Making time to pray five times daily
March 21st, 2011
01:00 AM ET

Why do Muslims pray five times daily?

Editor's Note: CNN’s Soledad O’Brien chronicles the fight over a mosque’s construction in the heart of the Bible Belt. “Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door” airs at 8 p.m. ET March 27 on CNN.

Text by Soraya Salam, for CNN, photos by Angie Lovelace, CNN

ATLANTA, Georgia - It’s 6:00 a.m. The sun isn’t up yet, but Wahaaj Mohammed is.

He’s performing a ritual washing in preparation for his first prayer of the day. He’ll go on to pray four more times before the day is through, a practice called “salat” that many of the estimated 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide perform daily.

It’s a practice that Mohammed, a 21-year old recent graduate from the Georgia Institute of Technology, can’t imagine life without.

“It reminds you about God throughout your day,” he says. “At fixed intervals, no matter how busy you are, all of a sudden you have to take out a few minutes and you’re remembering, OK, why am I really here?”

“And while I was doing whatever I was doing, was I doing it in a manner pleasing to God?”

Praying five times a day is considered the second most important of Islam’s five pillars, after professing that there is no god worthy of worship but God and that the Prophet Mohammed is God’s messenger.

Each prayer includes a series of movements, supplications, and recitations from the Quran, Islam’s holy book, in its original Arabic.

Muslims consider prayer to be a spiritual and physical act, with various standing, bending, and prostrating postures symbolizing devotion to God.

“When you’re at your lowest point, your head is on the ground, you’re saying ‘Oh, praise to my God, the most high,’” says Mohammed, who was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. “It’s very humbling.”

Imam Zaid Shakir, co-founder of Zaytuna College - which is aiming to be the first accredited Muslim college in the United States - says salat symbolizes what Islam considers the purpose of creation: to worship God.

“As a human being, I have a physical body, I have an intellect, and I have a spirit, and the ritual prayer involves all three of those aspects,” says Shakir, who is also a professor of Islamic theology at Zaytuna.

“My entire being is involved in my prayer, and that symbolizes the dedication of my entire being to the service of my creator,” he says.

The first prayer, called “Fajr” is performed before sunrise; the second prayer, “Thuhr” comes just after noon; the third prayer, “Asr,” arrives during mid-afternoon; the fourth prayer, “Maghrib,” is just after sunset; and the last prayer, “Isha,” is performed at night.

These prayers are considered an obligation for every Muslim by the time he or she reaches puberty. Mohammed says he has rarely missed a prayer.


Before each prayer, Mohammed performs a ritual ablution, called “wudu.” The process involves washing the hands, face, arms and feet. Wudu symbolizes a state of physical and spiritual purity required to stand before God.

“There’s a saying (in Islam) that our external form impacts our internal state, just as our internal state has an impact on our external form,” says Shakir.

When Mohammed is away from home for a prayer, he washes up in a public restroom.

“You do feel kind of awkward,” he says. “And it usually happens, for whatever reason, that someone always walks in and your feet are in the sink and they’re thinking, ‘What’s this person doing?’”

Afterward, Mohammed finds a quiet, clean place to perform his prayer, during which he will face northeast towards the holiest site in Islam, the Kaaba. The cube-shaped building is located in Mecca, Saudi Arabia and, according to Islamic tradition, was built by the prophet Abraham and his son Ishmael.

“(Muslims) all pray in the same uniform way, wherever they are, whether they’re in India or Indonesia or Saudi Arabia or America or Japan,” Mohammed says. “They all pray in the same manner, facing the same direction.”

Mohammed raises his hands to shoulder level while reciting, “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is the greatest,” signaling the start of the prayer.

Making time

Mohammed often gets questioned about how he finds the time to pray so many times a day.

“I think it’s just where you put your priorities,” he says. “If you put (prayer) at a high level, then it’s not hard.”

As a college student, Mohammed would schedule his classes and social events around the prayers. He says they mostly take five to ten minutes to complete and that technology has made it easy for him to remember when to pray.

“When the prayer time starts, (my phone) sends me a text message,” he says. “I know a lot of people that have the iPhone app that gives a little alarm or a text or something. And some people even have the iPhone app that shows them the direction of the prayer.”

Zaytuna’s Shakir says the intervals between prayer demarcate transitions within the day that necessitate the remembrance of God.

“In the morning we’re getting up from our sleep, so we’re beginning that day by praying to our Lord and our creator,” he says. “And then at noon… just as we take our lunch break to replenish our physical body, we take time to reaffirm our commitment to our creator and thereby replenish our spirit.”

“At night, before we turn in and go to sleep to regroup, we don’t know if we’re going to see the new day,” he says. “Once again, (we) take time to acknowledge our creator and the rights he has over us.”

When Mohammed is at his mosque in Atlanta, Georgia, he has the “adhan” to alert him that a particular prayer time has begun. The adhan is the Islamic call to prayer that consists of a series of phrases recited melodiously, including, “God is the greatest,” “Come to prayer,” and “Come to success.”

In Muslim-majority countries, the adhan is called from an outdoor loudspeaker. For Muslims in America, it is recited in the mosque or in the privacy of one’s home. Mohammed compares it to the ringing of a church bell to signify the start of a service.

Mohammed says that in addition to adding structure to his day, salat helps keep him accountable for his daily actions and lets him have a personal relationship with God.

Striving for spiritual success

In the glow of a recent coming dawn, Mohammed and his family complete their first prayer of the day with a phrase in Arabic that means, “May the peace and mercy of God be upon you.”

He notes that the call to prayer before sunrise has an extra phrase added in: “Prayer is greater than sleep.”

“So, no matter what you’re doing in your life, it’s always, ‘God is greater than that’ - whether it’s sleep, whether it’s work, whatever it is, God is the greatest,” Mohammed says, pausing to rub his eyes.

“Behind any type of success,” he says, “there’s always a sacrifice.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Islam • Prayer • Uncategorized

soundoff (834 Responses)
  1. Farhad

    Zoroastrianism had the concept of Praying 5 times a day 1000 years before the advent of Islam. Islam borrowed heavily from Zoroastrianism, the concept of Judgment day,believing in one god, Paradise, praying 5 times a day were all basic Zoroastrian tenants.

    March 22, 2011 at 2:59 am |
  2. u

    haters gone hate

    March 22, 2011 at 2:59 am |
    • yokolee


      March 25, 2011 at 1:01 pm |


    March 22, 2011 at 2:09 am |
  4. stubbycat

    "Prayer" is a wonderful thing if it spiriitualizes the nature, dominates matter and promotes love and healing on earth. Otherwise it can be used as an instrument of psychic conditioning to make one think he is righteous while others are not. As for the prayerless, they tend to be victims of their own hapless externalized mortal beliefs, victims to the errors they connect to, to the dogmas of vain human consciousness which are the illusions that deceive.

    March 22, 2011 at 1:43 am |
  5. steve

    they pray 5 times a day cause they know "one" lil slip up and wham they are dead meat!

    March 22, 2011 at 12:41 am |
  6. JCizzle

    The same reason anyone else prays: stupidity.

    March 22, 2011 at 12:33 am |
  7. Reality

    Statistically, your prayer request might come true but it is simply the result of the variabiliy/randomness of Nature.

    So put down your rosaries and prayer beads and stop worshiping/revering cows and bowing to Mecca five times a day. Instead work hard at your job, take care of aging parents, volunteer at a soup kitchen, donate to charities and the poor and continue to follow any good rules of living as gracious and good human beings.////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    March 21, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
    • Proud to be Muslim

      It is required by every Muslim to do good deeds by helping the poor, charities, donations, taking care of aging parents, family, job, etc. For example, when you help the poor and the ones in need you will be able to open your eyes and see the countless blessings that god has given you, from good health to luxury. So taking a few minutes, five times a day to pray is the closest way you get connected to God and thank him for these blessings.
      Peace be upon you.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:29 am |
  8. Wonder

    Part of the message is good. Remember to live your life in the most ethical way and really remember why you are here. Don't give things too much importance and lose sight of just being happy. I can see taking a step back and just breathe, but other than that, I think it's ridiculous to HAVE to do this no matter what. it's more mind controling than anything. you know what you are doing, you know who you are. think for yourself and don't let a book or anything else dictate your life. structured religions are for people who can't think and NEED to follow.

    March 21, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
  9. eastwood1379@gmail.com

    Islam is the only solution. Let us all find peace and accept Islam for our salvation.

    March 21, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
    • chuckmartel

      Then why live in he infidel west. Get out and take your disease with you before it is too late for you.

      March 22, 2011 at 4:29 am |

      Not now not ever will the evil of islam take over this country. Let the videos speak for islam.Not sure you will watch it.If not then you do not know the true islam.
      slaughtered American contractor Nick Berg. Sitting in a chair, Berg made the following statement: “My name is Nick Berg, my father’s name is Michael, my mother’s name is Susan,” the man said on the video. “I have a brother and sister, David and Sarah. I live in … Philadelphia.”The video then changes to a scene of masked men, with Berg sitting in front of them. After reading a statement, the masked men were seen pulling the man to his side and putting a large knife to his neck. A scream sounded as the men cut his head off, shouting “Allahu Akbar!” – “God is great.” They then held the head out before the camera.THIS IS THE REAL FACES OF ISLAM. ANOTHER PEACEFUL ACT IN THE NAME OF ISLAM.. http://barenakedislam.wordpress.com/2009/06/26/american-nick-bergs-beheading-warning-graphic-images/
      In this case, just as it has happened so many times before, it seems that the executioners used a dull knife again. These guys really left the man take the imminent death with all of its worst. The knife wielding masked man slowly cut through the neck of the victim as if to take in the joy of causing slow and painful death. He cut through man’s trachea and esophagus which detached victim’s mouth from the rest of the body, yet he’s still making desperate attempts to scream and all the noise is coming out of his neck. It’s brutal.
      As carotid arteries got cut, the blood started gushing out in volume you have never seen before. The massive blood loss along with horrific sound this beheaded man lets out make this easily the most brutal beheading video you will have ever seen. Also notice how just before the beheading starts, the camera focuses on victims bruised arms. That man was heavily beaten prior to his painful execution. He was given a choice to say his last words – it’s in a language I don’t understand (possibly a Middle Eastern tongue) but you can tell the man has already gone through hell on Earth and knows the worst is yet to come. He likely wished for a quick death so he’s done with it, unfortunately for him, he was not granted that wish. Brutal video.I don’t want to sound mundane with warnings, WARNING on this one. Extremely brutal video. Very bloody. You have never seen this much blood ejected out of man’s body before. Knife executioners used to behead this man was likely really dull which you can tell by what it took to cut through the soft tissues of the neck. The video then jumps to the footage of decapitated head laying atop man’s dead body – which I’m assuming is because cutting through his spine took them forever, so they got rid of that so they’re not ridiculed for being complete amateurs. Once again – this video will hunt you for years, even if you’ve seen previous beheadings and took it like a champ. This one is worse. The sound is extremely painful and the amount of blood lost is beyond comprehension. You can’t even believe heart can pump so much blood with each beat. Watch at your on risk, you’ll have to deal with it yourself if you opt to go for it. I’m not kidding, it’s the worst beheading video ever! It appears as though the name of beheaded man was Jasus Musel. The beheading was carried out by MUSLIMS.See a pattern??Watch muslims in the name of islam.Not 100 years ago but in modern day.Islam is evil and everyone who follows it becomes evil.Let the videos speak. bestgore.com/beheading/worst-beheading-video-ever-horrific-sound-massive-blood-loss/
      The video, on an Islamist site, identified the hostage as Eugene Armstrong and showed a masked man sawing his head off with a knife. The video showed the banner of Zarqawi’s Tawhid and Jihad group,

      March 27, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
  10. eastwood1379@gmail.com

    God says in the Quran regarding the Trinity:

    "People of the Book (Jews and Christians)! Do not exceed the limits in your religion, and attribute to God nothing except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, was only a Messenger of God, and His command that He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in God and in His Messengers, and do not say: ‘God is a Trinity.' Give up this assertion; it would be better for you. God is indeed just One God. Far be it from His glory that He should have a son. To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and in the earth. God is sufficient for a guardian" (Quran 4:171).

    March 21, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
  11. Maria

    What this article fails to mention is that Muhammad here is Sunni. Not ALL Muslims pray five times a day nor do they think alike. Some clarification by the author of this article would be beneficial. The article also fails to mention why the number five is significant. Many Muslims pray five times a day because it take those times to complete rakats. Other Muslims do so in two prayers a day, or three. They also need to mention that there are plenty of Muslims, in America and elsewhere, that are religiously active but do not wear taqiyahs (the cap) or hijabs. Whoever wrote this article is severely lacking in the knowledge behind why these certain practices are performed. Its because of this lack of specificity that assumptions, and misinterpretations and generalizations are made.

    March 21, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
  12. NotMuslimAnymore

    5 x/day b/c their God is very insecure; just like the vast majority of muslim men. Put them in the presence of a strong, beautiful woman and they lose it, can't handle themselves and will not take responsibility for their own behaviour. I can't stand arab men, they're so GROSS & ugly; they stare too much and I sic my dog on them @ the park.

    March 21, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
  13. StankenFrien

    I have a picture of Mohamed as my screen saver!

    March 21, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
  14. Hugo

    I have a question for Muslims about priorities. The article says "high priority" but that's not a precise statement. What are higher priorities? I would guess, but don't know, that saving a life would be a higher priority. How about healing? (Something Jesus ran into trouble over on the Sabbath). Stopping a criminal (such as a bank robber)?

    Where's the line?

    March 21, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
    • paperjihad

      Anything involving preventing immediate harm from occurring to someone would be a higher priority. I believe also there are examples of the Prophet delaying his prayers while he was busy discussing matters with non-Muslims; he wouldn't cut them off just to go and pray.

      March 21, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
    • Hugo


      March 21, 2011 at 11:11 pm |
    • Proud to be Muslim

      As a Muslim I try to live in a balanced way between religion and life. My priorities in life are prayers, my family and college degree. Saying them in that order doesn't mean that one is more important than the other. When it's time for prayers and my child gets hurt then he would be my priority to check on him and make sure he's ok before I get back to praying. God (subhanahu wa ta'ala) is the most kindest and forgiving and would accept our prayers if we make them up through the day, its most definitely not in favor to make it a habit to only make up missed prayers. I think the way God (subhanahu wa ta'ala) required us to pray five times is divided equally and fairly. And taking few minutes of my time to pray is a way to thank him for all our blessings.
      I hope this helps answer your question.
      Peace be upon you and your family

      March 22, 2011 at 12:08 am |
  15. Matthew

    Muslims are taking over Europe and the Americas! We need to stop islamication!!!!!!

    March 21, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
    • derp

      "We need to stop islamication!!!!!!"

      And when we are done fighting "Islamication" we should take some English classes.

      March 22, 2011 at 9:35 am |
  16. Kevin

    Oh! That man has the same cell phone as I do.

    March 21, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
  17. Boo Dog

    Religion is nothing but fairy tails and you are all willing to kill us all over it. Believe what you want and stop trying to prove who's right and wrong. We have been fighting over this crap for too long!!! I know let's start another crusade or jihad, yeah that's the answer, KILL, KILL, KILL....that's what God/Allah is all about. Imagine if there was no religion...

    March 21, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
    • william

      I agree... nobody knows the answers, and if you believe only you and your religion (you listening "Christians"?) are right, you're part of the problem.

      March 21, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
    • Hugo

      I'm confused. There are lots of regions in this world. All of them are bad? How about someone whose religion is to be totally pacifist (to the point he won't defend himself against personal attack other than by fleeing)?

      March 21, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
    • Hugo

      I probably haven't waited long enough for a reply. In the meantime, I looked up religion in the dictionary and it includes "Hockey is religion in Canada." While hockey could be rough, couldn't some other game (presumably less violent) also qualify as a religion. It makes your statement about religion even more puzzling.

      March 21, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
    • Wonder

      Yeah, I agree. Religions are meant to unite people. We are using it to divide people. It's so sad and ridiculous when you think about it. You can believe whatever ta hell you want, just don't hurt other people, don't force them to believe in the same thing you do. Budhism has some wacky things too but at least they don't hurt anyone else in the name of God or whoever. So take a little bit from every religion and better yourself. Don't treat a religion as a package deal, you don't need to believe EVERYTHING they tell you.

      March 21, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
  18. Keith

    I still want to hear any comdemnation from a muslim on this site for the cowardly murders of the Fogel family. Probably won't be one forthcoming, though. Did everyone SEE the pictures of what the religion of peace does to a 3-year-old boy? A 3-month old baby? To hell with Imam Rauf, Sharia law, and the religion of peace. What in the hell is wrong with these people? As far as I'm concerned, 6/10's of 1 % is too many muslims here in America. Take your Sharia law and shove it.

    March 21, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
    • william

      Cheers to that dude! Sharia law sucks out loud. Kind of reminds you of the crusades and inquisitions, eh? Oh no, did I say that out loud?

      March 21, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
    • chuckmartel

      Don't hold your breath. Their own statements prove they have no concept of right or wrong. Pure evil.

      March 21, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
    • chuckmartel

      William, another PC idiot. "crusades and inquisitions, eh? " Are they still going on? Thought they went out hundreds to a thousand years ago. The muslims are still circa 800 AD.

      March 21, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
    • derp

      "William, another PC idiot. "crusades and inquisitions, eh? " Are they still going on? Thought they went out hundreds to a thousand years ago. The muslims are still circa 800 AD."

      Republicans = taliban with a bible.

      March 22, 2011 at 9:33 am |
  19. Saad

    My sincere apologies for Mr. Chuckmartel.
    I understand for people like you and others who have thinking like you, may not care for you religion as much as we do. For us, religion holds more values than our families, friends and anything. So if I am to insult your parents or family by cartoonizing them, and if you will like it, than i will say that we are bad people. But if you hate people making fun of your parents and families, than this is how we respect our religion and dont like any insults for it.
    As for the rugs, I dont know which part of city or country you live in, but no one blocks the road, you are just making an unnecessary point for trolling!
    May God be with you my friend.

    March 21, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
    • chuckmartel

      "cartoonizing" my family? Go right ahead. I didn't know you met. Fact is the islami's in parts of Europe are clogging the streets with rug praying. Your kind is not fit for western secular civilization and your idiotic post is an eample of your primitive dark age thinking.

      March 21, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
    • Ethos with pathos

      @chuckmartel- If it wasn't for the Muslim/arab culture...there might not be a western civilization.

      March 21, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • chuckmartel

      Ethos with pathos, you are a PC imbecile with no understanding of history or science. The roots of western civilization go back hundreds of years before there was islam. Then there is the age of Huygens, Newton, enlightenment, age of reason, blah blah. Take a science course or read a real book for christs sake. Although the muslims did some good things when western Europe was dark aged, the PC seem to think Galileo, Shakespeare, and company studied islam.

      March 21, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
    • horuseye

      @chuckmartel – got your back. I'm willing to bet none of the PC idiots you've called out have the foggiest idea what your nom de plume means.

      March 21, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
  20. Seetheway

    I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me,so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides me. I am the LORD, and there is no other.

    March 21, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • SDFrankie

      No! I am the Lord! He says he's the Lord but he's lying. Don't listen to him. Choose me! I'm behind door number 2! Don't choose 1 or 3! I'll burn you forever if you do that!

      March 21, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
    • william

      And here we have in a nutshell, boys and girls, why we have been killing each other for millineum. You say you have the right god and messenger, I say no, I have the right god and messenger. So... let's start killing each other, and the last person alive wins. Yeah!!! And then we can simply start all over.

      March 21, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
    • Harry Hippobottomus

      I might choose you as the One True God, SDFrankie, but what do you have to offer. Right now the best deal going is from Flying Spaghetti Monster, whose heaven has a beer volcano and a strip-per factory. And no damn virgins like the Muslims are promising! Who wants to be stuck with 72 virgins and all their "issues"? That's not heaven; it's hell!

      March 21, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
    • Suzanne

      SDF Frankie and Harry Hippo – thanks for making me laugh so hard the water I was drinking came out my nose!
      Funny but true!

      March 21, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.