Salah, the second of the Five Pillars, is prayer—a ritual, obligatory prayer carried out five specific times during the day.
1. Fajr—when the sky is filled with light but before actual sunrise
2. Zuhr—immediately after midday
3. Aasr—sometime between three and five o’clock in the afternoon
4. Maghrib—after sunset but before the onslaught of darkness
5. Eisha—any hour of darkness
Before prayer, worshippers must perform ghusl or wudu, the ritual cleansing of the body. This practice ensures that each person is ritually pure, a necessity for divine worship. Ghusl is the cleansing done after acts of great defilement, such as sexual intercourse.
While praying, all Muslims face the direction of Mecca.
The Bible gives examples of formal prayers. The Old Testament mentions morning and evening prayer (Exodus 29:39, Numbers 28:4). In the books of Psalms and Daniel, people practiced praying three times a day (Psalm 55:17, Daniel 6:11). Even the Psalmist prayed seven times a day (Psalm 119:164). We read in the New Testament book of Acts that the Apostles kept these times of prayer (Acts 3:1; 10:9; 16:13).
The Bible also delineates practices in keeping with reverence: the removal of sandals upon holy ground (Exodus 3:5), washing the hands and the feet (Exodus 30:17-21; 40:30-32; 1 Samuel 16:5) and bathing the body (Leviticus 12:1-5; 14:8; 15; 17:15; Numbers 19:19). In the Bible, the focus is not on the act. The emphasis is on the purity of heart (Psalm 24:3-4; Isaiah 1:16-18; Matthew 15:1-20; Hebrew 10:22).
As for the direction of prayer, Muslims originally faced Jerusalem like Jewish people continue to practice (1 Kings 8:33; Daniel 6:11). However, Muslim leaders eventually changed the direction to Mecca for its worshippers.
In their prayers, Muslims miss the opportunity to speak to God as a friend. “Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend. Not that it is necessary in order to make known to God what we are, but in order to enable us to receive Him. Prayer does not bring God down to us, but brings us up to Him” (Steps to Christ 93). This truth is vital for us to focus on in our prayers. Because Muslims do not often witness us praying, they do not consider us a very spiritual people. Let us invite Muslims to pray with us whenever we mingle with them.
Thank you for your heart for the Muslim people.