by Dr. Fatima Bugaighis

This essay is divided into three parts: 
1. Preparations
2. Dressing for, and the Conduct of, Salat
3. Times and Composition

1. Preparations

It is a well known fact that As-Salat, loosely translated as ‘prayer’, is the spine of the Islamic body. Salat differentiates the Muslim from the kafir (unbeliever). There are innumerable references to the excellent qualities of Salat in both the Book of Allah, the Qur’an, and the Ahadith, sayings of His Messenger, Muhammad, Allah’s grace and blessings be on him. Allah says in the Qur’an

“Be guardians of your Salat (especially) the middle Salat. And stand up in devotion to Allah”(2:238)

The Prophet, peace and grace be on him, said

“The first thing to be accounted for by every man on the Day of Judgement will be Salat. If good, all his deeds are good; and if bad, likewise all his deeds”.

Allah has made the institution of Salat the key to glory, happiness and success in this life and in the Hereafter. In Surat Al-Mu’minun in which Allah, Most High, defines the believers, Salat is the first attribute mentioned:

“Successful indeed are the believers who are humble in Salat . . .”.(23:1-2)

The Messenger of Allah peace be on him, also said of Salat

“if anyone keeps to it, it will be light, evidence and salvation for him on the Day of Resurrection; but if anyone neglects it, he will have no light, no evidence, and no salvation on that day and he will be associated with Qarun, Pharoah, Haman and Ubayy b.Khalaf.”

These are but very few of the Qur’anic verses and Ahadith which stress most strongly the vital importance of Salat. In Islam it is indispensable and must be taken seriously. One is not a Muslim, if he or she does not perform Salat regularly; for, according to a saying of Prophet Muhammad, peace and bounties be on him.

“The demarcation between being a Muslim and kufr (Unbelief) is the abandonment of Salat”.

The aim of this small article is to provide some guidelines, particularly for women, on the correct performance of Salat. A lot of us women do not know how to purify and dress the body for Salat, and how to conduct Salat itself.

The Taharah (Purification)

This concerns the body, the dress, and the place of worship. In the Qur’an we are told,

“Truly Allah loves those who turn unto Him and those who care for cleanliness”.(2:222)

At the out set the heart must be purified from doubts, hypocrisy, polytheism, i.e. according anything the same importance as Allah, envy and all evils of the heart. It should be remembered that Allah sees and knows all, whether secret or public;

“He knows the treachery of eyes, and that which bosoms hide”.(40:19),

After this, a partial or total washing of the body with clean water is undertaken. The partial wash is known as Al-Wudu’ (ablution) or Taharat Al-Sughrah (smaller purification), while the total wash is known as Al-Ghusl or Taharat Al-Kubrah (the greater purification).

These have been commanded by Allah, Most High, in the Qur’an,

“0 you who believe! when you stand up for Salat, wash your faces and your hands up to the elbows, and wipe your heads, and wash your feet up to the ankles. And if you are in sexual defilement, then purify yourselves”.(5:6)

This verse makes the performance of purification obligatory (i.e. compulsory) before Salat.

Al Wudu’ (Ablution)

The process of performing Al-Wudu’ is as follows:

  1. Make the niyyah (intention) i.e. to declare in the mind the wish to perform Al-Wudu’.
  2. Mention the name of Allah by saying”Bismillahir-Rahmanir-Raheem” (in the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful).
  3. Wash both hands up to the wrists together three times, ensuring that every part including between the fingers is wetted by water.
  4. Taking a handful of water into the mouth, rinse the mouth. Then run the first finger through the mouth. Repeat both these procedures. Then have a third rinse of the mouth,
  5. Snuff water contained in the right palm into the nose and then eject the water with the left hand (thrice).
  6. Wash the face, ear to ear, forehead to chin, three times.
  7. Wash the right arm thoroughly from wrist to elbow three times. Repeat the same with the left hand.
  8. Run moistened hands over the head from the forehead to the back and back to the forehead (once).
  9. Run moistened fingers through the ears, the first finger of each hand going across the inside of the corresponding ear, while the thumb run!; across the outside (once).
  10. Wash both feet up to the ankles starting from the right and ensuring that all parts particularly between the toes are wetted. If you had performed complete taharah, including washing the feet before putting on your stockings, it is not necessary to remove them when you want to repeat the performance of Al-Wudu’. It is enough to wipe over the stockinged feet with wet hands.
  11. The process ends with the recitation of the Kalimat Ash-Shahadah, “Ashhadu an la ilaha ilallah washhadu anna Muhammadan rasulullah”.

Note: It should be noted that some cosmetics like lipstick, nail varnish, and make-up bases, which are water repellent-and are allowed for a woman’s use provided they are seen only by her husband or very close relations-invalidate Al- Wudu’. They must be completely removed before performing Al-Wudu’, so that water can reach the natural parts.

A fresh performance of Al-Wudu’ is necessary if one breaks wind, pays a visit to the lavatory, or falls into sleep, lying down, or touches the genitals, or becomes sexually excited, or vomits violently, or incurs a flow of blood from an injury, or a flow of prostatic fluid.

Al-Ghusl (The Washing)

The greater purification, Al-Ghusl, is obligatory when one is defiled as a result of nocturnal emission (or a wet dream), marital intercourse, childbirth, or when entering into the fold of Islam.

The procedure is as follows:

  1. Make the niyyah (intention) of performing Al-Ghusl.
  2. Begin with the name of Allah as for Al-Wudu’.
  3. Wash the hands and the affected parts of the body with water to remove any defilement,
  4. Perform Al-Wudu’ as above.
  5. Then pour water above your head three times. It is compulsory to ensure that water reaches the roots of the hair. Provided this is so, it is not necessary to loosen any plaits of hair.
  6. Next pour water over the right side of the body, rubbing firmly over all the parts. Repeat with the left side. Do the same with the front and the back. Water must reach every part of the body. Avoid touching the genital organ after Al-Wudu; if your hand comes in contact with it, repeat Al-Wudu’.

Tayammum (Dry Ablution)

On certain occasions, it may become either impossible (e.g. when water cannot be found or just enough for drinking is available), or dangerous, because of illness, to use water for Al-Wudu’ or Al-Ghusl.

In such situations, At-Tayammum (dry ablution) is performed. The procedure is:

  1. Make the niyyah (intention) of performing tayammum.
  2. Begin with the name of Allah.
  3. Strike both palms on sand, or anything containing sand or dust, like a wall.
  4. Rub the face with the palms.
  5. Strike the sand, etc., again with the palms. Rub the right hand with the left palm from the wrist to the elbow and similarly for the left hand with the right palm.
  6. Finish with the Kalimat As-Shahadah as for Al-Wudu’.

It is to be noted that throughout all these processes of purification, it is most important to occupy the mind with thoughts of the Almighty. This is what gives life to these observances. Otherwise, they become empty mechanical gestures.

‘Uthman reported Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, as saying,“if anyone performs the ablution well, his sins will come out of his body even coming out from under his nails”.