To an English speaking person the word “Prayer” usually connotes uttering certain words as a ritual at a particular occasion.
However, Muslims have 3 different words in Arabic language that encompass a broader understanding of prayer in daily life. To a Muslim, every good action he or she does, whether communicating with God, volunteering at a food bank, speaking out against injustice, or asking God for help, is essentially an act of Prayer.
Three Common Terms for Prayer in Islam:
Zikr is the Arabic term for remembrance of Allah, the Most Merciful. It is not restricted to the prayer and worship that Muslims do on prayer rugs five times a day; it is much more than that. Zikr is a state of mind.
All words of praise and glory to Allah, extolling His Perfect Attributes of Power and Majesty, Beauty and Sublimeness, whether one utters them by tongue or says them silently in one’s heart, are known as Zikr or remembrance of Allah.
Remembering Allah is the foundation of good deeds. The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said, “The similitude of one who remembers his Lord and one who does not remember Him, is like that of the living and the dead.” (Bukhari and Muslim).
Salah (Ritual Prayer):
Salah is the name for the obligatory prayers which are performed five times a day, and are a direct link between the worshipper and God. There is no hierarchical authority in Islam, and no priests, so the prayers are led by a learned person who knows the Quran, chosen by the congregation. These five prayers contain verses from the Quran, and are said in Arabic, the language of the Revelation.
A Muslim’s daily life is scheduled around these five daily prayers (Salah). It starts with getting up before sunrise and praying Fajr, then Zuhr at early afternoon, Asr at late afternoon, Maghrib after sunset, and Isha prayer late at night. There are other optional prayers which a Muslim can perform at other times of the day and night. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, used to pray Tahajjud prayer daily before dawn.
Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said, “Dua (supplication) is the essence of worship” (Tirmidhi).
Allah, the most Merciful of all who have Mercy, understands and knows all the worries and anxieties in our hearts even before we feel them. But He has still encouraged us to ask Him directly for anything and everything through Dua or supplication.
Dua can be made by raising hands towards the sky, begging for God’s help in one’s own language, and breaking down before Him. Or it could be made casually and silently in one’s heart.
As Islam is a way of life, there are Duas for each aspect of our lives that Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, has taught Muslims to say. From eating, to going to the bathroom, to driving your car, to leaving the house, there is a Dua or prayer for every occasion.
Adhan (Athan, Azan) and Iqama (Iqamah, Iqamat):
Adhan is called out by the muezzin in the mosque, sometimes from a minaret, five times a day summoning Muslims for mandatory (fard) prayers (salah). There is a second call known as iqama (set up) that summons Muslims to line up for the beginning of the prayers.
The main purpose behind the loud pronouncement of adhan five times a day in every mosque is to make available to everyone an easily intelligible summary of Islamic belief.