Number of Fard Salat
There are five obligatory prayers
Narrated Talha bin ‘Ubaidullah: “A man from Najd with unkempt hair came to Allah’s Apostle and we heard his loud voice but could not understand what he was saying, till he came near and then we came to know that he was asking about Islam. Allah’s Apostle said, “You have to offer prayers perfectly five times in a day and night (24 hours).” The man asked, “Is there any more (praying)?” Allah’s Apostle replied, “No, but if you want to offer the Nawafil prayers (you can).” Allah’s Apostle further said to him: “You have to observe fasts during the month of Ramad, an.” The man asked, “Is there any more fasting?” Allah’s Apostle replied, “No, but if you want to observe the Nawafil fasts (you can.)” Then Allah’s Apostle further said to him, “You have to pay the Zakat (obligatory charity).” The man asked, “Is there anything other than the Zakat for me to pay?” Allah’s Apostle replied, “No, unless you want to give alms of your own.” And then that man retreated saying, “By Allah! I will neither do less nor more than this [he was asking about the minimum].” Allah’s Apostle said, “If what he said is true, then he will be successful (i.e. he will be granted Paradise).” [Sahih Al-Bukhari]
Fajr (Dawn prayer): Two Rak’as. This Salah is called salat as-subh
Dhuhr (Noon prayer): Four Rak’as [first prayer, in congregation silent ]
Asr (Late Afternoon prayer): Four Rak’as [silent in congregation]
Maghrib (Sunset prayer): Three Rak’as
Isha (Night prayer): Four Rak’as
What is the secret behind the number of prayers [Salawaat] being 5 [5 in number and 50 in rewards]? Why are they spread out during the day?
Note: no scholar would be able to say exactly why they are five, and why are spread out during the day, so what we have are speculations. There isn’t a right or wrong answer. If we don’t know the wisdom then it is to test our obedience to the orders and commands of Allah (SWT).
The first Salah is Duhr [noon prayer] right when the sun moves out from the center of the sky—when you need a break to get some energy, and recharge from having worked since the morning to get you through the rest of the day. Then the second is Asr [late afternoon] right when we are finished with our daily obligations– farmers are leaving their field, we are leaving work [offices, schools etc]—and we praise Allah for getting us through work. Then comes Al Maghreb which is the end of day [end of daylight] and it is filled with anxiety and nervousness of the darkness of the night, so we pray to calm ourselves down and be in the protection of Allah (SWT). Then Comes Al Isha late at night, and it is a good ending to our day before we go to sleep, and before our souls are taken by Allah (SWT) [second death]. And then the fifth and last is Salat Al Fajr, and it is beginning of a new days and we praise Allah for having woken us from sleep [after taking our souls] and we ask for the blessings for the new day ahead, and charge ourselves to go out to the world and perform our duties and obligations, while still in remembrance of Allah and in His protection.
Another interpretation by scholars is:
The ingredients that make up a human being consist of 2 components—body and soul. If there is a body without a soul then you are a corpse—and indeed after someone dies, they are no longer mentioned by name but rather it is said “Where was the body found?” Likewise, a soul without a body is a ghost, a spirit.
The body is created from dirt—and its main source is the earth. And based on this if you would like to nurture and sustain this body, you would have to look for the same source to sustain it—the earth. Imagine if someone wants to nurture their bodies through meditation, spiritual retreat without eating for instance? That would not be logical. And how many meals are the average per day? 3 main meals but doctors recommend 5 small meals a day [some people cheat of course and eat more than that and snack in between of course] So likewise, the body needs the physical component of prayer to nourish its body—and that is 5 times a day.
The Prophet (saw) told us that the soul is from the heavens. When the fetus is developing in the womb, after 120 the angel comes and breaths the soul into the baby and write down four things. So, knowing that if the soul comes from the heavens—how can it be sustained? It’s sustenance has to come from the same source—food for the soul is not Soul Food as we know it down on earth, that kind of food is a stomach experience. So, we need something heavenly, and by the way music isn’t. You can get high on music, but it isn’t heavenly. Your divine link with Allah (SWT) is your heavenly experience. You worship Allah as if you see him [with the eyes of your heart], and although you do not see him with your own eyes you are certain that he sees you. So, if your body needs 3 meals—on average– to sustain itself, then your soul needs:
“ Establish regular prayers – at the sun´s decline till the darkness of the night, and the morning prayer and reading of Qur’an: for the prayer and reading of the Qur’an in the morning carry their testimony.” [Israa:78]
You can also have snacks [Nafl/involuntary/Sunnah] prayers in between, when you are spiritually hungry. So these prayers strengthen your spiritual growth. If you don’t pray five times a day, your soul can barely function.
Also, prayers/Salawaat organize your life. You wake up and renew your relationship with your Lord at the beginning of the day, in the mid day you need a soul snack, in the Duhr you want to praise Allah (SWT) to help you get through the atrocious day, and then Maghreb you are anxious with what the night brings, and then Isha is the end to your day and praise Allah for giving you life that day, and you end your day on a good note before your soul is taken temporarily.
Why are some prayers performed out loud in congregation, and some silent?
Living in postmodern world we have technology and our lives our different now because we stay up longer than those of the past. In the past, they lived natural lives—so they woke up with the rise of the sun and slept with its setting. You will realize that those prayers that are during the day when we and others are busy, the prayers are done silently so that others are not disturbed. Those that are done out loud in congregation are those prayers that are performed in the dark. If you are praying behind an Imam in Subh [Fajr], Isha and Maghrib his loud recitation awakens you and helps you focus on Salah [of course in the obligatory prayers that are done out loud, the first two Raka’as you follow the reading of the Imam] in the last two or one [in the case of Al Maghrib] you do on your own.
Why are there 3 Raka’as in Al Maghreb prayer? Witr means odd number, so Maghreb is the Witr of the day. All of these are interpretations of the scholars, are open for debate.
What is the ruling on Witr salat? It is performed after Salaat Al Isha [at the end of the Salawat of the day]. And the word Witr in Arabic means ‘odd number’ [i.e. 1, 3, 5, 7 etc.] . 2 opinions on the ruling on this prayer:
First opinion: It is a recommended Sunnnah—Sunnah Mu’akadah [this is by Maalik, Shafi’ee, and Ahmed]. Sunnah Mu’kadah—means that it is highly important and recommended but not obligatory. So not performing it won’t hold a person accountable, but will cause them to lose great rewards. The Prophet (saw) never missed it or skipped it, whether he was resident or travelling. Interestingly, he skipped the Sunnan when travelling but never the Witr. Missing it is a shame.
Abu Tamim al-Jishani relates that ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aas was addressing the people during a Friday Khutbah and he said: “Abu Basra related to me that the Prophet said: ‘Verily, Allah has added a prayer for you, and it is the witr prayer. Pray it between salatul ‘isha and salatul fajr.'” Abu Tamim said: “Abu Dharr took me by my hand and we went in the mosque to Abu Basra and [Abu Dharr] said: ‘Did you hear what ‘Amr just said from the Messenger of Allah?’ He answered: ‘I heard it from the Messenger of Allah!”‘
‘Ali says: “The witr prayer is not required like your obligatory prayers, but the Prophet would perform the witr prayer and say: ‘O you people [followers] of the Qur’an, perform the witr prayer, for Allah is one and He loves the witr.'” [ Ahmad, an-Nasa’i, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, at-Tirmidhi]
Ahmad, Abu Dawud, An-Nasa’i, and Ibn Majah record that Al-Mukhdaji [a person of the Kinana tribe] heard from one of the Ansar, nicknamed Abu Muhammad, that the witr prayer is obligatory. He went to ‘Ibadah ibn as-Samit and mentioned to him what Abu Muhammad had said. ‘Ibadah observed: “Abu Muhammad is mistaken for I heard the Messenger of Allah say: ‘Five prayers are ordained by Allah for his slaves. Whoever fulfills them properly without any shortcoming, he will have a pact with Allah that He will admit him into paradise. Whoever does not do them, he will have no pact with Allah, and if He wills He may punish him and if He wills He may forgive him.'”
Ijtihad: Witr can be performed while one is riding his camel and obligatory Salah cannot be performed that way [today in a car for instance].
Second opinion [Abu Hanifah]: It is Wajeb [obligatory]. In the theory of law he makes a distinction between level of Wajeb [obligatory] and Fardh is highest obligation—and Wajeb is compulsory but not obligatory. Fardh has to be established by Qur’an or Mitawater Hadith. So sees it in such a light that if a person misses it when he can peform it, then he is sinning. Plus it doesn’t show a good character, and go to the extent of saying that his testimony is not accepted.