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Published: April 26th 2009
In traditional Sunni Islam, the Five Pillars of Islam (أركان الإسلام) is the term given to the five duties incumbent on every Muslim.
These duties are Shahada (Profession of Faith), Salat (Prayers), Zakat (Giving of Alms), Sawm (Fasting during Ramadan) and Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca).
Salah is the name for the obligatory prayers that are performed five times a day, and are a direct link between the worshipper and God.
There is no hierarchical authority in Islam and there are no priests. Prayers are led by a learned person who knows the Qur'an and is generally chosen by the congregation.
Prayers are said at dawn, mid-day, late-afternoon, sunset and nightfall, and thus determine the rhythm of the entire day. These five prescribed prayers contain verses from the Qur'an, and are said in Arabic, the language of the Revelation.
Personal supplications, however, can be offered in one's own language and at any time.
To a visitor to Saudi, it is the pillar of prayer that is strikingly obvious in the daily life of the Saudi people, and the millions of Foreign Muslims as well.
All World Religions of “the Book” and of “Abraham” - Islam,
My neighborhood mosque at night
Lit from the inside during prayer
Judaism, and Christianity, have ageless traditions of regular periods of prayer.
The Jewish tradition would have at least three periods /day, but Orthodoxy would prescribe an additional two periods.
And while Christianity teaches one should pray always, the example of Jesus and the Apostles up to the modern day religious orders prescribe prayer periods of five times daily. In the Rule of Saint Benedict, written in the early 500s, we hear of eight prayer periods: Matins or Vigils, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline.
What is so strikingly different in the way Islamic prayer is practiced in Saudi Arabia is the radical obedience an entire nation submits itself to when the call to pray is heard. And it is heard in the urban areas—every neighborhood mosque - (one for every ½ square mile it seems) has a loudspeaker system with a cantor calling out at the times of prayer.
It was strange to hear at first as I walked to breakfast or lunch, but it has since become a soothing sound—a time that reminds me to settle down, and remember what is truly important in life.
It was the same when I watched
My new prayer rug
Notice the Kaabab at the top of the rug-designating where the head is to be placed during prayer
the Benedictine monks drop what they were doing and move instinctively to prayer. But to see an entire nation stop to pray has left a mark on me I hope I don’t forget.
To be dining, and then see all the shades pulled down, and no one allowed in or out for twenty minutes during prayer--this is reaching into the market-place.
I am not talking about dogma or differing beliefs-I am struck by nothing less than a visual demonstration of a commitment to a particular way of life ordered around conviction and faith.
Although it is preferable to worship together in a mosque, a Muslim may pray almost anywhere, such as in fields, offices, factories and universities.
One day, I was at a large corporate office, bustling with important looking people. A large man was at the reception desk helping me find my cab. Almost in the middle of a sentence, he turned from me, pulled his shoes off, laid a small rug on the ground, kneeled on it, then prostrated himself as he mumbled words from the Qur’an ( I assume) and then repeated this several times.
My sponsor Ismail (you cannot enter Saudi
Direction to Mecca
This is on the ceiling of my room, to help point one in the direction to pray
without an official sponsor) was meeting with me about some very urgent matters-needing some action quickly. During our conversation he looked at me squarely in my eyes and said “Bob, we have to stop now—I have to pray. It’s 2:00 pm and I have not yet prayed. I have to pray now. Please, go and come back in 20 minutes”.
Each salat (PERIOD OF PRAYER) is performed facing towards the Kaaba in Mecca
The Kaaba is a cuboidal building in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and is the most sacred site in Islam. The building is more than two thousand years old and according to Islamic tradition the first building at the site was built by Abraham (Ibrahim). The building has a mosque built around it, the Masjid al-Haram. All Muslims around the world face towards the Kaaba during prayers, no matter where they are.
In every room in the housing unit I am in, there is an arrow on the ceiling with a picture of the Kaaba in the arrow. This is to aid Muslim visitors in their religious duty to pray facing Mecca five times daily.
I have purchased a prayer rug of my own. I
The Kaaba in Mecca
The destination of the Hajj-or pilgramage--the fifth pillar of Islam
believe that peace begins with a sincere curiosity, appreciation, and desire to understand the traditions cultures, and point of view of others, without compromising your own beliefs and traditions.
That is why I point my prayer rug in the direction of Jerusalem. - Solidarity with other Faiths in prayer, while staying committed to my particular faith tradition.
Salat is intended to focus the mind on Allah; it is seen as a personal communication with Allah, expressing gratitude and worship.
According to the Qur'an, the benefit of prayer “restrains from shameful and evil deeds”. I better get my rug out!
All prayers should be conducted within the prescribed time period (waqt) While the prayers may be made at any point within the waqt, it is considered best to begin them as soon as possible after the call to prayer is heard.
This would make conducting two-day workshops a little more complicated. Time has to be built into the schedule for noon and mid-afternoon prayer, or you will simply lose your class!
In every business building I have been in, there are designated prayer rooms. When you walk by these rooms at prayer
time, you hear the gentle men murmuring prayers of worship and supplication to their God. You see rows of shoes outside the door, for they are now on holy ground.
Mosques are within walking distance no matter where you are in the urban areas. Even so, I have watched gardeners stop trimming bushes and drop to their knees to pray.
Today, I was relaxing at the compound’s pool after working out. It was 105 degrees today, and the pool was full of children. A group of adolescent boys were rough-housing around the ropes, and getting whistled at regularly by the life-guards’.
Suddenly the group, numbering around 8 boys between the ages of 9-12 jumped out of the pool, grabbed their beach towels, and in the corner of the pool area formed an area in the shape of an arrow with their towels. One of the older boys kneeled down at the front towel, and two rows of boys neatly followed in ordered rows behind. It took less than 30 seconds for these young buys to order themselves to pray.
They alternated from kneeling to prostrate several times in Unison. Then, as abruptly as it started,
the prayer time finished, their prayer rugs turned back into beach towels again, and the youthful devout became wild-eyed boys in the pool .
Some may call the Saudi prayer life fanatic, others being more generous may say ”it’s a bit much”, but to the Saudi’, the Pillar of prayer is a core value—like getting dressed in the morning. “It’s just what we do”.
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