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Prayer is an invocation or act that seeks to activate a rapport with an object of worship, typically a deity, through deliberate communication. In the narrow sense, the term refers to an act of supplication or intercession directed towards a deity, or a deified ancestor. More generally, prayer can also have the purpose of thanksgiving or praise, and in comparative religion is closely associated with more abstract forms of meditation and with charms or spells.
Prayer can take a variety of forms: it can be part of a set liturgy or ritual, and it can be performed alone or in groups. Prayer may take the form of a hymn, incantation, formal creedal statement, or a spontaneous utterance in the praying person.
Today, most major religions involve prayer in one way or another; some ritualize the act, requiring a strict sequence of actions or placing a restriction on who is permitted to pray, while others teach that prayer may be practised spontaneously by anyone at any time.
Salah (“prayer, worship”, from Arabic صلاة; pl. صلوات ṣalawāt), also called salat and namaz (from Persian: نَماز), is one of the Five Pillars in the faith of Islam and an obligatory religious duty for every Muslim. It is a physical, mental, and spiritual act of worship that is observed five times every day at prescribed times. When they do this, they must face Mecca. In this ritual, the worshiper starts standing, bows, prostrates himself, and concludes while sitting on the ground. During each posture, the worshiper recites or reads certain verses, phrases and prayers.
The word “salah” is commonly translated as “prayer”. Given how that word is generally used in English this can be misleading, as the word “prayer” is also used to translate a different word, “dua”, a reverent petition made to God. Salah may be better translated as “divine worship”, as it is primarily worship rather than petition.
Salah is preceded by ritual ablution. Salah consists of the repetition of a unit called a rakʿah (pl. rakaʿāt) consisting of prescribed actions and words. The number of obligatory (fard) rakaʿāt varies from two to four according to the time of day or other circumstances (such as Friday congregational worship, which has two rakats). Prayer is obligatory for all Muslims except those who are prepubescent, are menstruating, or are experiencing bleeding in the 40 days after childbirth.