Salam Dear Brother,
Thank you for your simple, but important question and for contacting Ask About Islam.
I will only address the first part of your question, regarding the number of daily prayers in my answer.
Let me start by saying that there are many passages in the Quran, which directly order us to obey Allah and His messenger.
When we take Islam as our way of life, we are voluntarily surrendering to the commands of Allah and we are choosing to follow the practice (sunnah) of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
The Specific Prayer Times
Allah says in the Quran:
Establish prayer from the time the sun declines until the darkening of the night, and [the recital of] the Quran at dawn. Lo! The [recitation of] dawn Quran is certainly witnessed.) (Quran 17:78)
Then, from the time the sun declines, which is mid-day, until the darkening of the night, includes Zuhr (noon prayer), `Asr (afternoon prayer), Maghrib (sunset prayer) and `Ishaa’ (night prayer). Reciting Quran at dawn indicates the Fajr (early morning prayer).
These five prayers were revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) on theIsraa’ and Mi`raj, and were performed by him in their specified number of raq`aas. He also taught them to Muslims, who performed them in that sequence and form ever since.
There is no secret in the number of prayers. It is simply that they are related to the course of the day and relevant to the different states of nature (day and night) that are linked to the biological clock of any Muslim. Thus, the Muslim is in continued connection with God throughout the different phases of the day.
The day starts with Fajr (dawn) prayers, to renew the oath of worship and obedience. Then, the workday of a Muslim society should start after that. Zuhr is in the middle of the day, and ‘Asr is a bit later. As for Maghrib, it is with sunset and`Ishaa’ is when the night falls.
The prayer times are also related to the manners and times of rest in the social life. There are verses in the Quran, which say that before Fajr, after Zuhr and after`Ishaa’, the Muslim parents are allowed a time of privacy and that other family members should respect that.
Also, as a Muslim is encouraged to perform prayers with a group of Muslims (jama`a), these are also times of social gathering in mosques. Such gatherings, is where people can simply meet and discuss their communal affairs and grass root lobbying, for societal and also political causes.
The number of prayers is simply appropriate for such social structures, relations, neighborhood and community ties. It is also suitable for the special structure of worship, which connects the Muslim to his Creator throughout the long day.
In a modern economy, where family members are located in different areas and where the workplace introduces new forms of communication and personal relations, the times of prayers re-formulate these relations. They remind people of their relation to Allah and to each other as well.
Hence, the competitive capitalist atmosphere of modern businesses is rendered milder. The embedded values of submission to Allah and remembering the hereafter and socio-religious bond of Islam, keep the balance of a human self in tact.
One should read in our current global economy how the daily routine can result incorrosions of character. Herein, the wisdom and philosophy of the 5 daily prayers in Islam, gain new meanings and implications.
As, for the second part of your question, you can address it to our Fatwa section.
Thank you again for your question and please keep in touch.
(From AboutIslam’s archives)