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glo
09-01-2007, 04:28 AM
So I have a thing about prayer and I am starting another thread on this topic ... :D

Personally, I mostly pray free-style (if that expression makes sense) - just freely conversing with God, usually without following any prescribed prayer (in words or format).

I guess from my Catholic childhood I have come to associate prescribed prayer with the risk of the eyes glazing over and the mind switching off ... :uhwhat :-[

I am aware that many posters here from all kinds of religions and faiths will use prescribed prayer.
Can you share what you feel the benefits are?
How you stay focussed? Perhaps it even helps you to stay focussed?
What kind of prayers you like best?
How prescribed prayer aids you to connect with God?
etc, etc

(I am not sure if the term 'prescribed prayer' is the most appropriate, but it seems to be the best I can come up with. I hope you all know what I mean by it ...)

Peace
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Abdul Fattah
09-01-2007, 02:24 PM
Hi Glo
Nice question. First of all I would like to begin by pointing out that Muslims are free to do "free-style" prayer as much as they desire. We would see that as "dua" then. In fact it's even encouraged to do so. So by being prescribed a prescribed prayer (salah) which doesn't only have subscribed times but also subscribed actions and supplications, we don't "loose" any of the benefits that free-style prayer might have. In fact one could argue that we have only gained something extra trough these prescribed prayers.

Now if your question is, what are the benefits of a subscribed prayer over a free-style one. Well I would have to say Allah subhana wa ta'ala knows best. He has knowledge of the unseen. He knows what's best for us. So I think it's very wise of him to subscribe us a prayer that is best for us. Just like a doctor subscribes a medicine that he knows is best (as opposed to saying: here's my medicine-cabinet, just pick whichever color of pill pleases you most).

To answer your question more in detail, I shall try to list some benefits that a prescribed prayer might have over a free-style one. Of course this is incredibly difficult. Because for each charesteristic or feature that I list, one could answer: "Well I can do that in a free style prayer to, right?". Of course you can, the point is; will most people do that if it's not prescribed?

*Each prayer is made up out of a number of "rakath". In each rakath one has to recite Al-fatih. That means a Muslim who prays the 5 mandatory prayers ends up reciting Al-fatiha at least 17 times a day. The Prophet (pbuh) said Al-fatiha has great benefits when recited and it contains the whole Qur'an.
*During each rakath one prostrates himself before God. The prophet (peace be upon him) said that in that position one is closest to Allah Subhana wa ta'ala. It also reminds us to remain humble.
*During each rakath one asks for forgiveness. Now one might ask: "What if you haven't done anything wrong?" Well, we always done something wrong. We aren't flawless :)
*After each second or ending rakaath we make a supplication reminding us of tawheed (oneness of God). And we make the testimony of faith (shahada). *After the ending rakaath. We make dua to Allah subhana wa ta'ala for the prophet (peace be upon him) thus reminding ourselves of his position.
*At the end of prayer we salute the two angels who are with us all the time. One of them writes down all our bad deeds, the other writes down our good deeds. By saluting them we are reminded of their presence, and thus of the record they keep.

These are just some of the points, there's many more, and probably many benefits we don't even realize. Like I said, Allah subhana wa ta'ala knows best.
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glo
09-01-2007, 04:14 PM
Thanks for your informative post, Steve. That's been really helpful.

I have read other threads, in which people have commented on finding it difficult to stay focussed during Salah, without their mind wandering off to other places.
It reminds me of going to church with my mother not so long ago to participate in saying the rosary (a prescribed repetition of the Lord's Prayer and Hail Mary), in this instance spoken aloud in a group.
My mother promised me that it was going to be a great spiritual experience, providing I could stay focussed. I have to admit that I didn't ... suddenly my mind was overwhelmed with all kind of thoughts ... and a barely paid attention to the prayer. :uhwhat

Do you personally find distractions a problem? If so, how do you deal with them?

Thanks
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Md Mashud
09-01-2007, 04:25 PM
Several points that I would like to address with the following statements.

When you have prescribed 5 prayers a day, this is ofcourse to benefit oneself and not God - Somtimes people wonder why God needs us to pray 5 times a day, simply he doesn't, its for our own good.

The benefits, are simply, the rememberance of God. Fear is what keeps people away from temptations. Like, for example fear of going to jail may make one stay away from stealing. However if he sometimes loses control and loses focus of that fear, he may end up ignoring the consequences and may indeed indulge in filth.

Likewise, being aware of God makes you a better person in that - every action must be thought of that God is watching, things that countries Law could not do - E.g. being careful about intention, doing stuff without others visions - not backbiting/slardering/lying etc. Praying 5 times a day simply keeps you aware of God's presence and inshallah keeps you away from temptations and wrongdoings.

Distraction, hmm, best way to avoid this is to really clear your mind - if you have too much on mind then you will be easily distracted.
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Abdul Fattah
09-01-2007, 04:54 PM
Originally Posted by glo
Thanks for your informative post, Steve. That's been really helpful.

I have read other threads, in which people have commented on finding it difficult to stay focussed during Salah, without their mind wandering off to other places.
It reminds me of going to church with my mother not so long ago to participate in saying the rosary (a prescribed repetition of the Lord's Prayer and Hail Mary), in this instance spoken aloud in a group.
My mother promised me that it was going to be a great spiritual experience, providing I could stay focussed. I have to admit that I didn't ... suddenly my mind was overwhelmed with all kind of thoughts ... and a barely paid attention to the prayer. :uhwhat

Do you personally find distractions a problem? If so, how do you deal with them?

Thanks
Yes distraction is a huge problem. We believe it to be shaytan who tries to destroy our prayer. I've even heard of suicide cases of people who couldn't cope with that :(
If you believe Islam is true, then obviously you believe that Shaytan is not pleased with you being a muslim. And that also means you believe that shaytan will work allot harder to destroy our prayer.

How we deal with it: First of all, we seek refuge with God against shaytan at the beginning of our prayer.
Secondly we try not to indulge our mind with futile questions that we know serve no purpose either way. that is one of the methods of Shaytan to derail our attention.
Thirdly we make extra supplication or dua. If you make a habit of doing some extra prayers every time you are bothered, then shaytan will see that the end result of bothering you will only make you a better person hence defeating the purpose of bothering you in the first place.
Another things is, we have a special prostration, which is called the forgetfulness prostration. It can be done at the end of prayer in case one has forgotten certain mandatory parts of prayer or if one doubts whether he has done them or not. That makes it easier a lot and makes people less stressed out about doing it right (since they know there's no harm in making a mistake and it can easily be rectified)
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glo
09-01-2007, 08:30 PM
Originally Posted by Abdul Fattah
Another things is, we have a special prostration, which is called the forgetfulness prostration. It can be done at the end of prayer in case one has forgotten certain mandatory parts of prayer or if one doubts whether he has done them or not. That makes it easier a lot and makes people less stressed out about doing it right (since they know there's no harm in making a mistake and it can easily be rectified)
That's interesting.
I have come across threads here at LI, which indicate that some people (usually new reverts) get anxious about getting the prayer wrong. Whilst I can understand the desire to please God, I imagine that such anxiety and stress must be somewhat counter-productive when it comes to prayer ...

How about a sense of God's presence during prayer? Is that something Muslims give importance? Or is the purpose of prayer solely to please and obey God?

Thanks, Mashud and Steve for your replies.
Are there any non-Muslims who would like to share their views on/experiences with prescribed prayer?

Thanks :)
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Abdul Fattah
09-01-2007, 09:47 PM
Originally Posted by glo
That's interesting.
I have come across threads here at LI, which indicate that some people (usually new reverts) get anxious about getting the prayer wrong. Whilst I can understand the desire to please God, I imagine that such anxiety and stress must be somewhat counter-productive when it comes to prayer ...
Yes it's definitely counterproductive. That's why that forgetfulness prostration is so important to know of. and usually once a person starts implementing that, the anxiety goes down a lot.

How about a sense of God's presence during prayer? Is that something Muslims give importance? Or is the purpose of prayer solely to please and obey God?
There's a term called ihsan, it means "perfection" or "excellence". There is a hadeeth reported by muslim and bukhari:
Volume 1, Book 2, Number 47:

Narrated Abu Huraira:

One day while the Prophet was sitting in the company of some people, (The angel) Gabriel came and asked, "What is faith?" Allah's Apostle replied, 'Faith is to believe in Allah, His angels, (the) meeting with Him, His Apostles, and to believe in Resurrection." Then he further asked, "What is Islam?" Allah's Apostle replied, "To worship Allah Alone and none else, to offer prayers perfectly to pay the compulsory charity (Zakat) and to observe fasts during the month of Ramadan." Then he further asked, "What is Ihsan (perfection)?" Allah's Apostle replied, "To worship Allah as if you see Him, and if you cannot achieve this state of devotion then you must consider that He is looking at you." Then he further asked, "When will the Hour be established?" Allah's Apostle replied, "The answerer has no better knowledge than the questioner. But I will inform you about its portents.

1. When a slave (lady) gives birth to her master.

2. When the shepherds of black camels start boasting and competing with others in the construction of higher buildings. And the Hour is one of five things which nobody knows except Allah.

The Prophet then recited: "Verily, with Allah (Alone) is the knowledge of the Hour--." (31. 34) Then that man (Gabriel) left and the Prophet asked his companions to call him back, but they could not see him. Then the Prophet said, "That was Gabriel who came to teach the people their religion." Abu 'Abdullah said: He (the Prophet) considered all that as a part of faith.


Many people do have that sense a lot. In fact many many people cry during prayer. And I don't just mean a single tear dropping. I mean sopping like a little child trying to keep the noise down not to bother other people praying. I hear it in the mosque all the time and frequently have it myself.
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Malaikah
09-02-2007, 06:17 AM
Originally Posted by glo
I have read other threads, in which people have commented on finding it difficult to stay focussed during Salah, without their mind wandering off to other places.
:sl:

I think with many members on this forum, the issue is that the prayers are read in Arabic, and most people here do not understand Arabic, unfortunately, and I guess you can imagine how much easier it is to zone out!
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YusufNoor
09-02-2007, 10:22 PM
Originally Posted by glo
So I have a thing about prayer and I am starting another thread on this topic ... :D

Personally, I mostly pray free-style (if that expression makes sense) - just freely conversing with God, usually without following any prescribed prayer (in words or format).

I guess from my Catholic childhood I have come to associate prescribed prayer with the risk of the eyes glazing over and the mind switching off ... :uhwhat :-[

I am aware that many posters here from all kinds of religions and faiths will use prescribed prayer.
Can you share what you feel the benefits are?
How you stay focussed? Perhaps it even helps you to stay focussed?
What kind of prayers you like best?
How prescribed prayer aids you to connect with God?
etc, etc

(I am not sure if the term 'prescribed prayer' is the most appropriate, but it seems to be the best I can come up with. I hope you all know what I mean by it ...)

Peace
Peace be upon those who follow guidance,

Hi Glo!

regarding staying focused, Muslims are supposed to use a sutra. a sutra is an item that you place just ahead of your place of prostration; you can use it as a focus point. it also informs others that you are indeed praying.


free style prayer more closely resemble what we call a du'a, although there ARE du'as straight from the Qur'an and Ahadith.

benefits of praying: we have 5 mandatory prayers, plus at least 3 others are highly recommended. they are

Tahajud - an odd number of rakahs, done before --->
Fajr 2 rakahs done about 2 hours or and hour before sunrise---->
another 2 rakahs at least 30 minutes after sunrise---->
which some also call the midmorning prayer of 2 to 12 rakahs---->
Duhr - 4 rakahs just after noon----->
Asr- 4 rakahs about mid afternoon----->
no prayers until----->
Magrib - 3 rakahs just after sunset and then----->
Esha - 4 rakahs about 2 hours after Magrib, and then---->
Witr - an even number of rakahs just before you go to bed.

if you make wudu and go to the masjid for each of the 5 Fard prayers, then you are spending close to 2 hours EVERDAY in prayer! so you will find it a little bit harder to do things that you aren't supposed to as some of them can nullify your payers :scared: ; so sinning is kind of wasting your time!

in prayer, there are places where you CAN make du'a; such as standing in Qiyama, whilst bowing in ruku, while in sujjud (prostration) - said to be the best time, or while sitting between sajdahs or at the end of prayer!

you may also make du'a outside of prayer and there are times that are consider better for them such as in the last third of the night, after the Azzan( the call for prayer) but before Iqama(when you actually line up for prayer) as some of the better times.

now, in EVERY rakah of Salat, we say the Surat Al Fatihah, which is in itself, part du'a! here's a little of the ibn Kathir Tafseer on the Surah:


(And indeed, We have bestowed upon you the seven Mathani) (seven repeatedly recited verses), (i.e. Surat Al-Fatihah) (15:87). Allah knows best.
Allah, the Exalted, said, `I have divided the prayer (Al-Fatihah) into two halves between Myself and My servant, and My servant shall have what he asks for.' If he says,
[الْحَمْدُ للَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَـلَمِينَ ]
(All praise and thanks be to Allah, the Lord of existence.)
Allah says, `My servant has praised Me.' When the servant says,
[الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ ]
(The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.)
Allah says, `My servant has glorified Me.' When he says,
[مَـلِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ ]
(The Owner of the Day of Recompense.) Allah says, `My servant has glorified Me,' or `My servant has related all matters to Me.' When he says,
[إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ ]
(You (alone) we worship, and You (alone) we ask for help.) Allah says, `This is between Me and My servant, and My servant shall acquire what he sought.' When he says,
[اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ - صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلاَ الضَّآلِّينَ ]
(Guide us to the straight path. The way of those on whom You have granted Your grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your anger, nor of those who went astray), Allah says, `This is for My servant, and My servant shall acquire what he asked for.').''
These are the words of An-Nasa'i, while both Muslim and An-Nasa'i collected the following wording, "A half of it is for Me and a half for My servant, and My servant shall acquire what he asked for.

the blue parts are the English translation.

we are also encourage to learn the 99 names of Allah(swt) and use the one that has the meaning for the specific du'a we might be making.

also, because the standing, bowing, standing, prostrating, sitting and then prostrating of each rakah, ther is a benefit similar to yoga and the prostrating is said to clear the air out of the bottom of the lungs!

wudu, the ritual cleaning also has many benefits but i bet i already wrote more than you expected! :giggling:

peace
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Abu Zakariya
09-02-2007, 11:03 PM
As for God's presence, we've been told by our Prophet sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam that God is actually in front of us during prayer (obviously this has to be understood in the context that He is still above His throne, but that is another issue).

The Prophet sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam also related that God remembers us when we remember Him and that He mentions us when we mention Him, so there's always this sense that God is present during prayer.

And of course, we also know that the prayer isn't a monologue on our part, rather God responds to what we say in al-Fatiha (the opening chapter of the Qur'an). So when we, for instance, say "All the praise and thanks be to God, Lord of all that exists", He answers: "My servant has praised Me", etc.

Not only that, but the angels are also present during the prayer. Here is a hadith about this:

When the servant of God uses the Miswak (type of tooth-brush) and then performs the prayer, an angel stands behind him, listening attentively to the recitation of the Qur'an. The angels draws closer and closer to the reciter and places his mouth on the mouth of the reciter. Thus every word emanating from the mouth of the one praying enters the angel's mouth. Therefore, maintain your mouth pure and clean for the Qur'an. (I havent found the source for this hadith, but here's a similar one with the source: “When one of you gets up to pray at night, let him use a siwak (to clean his teeth), because when he recites during the prayer, the angel puts his mouth over his, so that nothing leaves his mouth but will enter into the angel's mouth.” (sahih) by Shaikh al-Albani (al-Bayhaqi and others)

From a personal perspective, the prescribed prayer means so much to me since I really do feel closer to God when performing it and it combines all kinds of types of worship. I recite from the Words of God, I praise Him, I bow down to Him, I supplicate to Him, I seek help from and refuge with Him, I seek comfort in Him, I prostrate to Him etc. The Prophet sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam used to say to the caller to prayer "give us comfort by the prayer" and he explained that the prayer is the "coolness of his eyes". And as God says in the Qur'an: "O you who believe, seek help with patience and prayer, for God is with those who patiently persevere". I'm going to do a shameless plug but there are a few videos on my YouTube account where you can see the prayer performed and the recitation of the Qur'an translated so you can see why I love it so much. Here's a small sample (it's only about 2 minutes so it's really short):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WK1yjTvzSLU

As for difficulties maintaining the concentration, here is a great article about this (I really recommend this):

http://alternativeentertainment.word...in-the-prayer/
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MustafaMc
09-03-2007, 03:07 AM
First, I will have to say that other Muslims have already answered well.

Can you share what you feel the benefits are? For me prayer is an opportunity to leave my daily activities for 5-10 min 5 times a day. I often work at the computer and most of the time I work even while eating lunch. Noon prayer is an opportunity for me to leave all worldly concerns if only for a few moments.

Prayer in Islam is a religous duty, an obligation, that leaves one's spiritual account deficient if it is not properly fulfilled. Proper means: time, ritual cleansing, intention, direction to face, various prescribed positions/actions, prescribed words in Arabic, and recite portions of Quran in Arabic.

How you stay focussed? The best way for me is to actively think of the meaning of each verse. I recite in Arabic, but I think in English. We Muslims have no mental image of Allah, I find it difficult to focus in praying to an unseen God. I try my best to know that Allah sees me in prayer even though I don't see Him.

Perhaps it even helps you to stay focussed? ????

What kind of prayers you like best? I like the Eid prayers best. I live in an area where there are very few Muslims. I really enjoy going twice a year to a larger city like Memphis, TN to pray with a larger congregation of Muslims.

How prescribed prayer aids you to connect with God? I make my personal supplications to Allah during prostrations of the prescribed or ritual prayers. Praying 5 times a day reminds me that I am accountable before Allah and it leads me to avoid sins that I likely would otherwise commit.
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glo
09-03-2007, 05:58 AM
Originally Posted by Abdul Fattah
Many people do have that sense a lot. In fact many many people cry during prayer. And I don't just mean a single tear dropping. I mean sopping like a little child trying to keep the noise down not to bother other people praying. I hear it in the mosque all the time and frequently have it myself.
I agree that being moved by the Spirit of God is a wonderful thing. :)
Sometimes God just brings me to my knees in awe, or he touches my heart to stir up feelings of love, joy, sadness or repentance.
Originally Posted by MustafaMc
First, I will have to say that other Muslims have already answered well.

Can you share what you feel the benefits are? For me prayer is an opportunity to leave my daily activities for 5-10 min 5 times a day. I often work at the computer and most of the time I work even while eating lunch. Noon prayer is an opportunity for me to leave all worldly concerns if only for a few moments.
I can relate to that, Mustafa.
Focussing our attention on God throughout the day is so important.

Whenever possible I leave the office over lunch time to go for a walk, during which I can switch off from work, pray and spend time with the Lord. I always notice when I have not had that time away.

May the peace of God be with you all.
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Michael
09-03-2007, 09:14 AM
In the Orthodox Church we have a lot of prescribed prayer. The first prescribed prayer was written by Christ Himself and is called the "Lord's Prayer" or the "Our Father". The "Trisagion Prayers" are often used to start morning, noon and evening prayers. We have many prayers that were written by saints.

We also have what are called the "Hours" or the "Divine Office". They are services said during the day at various times with a priest presiding (although there are versions that can be read by laypeople). The Hours are a large part of monastic life, with the monastic community revolving around the daily hours of prayer.

The eight Hours are:

Hesperinos (sunset/evening prayer)
Apodeipnon (bedtime prayer, lit. "after-supper")
Mesonyktikon (midnight prayer, usually only observed in monasteries)
Orthros (morning prayer, prayed at dawn)
Prōtē Hōra (first hour, prayed at around 7am)
Tritē Hōra (third hour, prayed around 9am)
Hektē Hōra (sixth hour, prayed at noon)
Ennatē Hōra (ninth hour, prayed at around 3pm)

However, in most parish churches, the only hours that will usually be offered (if they are offered at all!) are Orthros and Hesperinos. On Saturday evenings and on the evenings before great feasts, Hesperinos, Orthros and the First Hour are combined in the Vigil service, usually practiced in Slavic (Russian, Ukranian, Serbian, Bulgarian, etc) churches.
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Michael
09-03-2007, 09:19 AM
Oh, and Orthodox Christians also repeat the prayer "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner" very often. There are knotted prayer ropes called 'komboskini' in Greek or 'chotki' in Russian to help one keep track of the number of times the prayer has been said. They usually come in 33 knot, 50 knot and 100 knot varieties.
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MustafaMc
09-03-2007, 11:49 AM
Originally Posted by Michael
Oh, and Orthodox Christians also repeat the prayer "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner" very often. There are knotted prayer ropes called 'komboskini' in Greek or 'chotki' in Russian to help one keep track of the number of times the prayer has been said. They usually come in 33 knot, 50 knot and 100 knot varieties.
I imagine these Orthodox prayer ropes are similar to Catholic rosary beads and dhikr beads some Muslims use. Dhikr beads are used after prayer to keep track of the 33 times that Subhan'Allah (Glory to Allah), Alhamdulillah (All Praise be to Allah) and Allahu Akbar (Allah is Great) are said after prayer. I believe that dhikr beads are an innovation that Muslims should avoid. Personally, I touch the joints of my fingers [(3+3+3+2)X3] with my thumb to keep count.
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MustafaMc
09-03-2007, 12:08 PM
Originally Posted by Michael
The eight Hours are:

Hesperinos (sunset/evening prayer) Maghrib
Apodeipnon (bedtime prayer, lit. "after-supper") Isha
Mesonyktikon (midnight prayer, usually only observed in monasteries) Tahajjud (optional)
Orthros (morning prayer, prayed at dawn) Fajr
Prōtē Hōra (first hour, prayed at around 7am)
Tritē Hōra (third hour, prayed around 9am) Duha (optional)
Hektē Hōra (sixth hour, prayed at noon) Zhur
Ennatē Hōra (ninth hour, prayed at around 3pm) Asr
Interesting how there is similarity with timing of Islamic prayers indicated in blue.
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Michael
09-03-2007, 06:36 PM
What are Tahajjud and Duha? I've never heard of these before.

I think I remember reading somewhere that prayer is forbidden from sunrise until the sun reaches its zenith.
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Abu Zakariya
09-03-2007, 06:58 PM
Tahhajud is the optional prayer that one can pray during the night, usually during the last third when everybody else is sleeping (so that you pray only for God when no one is there to see you, and not to show off). There are a lot of verses in the Qur'an about the tahajjud, here is one:

And during night, prostrate yourself to Him (i.e. the offering of Maghrib and 'Ishâ' prayers), and glorify Him a long night through (i.e. tahajjud prayer). (Al-Insan 76:26)

As for Duha prayer, it is also an optional prayer. The time of this prayer is, as the late Islamic scholar ibn Uthaymin explained it, from a quarter of an hour after the sun has risen until ten minutes before Noon prayer. So you can't pray exactly when the sun is rising, you have to wait about 15 minutes then you can pray.
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MustafaMc
09-03-2007, 07:17 PM
Originally Posted by Michael
What are Tahajjud and Duha? I've never heard of these before.

I think I remember reading somewhere that prayer is forbidden from sunrise until the sun reaches its zenith.
From Wikipedia

Duha (Chasht)
Chasht prayer comprises at least two rakaat and at the most twelve. Its time begins after sunrise and ends at meridian. It is better to offer Salaatul Duha (Chasht) when one-fourth of the day comes off.

Tahajjud, also known as the "night prayer" is a voluntary prayer, performed by followers of Islam. It is not one of the five obligatory prayers required of all Muslims, yet still, Muhammad is recorded as performing it many times and encouraging his companions to offer it for its many rewards and benefits.

From "Islam in Focus"
Forbidden times for prayer
1. When sun is rising
2. When sun at zenith
3. When sun is setting

There are other prayers including Jumu'ah - Friday congregational, 'Id - festival 2X/year, Tarawih - nightly during Ramadaan, Janazah - funeral.
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Michael
09-04-2007, 12:49 AM
Originally Posted by MustafaMc
Forbidden times for prayer
1. When sun is rising
2. When sun at zenith
3. When sun is setting
That's what I'd heard. Thanks for clarifying it!
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