What’s The Difference Between Dua & Salah?

14 May, 2020
Q Can anyone explain to me the different types of prayers, when they are done and what is said for each one in English and Arabic? I have heard of there being a normal kind of prayer, like Christians or anyone does when they talk to God, and another type which must be in Arabic. Can you explain this to me?


Short Answer: 

  • Yes, there are different types of prayerDua is supplication, which can be described as an intimate conversation with God any time, day or night, in any language.
  • Then there is salah, which is a ritualistic sort of prayer to be performed five times a day, and in Arabic, for the sake of uniformity among Muslims.
  • But the important thing to remember is to take things slowly, one prayer (salah) at a time, and don’t be too hard on yourself.


Thank you for your question.

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In Islam, when we talk about prayer, two things could be meant.

Dua: Any-time Supplication to Allah

The first that comes to mind of many converts is what a Muslim would call dua or supplication. This is when we ask God for our wants and needs.

There are many supplications that we are encouraged to say because the Prophet Muhammad, as well as other prophets like Abraham and Moses (peace be upon all of them), said them and they are the best examples of how we should ask our Lord.

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To find the dua from the prophetic tradition and the occasions on which these dua are said, you can check out Hisnul Muslim (the Fortress of the Muslim).

While these traditional duas are wonderful to say, that doesn’t mean that this is the only way to make dua. You can supplicate, ask, make dua to your Creator at any time in any language.  

Allah says in the Quran: 

And your Rabb (Cherisher and Sustainer) said: Invoke Me (i.e. believe in My Oneness) (and ask Me for anything) I will respond to your (supplication) […] (Quran 40:60)

Salah: The Ritual 5-times-a-day Prayers

The second kind of prayer in Islam is called the “salat” or “salah.” This refers to the five daily prayers.

It is a pillar on which we build our faith. This is a prayer that has set times, movements, and words to say. 

This video gives instructions on how one prepares for and prays. 

During prayer, we recite the first chapter of the Quran called Surah (chapter) al Fatiha (the opening). It is a very short chapter consisting of only seven short verses.

It can be tricky for a new Muslim to learn how to recite this in Arabic. But it is not impossible. 

Listen to Surah al Fatiha recited many times. I assure you it will become like second nature. You will learn it the same way you learned to memorize your favorite songs.

You can also check out this article that gives the exact directions on what to say in Arabic, how to pronounce it in and what it means in English, what to do during the pray, and how many units (rakah) per prayer. 

Prayer is a Lifelong Journey

Just remember that learning and perfecting our prayer is a lifelong journey. Don’t rush yourself.

Take it one prayer at a time, one day at a time. All you can do is the best you can do and Allah knows you are trying.

The good news is that if you are struggling, you are getting double the reward. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

Verily the one who recites the Quran beautifully, smoothly, and precisely, he will be in the company of the noble and obedient angels. And as for the one who recites with difficulty, stammering or stumbling through its verses, then he will have twice that reward. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

So, there is no need to stress when you are getting a two for one deal right now. Just take it easy and try your best.

May Allah make all affairs easy for you and grant you success in this life and the next.

I hope this helps. Please let us know if you have any more questions.