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Allah prescribed the five daily prayers (Salah) during the Prophet’s (PBUH) ascension to the mighty heavens above (Mairaj). Salah, the 2nd pillar of Islam, was specifically awarded a weighty status. A Prophetic hadith defines the five obligatory prayers for Muslim women and men as the difference between faith and disbelief. The very first question posed to every Muslim on Judgement Day (Yawm al-Qiyamah), will be about Salah.
Since the advent of Islam, Muslims from all across the globe have addressed Allah in their prayers, using precisely the same Arabic words and movements. The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) is reported to have instructed Muslim men and women to pray as he prayed. The preconditions, timings, wordings, and steps of Salah, are, therefore, ditto for both men and women. This article, nonetheless, will only be addressing Muslim women. Some minor Salah-related issues that are different for males and females will be pointed out at an appropriate time, Allah-willing.
Preconditions for Salah
Three of these are common to all acts of worship, and six are specific to Salah.
The three general conditions of validity that apply to all acts of worship:
- To be a Muslim.
- To be sane.
- Having reached the age of puberty (Haidh/Menstruation).
The remaining six conditions are specific to the validity of a woman’s Salah.
- The time for prayer should have started. (Salah is invalid if offered before its fixed time)
- The covering of a woman’s awrah. All of her body is awrah when praying, except for her hands and face. The scholars differed concerning showing the feet.
- Purity from major (entails ghusl) and minor (entails wudu) ritual impurity (hadath).
- Purity from Najasah (impurity) found on the body, clothes, or the place of prayer.
- A woman should face the qiblah (Kaaba).
- Intention (niyyah) made in one’s heart.
A Muslim woman’s prayer is, therefore, not valid unless all these above nine conditions are fulfilled.
How Muslim women offer Salah (two units/rakats of Fajr prayer)
Qiyam (standing in Salah) and recitation
Stand (qiyam) facing the qiblah, and make the intention for two units (rakats) of Fajr (dawn) prayer. Raise both your hands while saying Allahu Akbar (takbeer) up to the level of your shoulders or ear lobes. Whatever is recited in your Salah should be audible to you (moderate).
Then place your right hand over the left, on your chest, keeping your eyes fixed at the place of prostration, (don’t close your eyes in Salah) and recite the following dua: Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika, wa tabara kasmuka wa ta aala jadduka, wa laa ilaaha ghayruka. This glorifies and praises Allah, honoring, His blessed name and Majesty, affirming that He is the only God. Other Sunnah duas can also be recited in its place.
You should continue by reciting Aoodhu billahi minashaytaanirajeem. This is recited to ask Allah to protect us from Satan. Then say Bismillah-hirRahman-nirRaheem, which means to start in Allah’s name, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. The complete recitation of Surah al-Fatiha should follow this.
After this, you may recite any surah of the Quran. The recitation in the first rakat should be longer in the first rakat and shorter in the second. The recital in Fajr Salah should be longer than it is in all other prayers. Once you have finished reciting a surah, raise your hands like you did in the opening takbir and say Allahu Akbar again, before going into Ruku (bowing).
Grasp your knees with your hands, making sure that your back and head are at a level. In Ruku, recite Subhana Rabbiyal-Azeem (glorifying Allah) three times or more. Then, while straightening up from Ruku, recite Sami Allaahu liman hamidah, which means that Allah listens to people who praise Him. Once standing upright, say, Rabbana wa lakal-hamd (praising Allah).
The next thing you do is to say Allahu Akbar and then go into sujood (prostration). When in sujood, bear in mind that you’re in closest proximity to your Adoring Lord. So respected sisters, pour your hearts out to Him while making dua in sujood. Dua is the only asset that can even change one’s destiny (Qadr) if Allah so wills. It is interesting to note that seven parts of our body touch the ground in the performance of sujood. The forehead and tip of the nose (1), palms (2), toes (2), and knees (2). Subhan’Allah.
In sujood, you should say Subhana Rabbi yal-Alaa (Glorifying Allah) three times or more. Say Allahu Akbar and sit straight. In between the two sujoods, you should recite Rabbigh-firlee, Rabbigh-firlee (Asking Allah for forgiveness). After the second sujood, rise to stand while reciting Allahu Akbar and then repeat everything you did in the first rakat. That is, everything except for the duaa you prayed for starting the prayer.
Tashahud/Jalsa (sitting in prayer)
Once done with the second sujood of the second rakat, sit with your palms placed on your thighs and knees. While looking at your right hand, recite Atahiyyaatu Lillahi wasalawatu watayyibatu. Assalamu alayka ayyuhaNabiyyu wa rahmatAllaahi wa barakatuhu. Assalamu alayna wa ala ibaadillah hisaaliheen. It means that all praise, prayers, and good word are due to Allah, and then sends the peace, mercy, and blessings of Allah on the Prophet (PBUH) and peace on us and the noble believers.
Then, raising the forefinger of your right hand, recite, Ash-hadu alaa ilaaha illAllah wa ash-hadu anna Muhammadan abduhu wa rasooluhu (The testimony of faith, wherein we affirm the oneness of Allah, and Muhammad’s (PBUH) prophethood). Durood e Ibrahim is what you recite next.
This should be followed by a dua seeking refuge from four things. Allahumma inni aoodhu bika min adhab-e-Jahannam wa min adhab al-qabri wa min fitnat il-mahyaa wal-mamaat, wa min sharri fitnatil-maseehadajjal. The four things we seek refuge with Allah from are the punishment of Hell, the punishment of the grave, the tests of life and death, and the trial of the Antichrist (Dajjal). After this, you may recite any Sunnah or Quranic duas that you prefer.
Tasleem (salams to end the prayer)
Finish off the two rakats of Fajr salah by saying Assalamu alaykum wa rahmat-Allah to the right, and Assalamu alaykum wa rahmat-Allah to the left. It is with this final action that the Salah of a Muslim woman concludes.
Some Salah-related issues that are different for men and women
Men give both the adhan and iqamah, but women don’t. (In women’s congregational prayer/Jamaat)
All of a woman’s body is awrah (to be covered) except for her hands and face. Men are only required to cover the area between their navel and knees.
It is permissible for women to pray (namaz) in the mosque (masjid) with men, although their prayer at home is considered better for them. For men, congregational prayer (Jamaat) is obligatory and thus best. The imam of a group of women stands in the middle of the (first) row. While in the case of men, the imam stands in the middle, in front of the first row.
If a woman and a man are praying together, she should stand behind him, and not next to him. When women pray in rows behind men, the back rows are better for them than the front rows.
How Muslim women offer Salah is not only about recitation and prayer rituals. It would be an injustice not to mention that khushoo (focus and humility) in prayer, is also of paramount importance. A renowned hadith of Jibrail (a.s) from the Forty Hadith of Imam an-Nawawi, can easily vouch for that. Indeed Ihsan (excellence) lies in worshipping Allah as if you see Him, for if you can’t see Him, He surely sees you.