Ritual prayer (salat) punctuates each day in the life of a Muslim. It is one of the five basic duties and observances that are obligatory for all Muslims, known as the pillars of Islam. The pillars of Islam are the profession of faith, daily prayer, the giving of alms, observance of the annual fast, and pilgrimage to Mecca. Recited five times a day, ritual prayer consists of verses from the Qur’an: the sacred text of Islam. Ritual prayer, always in Arabic, serves as a unifying force for Muslim communities everywhere, irrespective of the diversity of their languages.
The Qur’an (also Koran) is believed to contain the literal word of God communicated by the angel Gabriel to the prophet Muhammad (d. 632). God’s revelations to Muhammad took place between 610 and 632 on the Arabian Peninsula, partly in the city of Mecca, Muhammad’s birthplace, and partly in the city of Medina, to which Muhammad and his followers migrated in 622. During Muhammad’s lifetime, the Qur’an was primarily transmitted orally. To preserve the recited words as they were first communicated, Muhammad’s successors compiled them into a book. According to some traditions, this task was completed around a.d. 650. In its written form, the Qur’an contains 114 chapters (suras) divided into verses.
Recite: In the name of thy Lord who created,
Created man from a clot of blood.
Recite: And thy Lord is the Most Generous,
Who taught by the Pen,
Taught man what he knew not.