Chapter 7

Common Mistakes to Avoid

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We’re Almost Done

This is the final chapter in the Beginner’s Guide on How to Pray Salah.

We began the guide by explaining what “salah” meant and why Allah commanded us to perform this act of worship.

Up next we went through the steps on how to perform wudu, an important and necessary action to do before we begin to pray.

We then covered how to perform a rakah – or one unit of prayer. Using that as a foundation we learned how to combine 2, 3, or 4 rakah together to perform the 5 daily salah (Fajr, Dhur, Asr, Maghrib, and Isha).

Not to be forgotten, we also discussed the conditions and pillars of the prayer, so we can be sure that each prayer we perform is done correctly.

And that brings us to this final chapter where we will cover some of the common mistakes many Muslims make in the prayer and how to avoid them.


9 Common Mistakes to Avoid

1. Moving before the Imam in congregational prayer

We talked about how you can pray alone or behind someone else known as the Imam, a person leading a group of people in prayer.

When a person is standing behind the Imam they cannot move before the Imam has moved in the prayer.

If the Imam makes a ruku (bows down), you must wait for him to move first before following his lead.

If the Imam stands up from sujood (prostration), you must wait for him to move first before following his lead.

If the Imam stands up, sits down, or does any other action the correct thing to do is to follow him in that action after he has done it.

The imam is only appointed to be followed, so when he says takbeer (Allahu Akbar), then say takbeer; when he bows, then bow (and do not bow until he bows); when he says Sami’a Allaahu liman hamidah, then say Allaahumma rabbana laka’l-hamd. If he prays standing, then pray standing.” Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)

Making a move in the prayer before the Imam has done it can either invalidate the prayer or reduce its reward, and both are dangerous outcomes.

2. Rushing through the prayer hastily

Some of us like to pray our salah faster than Usain Bolt can run the 100M race.

Why are you in a hurry?

If you were in the presence of a king, a monarch, or a head of state, would you like to rush through your meeting or would you take your time with this important person?

In this case you are standing in front of the King of all the worlds, Allah, so why are you rushing through your prayer? Take your time and pray with sincerity.

3. Looking left, right, or up while praying

Our Prophet (peace be upon him) instructed us to look towards the ground for the duration of the prayer. And the spot where our eyes should be focused is where we will be making sujood – the spot where our head will touch the ground.

4. Eating foods that make your breath smell before praying

Avoid eating foods with a strong smell before entering into the prayer, especially if you are planning to pray at the masjid.

Whoever has eaten of this plant (i.e., garlic), let him not approach our masjid.Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)

These strong smells can distract others. One way to solve this problem is to brush your teeth after eating these foods.

Were it not for the fact that I did not want to make things too hard for my ummah (i.e. all Muslims), I would have commanded them to use the siwaak (natural toothbrush) at every time of prayerProphet Muhammad (peace be upon him)

5. Crossing in front of a praying person

It is not a good idea to walk directly in front of someone who is in the middle of prayer.

An exception in which you can walk in front of someone who is praying is if they are using a sutrah – an object that they have placed in front of them. The sutrah acts as a sort of barrier, so it is okay to walk in front of the sutrah if someone is using it

6. Performing the ruku (bowing) incorrectly

When making ruku you should aim to have a straight back. If you raise your head or lower your head too much during the ruku, then you’ll have an arched back which is not the correct form.

7. Performing sujood (prostration) incorrectly

There are two common issues regarding the sujood:

(a) Sticking the arms to the sides of the body, in rukoo’ or sujood, and sticking the belly to the thighs in sujood.

(b) Make sure your awrah is covered. It is a common problem for Muslims, specifically for men, to have their shirts pull up during their sujood and their lower backs become visible to others. We will cover this issue once more in mistake #8 which comes next.

(c) These 7 parts of your body need to be touching the floor, otherwise your sujood is lacking:

  • Your forehead
  • Nose
  • Palms of both hands
  • Both knees
  • Toes of both feet. They should also be facing the Qiblah

8. Wearing clothes that do not cover the awrah (men and women)

As we mentioned in Chapter 3 of this guide, you need to make sure to wear clothing that covers the necessary parts of your body.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) instructed the men to cover from the naval to the knee. As for the women, he instructed them to cover their body except for the face and hands. Skin tight clothing for both men and women is not good.

9. Not turning off the phone or other loud devices

This is very common and is extremely distracting to other worshippers. Please turn off phones and other electronic devices before starting the salah, otherwise it can cause disruptions to others.