Five Daily Prayers
Prayer is the central act of worship for all Muslims, and it is their direct contact with the Creator. Prayer is a time to thank God for His blessings and ask Him for forgiveness, guidance, and protection. A Muslim prays directly to God Alone, without any mediator.
Islamic prayer is both a physical and spiritual exercise, composed of a series of postures, gestures, and recitations. Each step in the prayer expresses praise, adoration, and submission to God. All five of the formal daily prayers follow the same basic pattern.
Formal prayers are not meant to be a ritualistic or mindless activity; their role is to constantly remind Muslims of the purpose of life itself and reaffirm their faith in God. Following prayers, Muslims go back to their worldly affairs, conscious of their duties and fortified against sin. Prayers said in congregation bond Muslims together with feelings of brotherhood and sisterhood. Prayer is a time for direct connection to God. As Muslims say during their prayers, “God hears those who call on Him.”
The Prophet Muhammad once compared daily prayers to a river in which people bathe. He told his followers: “If there was a river at the door of any one of you, and he took a bath in it five times a day, would you notice any dirt on him? That is the example of the five prayers with which God washes away evil deeds.”
Timing of the Prayers
Muslims present themselves for prayer five times each day. The prayers are timed at the beginning and end of the day, as well as several times in between, to offer a refreshing break from the daily grind. The names and times of the prayers are:
Fajr. This prayer starts off the day; it is performed before sunrise.
Dhuhr. This prayer is performed just after midday.
Asr. This prayer is performed in the late afternoon.
Maghrib. This prayer is performed just after sunset.
Isha. This prayer ends the day; it is performed in the late evening.
There is a window of time during which each prayer may be observed, usually a few hours in length but always before the next prayer time begins. Muslims try not to delay the prayers so long that they miss them, as the purpose of the schedule is to periodically refresh and take some time out from one's busy day.
In special circumstances (for example, when traveling) and under specific guidelines, Muslims may shorten the prayers or say two prayers at the same time. Muslims often make use of prayer calendars, time sheets, and even computer software programs to know the prayer timings for their locale. Muslims who live in the proximity of a mosque may know it is time to pray when they hear the call to prayer.