Assalamualaikum, we put together this easy to follow step by step guide for a Muslim’s looking to learn how to properly perform salah (prayer) according to Qur’an and Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ). This article will not simply just list the step, but rather will give you a detailed and comprehensive guide to learning ALL about salat.
The five pillars of Islam form the foundation for which a Muslim’s routine and life should be based around. The second pillar is prayer, in Arabic صلاة pronounced as Salah or Salat.
AN INTRODUCTION TO SALAH:
Salah is not intended to just be a mandatory enactment. Rather it is the first and a continuing sign of the believer’s obedience to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
READ MORE: 5 Duas to Read When You Need Something
It is a spiritual ritual, a source for gaining strength and patience and as a means of self purification. A believer does not see salah as a burden but rather a privilege to learn and develop a deeper connection to his creator. A Muslim offers prayer out of humility and love to show their inner devotion to Allah because he or she depends on him.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF SALAH:
There are four different types of Salah which make up the five daily prayers.
Fardh – Imperative (missing a fardh salah is considered a grave sin).
Wajib – Obligatory (missing is considered a sin, just not as great as a fardh salah).
Sunnah – Prophet’s Practice. Here there are two types, one Rasulullah prayed regularly known as Muakkadah and one prophet prayed occasionally, Ghair Muakkadah.
Nafl – Voluntary.
This table summarizes the number of rakats for each prayer. These should be memorized so you know how many rakats each you will need to pray. A rakat can be viewed as a single unit or cycle of prayer.
PREPARATION BEFORE SALAH (CHECKLIST):
Before beginning to pray one must be in a state of cleanliness. This is done by performing Wudu (ablution). In other cases, Tayammum or Ghusl are also acceptable methods of purification.
“O Children of Adam! wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer”
HOW TO PRAY FARDH, SUNNAH, AND NAFL SALAH / NAMAZ:
After going through the prerequisites of Salah we are now ready to begin our prayer.
1. Begin with the proper niyyah (intention) that you want to pray, this can be done in your mind or verbally.
The purpose is so that you are not heedless in prayer but are aware of the kind of salat you are about to offer.
- How To Pray Salah (Prayer)
READ MORE: How to Perform the Janazah (Funeral) Prayer
I intend to offer the _____ rakats of the ____ prayer. So you could say something along the lines, “I intend to offer the 4 rakats fardh of the Isha prayer” or “2 rakat nafl for zuhr prayer”.
2. Ensure your praying area is clean, put down your prayer mat facing the direction of the Qiblah.
Stand as you would normally with your feet around four inches apart. Direct your gaze towards the place of your sajdah. Now, with palms open, raise your hands to your ears and say the Takbir (Allahu Akbar) which means Allah is the greatest. Your prayer has now commenced. Women praying should raise their hands to their shoulders.
3. After Takbir, place cross your hands at chest level grabbing your left wrist with your right hand. Begin with the recitation of thana.
سُبْحانَكَ اللَّهُمَّ وَبِحَمْدِكَ، وَتَبارَكَ اسْمُكَ، وَتَعَالَى جَدُّكَ، وَلاَ إِلَهَ غَيْرُكَ
Subhaanaka Allaahumma wa bihamdika, wa tabaarakasmuka, wa ta’aalaa jadduka, wa laa ‘ilaaha ghayruka.
Meaning: Glory and praise be to You, O Allah. Blessed be Your name and exalted be Your majesty, there is none worthy of worship except You.
Recite Tauz or Ta’awwudh and continue with saying bismillah.
اعوذ باللہ من الشیطان الرجیم
auzu billahi minash shaitan rajeem
Meaning: I seek Allah’s protection from Satan, the accursed.
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
bismillah hir rahman nir Raheem
Meaning: In the name of Allah who is kind and merciful.
4. After this recite Surah Al-Fatiha which is the first chapter of the Quran.
اَلْحَمْدُ لِلّٰهِ رَبِّ الْعٰلَمِیْنَۙ(۱) الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِیْمِۙ(۲) مٰلِكِ یَوْمِ الدِّیْنِؕ(۳) اِیَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَ اِیَّاكَ نَسْتَعِیْنُؕ(۴) اِهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِیْمَۙ(۵) صِرَاطَ الَّذِیْنَ اَنْعَمْتَ عَلَیْهِمْ غَیْرِ الْمَغْضُوْبِ عَلَیْهِمْ وَ لَا الضَّآلِّیْنَ۠ ۷)
Alhamdu lillaahi Rabbil ‘aalameen Ar-Rahmaanir-Raheem Maaliki Yawmid-Deen Iyyaaka na’budu wa lyyaaka nasta’een Ihdinas-Siraatal-Mustaqeem Siraatal-lazeena an’amta ‘alaihim ghayril-maghdoobi ‘alaihim wa lad-daaalleen
Meaning: Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds; Most Gracious, Most Merciful; Master of the Day of Judgment. Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek. Show us the straight way, The way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace, those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray.
At the end of reciting Surah Fatiha say Ameen.
5. While praying the first two rakats, after saying ameen, recite any passage from the Qur’an.
Surah Ikhlas is commonly taught first because it is one of the shorter surahs and for the great rewards associated with it.  For prayers which exceed two rakat, you only need to recite Surah Fatiha and can move onto step 6 without reciting any extra passage after fatiha.
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم قل هوا لله أحد،الله الصمد، لم يلد و لم يولد، و لم يكن له كفوا أحد
Bismillah hir Rahman nir Rahim Qul Huwallahu ahad. Allahussamad. Lam yalid wa lam yu-lad. Wa lam yakun lahu kufuwan ahad.
Meaning: In the name of Allah, the most Gracious, the most Merciful. Say, He is Allah, the One. Allah is Eternal and Absolute. He begets not, nor was He begotten. And there is none co-equal unto Him.
READ MORE: The Virtue of the Congregational Prayers
6. Say Allahu Akbar, bend down for ruku.
Ruku is the position where you keep your head and back aligned and put your hands on your knees. Here recite Tasbeeh three times or any odd number of times you like.
سُبْحَانَ رَبِّيَ الْعَظِيمِ
Subhana Rabbiyal Adhim
Meaning: Glory be to my Lord Almighty
7. Next stand up from the bowing position and saying,
سَمِعَ اللَّهُ لِمَنْ حَمِدَه
Sami’Allahu liman hamidah
Meaning: Allah hears those who praise Him
رَبَّنَا وَلَكَ الْحَمْد
Rabbana lakal hamd
Meaning: Our lord, to you be the praise.
According to Hambali Fiqh, you can raise both your hands up to your earlobes before entering ruku and after coming up from ruku. While coming up from ruku your hands should be at your side and not crossed at the chest.
8. Say Allahu Akbar and go down for sajdah (prostration).
There should 5 points of contact with the ground, your forehead, nose, palms of hand, knees, and toes of the feet. Put your head between your palms such that your thumbs are aligned with earlobes. The elbows should be raised away from the ground. In this position recite Tasbeeh three or any odd number of times you like.
سُبْحَانَ رَبِّيَ الأَعْلَى
Subhana Rabbiyal A’la
Meaning: How Perfect is my Lord, the Highest
9. Say Allahu Akbar, sit upright.
It is sunnah to keep your right foot up and lay the left foot on the ground.  This position is called Jalsah Al-istiraha or the sitting position of the prayer. Rest your hands on the thighs with fingers reaching the knees. Recite the following, 
رب اغفر لي
Meaning: O my Lord! Forgive me
Say Allahu Akbar and go for your second sujud, recite Subhana Rabbiyal A’la tasbeeh three times. After say Allahu Akbar and stand back up and cross your arms just as before. This represents one complete rakat of salah.
Perform the second rakat the same, except you do not need to recite subhanaka. When you complete the second sujood of the second rakat stay seated in position of Jalsah.
10. Here we recite Tashahhud silently:
التَّحِيَّاتُ لِلَّهِ وَالصَّلَوَاتُ وَالطَّيِّبَاتُ، السَّلاَمُ عَلَيْكَ أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ وَرَحْمَةُ اللَّهِ وَبَرَكَاتُهُ، السَّلاَمُ عَلَيْنَا وَعَلَى عِبَادِ اللَّهِ الصَّالِحِينَ، أَشْهَدُ أَنْ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ وَأَشْهَدُ أَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا عَبْدُهُ وَرَسُولُهُ
Attahiyat lillahi wa salawatu wa’t-tayyibat, as-salamu ‘alayka ayyuha’n-Nabiyyu wa rahmat-Allahi wa barakatuhu. As-salamu ‘alayna wa ‘alaa ‘ibad-Illah is-saliheen. ashhadu alla ilaha illallah wa ashhadu anna muhammadan ‘abduhu wa rasuluhu
Meaning: All the best compliments and the prayers and the good things are for Allah. Peace and Allah’s Mercy and Blessings be on you, O Prophet! Peace be on us and on the pious slaves of Allah, I testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah, and I also testify that Muhammad is Allah’s slave and His Apostle.
When you read the shahada (testimony of faith – ashhadu alla ilaha illallah wa ashhadu anna muhammadan abduhu wa rasuluhu) ball up your right hand into a fist and raise your index finger. This symbolizes the tawhid or oneness of Allah. At this point if the salat consists of more than two rakat you would say the takbir, i.e. Allahu akbar and begin the third rakat. If the salah only consists of two rakats then you would continue with the following supplication known as Salawat which is sends blessings and salutations towards the Prophet Muhammad and Prophet Ibrahim, may peace be upon them.
اللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ عَلَى مُحَمَّدٍ وَعَلَى آلِ مُحَمَّدٍ كَمَا صَلَّيْتَ عَلَى آلِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ إِنَّكَ حَمِيدٌ مَجِيدٌ اللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ عَلَى مُحَمَّدٍ وَعَلَى آلِ مُحَمَّدٍ كَمَا بَارَكْتَ عَلَى آلِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ إِنَّكَ حَمِيدٌ مَجِيدٌ
Allahumma salli ‘ala Muhammadin Wa ‘ala ali Muhammadin Kama sallaita ‘ala Ibrahima wa ‘ala ali Ibrahima wa barik ‘ala Muhammadin wa ‘ala ali Muhammadin Kama barakta ‘ ala Ibrahima Wa ‘ ala ali Ibrahima Fil a’lamina Innaka hamidun Majid.”
Meaning: “O Allah, let Your mercy come upon Muhammad and the family of Muhammad as You let it come upon Ibrahim and the family of Ibrahim O Allah, bless Muhammad and the family of Muhammad as You blessed Ibrahim and the family of Ibrahim. Truly You are Praiseworthy and Glorious.”
11. Turn your face towards looking over your right shoulder and then turn to left.
Each time recite the following:
السَّلاَمُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَحْمَةُ اللهِ
Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah 
Meaning: peace and the mercy of Allah be on you.
This would complete the two rakah salah. It is recommended to offer dua after salah, especially after fardh salah. 
DUA AFTER SALAM:
اللَّهُمَّ أَعِنِّي عَلَى ذِكْرِكَ، وَشُكْرِكَ، وَحُسْنِ عِبَادَتِكَ
Allahumma a’innee alaa dhikrika, wa shukrika, wa husni ‘ibaadatika
Meaning: O Allah, help me to remember You and thank You and help me to the best manner of worshipping You. 
A note for the third and fourth rakah prayers (as in Zuhr, Asr, Maghrib, and Insha) the process is the repeated as per usual. The only difference is in the third and fourth rakat Surah Fatiha is always read silently. After saying Ameen it’s not necessary to recite any other passage and to go straight into ruku and sajdah.
HADITH ON SALAT:
- I asked the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ): “Which action is dearest to Allah?” He (ﷺ) replied, “Performing As-Salat (the prayer) at its earliest fixed time.” I asked, “What is next (in goodness)?” He (ﷺ) said, “Kindness towards parents.” I asked, “What is next (in goodness)?” He (ﷺ) said, “To participate in Jihad in the Cause of Allah.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
- Abu Hurairahu (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) saying, “Say, if there were a river at the door of one of you in which he takes a bath five times a day, would any soiling remain on him?” They replied, “No soiling would left on him.” He (ﷺ) said, ” That is the five (obligatory) Salat (prayers). Allah obliterates all sins as a result of performing them.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
- Narrated Tawus: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) used to place his right hand on his left hand, then he folded them strictly on his chest in prayer.
- It was narrated that Abu Sa’eed said: “When the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) started to pray, he would say: ‘Subhanakallahumma, wa bihamdika tabarakasmuka wa ta’ala jadduka wa la ilaha ghairuk (Glory and praise be to You, O Allah. Blessed be Your name and exalted be Your majesty, there is none worthy of worship except You.)” Grade : Hasan (Darussalam)
- Narrated Abu Huraira: When the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Sami`a l-lahu liman hamidah,” (Allah heard those who sent praises to Him), he would say, “Rabbana wa laka l-hamd.” On bowing and raising his head from it the Prophet (ﷺ) used to say Takbir. He also used to say Takbir on rising after the two prostrations.
- Abdullah bin ‘Umar said: “A Sunnah of the prayer is that you should raise your right foot, and make your left foot lie (on the ground).” Grade: Sahih (Al-Albani)
- It was narrated from Hudhaifah that the Prophet (ﷺ) used to say between the two prostrations: “Rabbighfir li, Rabbighfir li (O Lord forgive me, O Lord forgive me).” Grade: Sahih (Darussalam)
- It was narrated from Wasi’ bin Habban that: He asked ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar about the prayer of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ). He said: “Allahu Akbar” every time he went down and “Allahu Akbar” every time he came up, then he said: “As-salamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullah (peace be upon you and the mercy of Allah) to his right and: As-salamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullah (peace be upon you and the mercy of Allah) to his left.” Grade : Sahih (Darussalam)
- Abu Umamah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) was asked: “At what time does the supplication find the greatest response?” He (ﷺ) replied, “A supplication made during the middle of the last part of the night and after the conclusion of the obligatory prayers.”
- Mu’adh ibn Jabal said, “The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, took my hand and then said, “Mu’adh!’ ‘At your service!’ I said. He said, ‘I love you.’ I replied, ‘And, by Allah, I love you.’ He asked, ‘Shall I teach you some words to say at the end of your prayer?’ ‘Yes,’ I replied. He said, ‘Say [the dua mentioned in post]. Grade: Sahih (Al-Albani)
- Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: A man heard another reciting Surat Al-Ikhlas repeatedly. The next morning he came to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) and informed him about it as if he considered it to be of little reward. On that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “By Him in Whose Hand my soul is, this Surah is equal to one-third of the Qur’an.”
VERSES FROM QURAN REGARDING SALAH:
“Maintain with care the [obligatory] prayers and [in particular] the middle prayer and stand before Allah, devoutly obedient.” 2:238
“O Children of Adam! wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer” 7:31
“And establish prayer at the two ends of the day and at the approach of the night. Indeed, good deeds do away with misdeeds. That is a reminder for those who remember.” 11:114
“Establish prayer at the decline of the sun [from its meridian] until the darkness of the night and [also] the Qur’an of dawn. Indeed, the recitation of dawn is ever witnessed.” 17:78
IMPORTANCE OF SALAH:
Prayer as a source of patience:
“O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.” 2:153
Brings tranquility to the heart:
“Those who have believed and whose hearts are assured by the remembrance of Allah . Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah hearts are assured.” 13:28
As a means of self-purification:
“Recite, [O Muhammad], what has been revealed to you of the Book and establish prayer. Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing, and the remembrance of Allah is greater. And Allah knows that which you do.” 29:45