Every Muslim, male or female, must offer at least five daily prayers in time, if there is no lawful reason for exemption, combination, or temporary delay, They are:
1. The Early Morning Prayer (Salatu-l-Fajr), which may be offered anytime after the dawn and before sunrise, a total period of about two hours.
2. The Noon Prayer (Salatu-l-Zuhr). This prayer may be offered anytime after the sun begins to decline from its Zenith until it is about midway on its course to setting. For example, if the sun sets at 7:00 p.m. the prayer time begins a little after 12:00 noon and continues until a little after 3:30 p.m. Soon after that, the time of next prayer begins. However, there are accurate calendars telling the time of each prayer. But if there is none available, one must resort to one’s best judgement.
3. The Mid-Afternoon Prayer (Salatu-l-‘Asr), which begins right after the expiration of the Noon Prayer time and extends to sunset.
4. The Sunset Prayer (Salatu-l-Maghrib). The time of this prayer begins immediately after sunset and extends till the red glow in the western horizon disappears. Normally it extends over a period of one hour and twenty to thirty minutes.
5. The Evening Prayer (Salatu-l-‘Isha’), which begins after the red glow in the western horizon disappears (nearly one hour and thirty minutes after sunset) and continues till a little before the dawn.
It is noticeable that Islam has set the times of prayers in such a way that our spiritual recreation remarkably coincides with our physical nourishment, and combines the peace of mind with the relaxation of the body. The Early Morning Prayer is due in the regular period of breakfast; the Noon Prayer coincides with the lunch period; the Mid-Afternoon Prayer falls about the breaktime for tea or coffee; the Sunset Prayer is about the supper time; and the Evening Prayer corresponds with the late snack. It is also noticeable that the Muslim, by observing these prayers, marks the whole day with a spiritual stamp in the beginning, at the end and throughout. So he combines religion and life, feels the presence of God within him throughout the day, concludes his daily transactions with a spiritual feeling and builds up his moral prestige on strong foundations. Moreover, in this way the Muslim introduces spiritual vitality into all aspects of his life, and religion presents itself to all fields of activity. It becomes effective in shops and offices, homes and farms, factories and plants. It extends its light to every circle of business and work. Indeed, this timetable of prayer is remarkable because it is the work of God and the product of Islam.
It is always preferable to offer the prayer as soon as the times sets in, lest some things cause unexpected delay or postponement. These prayers are Divine contests. The reward for those who pass the contests is immeasurable, and their delight is beyond imagination. The happiness they attain, the rejoicing they feel, and the honor they receive cannot be expressed in words. On the other hand, failure to participate in these contests is a punishable sin. It causes severe penalties, spiritual deprivation, mental agony, and social isolation.
The Noon (Zuhr) and the Afternoon (‘Asr) Prayers may be offered together, if a person is travelling or sick. The same permission is granted with regards to the Sunset (Maghrib) and the Evening (‘Isha) Prayers. In the first case, joining the prayers is of the advanced type. The Mid-Afternoon is actually offered before its due time and immediately follows the Noon prayer. In the second case, the combination is of the belated type. The Sunset prayer is actually offered after its due time but immediately before the Evening prayer. Such joining of prayers may alleviate the apprehension of the Muslims who cannot, for legitimate reasons (e.g. travel, work shifts, etc.), observe all their prayers in time.
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