Namaz Persian term for prayer, which is salat in Arabic. Namaz is one of the five pillars of Islam. Namaz is to be performed five times a day, at dawn, midday, afternoon, evening and night (al-quran, 11:114, 20:130, 24:58, 30:17-18). Performing namaz five times a day is faraz (obligatory). The Arabic language is used in performing namaz. Namaz may be performed individually, or in a jam'at (congregation), facing towards the Ka'aba (the qiblah, direction of prayer), situated within the Masjidul Haram in Mokkah. Performing namaz in a jam'at is deemed more meritorious. Women in Bangladesh generally perform namaz at home.
While in namaz, the clothes and body of a person must be pure (sanctified). The place where the namaz is to be performed should also be sanctified. wudu is to be performed before namaz. Usually, a jainamaz (prayer rug or mat) is used for namaz. Using a cap while in namaz is a sunnat and traditionally, shoes are taken off before starting namaz.
Muazzins of mosques proclaims azan (call to prayer) when it is time to go for namaz. At the beginning of namaz, the people who perform it stand in a row with their hands hanging on both sides. Then they silently read the niyat (intention) to perform namaz. The niyat states the name of the namaz that is going to be performed and the number of rak'ats (units of prayer). This is followed by the takbir, the pronouncement of Allahu Akbar (God is Great), with the hands raised to the level of the shoulders. The next step is the ki'am (the standing position) in which the two hands are folded below the navel and surahs (verses from the Holy Quran) are recited from memory. The ki'am is followed by the ruku, in which the persons at namaz bow with their hands placed on the knees. After ruku, they go to sijdah, when they stoop to knees and then to the ground. These movements complete one rak'at. Namaz ends after completion of the required number of rak'ats and with offering salam by turning the head to the right and left. The munajat, or supplication made after salam, is normally conducted in the vernacular.
Though standing is essential in performing namaz, it can be performed sitting or lying in bed under exceptional circumstances such as illness or pain in the joints. Movements of fingers and head then take the place of the prescribed physical movements of ruku and sijdah.
The number of farz (obligatory) rak'ats in a namaz varies. The fajr namaz has only two farz raka'ts, maghrib has three, the remaining, ie, the zuhr, asr, and isha have four rak'ats each. If, for some unavoidable reason, a namaz cannot be performed at the prescribed time, it must be performed as a qaza' namaz later on. In addition to the five compulsory namazes in a day, there are four optional ones: ishraq, zuha (chast), awwabin and tahajjud. Ishraq is performed at the morning after sunrise, zuha after 9.00 in the morning and before zuhr, awwabin after magrib and tahajjud after midnight.
In addition to the daily namazes, there are some special ones such as the Jumah, the weekly Friday namaz (farz), the twenty-rak'at tarawih namaz during ramadan (sunnat), the namaz of the two Eids (wajib), and the janaza or funeral namaz (farz kefaya). There are some minor variations in rules of namaz according to different madhabs, but the main features of namaz remain the same.
Namaz has a number of amals (prescribed actions), of which thirteen are farz. Seven are to be performed before namaz and they are called ahkams. These are: cleaning the body from impurity; cleaning the clothes on wear from impurity; cleaning the place of namaz from impurity; covering the body (in case of a man, from the navel downwards up to the lower part of knees, and in case of a woman, the whole body except her face, lower part of the hands and the foot); facing the qiblah; attending namaz on time; and making niyat for namaz. The remaining six amals that are performed during namaz and called arkans are: saying taqbir tahrima; standing in ki'am; reciting qir'at; going to ruku; going to sijdah; and the sitting at the end. Also in the list of amals are 15 wajibs, 28 sunnats, and 30 mustahabs, which are described in the fikh books. [Niaz Zaman]