The Times of the Obligatory Prayers and the Number of their Rak’ahs
The obligatory prayers are five in number. They are:
- The dawn prayer (salaat-ul-Fajr): consists of two rak’ahs, starts with the coming of dawn until the sky starts to become yellowish. The time for the Fajr prayer lasts until sunrise.
- The noon prayer (salaat-udh-Dhuhr): consists of four rak’ahs, starts from after midday until mid-afternoon, when an object’s shadow is about the same length as the object itself.
- The afternoon prayer (salaat-ul-Asr): consists of four rak’ahs begins from the time when the length of one’s shadow is equal to one’s height, until the sun begins to change colour before sunset. The time of Asr prayer lasts until just before sunset.
- The sunset prayer (salaat-ul-Maghrib): conssts of three rak’ahs begins immediately after sunset. The time of the Maghrib prayer lasts until the twilight disappears. The twilight is the soft glowing light tom the sky when the sun has already set.
- The late evening prayer (salaat-ul-Isha): consist of four rak’ahs, begins with the disappearance of the twilight and continues up to half the night.
The number of rak’ahs to be performed in each of the five daily obligatory prayers adds up to a daily total of seventeen rak’ahs. Fifty prayers were made obligatory on Muslims on the night when the Prophet (pbuh) was taken on his heavenly journey (the Miraaj). The number was then brought down to five. due to Allah’s Great Mercy and Wisdom.
These are the established voluntary prayers which the Prophet (pbuh) regularly performed in combination with the five obligatory prayers. They are:
- Two rak’ahs before the Fajr prayer.
- Four rak’ahs before the Dhuhr prayer.
- Two rak’ahs after the Dhuhr prayer.
- Two rak’ahs after the Maghrib prayer.
- Two rak’ahs after the Isha prayer.
The Witr Prayer
Al-witr prayer is a necessary Sunnah, and Muslim should not leave it at all. The time for al-witr extends from the Isha prayer until shortly before the Fajr prayer. It is better to perform it in the last part of the night, unless one fears one would not be able to wake up late to do it.
The Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh) is to pray two rak’ahs at a time after the Isha prayer, up to ten akahs, then to pray the witr which consists of one rak’ah. In performing this prayer, a Muslim has two options: if he so wishes, he may perform it with a single tasleemah at the end of the third rakah. If he prefers, he may split it into two parts: making one tasleemah after two rak’ahs, and another after the single rakah that concludes the witr. (The word tasleemah refers to the act of turning the head to the right and saying ‘Assalaamu alaikum wa rahmatullaah’ then turning the head to the left and repeating the same words.)
In the rak’ah of the witr, the Prophet (pbuh) frequently recited Surat al-Ikhlas (Surah 112) after Surat al-Fatihah, and only occasionally recited Surat al-Falaq (Surah 113), and Surat an-Naas (Surah 114) along with Surat al-Ikhlaas.