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in category Fiqh (Jurisprudence)

What are the different kinds of prayer that Muslims practice?

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Islamic researcher, graduated from Al-Azhar University, Islamic Studies in the English Language. I also studied at Temple University in the US.
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In a Nutshell:
Muslims pray five obligatory (fard) daily prayers; they also pray other recommended (mandub) prayers that differ in rank and reward (thawab) - those prayed by the prophet regularly are known as sunnah prayers and one can perform as many supererogatory prayers with them as they wish.
In addition to the daily prayers, there are congregational weekly Friday prayers, bi-annual Eid prayers, funeral prayers and evening Taraweeh prayers during Ramadan.

Obligatory Prayers

Obligatory prayersare five prayers performed each day. 1- al-Fajr prayer, it is two rak'ahs (individual units of prayer) performed in darkness at the end of the night. 2- adh-Dhuhr prayer, it is four rak'ahs performed at midday. 3- al-'Asr prayer, it is four rak'ahs performed afternoon. 4- al-Maghrib prayer, it is three rak'ahs performed after sunset. 5- al-Ishaa' prayer, vit is four rak'ahs performed in the evening. 

Voluntary Prayers

Sunan rawatib:

They are 12 prayers formed regularly by the Prophet (saw): four rak'ahs before adh-Dhuhr prayer and two rak'ahs after, two rak'ahs after al-Maghrib, two rak'ahs after al-'Ishaa', and two rak'ahs before al-Fajr. The Prophet (saw) said:

ما مِنْ عَبْدٍ مُسْلِمٍ يُصَلِّي لِلَّهِ كُلَّ يَوْمٍ ثِنْتَىْ عَشْرَةَ رَكْعَةً تَطَوُّعًا غَيْرَ فَرِيضَةٍ إِلاَّ بَنَى اللَّهُ لَهُ بَيْتًا فِي الْجَنَّةِ.

"If any Muslim servant (of Allah) prays for the sake of Allah twelve rak'ahs (of Sunan) every day, over and above the obligatory ones, Allah will build for him a house in Paradise." (Sahih Muslim 728 c.)


Voluntary Prayers Which are not Rawatib:

1. Night prayer with witr (one rak'ah): This is 1-13 rak'ahs performed anytime between al-Ishaa' and al-Fajr prayers. It is performed in congregations in the month of Ramadan (taraweeh: optional night prayer). The Prophet (saw) said:

أفْضَلُ الصَّلاةِ بَعْدَ الفَرِيضَةِ، صَلاةُ اللَّيْلِ

"the most excellent prayer after what is prescribed is prayer during the night." (Sahih Muslim 1163 a.)

اجْعَلُوا آخِرَ صَلاَتِكُمْ بِاللَّيْلِ وِتْرًا

"Make witr as your last prayer at night." (Sahih al-Bukhari 998.)

2. Al-Duha prayer: Comprises 2/4 rak'ahs, its performance time begins after sunrise and ends at meridian. Abu Hurayrah (ra) said:

أَوْصَانِي خَلِيلِي صلى الله عليه وسلم بِثَلاَثٍ بِصِيَامِ ثَلاَثَةِ أَيَّامٍ مِنْ كُلِّ شَهْرٍ وَرَكْعَتَىِ الضُّحَى وَأَنْ أُوتِرَ قَبْلَ أَنْ أَرْقُدَ.

"My friend (Prophet Muhammad saw) has instructed me to do three things: three fasts during every month, two rak'ahs of the forenoon prayer, and observing witr prayer before going to bed." (Sahih Muslim 721 a.)

3. Two Rak'ahs after entering the Masjid: The Prophet (saw) said:

إذا دخل أحدكم المسجد فلا يجلس حتى يصلي ركعتين.

"When anyone of you enters the mosque, he should perform two Rak'ah (of voluntary prayer) before sitting." (Al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

4. Two rak'ahs after performing ablution (wudu'): The Prophet (saw) said:

مَا مِنْ مُسْلِمٍ يَتَوَضَّأُ فَيُحْسِنُ وُضُوءَهُ ثُمَّ يَقُومُ فَيُصَلِّي رَكْعَتَيْنِ مُقْبِلٌ عَلَيْهِمَا بِقَلْبِهِ وَوَجْهِهِ إِلاَّ وَجَبَتْ لَهُ الْجَنَّةُ ‏

"If any Muslim performs ablution well, then stands and prays two rak'ahs setting about them with his heart as well as his face, Paradise would be guaranteed to him." (Sahih Muslim 234a.)

5. Prayers of the Two Feasts: They are two congregational prayers performed in the morning of Id al-Addha and Id al-Fittr. It is, in the Hanbali madhhab, a sufficiency duty (fardd kifayah), if a group of Muslims performed and the rest did not, it is no sin for them.


6. Guidance prayer (salat al-Istikharah): Two rak'ahs performed when a Muslim wants to do a good matter asking Allah to guide him to the best choice. The Prophet said:

 إِذَا هَمَّ أَحَدُكُمْ بِالأَمْرِ فَلْيَرْكَعْ رَكْعَتَيْنِ مِنْ غَيْرِ الْفَرِيضَةِ ثُمَّ لِيَقُلِ اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْتَخِيرُكَ بِعِلْمِكَ، وَأَسْتَقْدِرُكَ بِقُدْرَتِكَ، وَأَسْأَلُكَ مِنْ فَضْلِكَ، فَإِنَّكَ تَقْدِرُ وَلاَ أَقْدِرُ، وَتَعْلَمُ وَلاَ أَعْلَمُ، وَأَنْتَ عَلاَّمُ الْغُيُوبِ، اللَّهُمَّ فَإِنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ هَذَا الأَمْرَ ـ ثُمَّ تُسَمِّيهِ بِعَيْنِهِ ـ خَيْرًا لِي فِي عَاجِلِ أَمْرِي وَآجِلِهِ ـ قَالَ أَوْ فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي ـ فَاقْدُرْهُ لِي، وَيَسِّرْهُ لِي، ثُمَّ بَارِكْ لِي فِيهِ، اللَّهُمَّ وَإِنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّهُ شَرٌّ لِي فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي ـ أَوْ قَالَ فِي عَاجِلِ أَمْرِي وَآجِلِهِ ـ فَاصْرِفْنِي عَنْهُ، وَاقْدُرْ لِيَ الْخَيْرَ حَيْثُ كَانَ، ثُمَّ رَضِّنِي بِهِ.

"If anyone of you intends to do something, he should offer a two rak`ahs prayer other than the compulsory prayers, and after finishing it, he should say: O Allah! I consult You, for You have all knowledge, and appeal to You to support me with Your Power and ask for Your Bounty, for You are able to do things while I am not, and You know while I do not; and You are the Knower of the Unseen. O Allah If You know It this matter (name your matter) is good for me both at present and in the future, (or in my religion), in my this life and in the Hereafter, then fulfill it for me and make it easy for me, and then bestow Your Blessings on me in that matter. O Allah! If You know that this matter is not good for me in my religion, in my this life and in my coming Hereafter (or at present or in the future), then divert me from it and choose for me what is good wherever it may be, and make me be pleased with it." (Sahih al-Bukhari 7390.)

7. Lunar and Solar Eclipse prayers: They are congregational prayers with two rak'ahs performed during the lunar and solar eclipses with two ruku' (bows). The Prophet (saw) said:

إِنَّ الشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ آيَتَانِ مِنْ آيَاتِ اللَّهِ يُخَوِّفُ اللَّهُ بِهِمَا عِبَادَهُ وَإِنَّهُمَا لاَ يَنْكَسِفَانِ لِمَوْتِ أَحَدٍ مِنَ النَّاسِ فَإِذَا رَأَيْتُمْ مِنْهَا شَيْئًا فَصَلُّوا وَادْعُوا اللَّهَ حَتَّى يُكْشَفَ مَا بِكُمْ.

"Verily the sun and the moon are the two signs among the signs of Allah by which He frightens his servants and they do not eclipse on account of the death of any one of the people. So when you see anything about them, observe prayer, supplicate Allah till it is cleared from you." (Sahih Muslim 911 a.)

8. Prayer for rain: It is two rak'ahs performed in aridity times, Muslims ask Allah for rain. When the Prophet (saw) performed it, he supplicated:

 اللَّهُمَّ اسْقِ عِبَادَكَ وَبَهِيمَتَكَ وَانْشُرْ رَحْمَتَكَ وَأَحْىِ بَلَدَكَ الْمَيِّتَ ‏

"O Allah, give water to Your slaves and Your animals, and spread Your mercy, and give life to Your dead land." (Muwatta' Malik, Book 13, Hadith 453.)

9. Prayer of Penitence: It is two rak'ahs performed when a Muslim commits a sin asking Allah (swt) for forgiveness. The Prophet (saw) said:

مَا مِنْ رَجُلٍ يُذْنِبُ ذَنْبًا ثُمَّ يَقُومُ فَيَتَطَهَّرُ ثُمَّ يُصَلِّي ثُمَّ يَسْتَغْفِرُ اللَّهَ إِلاَّ غَفَرَ لَهُ ‏"‏ ‏.‏ ثُمَّ قَرَأَ هَذِهِ الآيَةَ ‏:‏ ‏(‏وَالَّذِينَ إِذَا فَعَلُوا فَاحِشَةً أَوْ ظَلَمُوا أَنْفُسَهُمْ ذَكَرُوا اللَّهَ فَاسْتَغْفَرُوا ‏)‏ إِلَى آخِرِ الآيَةِ.

"There is no man who commits a sin, then stands for purification, then performs Salat, then seeks forgiveness from Allah, except that Allah forgives him.' Then he recites this Ayah: Those who, when they have committed Fahishah or wronged themselves with evil, remember Allah... (3:135) until the end of the Ayah." (Jami' at-Tirmizi, Vol. 5, Book 44, Hadith 3006.)

10. Salat al-Hajah (Prayer of Need): Two rak'ahs performed in the times of need in order to ask Allah for help. It was narrated the Prophet (saw) used to supplicate during the time of trouble (in these words):

‏ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ الْعَظِيمُ الْحَلِيمُ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ رَبُّ الْعَرْشِ الْعَظِيمِ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ رَبُّ السَّمَوَاتِ وَرَبُّ الأَرْضِ وَرَبُّ الْعَرْشِ الْكَرِيمِ

"There is no god but Allah, the Great, the Tolerant, there is no god but Allah, the Lord of the Magnificent Throne There is no god but Allah, the Lord of the Heaven and the earth, the Lord of the Edifying Throne." (Sahih Muslim 2730 a.)

Conclusion

Muslims pray obligatory and voluntary prayers. These kinds of prayer elevate our ranks in Heavens, make up what we had missed in our duties, and bring us closer to Allah in our happy and dark days.

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