A guide to SALAT (Prayer)
by Muhammad Abdul Karim Saqib
Darussalam: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia


Each Salat must be offered at or during its proper time. No Salat can be offered before its time. There are five obligatory Salat in a day.

Fajr Prayer

The time for the Fajr or the morning prayer starts at dawn and ends at sunrise.

Thuhr Prayer

The time for Thuhr or the early afternoon prayer starts when the sun begins to decline from its zenith an and ends when the size of an object's shadow is equal to the size of the object.

Jaber bin Abdullah narrated: The angel Jibrael came to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and said to him, "Stand up and pray Thuhr". So Allah's Messenger (pbuh) prayed Thuhr when the sun had declined from its zenith . Then the angel Jibrael came again at the time of Asr and said "Stand up and pray Asr". Then Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) prayed Asr when the shadow of everything was equal to itself. Then Jibrael came the next day to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and said, (after praying 10 Salat with Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in two consecutive days) that the time of Salat (prayer) is in between these two times.

Ahmad, Nasai, Tirmidhi and Bukhari remarked that this is the most authentic Hadith giving the times of prayer.

We find that many books on Salat state the ending time of Thuhr prayer and the starting time of Asr prayer when the shadow of something is twice itself. But this contradicts the above Hadith as on the first day Jibrael asked Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to pray Asr when the shadow of everything was equal to itself. This means that was the end time of Thuhr prayer. And we already know that all the Ulama of the Muslim Ummah agree unanimously that no Salat (prayer) can be offered before its time.

Asr Prayer

The time for Asr or late afternoon prayer starts when the shadow of something is equal to itself and ends just before sunset.

It is better to offer Asr prayer before the sun becomes yellow because even though it is allowed to offer the Salat (prayer) at this time the Prophet (pbuh) disliked Muslims to delay Asr prayer up to this time. He remarked that the Munafiq (hypocrite) offered his Salat (prayer) at this time.

Maghrib Prayer

The time for the Maghrib or the sunset prayer starts just after sunset and ends when twilight has disappeared.

Isha Prayer

The time for Isha or night prayer starts from the disappearance of twilight and ends just before midnight.

It is preferable to offer this Salat (prayer) before midnight but it can be offered right up to the break of dawn.

Note: In countries where due to cloudy weather the sun is not always visible, it is advisable to follow printed calendars giving the accurate time of each Salat (prayer).

Forbidden times of Prayer

Uqbah bin Amir said, There were three times at which Allah's Messenger (pbuh) used to forbid us to pray or bury our dead:

(i) When the sun began to rise until it was fully up. (ii) When the sun was at its height at midday till it passed the meridian. (iii) When the sun drew near to setting till it had set. (Muslim)

Forbidden Times for Nafl Prayer

(i) Abu Saeed AlKhudree reported Allah's Messenger (pbuh) as saying, No Salat is to be said after the Fajr prayer until the sun rises, or after the Asr Prayer until the sun sets. (Bukhair and Muslim)

Only Nafl prayer is forbidden at these times but a missed Fard prayer can be offered. Most of the Ulama of the Muslim Ummah allowed the offering of missed Fard prayer after Fajr and Asr because of the following Hadith:

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, Who has forgotten the prayer he should pray it whenever he remembers it. (Bukhari and Muslim)

(ii) A Nafl prayer cannot be offered once the Iqamat for Fard prayer has been said. Abu Hurairah narrated that Allah's Messenger (pbuh) said, When the Iqamat has been said, then, there is no Salat valid (Nafl or Sunnat ) except the Fard prayer for which the Iqamat was said. (Ahmad and Muslim)

It is seen in practice that many people continue with the Sunnat prayer even though the Iqamat has been said for the Fard prayer especially in the Fajr prayer. The feel that the 2 Raakat Sunnat of Fajr can only be offered before the Fard. This practice is against congregation philosophy, discipline of Jamaat, and a clear violation of Hadith. They should offer 2 Rakaat Sunnat of Fajr immediately after the Fard or after sunrise.


A place or a building which is used for the purpose of worship and Salat is called a Masjid (mosque). A Hadith tells us that This means that wherever a Muslim might be, he can offer his Salat but the reward of a Salat offered in a mosque is far greater than that offered in an ordinary place. The following points should be noted when choosing a place for Salat:

(a) The place should be clean and pure. Salat in a dirty, filthy and impure place such as a rubbish tip, slaughter house, bathing place and a camel pen is forbidden. (b) The place should be free from danger. The danger could be due to someone or something that may disturb the worshipper. (c) A prayer place where the worshipper might hinder the movement of others should be avoided, e.g. busy pavements, public roadways etc. (d) It is forbidden to pray on the roof of Baitullah (Kabah). (e) It is forbidden to pray on top of or facing towards a grave.



(i) The dress for men should be such that it covers from the navel to the knees at least. (ii) The shoulders should not be left uncovered. (iii) Salat can be prayed in one garment if it covers the body from the navel to the knees as well as the shoulders. (Bukhari and Muslim.)

If, however, the garment is not long enough to cover the shoulders then parts of the body between the navel and the knees should at least be covered.


The dress of the woman should be such that it covers her whole body from head to foot leaving only the face and the hands uncovered. A Salat offered in transparent clothing is not valid. Also, tight-fitting clothing which shows the shape of the body should be avoided.


a) Fard or obligatory Salat: Every believer is ordered by Allah to offer five obligatory prayers in a day. Failure to observe any one of the five obligatory prayers is a serious and punishable sin.

b) Nafl prayer This is a voluntary prayer which the Prophet (pbuh) observed before or after Fard at special and isolated occasions. It also includes those which he encouraged Muslims to pray. The Nafl prayer can be divided into three categories:

(i) Sunnat Muakkadah (compulsory). That is those which are emphasized by the holy Prophet (pbuh) and offered regularly by him before or after the Fard prayer.

(ii) sunnat Ghair Muakkadah (optional). That is those offered only occasionally by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

(iii) Nafl Prayer (extra). This is an extra prayer. There is a reward for praying it an no sin for leaving it. It can be offered at any isolated instance according to the time and capacity of the believer. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) encouraged the believers to pray Nafl to help make up for any minor omissions or other defects in the obligatory prayer.


(i) Fajr prayer: 2 Rakaat Sunnat Muakkadah, 2 Rakaat Fard

(ii) Thuhr prayer: 2 or 4 Rakaat Sunnat Muakkadah , 4 Rakaat Fard, 2 Rakaat Sunnat Muakkadah and an unspecified number of Nafl as time and capacity allows.

Ibn Umar said "I prayed alone with Allah's Messenger (pbuh) 2 Rakaat before and 2 Rakaat after the Thuhr prayer. (Bukhari and Muslim)

It is a familiar practice to offer 4 Rakaat Sunnat before Thuhr prayer, but this Hadith proves that 2 Rakaat Sunnat before the Thuhr prayer is also allowed.

(iii) Asr Prayer: 2 or 4 Rakaat Sunnat Ghair Muakkaadah , 4 Rakaat Fard. Ali said, "Allah's Messenger (pbuh) used to pray 4 Rakaat before Asr prayer separating them with a salutation..." (Tirmidhi)

Another Hadith narrated by Ali says, Allah's Messenger (pbuh) used to pray two Rakaat before Asr prayer. (Abu Dawud)

(iv) Maghrib prayer.: 2 Rakat Nafl, 3 Rakat Fard, 2 Rakat Sunnat Muakadah and an unspecified number of Nafl as time and capacity allows.

Abdullah bin Mughaffal reported the Prophet (pbuh) as saying, "Pray before the Maghrib prayer", adding when saying it the third time, That was because he did not wish people to treat it as a compulsory Sunnat.

2 Rakaat Nafl after sunset and before the Maghrib prayer are allowed for those who wish to do so. For this the above Hadith is a sure proof. However, some people forbid this and others find it very strange if they see a person offer 2 Rakaat Nafl before Maghrib.

(v) Isha prayer: An unspecified number of Nafl Rakaat according to the time and capacity, 4 Rakaat Fard, 2 Rakaat Sunnat Muakkadah, unspecified number of Nafl as time and capacity allows and 3 Witr.

Some people insist very emphatically upon the offering of 4 Rakaat optional Sunnat before the Isha prayer but during our entire research we could not find a single proof, any practice or order from Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) or his companions to justify this claim. Certainly, it is allowed to pray Nafl while waiting for Jamaat.

Some people offer 2 Rakat Nafl after the Witr Prayer. However, there is an authentic Hadith which states that the Witr prayer should be offered after all the Nafl, which a person wishes to pray, have been offered.

Ibn Umar reported that Allah's Messenger (pbuh) said "Make Witr as the last prayer of your night prayer." (mishkat)


Is the Sunnah prayer before Zuhr two rak’ahs or four rak’ahs?

Praise be to Allaah. 

The answer is: it was narrated in some ahaadeeth that the Sunnah prayer before Zuhr is with one tasleem (i.e., it is two rak’ahs), as stated in the hadeeth of Ibn ‘Umar (narrated) in al-Saheehayn.

And in some other ahaadeeth it is narrated that it is two tasleems (i.e., four rak’ahs), as stated in the hadeeth of ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her), (narrated) in Saheeh Muslim.

So one has the choice of doing two or four rak’ahs. But some scholars suggested that if a person prays it at home it is better to pray four rak’ahs with two tasleems, and if he prays them in the mosque, he should pray two rak’ahs with one tasleem).

Shaykh Sa’d al-Humayd