Entering into Prayer
The act of prayer in Islam is a very intentional and orderly activity, required of followers five times a day, resulting in prayer being a very regular and prominent part of the life of a Muslim.
Following individual preparation for prayer through ritual purification or ablutions, the participant enters into the place of prayer. This may be as small as an individual prayer mat in a bedroom, in the corner of an office, by the side of the road or in a large prayer hall in a mosque. Having a prayer mat that can be put down in a space used for other activities ensures that the location is set aside for the act of talking to God. Prayer can happen almost anywhere.
Each time of prayer requires the individual to perform a certain number of prayer cycles. A prayer cycle begins with reciting the first sura (chapter) of the Qur’an, along with another passage. Then one continues by bowing before God while expressing worship directly to Him, and prostrating before Him while placing your forehead, nose, hands and feet on the ground in symbolic submission to God. Following that, one sits and prostrates again before rising up. The process is quite involved and this very brief description should in no way be seen as a comprehensive guide to prayer in Islam. Every position is accompanied by expressions of worship to God. Each prayer time will repeat this prayer cycle of scripture, body posture and worship once, twice or three times, depending on the particular time of day. At the end of the final cycle in that prayer time, a peace is expressed to both the right and the left with a recognition of God’s supremacy.
Initially, the prayer cycle appears somewhat complicated, however when repeated several times a day, the action can become quite routine, requiring little thought for the mechanics of the obligation. Once the logistics become more routine, the participant can focus on thoughts expressed through scripture and worship. The number of cycles in a single day, for the believer who is faithful in prayer, is seventeen. So for one who recites the Qur’an according to general guidelines for prayer, the first sura or chapter of the Qur’an is recited seventeen times a day. For many Muslims, this sura will have a similar personal significance as the Lord’s Prayer or Psalm 23 to a Christian. Given this significant repetition of a particular passage, I’ve decided to post an English translation of this chapter, known in Arabic as the Fatīha which can be translated as introduction or preface.
The Introduction to the Qur’an (al-Fatīha)
In the name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful.
Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds.
The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
Master of the Day of Judgment.
It is You we worship, and upon You we call for help.
Guide us to the straight path.
The path of those You have blessed, not of those against whom there is anger, nor of those who are misguided.
Setting aside time in your day to express your devotion to God is a privilege for those who believe in Him. What does prayer look like for you?