Short Answer: The scholars teach us that the prayer has 14 pillars that must be completed for the prayer to be accepted. These include various steps and conditions of the prayer, including intention, focus, following the correct order according to the example of Prophet Muhammad, and more.
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Thank you for contacting About Islam. And thank you so much for this very essential question.
The Importance of Perfecting the Prayer
Indeed, the prayer is one of the most crucial acts that a Muslim should strive to do properly.
In an important hadith we learn that Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported that The Messenger of Allah said:
The first of man’s deeds for which he will be called to account on the Day of Resurrection will be salat [prayer]. If it is found to be perfect, he will be safe and successful; but if it is incomplete, he will be unfortunate and a loser. If any shortcoming is found in the obligatory salat, the Glorious and Exalted Rubb [God] will command to see whether His slave has offered any voluntary salat so that the obligatory salat may be made up by it. Then the rest of his actions will be treated in the same manner. (At- Tirmidhi)
So, how do we perfect the prayer and know that we have fulfilled all our duties?
Well, the scholars teach us that the prayer has 14 pillars that must be completed for the prayer to be accepted.
The 14 Pillars of Prayer
- Intention (setting the right intention for praying each prayer)
- The opening takbeer (saying ‘Allahu Akbar‘ at the beginning of prayer)
- The qiyam (standing upright if one has the ability to do so)
- Reciting Surat Al-Fatihah (Opening Chapter of the Quran) in each unit of prayer
- Rising from the bowing position
- Sitting between the two prostrations
- Sitting while reciting the last tashahhud
- The final tashahhud (reciting the testimony of faith)
- As-Salatu Ibrahimiya after tashahud (sending peace upon the Prophet)
- The tasleem (saying ‘Asalamu Alaikum‘ at the end of the prayer)
- Being calm and feeling at ease while fulfilling each movement is essential to give it its due right; making certain that each body part assumes the appropriate position before one moves from one position to another.
- Following the right order for each pillar as mentioned above.
The Benefit of Sunnah Prayers
So, the regular sunnah prayers are:
- 2 rak’as (units or prayer) before Fajr
- 4 rak’as before Duhr
- 2 rak’as after Duhr
- 2 rak’as after Maghrib
- 2 rak’as after Isha.
Hence, this makes a total of 12 rak’as apart from the obligatory ones.
It was narrated that Umm Habibah said that the The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:
Whoever prays twelve rak’ahs in a day apart from the obligatory prayers, Allah (SWT) will build for him, or there will be built for him, a house in Paradise. (Sunan an Nisa’i)
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(From Ask About Islam archives)
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