How Islamic Prayer Times Work

Photo: Yawar Nazir/Getty Images.
Anyone who lives near a mosque has heard the adhan, or the Islamic call to prayer. Observant Muslims pray five times a day, either at their community mosque or in their homes, under a specific schedule. These daily prayers are known as the salat and are a demonstration of Muslims' enduring faith.
We spoke with Faryal M. Khatri of the Islamic Society of North America to break down exactly how the salat works.
Rather than follow a universal standard, salat times are determined by the sun, meaning it varies by region and time zone. Khatri explains that the five daily prayers occur at sunrise, mid-day, mid-afternoon, sunset, and dusk.
In addition to the times when the prayers take place, the content and length of each prayer varies, too.
Khatri tells us that a prayer is made up of a number of ritual cycles known as rakat, which refer to the motions and gestures that Muslims go through while praying. The rakat includes the raising of hands, bowing in the direction of Mecca, standing, kneeling, touching the ground, and reciting, "glory be to God, the highest." This is repeated two to four times in a row, depending on which prayer of the day is being carried out.
For those who don't live near a mosque (and can't hear the adhan IRL), there are plenty of websites, clocks, and, as is to be expected in 2017, apps made with the express purpose of helping Muslims keep track of the salat times in their area.
But, Khatri says, it's fine to make up a prayer if, even with the help of the internet, one ends up missing the call. "There are also modifications that can be made when traveling to help avoid missing prayers such as combining and shortening prayers," she adds.
As one of the five pillars (or core rituals) of Islam, these daily prayers aren't merely a fixture in Muslims people's everyday lives — they're a vital part of the Muslim experience.

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