Chapter 4

How to Pray Salah, Step by Step

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Getting Started

Now that our wudu has been properly made we can proceed and begin to pray salah. Here are the steps of the salah:

  • Standing
  • Takbir
  • Fatihah – Recitation
  • Ruku – Bowing
  • Sujud – Prostration
  • Tashahud – Sitting

To understand the steps of the salah it is important to understand that the prayer is made up of rakah, or units of prayer. Every rakah has the same basic steps within it.

  • There will be a part when you are standing
  • A part when you recite from the Quran
  • A part when you bow down
  • A part where you prostrate (make sujud)

Depending on which prayer you are performing there will be slight differences in how these rakah are performed. Here is a summary of how each of the five daily prayers differ from one another:

  • Fajr – has two rakah, or two units
  • Dhur – has four rakah
  • Asr – has four rakah
  • Maghrib – has three rakah
  • Isha – has four rakah

Let us break down how each rakah of the salah is performed, step by step.


Learning How to Pray: One Rakah at a Time

Step 1 – Make your intention to pray

We first began the prayer by making an intention from the heart to pray to Allah. As soon as you begin, your entire focus should be on the prayer itself and nothing else.

Step 2 – Raise your hands to your ears and say ‘Allahu Akbar”

The moment you say “Allahu Akbar” the prayer will officially begin. From this point forward you should focus wholeheartedly on the prayer and do your best to ignore all distractions.

Fun Fact: What do you think Allahu Akbar means? In most Arabic to English translations it is defined as “Allah is the Greatest.” However, the real meaning of the phrase is “Allah is Greater.” It means that Allah is greater than everything in existence. In the moment of praying salah, saying Allahu Akbar is a reminder to the Muslim that Allah is greater than all other thoughts and actions.

Step 3 – Lower your hands and place them over your naval. Your right hand should be placed over your left hand

Step 4 – Keep your eyes focused on the ground in front of you

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said that while you praying your eyes should always look to where you will prostrate.

Although it is not obligatory, it is also highly recommended to read the following dua (supplication) after saying Allahu Akbar:

subhanakal-lahumma wabihamdika
wataa ‘ala jadduka
wala ilaha ghayruka.

How perfect you are, O Allah. I praise you
How blessed is Your name
How lofty is Your position
And none has the right to be worshipped but You

Step 5 – Recite the opening chapter of the Qur’an

The first chapter of the Qur’an is called Surah Fatihah. You will begin by saying this Arabic phrase:

A’auodu billaahi minash-shaytaanir rajeem

‘I seek refuge in Allah from the accursed Shaytan (devil).’

And then begin to recite the chapter verse by verse in Arabic:

Bismillaahir ar-Rahmani ar-Raheem
Al hamdu lillaahi rabbil ‘alameen
Ar-Rahmani ar-Raheem
Maaliki yawmid deen
Iyyaaka na’aboodu wa iyyaaka nasta’een
Ihdeenas siraatal mustaqeem
Siraatal ladheena an ‘amta’ alayhim
Ghayril maghduubi’ alayhim waladawleen

This is the meaning of the verses from Surah Fatihah:

In the name of God, the infinitely Compassionate and Merciful.
Praise be to Allah, Lord of all the worlds.
The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
Master on the Day of Recompense (Judgement Day).
You alone do we worship, and You alone do we ask for help.
Guide us on the straight path,
The path of those who You have bestowed favor, not of those who have evoked [Your] anger or of those who are astray.

After reciting Surah Fatihah, you can recite another chapter from the Qur’an. However, at a minimum you must recite Surah Fatihah in every raka’at of prayer.

Step 6 – Bow down. This is known as the ‘ruku’

As you are bowing down say ‘Allahu Akbar’. Make sure to keep your back straight, your hands on your knees, and your eyes focused on the ground where you will be prostrating.

When you are in this position you will say this sentence three times:

Subhanna rabbeeyal adheem

‘How perfect is my Lord, the Magnificent’

Step 7 – Return to standing up again

As you are rising up from the ruku position to a standing position you will bring your hands to your ears and will say:

Samee Allahu leeman hameeda

‘Allah hears those who praise him’

And when you are standing upright then lower your hands to your waist and say:

Rabbana walakal hamd

‘Our Lord, to You is all praise’

Step 8 – Go down to perform prostration. This is known as ‘sujud’

As you are moving into this position say Allahu Akbar.

And also make sure your forehead, nose, palms of both hands, knees, and both toes are touching the ground.

Step 9 – Say this phrase while in sujud (prostration)

Say this sentence three times:

Subhanna rabbeeyal ‘alaa

How perfect is my Lord, the Most High

Step 10 – Rise up from sujud and sit for a moment

Say Allahu akbar as you rise from sujud and then sit on your left leg. Your left foot will rest on the floor while your right foot is upright. Place your hands on your knees.

When you are in this position it is recommended to ask Allah for forgiveness. A simple and easy dua you can say is:

Rabbigh-fir lee

O my Lord, forgive me.

Step 11 – Return to the position of sujud

You will repeat step 9 again and perform a second sujud and say subhanna rabbeeyal ‘alaa three times again.


Step 12 – Arise from the sujud to return to the standing position and say Allahu Akbar

Congratulations, you have just completed one full rakah! The first rakah of every prayer is performed with these twelve steps.

When you reach the end of the second rakah you will perform the tashahud, or a step 13.

Step 13 – Perform the tashahud at the end of every two rakah

Instead of standing up after the two sujud, this time around you will sit on your legs and knees again. You will raise your right index finger and say:

At Tahiyyaatu lilaahi was Salawaatu wat tayibaatu
Assalaamu ‘alaika ayyuhan nabiyyu wa rahmatu Allahi wa barakaatuh
Assalaamu ‘alaynaa wa ‘alaa ‘ebaadillaahis saaliheen,
Ash hadu allaa ilaha illa Allah Wa ash hadu anna Muhammadan ‘abduhuu wa rasuuluh

All compliments, prayers and pure words are due to Allah.
Peace be upon you, O Prophet, and the mercy of Allah and His blessings.
Peace be upon us, and on the righteous slaves of Allah.
I bear witness that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger

If this is the final rakah in the prayer then you will add this part to the tashahud:

Allahumma salli ‘ala Muhammadin wa ‘ala aali Muhammad
Kamaa salayta ‘ala Ibraaheem wa ‘ala aali Ibrahim
Innaka Hameedun Majeed
Wa baarik ‘ala Muhammadin wa ‘ala aali Muhammad
Kamaa baarakta ‘ala Ibraaheem wa ‘ala aali Ibrahim
Innaka Hameedun Majeed

O Allah, send prayers upon Muhammad and upon the family (or followers) of Muhammad, Just as You sent prayers upon Ibrahim and the family (or followers) of Ibrahim,
Verily, you are full of Praise and Majesty.
O Allah, bless Muhammad and the family (or followers) of Muhammad as You blessed Ibrahim and the family (or followers) of Ibraaheem,
Verily, you are full of Praise and Majesty.

The ‘tasleem’: after reciting the second part of the tashahud, you will say the “tasleem.”

The tasleem is to look to your right and say:

Assalamu alaykum wa rahmatu Allah

And then to look to the left and say it again:

Assalamu alaykum wa rahmatu Allah

Upon saying the tasleem the prayer will have come to an end.

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The Next Step

Now you know how to perform a rakah – one unit of prayer. The next step is to combine 2, 3, or 4 rakah together to complete one salah. We’ll cover that in the next chapter.