The functions performed in a Prayer are categorised according to their relative importance.
Those which are so essential that without them the Prayer cannot be considered valid, are called Fard, i.e. obligatory, mandatory or compulsory.
If Fard constituent parts are not carried out, the Prayer becomes null and void. However, in case a worshipper does not perform that part because he completely forgot about it, the Prayer will be held valid in the sight of Allah. If he had forgotten at the time but remembers it either during the Prayer or after the Prayer, or if someone reminds him of his omission, then he should rectify the omission by performing the function that has been missed and then perform the Sujud-us-Sahv, i.e. two prostrations by way of condonement. These compulsory functions are as follows:
Takbir-i-Tahrimah: To say Allahu Akbar to begin the Prayer.
Qiyam: The posture of Standing.
Ruku‘: The posture of Bowing down.
Sajdah: The posture of Prostrating. The above are the common features of every Rak‘at.
The Final Qa‘dah: The last long sitting position before ending the Prayer. This feature is not repeated in every Rak‘at.
Recitation of Surah Al-Fatihah: The recitation of Surah Al-Fatihah is also essential in every Rak‘at.
When the Imam is leading the congregation, the loud recitation of Surah Al-Fatihah is compulsory in the first two Rak‘at of the following Prayers:
Fajr Prayer, which comprises two Rak‘at.
Maghrib Prayer, which comprises three Rak‘at.
‘Isha’ Prayer, which comprises four Rak‘at.
Note: If the recitation of some portion of the Holy Quran is not done in the first two Rak‘at, the Rak‘at will not be invalidated, but on remembering this mistake, the two Sujud-us-Sahv become essential to validate the Prayer. If the Imam forgets to recite Surah Al-Fatihah aloud and also the additional verses of the Holy Quran in any Rak‘at, and he is reminded of this before he goes to the Bowing position, he should complete this function by reciting Surah Al-Fatihah as well as the verses of the Holy Quran and then go into Ruku‘. In this case no prostrations of condonement are necessary. However, if he has led the congregation into Ruku‘ and then remembers his mistake, the repetition of the function, i.e. the recitation of Surah Al-Fatihah and the verses of the Holy Quran, is not needed. Only two Prostrations of condonement are enough to make the Prayer valid.
The Wajibat (essential or necessary parts) is the second category. These are the parts which, if left out wilfully, will invalidate the Prayer, but if forgotten and remembered afterwards, may be condoned by offering two Prostrations of condonement towards the end of the Prayer. The Prostrations of condonement are deemed sufficient to rectify the mistake and the missed function is not repeated in this case. The Wajibat of the Prayer are as follows:
The recitation of a portion of the Holy Quran after reciting Surah Al-Fatihah in the first two Rak‘at of the Fard part of the Prayer and in all Sunnat and Nawafil Prayers.
Standing erect after Ruku‘, technically called Qaumah. Note: Qiyam is a Fard part, i.e. is compulsory, while Qaumah is Wajib i.e. essential or necessary.
Jilsah, the sitting position between two prostrations.
Short sitting position after completing the first two Rak‘at (not the final Qa‘dah).
Recite Tashahhud, i.e. At-tahiyyatu Lillahi was-Salawatu… in Qa‘dah position.
For the Imam to recite Surah Al-Fatihah and a portion of the Holy Quran audibly in the first two Rak‘at of Fajr, Maghrib, ‘Isha’, Jumu‘ah and ‘Id Prayers, and to recite the same silently in Zuhr and ‘Asr Prayers.
Tartib, i.e. to perform various Fard and Wajib parts of the Salat in their appropriate order.
Ta‘dil i.e. to perform all parts of the Prayer with dignity and respect. In other words the Salat (Prayer) should be offered with full concentration and without any haste.
To turn the face to the right and to the left, saying Assalamu ‘Alaikum wa Rahmatullah, to mark the end of the Prayer.
For the Imam to say Takbir-i-Tahrimah aloud.
All other parts of the Salat, besides the Fard and Wajib constituents, are either Sunnat or Mustahab factors. The worshipper should strictly adhere to all the Sunnat and Mustahab parts of the Salat and should not omit any of them without any good reason. However, no prostrations of condonement are performed if any of the Sunnat or Mustahab parts are omitted. The Sunnat parts of the Salat (Prayer) are as follows:
To raise the hands up to the ear lobes when reciting Takbir-i-Tahrimah.
Folding of arms in Qiyam position.
To recite Thana’.
To recite Ta‘awwudh before reciting Surah Al-Fatihah.
To say Amin at the end of Surah Al-Fatihah.
To say Allahu Akbar while going to Ruku‘.
To recite Subhana Rabbiyal ‘Azim at least three times in Ruku‘ position.
To say Sami‘allahu liman Hamidah while getting up from Ruku‘, and in case one is offering individual Prayer, to say Rabbana wa lakal Hamd. If one is following the Imam in a congregation, to say Rabbana wa lakal Hamd is the Practice of the Holy Prophet(sa).
To say Allahu Akbar while going into the position of Prostration and while getting up from the Prostration.
To say Subhana Rabbiyal A‘la at least three times during the Prostration.
To recite the prescribed prayer during the Jilsah position.
To raise the forefinger of the right hand while reciting Ashhadu alla illaha Illallah.
To recite Durud and other prayers during the final Qa‘dah.
To recite Surah Al-Fatihah in the third and fourth Rak‘at.
For the Imam to say Allahu Akbar, and Sami‘allahu liman Hamidah, in an audible voice.
The following things, which pertain to the style and the carriage of Prayer, i.e. its beauty and its excellence, are entitled Mustahibbat of the Prayer. The term Mustahibbat means preferable and praiseworthy. Of course, they are not compulsory, essential or Sunnat parts of the Prayer. They are as follows:
To fix one’s gaze on the spot which will be touched by the head during prostration.
To place one’s hands on the knees with spread fingers while performing Ruku‘.
To leave one’s hands by one’s sides in Qaumah position.
To prostrate in such a manner that the knees touch the ground first, then the hands, the nose and the forehead.
To get up from the second Rak‘at after Prostration without any support.
To place one’s hands on one’s lap near the knees so that the fingers are spread towards the Qiblah.
To sit on the left foot in Qa‘dah and Jilsah position, and to plant the right foot in a way that the toes are towards the Qiblah.
After the recitation of Surah Al-Fatihah, the Quranic verses which are recited should be longer in the first Rak‘at as compared to the verses recited in the second Rak‘at.
For the worshipper who is following the Imam, to say Amin in an audible voice and to say Rabbana wa lakal Hamd in an inaudible voice.
These are acts which are undesirable, and are below the dignity of the Prayer. Prayer should always be offered with a consciousness that one is standing before one’s Lord. The Makruhat are:
To fiddle with one’s clothing.
To glance sideways or to the sky.
To keep the eyes closed.
To offer Prayer without any head dress.
Not to place one’s feet with toes towards the Qiblah during Prostration or to lift the feet from the ground in this position.
To start Prayer when one is hungry whilst food is laid on the table.
To continue the Prayer in spite of an urge to go to the toilet.
To pray in a cemetery while facing a grave.
To offer Prayer in very tight clothes so that one feels uncomfortable during the Prayer.
To pray in an unsuitable environment, e.g., in a stable, goat’s pen or in a noisy market place.
To stand with one’s weight shifted on to one leg alone or to do things which are below the dignity of the Prayer.
To pray in an open place without a Sutra. A Sutra is an object placed before the worshipper to mark the boundary of his Prayer.
To nod when someone says Assalamu ‘Alaikum during the Prayer.
To pray without washing one’s mouth after eating.
To change the order of Surahs in the Prayer, i.e. to recite Surahs which come later in the Quran in the first Rak‘at and the Surahs which appear earlier in the Holy Quran, in the following Rak‘at.
To place hands under the forehead while in prostration.
To rest one’s belly on things during prostration.
To spread one’s forearms on the ground while performing Sajdah.
To recite Quranic verses during Ruku‘ or Sajdah.
To go ahead of the Imam, i.e. to go into the next posture before the Imam.
Note 1: A worshipper is allowed to remove or kill any harmful insect in case he finds it close to where he is praying.
Note 2: The place of worship should be neat and clean and the air, as far as possible, should be free of any unpleasant odour. Every Muslim is enjoined to respect the dignity of the Prayer even if he is not praying himself. No one should in any way, e.g. by words of mouth or by his action, cause any worshipper discomfort or distraction. That is why it is not allowed to cross the path of a worshipper. This means that one should wait until the worshipper finishes his Prayer.
The following acts are incompatible with Prayer and invalidate Prayer if done:
When the ablution lapses.
Eating or drinking while offering Prayer.
To speak or to respond to anyone during Prayer.
To laugh during Prayer.
To turn the face to the right or to the left while praying.
If a person commits a mistake during Prayer, which affects the validity of the Prayer, e.g. if he is in doubt whether he has offered the prescribed number of Rak‘at, the Prostrations of condonement are necessary.
The Prostrations are offered after the recitation of Tashahhud, and Durud, and other prescribed prayers in the final Qa‘dah of the Prayer. Thus, after saying Allahu Akbar, two prostrations are performed, in which Subhana Rabbiyal A‘la is recited, then the Imam reverts back to Qa‘dah position and says Assalamu ‘Alaikum wa Rahmatullah turning his face towards the right and then towards the left, to mark the end of the Prayer.
If the Imam commits such a mistake which can be condoned by the Prostrations, then the whole congregation will have to perform those Prostrations of condonement. But if one of the followers commits a mistake while following the Imam, he is not required to perform the Prostrations of condonement.
If there is a doubt as to how many Rak‘at have been performed, then one should observe the rule of certainty, i.e. if the doubt is whether one has offered three or four Rak‘at, for instance, one should offer the fourth Rak‘at to be on the safe side though one might have offered it before.