formal prayer (salah)

Table of contents for the topic formal prayer (salah)
  1. What to do if you cannot pray on time at school or work
  2. Can you start praying before all the athans are finished?
  3. Can a woman lead male family members in prayer if necessary?
  4. The difference between sunna and nafl
  5. Can a Muslim enter Paradise if they do not pray?
  6. Can you perform the prayer (salah) according to the Quran alone?
  7. Can you take breaks between prayers in Islam?
  8. Is not praying worse than adultery?
  9. How to achieve khushoo in salah
  10. The ruling on the prayer of an alcohol-drinker
  11. A woman’s prayer is still valid if part of her hair is unintentionally uncovered
  12. Is it permissible to write down prayer words when learning how to pray (salah)?
  13. The sunna prayer of dhuhr (ẓuhr) can be prayed in units of two or four
  14. On raising the hands during salah as a Hanafi
  15. On praying (making dua) during salah and whether one can do it in English
  16. Do Muslims need to make up prayers intentionally missed for years?
  17. How to pray on an airplane when you do not know the qibla
  18. What are the manners and rules of performing wudu and prayer?
  19. On intentionally delaying the isha prayer
  20. What to recite next after finishing salah
  21. When to stand up during the iqamah, at the beginning, a specific point or at the end?
  22. What to do if you make a mistake during salah (formal prayer)?
  23. Will one’s prayers be valid if they unknowingly make an error in them for a long period of time?
  24. How long can you delay the isha prayer?
  25. Raising and lowering the finger during salah (formal prayer)
  26. How soon are the sunnah prayers performed after the fard prayers?
  27. Why do different Muslims (such as Hanafis) follow different prayer timings?
  28. How to make up multiple missed prayers (salah)
  29. What to do if you have intentionally missed many days of prayers

What to do if you cannot pray on time at school or work

Salam. I live in a non Muslim country where prayer space is not provided in buildings and stuff. I have a job that makes me skip two prayers. Is there some other way I can pray my prayers?

According to a fatwa on IslamOnline (which is overseen by the respected Egyptian scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi), a person may combine the ẓuhr and ʿaṣr prayers and the maghrib and ʿishāʾ prayers if they have no other choice. You could perform the first two prayers at noon and the other two prayers at night. The prayers should be performed in full rather than shortened as is done when traveling.

Fatwas by the Qatari Fatwa Authority and the UAE Fatwa Authority also permit combining the prayers if a person has no choice.

Can you start praying before all the athans are finished?

The area that I'm in has many masjids and therefore has many azans. When one is finished I heard a few more being called. Do i have to wait till all masjids finish call to prayer or just listen out for one to be completed?

According to the Qatari Fatwa Authority it is permitted to pray once the athan of one of the mosques has finished if the athan was said at its proper time.


Can a woman lead male family members in prayer if necessary?

Assalamu alaykum. My father started to pray alhamdulillah. He knows nothing but Ikhlas so I'm guiding the prayer since he had struggles even remembering the number of rakaas and the words to say. Is the Salah accepted since I'm guiding and I'm a girl? Jazak Allahu khairan.

May Allah reward you both and increase you in guidance. There is an authentic hadith narrated by Imam Aḥmad, Abū Dawūd and others that mentions a woman named Umm Waraqa who was allowed by the Prophet to lead her family in prayer. The hadith in Abū Dawūd’s collection (vol 1, no. 218) mentions that there was an old man who gave the adhan and who presumably prayed behind her. Based on this hadith, some scholars permit women to lead men in prayer in times of necessity, for example when there is no man or boy who can do it out of a lack of knowledge.

Based on that hadith some scholars such as the 20th century Ḥanbalī scholar ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Qāsim say it is permitted for a woman to lead her family in prayer when it is necessary. Therefore what you are doing is acceptable according to their opinion until your father learns how to perform the prayer correctly.


  • ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Qāsim, Ḥashiyat al-Rawḍ al-Murabbaʿ, no publisher listed, 1397 AH (1976-1977 CE), vol. 2, 311.

The difference between sunna and nafl

Asalamalaykum, I was wondering if Tahajjud is permissible without first sleeping. As a student, who usually is busy studying during the night, can I still pray Tahajjud even if I have not slept to wake up? Also, when I make the intention of my Tahajjud namaz, are they followed as sunnat or nafl intention? Please let me know.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

Yes, that is permissible. People use “sunnat” to refer to voluntary good deeds and acts of worship. Nafl means voluntary act of worship. So the two in their common usage have generally the same meaning when they refer to acts of worship like prayer or fasting. There is no need to worry about intention; if your intention is to pray tahajjud, then that is sufficient for it.

Technically whether something is obligatory or voluntary, it is sunna because it is part of the Prophet’s tradition . But in common usage, people only use sunna to refer to voluntary deeds. When they use it like this, a sunna act of worship has the same meaning as a nafl act of worship. All nafl acts of worship are sunna unless they have been invented later, such as the communal tarāwīh prayers on Ramadan nights, which are nafl  prayers but since the Prophet did not perform such prayers communally, the communal part is not sunna.

For more on tahajjud please see my essay: Mysticism without Sufism: A Guide to Tahajjud, Islam’s Meditation Practice

Can a Muslim enter Paradise if they do not pray?

If a Muslim doesn't pray but they are a good person will they still go to jannah?

There is no simple answer to that question. According to a fatwa from IslamOnline, those who abandon the prayer are two types of people:

  • Those who abandon it because they reject the Quran’s teachings and do not consider its commandments binding. Such people are considered disbelievers/apostates by the majority of scholars and there is little hope that such people will be forgiven by God.
  • Those who abandon the prayer out of weakness of character, laziness, busyness with other things and being overwhelmed by worldly concerns and desires while feeling guilty about it and wishing that they prayed. Such a person is a great sinner but they are not disbelievers according to many scholar. Therefore there is more hope for them.

The first type of person rejects the prayer out of arrogance and pride (they think they know better than the Quran or that the Quran does not deserve to be followed), while the second type of person is not exactly rejecting the prayer but neglecting it.

The Quran says:

On the Day when the Shin will be exposed, and they will be called to bow down, but they will be unable. Their eyes subdued, shame will cover them. They were invited to bow down when they were sound. (The Quran, verses 68:42-43)

The Quran also makes abandoning the prayer a sign of disbelief:

And when it is said to them, “Kneel [in prayer]”, they do not kneel. Woe on that Day to the rejecters. (The Quran, verses 77:48-49)

However, we also have hadith narrations like the following:

A bedouin came to the Prophet (ﷺ) and asked him, "O Messenger of Allah, what are the two imperatives which lead to Paradise or Hell". He (ﷺ) replied, "He who dies without associating anything with Allah will enter Paradise, and he who dies associating partners with Allah will enter the Fire". (Sahih Muslim 92)

So that matter is not simple. A person who abandons the prayer exposes themselves to a great danger, but ultimately their judgment is with God and He will decide what to do about each individual.


Can you perform the prayer (salah) according to the Quran alone?

Assalamualaikum,I want to start namaz,but I want to make my namaz according to the Qur'an,I am not one that fits the sects,only the Qur'an, Allah and the Prophet.I see as my guide,the Quran is not mentioned very clearly from namaz, the number of rakats and prayers to be read is not said.So that's mean that I can do it on my own? Can I read which prayer I want and how many rakats I want to do? According to the sects the namaz confuses my mind and makes me forget that I worship Allah

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

There is no way to perform the prayer (namāz / ṣalāh) according to the Quran alone because God intentionally left out its details in order for us to learn it from the Prophet . The Quran says:

So obey God, and obey the Messenger. But if you turn away—it is only incumbent on Our Messenger to deliver the clear message. (The Quran, verse 64:12)

Think about why the details of the prayer are not in the Quran. God could have placed them in the Quran but He did not. The lesson from this is that we should rely on the non-Quranic evidence for finding out the details of the prayer. Of course the non-Quranic evidence is not perfect, but it is extremely unwise to just throw it all out because it is not perfect. It is imperfect, but there is sufficient guidance in it to teach you how to pray properly.

God does not ask you to do the impossible. Learn the prayer from a respected source and follow it and that is sufficient. But if you simply abandon the proper way to perform the prayer because the sources are not perfect then God will not accept this excuse of you. On the Day of Judgment He can always point to the hundreds of millions of Muslims who prayed properly because they humbly chose to follow the Prophet’s teachings rather than rejecting it just because there are differences about it.

You can check out the way the Maliki school performs the prayer (maybe get Asad Tarsin’s Being Muslim which follows the Maliki school). While the other schools are based on the Quran and hadith, the Maliki school follows something additional called ʿamal, which refers to the way the people of Medina practiced Islam during the time of Imam Malik (who lived one generation away from the Companions of Prophet Muhammad ). This ʿamal is information (recorded in Maliki sources like al-Muwaṭṭaʾ) about practicing Islam is taken from thousands of the descendants of the Companions who lived in Medina at that time and continued to practice Islam as it was taught to them by their parents and grandparents. Since this record is based on the actual practice of thousands of early Muslims rather than on transmitted hadiths, it does not suffer from any doubt on its authenticity simply because it is incredibly unlikely that thousands of people all continuously practicing Islam would somehow forget the proper way to do things like performing the prayer.

I do not consider myself a Maliki person exactly but I consider ʿamal a valid and important form of evidence on the proper way to practice Islam.

Can you take breaks between prayers in Islam?

AssalamuAlaikum, is it okay to take breaks between the units of prayer? I tend to get fatigued easily and find I need to wait before continuing. Also sau I have prayed 4 rakats of Isha and I leave to assist a family member in something quick before doing the next 4. Is that okay? I can't find any information online for this.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

You cannot take breaks within the prayers (as you seem to know already), but you can take breaks between them. A prayer that is 4 rakats cannot be broken up, but you can take a break before performing the voluntary prayer after that. And if you are performing tahajjud you can perform 2 rakats, take a break, then go on to perform the next 2 rakats.


Is not praying worse than adultery?

is neglecting to pray salat a worse sin than zina?

Some scholars, such as Ibn al-Qayyim, have said that. But there is no explicit evidence on this from the Quran or hadith. The reason they say that is because intentionally avoiding the prayer is out of arrogance and rebelliousness, while committing adultery is out of desire, and rebelliousness is considered a greater sin due to it being more intentional and cold-blooded.

But personally I recommend not speculating about which sin is greater. It is God’s business, and the judgment may differ with each specific case.

Reader question:

Selam aleykum! About the question if neglecting prayer is worse than zina - Praying is one of the five pillars of Islam, so shouldn't it be seen as a worse sin than adultery?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

It is not a simple comparison because adultery has more serious and long-lasting consequences, while a person may neglect the prayer due to suffering depression. Since human thought and motivation are so complex, we should leave it to God to judge each case according to all the relevant factors.

How to achieve khushoo in salah

How to do we get khushoo in our salah? Sometimes I feel like I'm not completely focused and I start thinking of things that aren't important.

I have found that my feeling of closeness to God outside the prayer is what matters most when it comes to whether I can focus on the prayer or not. And that closeness comes from performing an extra amount of worship every day. Staying close to God requires daily work. If last night I spent an hour reading or listening to the Quran, then today I can focus much better on the prayer and enjoy it more.

For more on performing extra worship see my essay: Mysticism without Sufism: A Guide to Tahajjud, Islam’s Meditation Practice

The ruling on the prayer of an alcohol-drinker

Beginning of summarized translated fatwa from the Jordanian Fatwa Authority

Question: There is a hadith that says the prayer of an alcohol-drinker will not be accepted for forty nights. Should such a person wait for forty days before coming back to the prayer?

Answer: Our advice to this alcohol-drinker is to fear God and to not let the faith he has to die out from his heart. His heart which desires prayer is a believer’s heart which feels the danger [of abandoning the prayer]. As for the hadith on the prayer of an alcohol-drinker not being accepted for forty days, it is narrated by ʿAmr b. al-ʿĀṣ that the Prophet said: “A man of my umma does not drink and have his prayer accepted for forty days.” (Narrated by al-Nasāʾī).

In this hadith there is no prohibition on the alcohol-drinker when it comes to praying. It is actually obligatory on him and required of him. The hadith tells us that he gets no reward from the prayer as a punishment for engaging in such a sinful thing. He is still required to pray and commits a tremendous sin by abandoning the prayer.

End of summarized translated fatwa

Source (Arabic PDF)

A woman’s prayer is still valid if part of her hair is unintentionally uncovered

The prayer is still valid and does not have to be redone.

According to Ibn Taymīya the prayer is only nullified if two conditions are true: if a highly inappropriate amount of the ʿawra (the part of the body that must be kept covered during prayer) is shown, and if that goes on for a long time (for the duration of the prayer or for most of it). Since a little hair is not a highly inappropriate amount, the first condition is not satisfied, so the prayer is still valid.

According to the Jordanian fatwa authority (representing the Shāfiʿī school, which is very strict in such matters), if the uncovered area is not immediately covered, the prayer is nullified.

According to the Egyptian fatwa authority (generally representing the opinions of the scholars of Al-Azhar University) the prayer is still valid as long as the area shown is not too much and as long as it is not out of gross negligence.

A fatwa on IslamWeb (managed by Qatar’s fatwa authority) dealing specifically with the issue of a woman unintentionally having some of her hair out during the prayer rules that it does not nullify the prayer even if it goes on for “a long time”, meaning for the duration of the whole prayer.

References (all in Arabic): Ibn Taymīya’s opinion | The Jordanian fatwa | The Egyptian fatwa | The Qatari fatwa

Is it permissible to write down prayer words when learning how to pray (salah)?

hey, I'm struggling with myself. I want to start praying , but i don't know how to pronounce the things. And the other thing is if I can't remember the sayings can I write it down and read it or is it not focusing on Allah and the praying then and when do I have to say sws?

It is universally accepted that a person can read from a book of Quran during the prayer, so I see no issue with reading the other parts of the prayer from a piece of paper until you learn them (but I cannot find official opinions on this). There is no issue with having difficulty pronouncing the words as it takes time to learn them, the Prophet says in regards to reciting the Quran (but it can be applied to the rest of the prayer as well):

The one who is proficient in the recitation of the Quran will be with the honorable scribes (the Angels) and he who recites the Quran and finds great difficulty in reciting it, doing his best to recite it in the best way possible, will have a double reward. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 65, Hadith 4937)

The sunna prayer of dhuhr (ẓuhr) can be prayed in units of two or four

I'm fairly new to praying and was wondering how should the four sunnah rakats before zuhr be prayed? I've heard it can either be four or two by two with two tasleems. Which method is correct?

Both of them are considered acceptable by the majority of scholars, but praying them in units of two has stronger evidence behind it.1

The Saudi-educated scholar Bilāl al-Sālimī (born 1970) has performed a detailed study of this issue in his book al-Ḥāfil fi Fiqh al-Nawāfil (2003) and his conclusion is that the evidence is overwhelmingly in support of praying the ẓuhr sunna prayer in units of two rather than four.

On raising the hands during salah as a Hanafi

As a Hanafi would it be wrong for me to raise my hands during salah?

The Hanafi opinion is that you shouldn’t do that, so if you respect the Hanafi school and try to follow their opinions then you shouldn’t raise your hand.

You may also research the topic yourself and follow the opinion that sounds best to you. In the past, the schools of jurisprudence (madhhabs) were like guilds. Those who belonged to a school had to act according to the scholars of that school in order to be accepted by the community around the school, and the scholars themselves had to strictly adhere to the school, otherwise would have lost their jobs as teachers in the madrasas and imams in school-associated mosques. But the guild-like nature of the schools has today disappeared in many parts of the world today, especially in large, cosmopolitan cities. People instead follow the opinions of the scholars they respect most without caring very much about the scholar’s school, and the scholars themselves often combine opinions from multiple schools.

Ideally, Muslims should follow the opinions that have the most reliable evidence behind them regardless of what school the opinion comes from. But we cannot all research each and every topic as that would take most of our time, so in general it is reasonable to follow the opinions of scholars you know and respect.

On praying (making dua) during salah and whether one can do it in English

What is the correct way to make dua during salah? For example if I wanted to make dua for someone or ask Allah for something how and when would i do that? I've been told saying it in English invalidates salah

There isn’t sufficient evidence from the Quran and the Sunnah to make a conclusive judgment about the issue of making dua in a non-Arabic language during salah.1 It doesn’t seem to me that there would be any harm in it. This only applies to additional duas a person adds to the salah, the salah’s required parts should be conducted in Arabic.

As for when to make dua during salah, it can be done during prostrations (rukūʿ and sujūd) after saying the required words. For example, when you are making sujūd, say the required part (subḥāna rabbī al-aʿlā or any variant you have been taught) then make any dua you want before getting up. You can also do it when get up after the first sujūd and before the second one. You can also do it after getting up from rukūʿ and saying samiʿa llāhu li-man ḥamida but before going down to sujūd. Another time is before saying the salām at the very end of the prayer.

Do Muslims need to make up prayers intentionally missed for years?

I have a question to ask and i don't really know where and whom to ask about it. So, I’ve been neglecting salah for 24 years of my life, I’ve started to pray fully 5x times a day and I’ve been wondering how do i replace all the salah that I’ve been neglecting before. How do i know the numbers to replace, and what should i do? From what i heard, even if you seek for His forgiveness, you still have to pay back all the salah that you’ve missed out. Same goes to fasting.

Short answer: No, you do not need to make up those missed prayers.

The opinion of the founders of the four schools (Malik, al-Shafi`i, Ahmad and Abu Hanifah) is that a Muslim should make up any prayers missed after puberty even if this amounts to decades worth of missed prayers. Their reasoning is that since the prayer is obligatory on every Muslim, a missed prayer is like debt that one has to pay back.

Comparing a missed prayer to debt is known as qiyas (‘analogy’). The Islamic texts do not give us any clear pointers toward whether a person who habitually abandons the prayer should make them all up or not, this is an issue that is never mentioned in the Quran or hadith.

Ibn Taymiyyah rejects the debt analogy and provides a better analogy, that of intentionally missing the Friday prayer. People who intentionally delay the Friday prayer by not performing it in its proper time are not allowed to hold the Friday prayer later on to make up for it. The Friday prayer has a set time and it is only valid during that time.

As for making up missed prayers, according to Ibn Taymiyyah this only applies to cases when one’s daily life is interrupted by something that prevents them from praying in its proper time. Those who intentionally abandon the prayer cannot make it up; they have sinned, and once they repent, they should simply resume a Muslim’s life.

If you miss the Friday prayer intentionally by praying at home, there is no way to make it up, you cannot go to extra Friday prayers since there is no such thing as extra Friday prayers. I think this might be Ibn Taymiyyah’s point regarding the Friday prayer analogy. It appears that in Ibn Taymiyyah’s view the prayer is like a train that you either catch or miss. If you miss it by performing it defectively (such as by praying the Friday prayer at home) or by simply abandoning it, then you miss the train and there is no way to get back on it, since the prayer for each time period belongs to that time period and cannot be prayed outside of it. The noon prayer for March 5, 2018 belongs to a set period in time (say 12:30 PM to 4:00 PM), if one intentionally misses the prayer belonging to this period of history, then there is no way for them to make it up (unless they get on a time machine).


Ibn Taymiyyah’s view seems more like common sense and is, of course, far more humane, therefore I prefer it.

Ibn Taymiyyah’s view regarding missed fasts is similar; if the fast is intentionally abandoned, one is not required to make it up.

How to pray on an airplane when you do not know the qibla

How do we actually perform our salah in the airplane without knowing the qibla?

You can pray in your seat facing directly ahead, since it is often difficult and inconvenient to pray out of the seat. And if it is possible and convenient, you can face in the direction of the qibla if you can determine where you are on the globe (some airplanes have a screen that shows your current location). If you know where you are, you’d face in the general direction of Mecca from that location.

Source: Ibn Baaz, fatwa 6293.


What are the manners and rules of performing wudu and prayer?

What are the manners and rules of performing wudu and prayer (for a female)?

Learning how to perform ablution and pray properly requires a lot of detail and I cannot give it in an answer or two. Please check out Asad Tarsin’s book Being Muslim: A Practical Guide, which mentions all the details of praying and other Islamic acts of worship, and inshaAllah you will find it highly useful.

On intentionally delaying the isha prayer

I've read that it's best to delay isha namaz I was wondering exactly how long should it be delayed for?

What to recite next after finishing salah

After finishing salah what should be reciting next? and are you meant to do dhikr after each fard prayer?

You can do various forms of dhikr or dua. The most common dhikr, which is done after every prayer, is to say subhanAllah 33 times, alhamdulillah 33 times, and allahu akbar 33 times, mentioned in Sahih Bukhari. You can also shorten these to ten each, aslo mentioned in Sahih Bukhari.

You can also recite any other dhikr words you know if you choose.

After that, you can perform dua, or stand up to pray the voluntary salah, if there is a voluntary salah associated with the obligatory one.

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