Performing the five daily Salaat is an obligation on every Muslim. In fact, Salaah is the first deed that will be checked on the day of Resurrection. Abandoning Salaah totally is equivalent to Kufr (disbelieve). The Hadith narrates that the Prophet (pbuh) said: “The covenant between us [i.e the Prophet and his companions] and them [i.e those who claim to be Muslims] is the salaat, and whoever abandons it has disbelieved.” [Ahmed]
Due to the immense importance of this act of worship, it is important that Muslims know the correct way to do it, and the correct way being the way the Rasul (peace be upon him) used to pray. Here are some common mistakes made during Salaah.
1. Delaying the salaah from its appointed time – A true believer must respect and observe his prayers at their stated times, and must not delay without a valid excuse because it is a great sin. Allah says in the Quran 2:238: “Guard strictly (five obligatory) As-Salawat (the prayers) especially the middle Salat (i.e. Asr Prayers)”.
The Prophet (pbuh) said in a hadith narrated by Anas: “This is the salaat of the hypocrite (Munaafiq); when he sits observing the sun until it is between the two horns of the Shaitaan,then he stands to perform four raka’ah, remembering Allah little. [Muslim].
2. Lack of tranquillity – Salaah is a form of worship in which one communicates with Allah. That is why it’s very important that you maintain calmness, tranquillity and humility. One must not rush through salaah, but rather, you should observe each position in a respectful manner. To do this, make sure your bones settle properly, before moving on to the next position. Allah says in the Quran in Surah 23:1-2: “Successful indeed are the believers. Those who offer their salaah with all solemnity and full submissiveness”.
Therefore, make sure you get rid of all distractions when you are about to offer salat, and focus.
3. Making the intention for prayer aloud – This act is an innovation [bid’ah], and therefore against the Sunnah of Rasulullah (S.A.W). It is sufficient for the one who is about to pray to intend in his heart. There is absolutely no hadith or narration that says that the Prophet (pbuh) said anything except “Allahu Akbar” in the beginning of his prayer.
4. Carelessly reciting Fatihah or other surahs – Without the recitation of Surah Al Fatihah, your Salaah is invalid. Even if one is praying behind an Imam, you should recite Fatihah. But it is equally important that one recites it correctly; pronouncing each letter and each verse correctly. That is because Arabic language is a very sensitive language, and any slight mistake in pronunciation can change the entire meaning of the verse. Take a pause while reciting the Quran in Salaah.
5. Looking around unnecessarily – While in salaah, you must keep your eyes on the spot where you put your forehead in sujood (prostration). It is narrated by Jabi Ibn Samurah (RA) who said that the Prophet (pbuh) said: “Let the people stop raising their eyes to the sky in the salaah or let their sight not return to them.” [Muslim}
Another hadith by Tirmidhi said: “Be warned of turning or looking around in salah because it is destruction.”
6. Sitting on ones haunches – This act is forbidden. Abu Hurairah (R.A) narrated the hadith that said: “My dear friend forbade me three things: He forbade me from pecking like a rooster [just touching the head in prostration] , sitting on the hanches like a dog,and looking around like a fox.”
In another narration by Aisha (RA), the Prophet (pbuh) said: “If any of you prostrates (sajdah) then keep straight and do not spread his arms like the sitting of a dog.”
In another hadith The Prophet (P.B.U.H) said: “I am commanded to prostrate on seven bones the forehead and the nose, the two hands [palms], the two knees, and the two feet” [Muslim]
7. Wearing the wrong garments – A woman is expected to wear a garment that will cover her entire body save her face, palms and feet. The clothing should be loose and not see-through. A man should also cover his awrah; from his navel to his knees, and upwards to cover upto his shoulders. It should not be see-through.
8. Raising the voice in recitation to the point of distracting others – It is recommended that during salaah, one hears himself, but that does not mean you should raise your voice so high that you disturb other people around you. God does not like those who transgress limits.
9. Cracking the knuckles in Salaah – Although some scholars term this as based on a weak hadith, it is discouraged and so it should be avoided.
10. Moving ahead of the Imam in congregational prayer – You are not in a race with the Imam, so avoid rushing ahead of him. The hadith says: “Surely the imam is there to be followed”. [Muslim]
11. Smelling bad – One should take proper care of his appearance and his scent when beginning salaah. You must remember that you are meeting with the most High Lord. The Prophet (P.B.U.H) said: “He who eats from the smelly plant [garlic or onion], let him come not near our mosque; the angels are bothered by that which bothers men” [Muslim]
There are many more rules concerning salaah, and you have taken the first step towards improving on your Prayers. May Allah accept our worship. Amin.
The Quran says Surah 2:45 : “And seek help in patience and As-Salat (the prayer) and truly it is extremely heavy and hard except for Al-Khashi’un [i.e the true believers in Allah-those who obey Allah with full submission, fear much from His Punishment, and believe in His Promise (Paradise etc) and in His Warnings (Hell, etc)]