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The Case of the Ultrasound Technician

Friday is the primary prayer day, and many Muslims close their businesses in the afternoon to attend prayer services at a mosque. Thursdays are also important days for prayer and, for certain Muslims, for fasting. Shi’a Muslims from India or Pakistan, for example, attend evening services and may fast on Thursdays. Islamic prayer is an elaborate set of speech and movements, all of which are delineated in the scriptures.

The main prayers and practices of Islam are best summarized through what Muhammad called the Five Pillars of Islam.

  • The First Pillar is a confession of faith in Allah and his prophet, Muhammad. This confession, the Shahadah, states, “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet.”
  • The Second Pillar is ritual prayer, or salat. Muslims must pray five times daily: at daybreak, at noon, at mid-afternoon, after sunset, and before going to bed. The ritual part of the prayer is a series of movements and recitations called a bowing. Different numbers of bows are prescribed for different prayer times. The prayers are always made facing Mecca. They are spoken in Arabic and are carried out in the same manner everywhere, signifying the unity of all Muslims. The Friday prayer emphasizes the community even more and is an obligation. When in a mosque, all kneel prostrate in long close rows behind the prayer leader.

It’s preferable for Muslims to perform their ritual prayers in a mosque. But if this opportunity is not afforded them, they may pray anywhere, facing Mecca, often using a prayer rug. Muslims may carry a prayer rug with them or substitute a towel or even a newspaper if a rug is unavailable. They must also ritually cleanse themselves before beginning their prayer. Many Muslims prefer to pray in a room with no images. They may, for example, wish to turn pictures facedown temporarily if engaging in prayer.

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