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Prayer a Sacred Ritual


Prayer a Sacred Ritual Carrie Allen World Religions July 2, 2013

Prayer a Sacred Ritual


The morning sun starts to rise looking for its place up in the sky; the world is just beginning to shed the sleep from upon its drowsy head, as the day begins the first act they share, is a sacred ritual of morning prayer. In the Islamic faith, Muslims gather either as families, individuals or as a community five times a day to participate in the scared ritual of prayer. Muslims offer prayers to God or Allah in a methodical practice. Prayer is defined as a solemn request for help or an expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship (Webster’s, 1995, pg.428). The Muslim community practices prayer through their dedication to Muhammad and his teachings in the Quran, through an intense ritual of cleanliness, and through the connection of community and family. The purpose of this paper is to define the Muslim concept of prayer and their community practices through my interview with a few practicing Muslims and by my attendance at a Muslim prayer service. It is a Friday evening and my husband and I are invited to attend Dars which is a lecture and discussion that covers the Tafseer, which is the Arabic word for commentary ("Dictionary,"
2013) and Fiqh, which refers to the Sharia Islamic law ("Dictionary," 2013) discussion of the

Quran at the Utah Islamic Center in Sandy Utah. This mosque is mainly made up of Sunni Muslims which are traditional Muslims who adhere to this branch of Islam, commonly described as orthodox ("Dictionary," 2013). As my husband and I travel to the Mosque, which is an Islamic place of worship, a feeling of nervousness swells up in our stomachs. Once we have parked the car, to our surprise there are only two cars in the parking lot. We look at one another, wondering if we are at the correct location. We look around and finally find the address we are searching for. Earlier in the day, a discussion with Jennifer Stott, a Muslim classmate, has taken place so that we are well informed of how to conduct ourselves once inside the Mosque. As we enter the Mosque, it is required that I wear a Hijab, a head covering worn in public (“Dictionary,” 2013)

Prayer a Sacred Ritual


and that we take off our shoes because nothing unclean is to enter into the Mosque. We are surprised, as we accidently have a chance meeting with the Imam Shuaib, the Muslim leader. After a brief conversation with the Imam, we walk across the hall and entered the meeting room. As we enter the room where the Khuba, which is where we will gathering specifically to discuss the Quran ("Dictionary," 2013) and after a Jama’ah, a congregational prayer will be offered
("Dictionary," 2013). I am curious as I start to survey my surrounding. I notice there are no chairs

placed out for anyone to sit upon, everyone is sitting on the carpet. I notice that on the wall behind the Imam is a beautiful piece of art that has been designed on the wall to represent a mosque. I am later informed by Taiyaba a Muslim woman at the mosque that this art piece is to represent the Mecca, a place in Saudi Arabia which is believed to be the center of the Islam world, the birth place of the Prophet Muhammad and where the Islamic religion was founded
(Taiyaba, 2013).

I also notice that the men are separated from the women. The men are up front near the Imam, and the women are nestled toward the back of the room quietly tending to the children and silently studying the Quran, a religious text of Islam. I am reminded of an earlier conversation with Jennifer, where she had informed me that men and women do not sit together or near one another during Khuba or Jama’ah. This information is again given to me as I speak with Taiyaba, a Sunni woman, who is attending the Khuba. She informs me that when men and women are participating in the act of prayer, they do this by either bowing at the waist or kneeling upon their knees. When the women bend over they do not want to be immodest and they do not want to tempt the men with unclean thoughts or distract them from being humble and focused as they offer their prayers to God (Taiyaba, 2013).

Prayer a Sacred Ritual


Taiyaba also spoke with me about the ritual called Wudu, which is a practice that is carried out before a woman can participate in Salat, an obligatory prayer done five times a day (Matthews, 2013, pg. 344). This is done by worshiping Allaah through certain known and prescribed sayings and actions. It is a sacrifice for her God. Wudu is the act of washing parts of the body using clean water in preparation for Salat, There are numerous steps a woman must follow in order to perform wudu. The following steps need to be repeated three times, and you need to use your right hand in order to make sure you are clean from physical impurities. The first step is to make neeyaat, which is an intention to preform wudu. The second step is to wash the hands up to the wrists and between your fingers. Next you wash off your face with clean water, then you rinse your mouth with clean water. The next step is to wash out your nose by sniffing up and blowing out the water, you then rub water on your ears and clean out the canals inside your ears. Finally you wash your feet, if a woman has had socks on all day and has not taken them off even once, she may leave her socks on and she may flick water onto the tops of her sock covered feet. However, if she has removed her socks for any reason she must wash the tops and the bottoms of her feet before she can participate in Salat (Baianonir, 2005). Women must also make sure that they are clean in their private parts. If a woman is menstruating she is not allowed to participate in Salat. As the Khuba is finishing up I am instructed by the Sunni women that we are going to engage in Maghrib, this is the evening prayer. As we are getting ready to share in the experience of Maghrib, Jennifer tells me a story about how it was decided that Muslims were required to pray five times a day. The Prophet Muhammad was speaking with God and God commanded the people to pray fifty times a day. So Muhammad left God and on his way back he decided to discuss this with Abraham. Abraham said there is no way that you will get your people to pray

Prayer a Sacred Ritual


fifty times a day. You need to go back to God and tell him this is too much. So Muhammad returned to God and said I don’t think the people will be able to pray fifty times a day. So God replied, then have the people pray ten times a day. So Muhammad returns and is talking once again with Abraham. Abraham says ten times, I don’t think you are going to get your people to do it. So Muhammad returns to God, and God says, have them pray five times a day and I will times each prayer by ten. That way the people have prayed to me fifty times a day. Muhammad leaves God and goes and speaks with Abraham one last time. Abraham says, I still do think you are going to get the people to pray five times a day. Muhammad replied if we are not able to pray to God five times then who are we, do we really love our God, if we are not able to pray to him five times a day, are we not his slaves? This is why Muslims are required to pray five times a day. The first prayer of the day is called Fajr, morning prayer, the second prayer of the day is called Dhuhr or early afternoon prayer, the third prayer of the day is Asr or late afternoon prayer, the fourth prayer of the day is Maghrib, evening prayer and the fifth prayer of the day is Isha, the night prayer (“Utah Islamic center,” 2013). Before we can start the Maghrib an Adhan, which is an Islamic call to prayer must be announced. This call to prayer is done by a man appointed by the Imam. The men gather in the front of the room and the women in the back of the room, everyone is standing shoulder to shoulder. The Imam then starts reciting the word “Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar. This means God is the greatest. The next words of the prayer are Ashadu an la ilaha ill Allah. This means I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship but God. The next line is Ashadu anna Muhammadan rasoolullah. This means I bear witness that Muhammad is the prophet of God. Next they say the words, Hayya’alas Salah which means Come to prayer,

Prayer a Sacred Ritual


last they recite the words Hayya’alal falah, which means Come to success” ( Once they have finished reciting this prayer they raise their hands to God, they place their right hand over their left hand and press them to their heart or stomach. This is called Fatiha, a central prayer of Islam (“Dictionary,” 2013). Once they have finished with Fatiha, they begin Sajoud, this is where they bend in half and repeat the words Glory to God the Almighty three times. I asked Jennifer why they do things in threes and she replied “We do everything in odd numbers, God likes odd numbers.” After they have recited the words of the Prophet Muhammad and done the actions of Sajoud, they drop to their knees and press their foreheads to the ground, this is called prostrating. Muslims do this in order to show complete humility before god. They are asking god to forgive them of their sins. After they have completed these acts, Muslims say their own personal prayers. Dua means personal prayer (Stott, 2013). When Muslims say their personal prayers they are to ask for anything they are in need of. According to Taiyaba you can ask for food, you can ask that the poor be feed and the sick be healed or you can even ask for a new pair of shoe laces. When you are saying your personal prayers it is best to be spread out. The more space you cover the more blessings you will receive. Another interesting belief I learned from Taiyaba, is that when you say your prayers you receive one reward for each prayer said. However if you say your prayers in a group or at a mosque, each person receives twenty seven rewards for that prayer (Taiyaba, 2013). In speaking with Jennifer she said that she enjoys doing Dua, supplication or her personal prayers more that she like participating in Salat. The reason is because she feels like she is talking with god one on one. He hears her and knows her thoughts, needs and wants. He may not always give her the answer she wants to hear, but he knows her, he knows what is in her heart and what is best for her.

Prayer a Sacred Ritual


Prayer can be something we are commanded to do, it can be something that we participate in freely or it may be required of us through our religion. The Muslim women that I had the opportunity of meeting and speaking with, had a deep love for their God. They had a passion that they showed in fulfilling the requirements that their god asked of them. These women are strong, they are mindful of keeping their bodies clean, they pride themselves in participating in their prayers and they show love by obey the teachings of Muhammad.

Prayer a Sacred Ritual


Reference Page
Baianonie, M. (2005, December 10). Wudu (ablution). Retrieved from How Muslims pray. (2007). Retrieved from Matthews, W. (2013). World religions. (Seventh Ed.). Stott, J. (2013, July 02). Interview by C Allen []. What prayer means to you. Taiyaba. (2013, June 14). Interview by C Allen []. Questions about Muslim prayer. Utah Islamic center. (2013, April 16). Retrieved from Webster’s (1995). (p. 428).