Table of Contents

The Essentials (Arkan) of Salat

The validity of the salat is dependent upon taharah (purity) - both from hadath and khabath, the time of performing it, facing the qiblah, and wearing sufficient clothing. The fulfilment of these conditions (called shurut) before starting the salat is necessary, and they have been discussed in detail in the preceding sections. Salat also comprises certain essentials (arkan wa fara’id) which are performed as parts of salat.

They are many, and among them are the following:

1. Intention (Niyyah)

The schools -- or rather the legists of each school among themselves -- differ regarding the content of the niyyah (intention) required for salat, that is, whether it is necessary to specify the salat (such as its being zuhr or ‘asr prayer), whether it is obligatory or supererogatory, complete (tamam) or shortened (qasr), in time (ada’) or late (qada’), and so on.

The essence of the niyyah, as mentioned in the chapter on wudu’ (ablution) is the intention to perform an act with the motive of obedience to a command of God Almighty. Specification of a particular salat, whether it is obligatory or supererogatory, ada’ or qada’, is dependent upon the intention of the musalli. Thus if he intends to perform a supererogatory salat at the beginning and performs it with this intention, it will be supererogatory; if he intends to perform an obligatory salat, such as zuhr or ‘asr prayers, it will be so.

But if he does not intend anything it will be a waste of labour, though it is impossible for one not to intend anything. Because any act performed by a sane person cannot be without an intention regardless of whether he expresses it in specific words or not, and irrespective of whether he is attentive to his intention or not. Therefore, all the schools concur that expressing the niyyah in words is not necessary. Similarly, it is also ordinarily impossible for one who knows the difference involved to intend zuhr while performing ‘asr and an obligatory salat while performing a supererogatory one.

However discussions regarding niyyah and its various forms were not in vogue among the pioneering scholars of the shari’ah. It would be good to quote here the observations of two great scholars, Ibn al-Qayyim from among the Sunni legists, and Sayyid Muhammad, the author of al-Madarik, from the Imamiyyah.

The former observes in his Zad al-Ma’ad as quoted in the first volume of Ibn Qudamah’s al-Mughni: "The Prophet (S) used to say ‘Allahu Akbar’ when he stood for prayer and did not say anything before it. He did not expresss the niyyah in words, such as saying: ‘I perform such and such prayer in four rak’ahs facing the qibla as an imam or ma’mum (one who follows the imam). Neither did he mention whether it was ada’ or qada’ nor its time.These ten are later elaborations and no one has ever narrated them from him (S) in either sahih or da’if form. And neither the tabi’un nor the four imams have opted for them."

The latter, in Madarik al-Ahkam (mabhath al-niyyah awwal al-salat) observes: "That which is inferable from the sources of the shari’ah is that niyyah is a simple matter and all that it involves is the intention to perform an act in obedience to God, the Exalted. This is something which no sane person can do without while turning to perform an act of worship (‘ibadah)."

Here some scholars have observed: If God were to enjoin the performance of salat or any other ‘ibadah without a niyyah, it would have amounted to something impossible. Al-Shahid has mentioned in al-Dhikra that our earlier scholars did not mention niyyah in their books on fiqh. They would state: ‘The first wajib in wudu’ is washing the face, the first wajib in salat is takbirat al-ihram’. The reason for this is that that which is essential in regard to niyyah is something inescapable, and anything in addition to it is not wajib. That which confirms this is that niyyah has not been mentioned in the context of any of the ‘ibadat – and particularly not in their case – and the traditions describing the wudu, ghusl and tayammum of the Prophet (S) do not make any mention of it.

2. Takbirat al-Ihram

Salat does not materialize without ‘takbirat al-ihram.’ Its name derives from the statement of the Prophet (S):

مفتاح الصلاة الطهور و تحريمها التكبيرة و تحليلها التسليم.

Taharah (purity) is the key to salat; its consecration (tahrim) is the takbirah; and its termination (tahlil) is taslim.

It means that with takbirat al-ihram it becomes haram to speak and perform any act incompatible with salat, and by reciting taslim those acts which were prohibited after reciting the takbir become permissible again.

Its formula is ‘Allahu akbar’, and according to the Imamis, Malikis and Hanbalis no other form is permissible. The Shafi’is observe: Both "Allahu akbar", and "Allahu al-’akbar” (with the addition of alif and lam to "akbar") are permissible. The Hanafis state: Any other synonymous words such as ‘Allahu al-’a’zam’ and ‘Allahu al-’ajall’ will do.

All the schools, excepting the Hanafi, concur that it is wajib to recite it in Arabic, even if the musalli is a non-Arab. If he cannot, it is obligatory for him to learn it; and if he cannot learn, he may translate it into his own tongue. The Hanafis observe: It is valid to recite it in any language even if one can recite it in Arabic.

There is consensus among the schools that at the time of reciting takbirat al-ihram all the conditions necessary for salat (such as taharah, facing the qiblah, covering the body etc.) should be present, and that it should be recited - when one has the ability to do so - while standing stationarily, and in a voice that he can hear. The word ‘Allah’ should precede ‘akbar’, and the reverse, ‘akbar Allah’, will not suffice for entry into qiyam.

3. Qiyam (standing)

The schools concur that qiyam is wajib in the obligatory salats from the beginning of takbirat al-ihram until going to ruku’, and that standing uprightly, stationarily and independently are its requisites.

Hence it is not valid to recline on any support when one is able to stand without it. If one cannot stand, he may perform salat sitting, and if this too is not possible, while laying down on the right side facing the qiblah (in the same position that a dead body is placed in the grave).

This is the opinion of all the schools except the Hanafis, who state: A person who cannot sit will perform salat laying down on his back with his feet pointing towards the qiblah, so that his gestures in lieu of ruku’ and sajdah are made towards the qiblah.

If it is not possible to perform salat while laying on the right side, the Imamis, Shafi’is and Hanbalis permit him to perform salat laying on his back by making gestures with his head. If gesturing with the head is not possible, he will gesture with the eyelids.

The Hanafis say: If his state is as bad as that, the duty of salat will no longer apply to him, though he will have to perform it qada’ when his condition improves and the hindrance is removed.

According to the Malikis, a sick person such as this is not required to perform salat and it is also not wajib for him to perform its qada’.

The Imamis, Shafi’is and Hanbalis state: The duty of salat does not disappear in any situation; if he is unable to gesture by blinking his eyes he will pass the salat through his mind and move his tongue for reciting the qira’ah and dhikr. If he is unable to move the tongue he will imagine it in his mind as long as his mind works. To sum up, salat is wajib upon those who are fully capable and those who are not so capable. It may not be neglected in any situation, and every person must perform it in accordance with his ability.

Hence it is performed while standing, then sitting, then laying down on one’s side, then laying down on one’s back, then gesturing by blinking the eyes, and passing it through the mind, in that order. A fully capable person as well as one not capable will move from the previous state to the new situation which has come into existence. Hence if a fully capable person loses his ability during salat or one not capable regains it, either of them will perform the remaining part in accordance with his ability.

Therefore, if he performs one rak’ah (unit) standing and is then unable to stand, he will complete it sitting, and if he performs the first rak’ah sitting and then regains the strength to stand, he will complete the remaining salat standing.

4. Qira’ah (reciting)

The schools differ whether the recitation of Surat al-Fatihah is wajib in every rak’ah (unit), or in the first two rak’ahs, or in all the rak’ahs without there being any other alternative. They give different answers to the following questions: Is the bismillah an essential part of al-Fatihah or is it valid to omit it? Is it wajib or mustahabb to recite aloud or in a low voice? Is it wajib to recite another surah after al-Fatihah in the first two rak’ahs? Can the tasbih1 replace the surah? Is takattuf (the folding of arms during salat) a sunnah or is it haram? And so on.

The Hanafis observe: It is not compulsory to recite only Surat al-Fatihah in the daily obligatory salats, and anything recited from the Qur’an may take its place, because God the Exalted, says:

فاقرَأوا ما تيَسَّرَ من القُرآن

‘Therefore recite of the Qur’an so much as is feasible’ (73:20) (Bidayat al-mujtahid, vol.1, p.122 and al-Shi’rani’s Mizan, "bab sifat al-salat").

The recital from the Qur’an is wajib in the first two rak’ahs; but in the third rak’ah of the maghrib prayer and the last two rak’ahs of ‘asr and ‘isha’ prayer there is an option between reciting from the Qur’an or saying the tasbih or keeping quiet (al-Nawawi, Sharh al-Muhadhdhab, vol.3, p.361).

Moreover, the Hanafis say: It is valid to skip the basmalah because it is not a part of any surah. Neither reciting aloud nor in a low voice are mustahabb, and a musalli praying alone is free to recite in a voice that he alone can hear or in a voice hearable to others. There is no qunut in salat with the exception of salatal-watr. As to takattuf, it is masnun (a sunnah) but it is not wajib, and its preferable form is for a man to place the palm of his right hand on the back of his left hand below the navel, and for a woman to place her hands on her chest.

The Shafi’is state: Surat al-Fatihah is wajib in every rak’ah, without there being any difference in this regard between the first two rak’ahs and the other rak’ahs and between wajib and mustahabb salats.

The basmalah is a part of the surah and cannot be omitted in any circumstance. The recitation should be aloud in the morning prayer and the first two rak’ahs of maghrib and ‘isha’ prayers; the remaining recitals are to be in a low voice. The qunut is mustahabb only in the morning prayer, and is to be performed after rising from the ruku’ of the second rak’ah. Similarly, it is mustahabb to recite another surah after al-Fatihah only in the first two rak’ahs. Takattuf is not wajib but a sunnah for both the sexes, and its preferable form is to place the right hand palm on the back of the left hand between the chest and the navel and towards the left side.

According to the Malikis, reciting Surat al-Fatihah is necessary in every rak’ah, without there being any difference in this regard between the earlier and later rak’ahs and between fard and mustahabb salats, as observed earlier by the Shafi’is. It is mustahabb to recite another surah after al-Fatihah in the first two rak’ahs.

The basmalah is not a part of the surah and it is mustahabb to omit it altogether. Reciting aloud is mustahabb in the morning prayer and the first two rak’ahs of maghrib and ‘isha’ prayers. Qunut is to be recited only in the morning prayer.

Takattuf is valid in their opinion, though it is mustahabb to keep the hands hanging freely in the fard prayers.

The Hanbalis consider al-Fatihah to be wajib in every rak’ah, and to recite a surah after it in the first two rak’ahs as mustahabb. The morning prayer and the first two rak’ahs of maghrib and ‘isha’ prayers are to be recited aloud. The basmalah is a part of surahs though it will be recited in a low voice and not aloud. Qunut is to be recited in Salat al-watr and not in any other salat. Takattuf is a sunnah for both men and women and its preferable form is to place the right hand palm on the back of the left hand below the navel.

It is evident that takattuf, which the Sunni legists call ‘qabd’ and the Shi’a legists call ‘takfir’ - i.e. to conceal - is not wajib in the opinion of any of the four Sunni schools.

The Imamis state: Reciting Surat al-Fatihah is necessary in the first two rak’ahs of every salat and no other surah can replace it. But it is not wajib in the third rak’ah of maghrib and the last two rak’ahs of four-rak’ah prayers; rather, one has an option between it and tasbih. Tasbih means the recitation of:

سبحان الله و الحمد لله و لا الهَ الا الله و الله اكبر

thrice, though even once is sufficient. It is wajib to recite another complete surah in the first two rak’ahs, and the basmalah is a part of the surahs which cannot be omitted in any circumstance.

It is wajib to recite aloud only the surahs and not the other recitations in the morning prayer and the first two rak’ahs of maghrib and ‘isha’ prayers. The qira’ah in zuhr and ‘asr prayers is to be done, except for the basmalah, in a low voice in their first two rak’ahs and also in the third rak’ah of maghrib and the last two rak’ahs of ‘isha’ prayers.

Qunut is mustahabb in the five daily prayers and its place is the second rak’ah after the recital of the surahs and before ruku’. The minimum level of voice considered ‘loud’ is that a person nearby be able to hear it, and the minimum for ‘low’ voice is that the person himself be able to hear it. The schools concur that reciting aloud is not prescribed for women, nor is reciting in a voice lower than what can be heard by herself. If a musalli voluntarily recites loudly something which is to be recited in a low voice and vice versa, his/her salat will be invalid, if this is not done due to ignorance or forgetfulness.

The Imamis also considers saying "Ammin” (Amen) during salat to be haram and doing so invalidates the salat, irrespective of whether one is praying individually or in group prayer as an imam or ma’mum,because it is something adopted by the people, and nothing adopted by people is capable of being included in the salat.

The four Sunni schools concur that it is mustahabb in accordance with the narration of Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet (S) said:

When the imam says, "ghayr il maghdubi ‘alaymhim wa la-ddallin,’ then say: "Ammin."

The Imamis negate the authenticity of the above tradition.

Most Imamis consider takattuf (putting hands over each other) renders the salat invalid (batil) because there is no explicit text (nass) in support of it. However, some of them say: Takattuf is haram and the one who does it has committed sin, though his salat is not invalid. A third group from among them observe: It is makruh (discouraged) and not haram.

5. Ruku’ (bowing)

There is consensus among the schools that ruku’ is obligatory (wajib) in salat but they differ regarding the extent to which it is wajib and the necessity of staying motionless in that position. The Hanafis observe: What is obligatory is to bend down in any possible manner, and staying motionless is not obligatory. The remaining schools consider it obligatory to kneel down until the palms of the hands of the musalli reach his knees and to stay motionless during bowing.

The Shafi’is, Hanafis and Malikis state: It is not obligatory to recite anything during ruku’, though it is sunnah that the musalli say: "Subhana Rabbi al-’azim”.
The Imamis and the Hanbalis consider tasbih to be obligatory during ruku’ and its formula in the opinion of the Hanbalis is "Subhana Rabi al-’azim", and according to the Imamis "Subhana Rabbi al-‘azim wa bi hamdih” or just "SubhanAllah” thrice. It is encouraged (mustahabb) in the opinion of the Imamis to add after the tasbih, a benediction for Muhammad (S) and his Family (Allahumma salli ‘ala Muhammadin wa Ale Muhammad).

The Hanafis say: It is not obligatory to return to the standing position after ruku’, and it is sufficient, though makruh (discouraged), to perform sajdah (prostration) straightaway. The other schools consider it obligatory to return to the standing position and mustahabb to recite the tasmi’, which is to say: "Sami ‘allahu li man hamidah” (God hears one who praises Him). According to the Imamis, it is obligatory to stay motionless in this standing (qiyam).

6. Sujud (prostration)

There is consensus among the schools that sujud (prostration) is obligatory twice in each rak’ah. They differ regarding its details, as to whether itis obligatory to prostrate with all the seven parts of the body touching the ground while performing it or if it is sufficient to lay on the ground only some of them. These seven parts are: the forehead, the palms, the knees and the big toes.

The Malikis, Shafi’is and Hanafis state: It is obligatory to lay only the forehead on the ground in sujud, and laying down the other parts is encouraged (mustahabb).

The Imamis and the Hanbalis observe: It is obligatory to lay on the ground all the seven parts while performing sujud. It has been narrated from the Hanbalis that they add the nose to these seven, thus making them eight. The difference of opinion regarding reciting tasbih and being motionless during sujud is similar to the difference mentioned concerning ruku’. Those who consider them obligatory there, consider them here as well.

The Hanafis do not consider it obligatory to sit between the sajdahs; the remaining schools consider it obligatory.

7. Tashahhud

Tashahhud is at most recited twice in salat; the first, after the second rak’ah of zuhr, ‘asr, maghrib and ‘isha’ prayers, which is not followed by taslim; the second in the last rak’ah of the two-, three-, and four- rak’ah prayers, which is followed by taslim.

The Imamis and the Hanbalis state: The first tashahhud is wajib. The remaining schools consider it mustahabb and not wajib. The second tashahhud is considered wajib by the Shafi’is, Imamis and Hanbalis, and mustahabb by the Malikis and Hanafis (Bidayat al-mujtahid, vol.1, p.125).

The following are the forms of tashahhud observed by the different schools:

The Hanafis

التحيات لله والصلوات والطيّبات، والسلام عليك أيّها النبي ورحمة الله وبركاته، السلام علينا وعلى عباد الله الصالحين، أشهد أن لا إله إلاّ الله، وأشهد أنّ محمداً عبده ورسوله

"attahiyyatu lillahi wassalawatu wattayyibatu wassalamu ‘alayka ayyuhaannabiyyu warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu,assalamu ‘alayna wa ‘ala`abadillahi assaliheena, ash-hadu anna la ilaha illa Allah, waAsh-haduanna Mohammmedan ‘abduhu warasuluhu."

The Malikis

التحيات لله الزاكيات لله الطيّبات الصلوات لله، السلام عليك أيّها النبي ورحمة الله وبركاته، السلام علينا وعلى عباد الله الصالحين، أشهد أن لا إله إلاّ الله وحده لا شريك له، وأشهد أنّ محمداً عبده ورسوله

"Attahiyyatu lillah, azzakiyyatu lillah, attayyibatu assalawatu lillah.Assalamu alayka ayyuha annabiyyu warahmatu allahi wabarakatuhu,assalamu alayna wa ‘ala ‘abadi Allahi assaliheena, ash-hadu anna la ilaha illa Allah, wa ash-hadu anna muhammadan ‘abduhu warasuluhu.

The Shafi’is

التحيات المباركات الصلوات الطيبات لله، السلام عليك أيّها النبي ورحمة الله وبركاته، السلام علينا وعلى عباد الله الصالحين، أشهد أن لا إله إلاّ الله، وأشهد أنّ سيدنا محمداً رسول الله

"Attahiyyatu almubarakatu assalawatu attayyibatu lillah, assalamu ‘alayka ayyuha annabiyyu warahmatu allahi wabarakatuhu, assalamu alayna wa ‘ala ‘abadi allahi assalaiheena.Ash-hadu anna la ilaha illa Allah, wa ash-hadu anna sayyidana muhammadan rasulu Allah."

The Hanbalis

التحيات لله والصلوات والطيبات، السلام عليك أيّها النبي ورحمة الله وبركاته، السلام علينا وعلى عباد الله الصالحين، أشهد أن لا إله إلاّ الله وحده لا شريك له، وأشهد أنّ محمداً عبده ورسوله، اللّهم صلِّ على محمد

"Attahiyyatu lillahi wa-assalawatu wa-attayyibatu. assalamu ‘alayka ayyuha annabiyyu warahmatu allahi wabarakatuhu, assalamu alayna wa ‘ala ‘abadi allahi assalaiheena. Ash-hadu anna la ilaha illa Allah, wahdahu la shareekalah,wa ash-hadu anna sayyidana muhammadan ‘abduhu wa- rasuluhu. Allahumma salli ala Muhammadin."

The Imamis

أشهد أن لا إله إلاّ الله وحده لا شريك له، وأشهد أنّ محمداً عبده ورسوله، اللّهم صلِّ على محمد وآل محمد

"Ash-hadu anna la ilaha illa Allah, wahdahu la shareeka lah,wa ash- hadu anna muhammadan ‘abduhu wa-rasuluhu. Allahumma salli ala Muhammadin wa ‘‘Ali Muhammad."

8. Tasleem

The Shafi’is, Malikis, and Hanbalis observe: Tasleem is wajib (obligatory). The Hanafis do not consider it wajib (Bidayat al-Mujtahid, vol.1, p.126).

The Imamis differ among themselves, a group considers it wajib, while others, including al-Mufid, al-Shaykh al-Tusi and al-’Allamah al-Hilli, regard it as mustahabb.

Tasleem (farewell) has only one form in the opinion of the four Sunni schools, and it is:

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله

"Assalamu alaikum warahmatu allah".

The Hanbalis say: It is obligatory to recite it twice. The others consider reciting once as sufficient.

The Imamis state: Tasleem consists of two formulas; the first is:

السلام علينا وعلى عباد الله الصالحين

"Assalamu alaina wa ‘ala ‘ibadi allahi assaliheen".

The second:

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

"Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatu allahi wa barakatuh".

One of them is wajib. Hence if a person recites the former, the latter will be mustahabb, and if he recites the latter, he will stop at it. As to:

السلام عليك أيّها النبي ورحمة الله وبركاته

"Assalamu alaika ayyuha annabiyyu wa rahmatu allahi wa barakatuhu", it is not a part of tasleem, and is a mustahabb addition to the tashahhud.

9. Sequence (tartib)

Proper sequence (tartib) is wajib between the different parts of salat. Hence the takbirat al-ihram must precede reciting (qira’ah), the qira’ah must precede ruku’, the ruku’ must come before the sujud, and so on.

10. Continuity

Continuity (muwalat and tatabu’, i.e. to occur one after another) is wajib between the parts of salat and between the different portions of a part. Therefore, the reciting (qira’ah) must begin immediately after the takbirah and ruku’ must similarly follow the qira’ah, and so on. The verses, words and letters must not be recited in a manner breaking continuity.

  • 1. ‘tasbih’ means: saying "subhanallah wal-hamdu lillah wala ilaha illallahwallahu akbar”which is usually recited three times in the third and theforth rak’ahs (units).Also ‘qunut’ means rasing both hands toward the sky and holding them infront of the chest or face and then reciting a supplication, like askingfor forgiveness. It could be some verses of Qur’an or not. However it should be in Arabic for obligatory prayers.