I believe that there are many books and materials talking about this particular matter. I just want to revise again what I have in my head regarding this subject matter. When we keep our own notes, we tend to remember more rather than just reading. Salat is one among those basic things in acts of worship and core matter in pillar of Islam. If our salat is not perfect and we do it without understanding, we will face the problem regarding our daily life. This temporary life is the bridge for us to the hereafter.
First of all, what does salat mean? Salat means the act where we seek connection with the God. It is a formal prayer for us where we prostrate to Him with several rules. This word comes from the semitic root word which is صل sil. From this word only, we could derive many other words related to soul and connection between souls and the God such as صلاة salat, صلوات salawat, صلاة الرحيم silaaturraheem and etc.
In our national language, we simply say sembahyang when refering to salat. It literally means respecting the heaven. Hyang refers to anything up the heaven and our forefathers who came by to South East Asia since 10th C as missionaries had used local words used by natives when teaching the path to people around as to make it easy for everyone to grasp the essence of teachings. Northern Muslim Indians may say namas which means bowing to the God and it was derived from Sanskrit root word. When we perform salat, we are communicating with the God through these categories of acts...
Categories of the Acts in Salaat
There are 3 categories of the acts in salaat:
1. قلبِ qalbi which means heart and mental related to intention.
2. قولِ qawli which means oral related to recitation
3. فعلِ fi'liy means acts performed in salat.
These three categories can be seen in the pillars of salat which consists of 13 articles. There are also conditions which obligate a person to perform salat and also the condition for a validate salat. We could check it ourselves after we slowly learn about these, don't worry.
First of all before we perform any salat, we have to perform ritual washing which is called as wudhu'. As for me, I am following the method of Hanbali angle of sunnah. Not much different to Syafi'ie jurisprudence. I would like to inform that, most Wahhabis whom most people in Malaysia always associate with those from Hejaz are following Hanbali method of jurisprudence. There is no such thing of madzhab Wahhabi and I also despise those 'Wahhabis' who simply accuse this and that as innovation because they are not masters of Quran, hadiths and sunnah while just depending on their syeikhs. I would talk about how to perform wudhu' maybe later if I am free and I could find my notes that I jot down. Those from Syafi'ie angle of sunnah please perform it according to the imam which you have your naqal (riding for practices) on him.
Pillars of Salat
Basically, pillars of salat altogether consists of 13 articles in it. They are:
Beginning the salat
For those who are able to stand straight since leaning or not standing upright in salat will invalidate the salat. For those who can't because of illness, they may perform it in postures that they are comfortable with.
In Arabic it is called as النية an-niyyah. Usually we will recite the intention such as: "I perform this obligatory salat (the name of salat) (how many units) only for Allah the Most Highest." We also mentally recite it in our heart because heart is the place where sincerity comes. Niyyah is to make sure that we are aware that we are performing the salat.
It is spelled like this تكبيرة الأحرام in Arabic. What does it mean? It literally means saluting to magnify the God. It is done simultaneously with intention. Raising our hands up to the level of shoulders. Our fingers slightly apart and touching earlobes. When doing this, we say الله أكبر Allahuakbar which means, the God is the Almighty.
Reciting the al-Fatihah
In every unit of salat, we need to begin with al-Fatihah. The first verse of al-Fatihah is بسم الله basmallah which means "in the Name of the God, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful." In obligatory salat, we must also recite another surah for first two units. But in superoregatory salat, al-Fatihah is sufficient. If a person could not yet memorize the Arabic version, just recite them in his or her mother tongue. But make sure to learn the Arabic verses for recitation time by time. Al-Fatihah is a supplication and it ends with amin.
In Every Units of Salat
Ruku' and Tama'ninah
ركوع ruku' means bowing like we see the Japanese always do when greeting others. We bow after the recitation of surah al-Fatihah and another surah. What is طمأنينة tama'ninah? Tama'ninah is not my girlfriend, lol. Tama'ninah means tranquility or stopping for a second after we perform such an act like ruku' or others. While performing ruku' we will recite three times, سبحان ربِّىَ العظيم وبحمده subhaana rabbiyal 'azeemi wa bi-hamdihi which means glory be to the God the Most Greatest.
I'tidal and Tama'ninah
After we perform ruku', we will perform إعتدال i'tidal. I'tidal is standing again after bowing. While we raise up to stand again, we would raise up also our hands to the level of shoulders and saying سمعَ اللهُ لِمَن حمدَه samee'allahu li-man hamidah. It means, the God is listening to those who praise Him. Say ربنا و لكَ الحمد rabbanaa wa la-ka-l hamd which means our Lord, for You praises and say الله أكبر Allahuakbar before perform the sujud or prostration.
Prostration or سجود sujud involves seven of body parts placed upon the floor where we prostrate. Those parts are: bare forehead including the point of nose, both palms, both knees, and base of toes for both feet. While prostrating, we say سبحان ربى الأعلى و بحمده subhaana-rabbiya-l a'alaa wa bihamdihi which means glory be to the Lord the Most Highest and praises only for Him. For each unit of salat, we have two prostrations. Between those prostrations, there is a sitting posture. We say, اللَّهُمَّ اغْفِرْ لِي، وَارْحَمْنِي، وَاهْدِنِي، وَاجْبُرْنِي، وَعَافِنِي، وَارْزُقْنِي، وَارْفَعْنِي allahumm-aghfirli-wa-r-hamni-wa-hdini-wa-jburni-wa-'aafiniy-wa-rzuqniy-wa-r-fa'niy and it means our Lord please forgive us, and have mercy on me, and guide me, and support me, and protect me, and sustain me, and elevate me from evil.
Sitting for Tashahod Akhir
Tashahod akhir must be done in sitting posture. It is the conclusion of every salat.
تشهد أخر tashahod akhir is the last testimony. We have several things that we say to conclude our salat. I just provide their meanings here as it is tedious to alternately write in Arabic. We would say: "the respect for the God, blessings and greeting and the goodness and peace may it be poured upon prophet Muhammad s.a.w." We then say, "the peace may it be poured upon us and to all of the servants of the God who are pious." Say: "I bear witness that there is no gods except the God, and I bear witness that Muhammad s.a.w is His servant and His messenger to us."
Prayers for prophet Muhammad s.a.w and patriarch Abraham a.s
Then say the greeting and prayers for both prophets Muhammad s.a.w and patriarch Abraham a.s: "Our Lord please be in connection with our prophet Muhammad s.a.w and his family as you had been in connection with our patriarch Abraham a.s and his family. Our Lord, please bless our prophet Muhammad s.a.w and his family. As you had blessed our patriarch Abraham a.s and his family before. In the Universe and worlds, indeed only You are the One worth receiving praises and glory."
We call this as duruud. Turn to the right side and say: "peace be upon you and mercy of the God and His blessings." Turning to the left and say the same to our brothers or sisters if in congregational salat service.
Movements are done step by step. Other movements and recitations while performing these steps are prophetic traditions (make sure they are with valid evidence).
For Muslim brothers and sisters of Shi'ite branch, please refer Ayatullah's and Imam Ja'afar guidelines regarding articles of salat and recitations. I wish that we could get benefit from our learning, making us closer to Allah day by day.
Sealed with prayers for peace, mercy, and love, amin!