or Wajib Prayer at least for so long that one may complete recitation of that much [of a] portion of the Qur'an, which one has to recite as an imperative duty. In the Nafl Prayer, however, Qiyam is not necessary.

3. Qira'at
To recite by heart one verse of the Qur'an, consisting of at least two words, like (Allah-us-Samad). According to Imam Muhammad and Abu Yusuf, one should make it a habit to recite more of the Qur'an, for instance, three short verses or one long verse, though according to Imam Abu Hanifah, one short verse containing at least two words will suffice for the purpose.

Qira'at is obligatory in any two of the rak'ahs of the Fard Prayer, e.g., in the first and second, second and third, third and fourth, or the first and last, but in the Wajib Sunnat, or Nafl Prayer, Qira'at has to be done in all the rak'ahs.

3. Ruku
To bend down to the extent that the hands reach the knees is obligatory once in each rak'ah.

4. Sajdah
To prostrate oneself twice in every rak'ah.

5. Qa'dah Akhirah
To sit in the prescribed way at the end of the last rak'ah of the Prayer for so long that one may complete recitation of Tashahhud.

6. Salam.
To end the prayer with a voluntary action or words not included in the Prayer after one has performed the full Prayer and brought it to completion.

Wajib Parts in the Prayer

These are those essential parts which have to be carried out during the Prayer, and if one of these is missed due to forgetfulness, one has to perform Sajdah Sahv to rectify the mistake. If Sajdah Sahv is not performed, or an essential part if ignored deliberately, the Prayer will be rendered void and will have to be repeated. The essential parts are:

1. To recite a portion of the Qur'an in the first two rak'ahs of the Fard Prayer.

2. To recite Al-fatihah in the first two rak'ahs of the Fard Prayer and in all the rak'ahs of the other Prayers.

3. To recite another Surah or passage containing one long verse or three short verses after Al-Fatihah in the first two rak'ats of the Fard Prayer and in all the rak'ahs of the other Prayers.

4. To recite Al-Fatihah before the other Surah or passage.

5. To observe the sequence in recitation, Ruku, Sajdah and the rak'ahs.

6. To observe Qaumah, i.e. to stand upright after Ruku.

7. To observe Jalsah, i.e. to sit upright between the two Sajdahs.

8. To perform Ruku, and Sajdahs peacefully and with perfect tranquillity.

9. To observe Qa'dah Ula, first sitting for Tashahhud after two rak'ahs in the Prayer consisting of three or four rak'ahs.

10. To recite Tashahhud at least once in the two Qa'dahs.

11. To recite Al-Fatihah and an additional passage (for the lmam) aloud in the two Fard rak'ahs of the Fajr and Jumu'a Prayers and in the first two Fard rak'ahs of the Maghrib and Isha Prayers, and in the 'Id and Taravih Prayers, and to recite it inaudibly in the last rak'ahs of Zuhr, 'Asr, Maghrib and 'Isha' Prayers.
12. To bring the Prayer to completion with salutation: (As-Salamu 'alaikum wa rahmatullah).

13. To raise hands with Takblr for the Qunut and to recite the Qunut in the last rak'ah of the Witr Prayer.

14. To pronounce the additional Takbirs in the 'Id Prayers.

Sunnat Parts in the Prayer

The Holy Prophet observed certain other things in his Prayer besides the Fard and Wajib parts, which though not equal to Fard or Wajib in status, deserve to be observed by Muslims to make their Prayers as much like the Holy Prophet's as possible. If a Sunnat part is missed or ignored, it does not entail Sajdah Sahv, nor does it render the Prayer void. These are 21 in number and are as follows :

1. To raise the hands before Takbir Tahrimah to ear-lobes for males, and to shoulder level for females,(1) though the males may also raise them only to shoulder level in case of a genuine reason.(2)

2. To keep the fingers apart and straight in the natural state at the time of Takbir Tahrimah and to turn the palms towards the Qiblah.

3. To keep the head erect while pronouncing Takbir Tahrimah.

4. To place the hands after Takbir Tahrimah under the navel or on the breast for females.(3) The prescribed way is that the palm of the right hand should be placed over the back of the left hand and the wrist of the left hand should be gripped with the thumb and little finger of the right hand and the three middle fingers spread on the wrist of the left hand, though for the females it is not necessary to grip the left wrist with the thumb and the little finger of the right hand.

5. The Imam has to pronounce all the Takbirs aloud beginning from Takbir Tahrimah for moving from one article of the Prayer to the other.

6. To recite Thana(4)

(Subhanak-Allahumma wa bi-hamdika wa tabarak-asmuka wa ta'ala jadduka wa la-ilaha ghairuk

7. To pronounce Ta'awwuz:

(A'uzu billahi min-ash-shaitan-ir-rajim

8. To recite Bismillah before Al-Fatihah in every rak'ah.

9. To recite only Al-Fatihah in the third and fourth rak'ahs of the Fard Prayer.

10. To pronounce Aamin behind the Imam as well as the individual Prayer after finishing Al-Fatihah.

11. To pronounce Thana, Ta'awwuz, Bismillah and Aamin inaudibly.(5)

12. To perform recitation to the extent as prescribed for various Prayers.

13. To pronounce Tasbih(Subhana Rabbi-yal-'Azim) in Ruku and (Subhana Rabbi-yal-A'ala) in Sajdah at least thrice.

14. To keep the head and the back level and aligned in Ruku and to grip the knees with the hands

15. The lmam has to pronounce (Sami-Allahu-li-man hamidah) during Qaumah and the  followers (Rabba-na la-kal-Hamd). The person offering the Prayer independently has to pronounce both.

16. To place the knees first on the ground while going down for Sajdah, then the two hands, then the nose and last of all the forehead.

17. To sit on the left foot placed flat on the ground during Jalsah and Qa'dah and to keep the right foot upright in a manner that the tips of the toes are turned towards the Qiblah, and to place the open hands naturally on the thighs.

18. To raise the forefinger of the right hand while pronouncing La Ilaha in Tashahhud.

19. To recite salat in the final Qa'dah after Tashahhud

20. To recite any of the prescribed supplications after salat. 

21. To turn the face first to the right with salutation (As-Salamu 'Alaikum wa rahmat-ullah) and then to the left, over the shoulders.

Mustahabb Parts in the Prayer

These are five in number. They merit reward if observed, but there is no harm if ignored :

1. To take the hands out of the over garment (sheet, blanket, etc.) and raise them to the ears while pronouncing Takbir Tahrimah ; the women, however, should raise the hands from under the over garment to shoulder level.

2. To look during Qiyam at the place where the head would rest in Sajdah, between the two feet during ruku', at the thighs during Qa'dah and at the shoulders in salutation.

3. To pronounce Tasbih more than thrice in Ruku' and Sajdah when praying individually.

4. To avoid coughing as far as possible.

5. To try to keep the mouth closed while yawning, but if unavoidable, to cover the mouth with the right hand during Qiyam and with the back of the left hand in other postures. 


These are 18 in number. One must guard one's Prayer against these, and if any of them occurs, the Prayer becomes void and has to be observed afresh:

1. To talk in the Prayer, whether little or much. This may happen in one of the following five ways :

First Case

To talk to another person, or respond to him, whether in one's own language or in Arabic, or in the words of the Qur'an. Instances of responding in the words of the Qur'an are as follows:

(i) To say to a person named Yahya(Ya Yahya Khuz il-Kitab) "O Yahya! Hold your book."

(ii) Or to say to a woman, named Maryam: ' (Ya Maryam-uqnuit li Rabbi-ki wasjudi) "O Mary! carry out the will of Thy Lord, prostrate yourself before Him and bend down in worship with those who bend down." 

(iii) Or to ask somebody : (Fa aina tazhabun) "So, where are you going?"

(iv) Or to tell somebody (Iqra'a Kitabak) "Read your book."

(v) Or to express sorrow and sympathy with somebody, saying, (Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji'un) "To Allah we belong and to Him we shall return."

(vi) Or to respond to somebody's sneezing with (Yar hamu-Kallah) "May Allah have mercy on you ."

(vii) Or to express wonder, saying (Subhan-Allah) "Glory be to Allah!"

(viii) Or to express joy at good news, saying (Alhamdu Lillah) "All praise is only due to Allah."

(ix) Or to forbid somebody to do something indecent, saying (Allahu Yahdika) "May Allah guide you to do right."

(x) Or to greet somebody or respond to his greeting.

(xi) Or to respond with Aamin to somebody's invocation outside the Prayer.

(xii) Or to respond with (Jalla Jalaluhu) on hearing Allah's name being mentioned.

(xiii) Or to recite salat on hearing the Holy Prophet's name being mentioned.

(xiv) Or a woman's crying Bismillah on seeing a child fall down etc.

Second Case

To utter a cry with a view to driving away an animal, like a cat or hen, from one's food, drink, etc.

Third Case

To utter an extraneous word or words in one's own language or in Arabic, unless, however, the word or words uttered belong to the Quranic text ; but if the word or words uttered are [of] a person's verbal 'mannerism or habitual sort of utterance, the Prayer will be rendered void even if they belong to the Quranic text.

Fourth Case

To invoke Allah or remember Him, whether in Arabic or in one's own language, unless a prescribed invocation, given in the Qur'an or Hadith, is made inadvertently at a time where it is not meant to be made, but this is not to be made a matter of habit. A prayer expressed to human beings for fulfilment, whether in Arabic or in one's own language, also renders the Prayer void.

Fifth Case

1. To correct a mistake of recitation of another person, whether the other person is reciting the Qur'an in the Prayer or outside it, unless, however, the one committing the mistake of recitation is an Imam and the one correcting him a follower, but if the follower corrects the Imam after looking up the correction in the Qur'an, or after hearing it being correctly recited by another person, his own Prayer will be rendered void, and if the Imam accepts his correction, the Imam's Prayer as well will be rendered void.

2. To recite the Qur'an from the Book instead of from memory.

3. Breaking down of any of the prerequisites or conditions of the Prayer, e.g. losing the state of purity, breaking of Wudu or standing in need of Ghusl; issuing of the menses; or the garments becoming impure or the place of worship; or turning away of the face from the direction of the Qiblah, without a genuine reason; or exposition of sat'ar for so long that one may be able to perform Ruku or Sajdah in the meantime; or losing one's consciousness; or falling into a fit of madness or hysteria; or becoming intoxicated on any account, etc.

4. To ignore or miss one of the Fard parts of the Prayer, intentionally or unintentionally, e.g., forgetting to stand in Qiyam, or perform Ruku or Sajdah; or recite a portion of the Qur'an, etc.

5. To ignore or miss one or more of the Wajib parts of the Prayer deliberately.

6. To ignore or miss one or more of the Wajib parts of the Prayer unintentionally, and failing to perform Sajdah Sahv.

7. To cough unnecessarily without a genuine cause, unless, however, coughing is unavoidable on account of an ailment; or somebody has to cough to clear the throat; or a follower has to warn the Imam of a mistake; or one has to cough to indicate that one is engaged in Prayer, etc.

8. To moan or cry unnecessarily on account of a loss, or suffering or intense pain, etc., unless, it occurs involuntarily due to the fear of Allah, or the fear of the torment of the grave or Hell in the Hereafter or somebody begins to cry under the effect and influence of the Qur'an, etc.

9. To chew or eat something, even if unintentionally, unless somebody swallows a particle of food, less than a grain of gram in size, stuck between the teeth, but even this is not allowed to be done on purpose. One should clean one's mouth thoroughly before standing up for the Prayer.

10. To commit a blunder in the recitation of the Qur'an so as to effect a change in the meaning, e.g., prolonging the sound of 'A' in Allah in Takbir, which renders it to mean: "Is Allah great?"

11. Breaking into laughter by an adult person.

12. To try to read or write somewhere in the front, unless, however, the words are not uttered with the tongue, but only their meaning is perceived.

13. To move about or shift unnecessarily.

14. To repeat an act irrelevant to the Prayer over and over again ; for instance, to set the clothing right, or twist the hair into a plait, or to suckle a baby, etc.

15. Standing of a man and a woman side by side for the Prayer, without a curtain between them, for so long that one may bo able to perform a Ruku, or a Sajdah, in the meantime, unless it is a minor girl towards whom one cannot feel sexually inclined and attracted.


These are the things which do not render the Prayer void, yet make it defective and unsound. These are 28 in number, and one must avoid them scrupulously to make one's prayer worthy of due merit and excellence.

1. Wearing clothes against the established custom and practice. For instance, leaving the wrapper of the over garment hanging from the head on the sides instead of covering the shoulders, etc. with it, or putting the shirt or coat over the shoulders without inserting the arms into the sleeves, etc.

2. Trying to fold the garments to protect them from dust, or shaking off dust from the hands, or blowing off dust or removing pebbles, etc. from the place of Sajdah.(6)

3. Playing with the garments, hair of the beard or head, teeth, or putting the finger into the mouth, or tapping the wrist with fingers during Qiyam, or scratching the body unnecessarily.(7)

4. Offering the Prayer in an undignified dress in which one would not like to come out in the open or sit in a gathering or meeting, for instance, putting on a child's cap or an ordinary straw cap kept in the mosque.

5. Performing the Prayer bare-headed or in an improper dress in the mosque on account of sheer negligence : however, if a person prays bare-headed at home out of humility, there is no harm.

6. Standing up for the Prayer when one is feeling a strong desire for passing stool or urinating or releasing wind.

7. Praying with one's (male's) hair tied up in a knot.

8. Snapping the fingers or intertwining the fingers of one hand with those of the other.

9. Placing one's hands on the hip or back.

10. Turning the face away from the direction of the Qiblah or casting side glances, unless unavoidable and necessary.

11. Resting the forearms up to the elbows on the ground during Sajdah.(8)

12. Turning one's face during the Prayer towards a person who is facing the one praying.

13. Standing of the Imam wholly inside the niche ; if however, he keeps his feet outside the niche and prostrates himself inside it, there is no harm.

14. Yawning deliberately and failing to control it if one could.

15. Praying in garments or on a mat having pictures of animals on them, or in a place where there are pictures of living beings overhead or on the sides.

16. Standing in a back row for a congregational Prayer when there is room for standing in a front row.

17. Responding to somebody's greeting with a gesture of the head or hand.

18. Keeping the eyes closed while praying unless it is done with a view to achieving concentration.

19. Prostrating oneself by touching only the forehead on the ground, or only the nose, or the edge of the cap, or a fold of the turban.

20. Sitting square during the prayer without a genuine reason, or sitting with the hips and hands resting on the ground and knees in contact with the belly and chest.

21. Standing of the Imam or of the followers separately on raised ground, unless unavoidable, if, however, some of the followers stand with the Imam on raised ground, there is no harm.

22. Bending down for Ruku before finishing the recitation properly and trying to complete it in the posture of Ruku.

23 Reciting the Qur'an regardless of the sequence in the various rak'ahs of the Fard Prayer, for instance, reciting Surah Al-lkhlas (112) in the first rak'ah and Surah Al-Lahab (111) in the second rak'ah or reciting two Surahs one after the other, omitting in between a short Surah containing three verses, or reciting a few verses of a Surah in the first rak'ah and then, omitting one or two verses in between, reciting the next few verses in the second rak'ah. Likewise, it is undesirable to recite two Surahs one after the other in the same rak'ah omitting in between one or more. short or long, intermediary Surahs, or recite a longer Surah or passage in the second rak'ah and a shorter one in the first rak'ah, or recite always one and the same Surah in the prayer; however, if one commits an error with regard to sequence due to forgetfulness, there is no harm.(9)

24. Neglecting a sunnat part in the prayer.

25. Raising both the feet off the ground in Sajdah.

26. Counting the verses, Surahs or Tasbihs on the fingers.

27. Stretching the limbs to shake off lethargy.

28. Praying with something pressed in the month, unless it does not obstruct the recitation; if it does, the Prayer will be rendered void.


1. When the train is going to start and one has children and luggage on board, one may break the prayer.

2. If a snake appears in front, or a scorpion or wasp or other poisonous insect has entered the garments, one must break the prayer, kill the harmful animal or insect first and then resume the prayer.

3. If a cat has appeared and is likely to harm poultry, pigeons or other domestic fowls, it is permissible to break the prayer and drive it away.

4. In case of a danger of material loss, e.g., boiling over of the milk or burning away of a kettle on the fire when a housewife is engaged in prayer; or danger of theft of the umbrella, shoes, or other luggage of a person who has put them in an unsafe place and started the prayer in a mosque; or a woman's remembering that she did not secure the door before standing up for the prayer and there is a likelihood of theft, or a dog, cat or monkey has entered the house and there is a possibility of damage being done to property, etc. However, if one feels that the loss or damage occurring would be negligible, one should complete the prayer and avoid breaking it unnecessarily.

5. If a person feels a strong desire for passing stool or urine, he should break the prayer and relieve himself and then resume the prayer with a fresh Wudu.

6. If there is a danger of a blind person's falling and drowning in a stream, canal or well, it is imperative to give up the prayer and save him. If this is not done and the blind person suffers an injury or loses his life, the one praying will be a sinner and held responsible of negligence.

7. If a person's clothing catches fire, or a baby reaches the edge of the roof and is likely to fall down, or a monkey or ape enters the house and is likely to carry away a baby, or a baby has picked up a sharp knife or blade and is likely to injure itself or somebody else, or there is the danger of a child's being attacked by a thief or robber or enemy or a wild beast, etc. it is imperative to give up the prayer and help save life. If one does not do so, one will be a sinner.

8. If a person's parents or grandparents call him for help in affliction, he must give up even the Fard Prayer and go to help them. If, however, there is somebody else nearby to render help, then one should not break the Fard Prayer, but if one is engaged in a Sunnat or Nafl Prayer, one must break it and attend to them, even if the help needed is of an ordinary nature.


1. According to Imam Shafi'i, both the males and the females should raise the hands to shoulder level.

2. According to Abu Da'ud, the Holy Prophet raised his hands up to shoulder level from under his over garment in winter.

3. According to Imam Shafi'i and the Ahl al-Hadith, males also have to place the hands on the breast. However, according to an authentic Tradition reported by 'Alqamah from Wa'il bin Hujr, the latter saw the Holy Prophet with his hands placed under the navel. The Ahl al-Hadith therefore, are not correct in their assertion that placing the hands under the navel is not supported by Hadith. (Al-Qual al Hazim by Allama Farang-i-mahalli).

4. The following supplication is also supported by Hadith: 

(Allahumma ba'id baini wa baina khatayaya kama ba'atta bain al-mashriq-i wal-maghrib; Allahumma naqqini min al-khataya kama yunaqqth-thaub ul-abyad-u min ad-danas; Allahumm aghsil khatayaya min-al-ma'i wa-th-thalj-i wal-barad).

"O Allah! keep me away from my sins as is the east from the west. O Allah! purify me from my sins as is a white garment from dirt. O Allah! wash off my sins with water and snow and hail."

According to Imam Abu Yusuf, it is commendable to recite the following invocation:

(Inni wajjaht-u wajhiya lillazi fatar-s-samawat-i wal-arda hanif-am wa ma ana min al-mushrikin. Inna Salati wa nusuki wa zalika umirt-u wa ana awwal-uo-muslimin). 

"I have turned my face sincerely towards that Being Who created the heavens and the earth, and I am not from among the idolatrous people. My Salat and my rites of worship and my life and my death are all for Allah, the Lord of the universe, Who has no partner with Him. This is what I have been enjoined and I am the first to surrender to Him'.

5. This is according to the Hanafi Imams. Imam Malik also has supported this view in one of his sayings and Imam Shafi'i as well in one of his later pronouncements, though according to Hadith, it is permissible to pronounce Aamin both audibly and inaudibly. It is, therefore, wrong to create schisms owing to this difference of opinion and condemn one another. One may follow and practise either of the ways as both are based on the practice and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet,

6. There is no harm if a person does so once to clean the place.

7. Such things are very common among the people, and need to be avoided carefully by paying full attention to the meaning and praying with due concentration.

8. This is for males. Females have to rest their elbows squarely on the ground during Sajdah.

9. The restrictions of sequence are not applicable to Taravih or other voluntary prayers

Everyday Fiqh (Vol. 1) by Abdul Aziz Kamal ©1986 published by Islamic Publications (Pvt.) Ltd., 13-E Shah Alam Market, Lahore, Pakistan