Prayer is a central part of many religions and is seen as a way to communicate with God. Within Islam there are two different kinds of prayer a Muslim can partake in. The first kind of prayer is an unstructured prayer that can be said anytime and in any place. The second type of prayer is more structured and is called the salat prayer.
Salat, the second pillar of Islam, has certain requirements an individual must fulfill in order to join in the prayer. The first, and probably most obvious requirement, is that the individual must already be a Muslim. The second is that the individual must perform specific ritual cleansing, also known as ablutions. Each time before anyone can perform the salat prayer they must be ritually clean which involves washing the feet, hands, and face of the individual among other ceremonial cleansing rituals. The third requirement is that the individual be modestly dressed, and for different cultures this may mean different things. For example, being modest in Afghanistan may require a woman to wear a full burqa, while in the United States it may simply mean wearing long sleeves and long pants. The fourth and last requirement is to face in the direction of Mecca before and during the salat prayer. The city of Mecca is significant because it is the city where Muhammad received his first revelation from God and is thus considered to be holy.
At each of the prayer times there is a call to prayer, or adhan. The adhan is usually done completely in Arabic and the same words are recited every time. The adhan is recited by a muezzin who calls the faithful to bear witness to God, to hurry to prayer, and to praise God. The muezzin will recite the adhan, or call to prayer, five times a day depending upon the setting of the sun and the season. These times fall around pre-dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset, and evening.
Today, there are web-sites that calculate the exact time an individual should pray the salat prayer. If, for whatever reason, the individual can not make it to one of the prayer times, they are allowed to finish whatever they are doing and then continue with the salat prayer. So, for example, if a Muslim student has to take a class during one of the prayer times, they are supposed to finish with their class and then proceed to perform the salat.
Prayer, the second pillar of Islam, is sacred and important to many other religions as well as to Islam. The power of prayer has been seen by many people around the world and continues to be the staple of many religions. The salat prayer is no exception. It continues to be a powerful testament of faith and devotion that the Muslim shows in their submission to God.