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Salah, Salaah or Salat (Arabic: صلاة; pl. صلوات ṣalawāt, meaning "prayer" or "invocation") is the second of the Five Pillars in the Islamic faith, 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. While facing towards the Kaaba in Mecca, one stands, bows, prostrates oneself, and concludes with sitting on the ground. During each posture one reads certain verses, phrases, and prayers. Ritual purity is a precondition.
Salah consists of the repetition of a unit called a rakʿah, a sequence of prescribed actions and words. The number of rakaʿahs varies according to the time of day and other factors.
- 1 Terminology
- 2 Purpose and importance
- 3 Conditions
- 4 Components
- 5 Differences in practice
- 6 Types of prayers
- 6.1 Fard (obligatory) Salah
- 6.2 Voluntary prayers
- 6.3 Wajib salat
- 7 Prayer in congregation
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 Further reading
- 12 External links
English-speakers only use the word to refer to the practice of the formal, obligatory prayers. Use of the word of "prayer" in English has multiple translations in Arabic dependend on the type of worsh. For example, prayer also could be translated to reverent supplication (duʿāʾ; Arabic: دُعَاء) and litany (dhikr) .
Words for salah used by MuslimsEdit
In some parts of the world, including many non-Arab countries, the Arabic term salat or salah is used alone. In other places a word from the local language is used. The most widespread term is the Persian word namāz (نماز), used by speakers of the Indo-Iranian languages (e.g., Persian, Kurdish, Bengali, Urdu, Balochi, Hindi), as well as by speakers of Turkish, Russian, Chinese, Bosnian and Albanian. In the North Caucasus, the term is lamaz (ламаз) in Chechen, chak (чак) in Lak and kak in Avar (как). In Malaysia and Indonesia the term solat is used, as well as a local term sembahyang (meaning "communication", from the words sembah - worship, and hyang - god or deity).
Salah in the QuranEdit
The noun ṣalāh (صلاة) is used about 82 times in the Quran, with about 15 other derivatives of its triliteral root ṣ-l-w. Words connected to salah (such as mosque, wudu, dhikr, etc.) are used around 700 times. In other words, approximately one-sixth of Quranic verses belong to salah. Examples include "Surely my prayer, and my sacrifice and my life and my death are (all) for Allah",[a] and "I am Allah, there is no god but I, therefore serve Me and keep up prayer for My remembrance".[b]
Exegesis of the Quran can give four dimensions of salah. First, in order to glorify God's servants, God, together with the angels, perform "salah"[c]. Second, salah is done involuntarily by all beings in Creation, in the sense that they are always in contact with God by virtue of Him creating and sustaining them[d]. Third, Muslims voluntarily perform salah to reveal that it is the particular form of worship that belongs to the prophets[e]. Fourth, salah is described as the second pillar of Islam.
Purpose and importanceEdit
Conditions for salah are classified in two main categories: conditions that make salah invalid, and some that make salah acceptable.
According to one view, among many, if one ignores the following conditions, their salah is invalid:
- Facing the Qibla, with the chest facing the direction of the Kaaba. The ill and the old are allowed leniency with posture;
- Having the ritual purity (wudu, tayammum, ghusl);
- Being sane and able to distinguish between right and wrong;
- Not performing salah in the pathway of people (unless a stationary object is placed in front, obstructing the people's way), in a graveyard or disrespectful places, on land which has been taken by force;
- Covering the awrah;
- Laughing or speaking, or any unnecessary movements during the salah;
- Burping loudly in such a way that it disturbs other worshippers; and
- Reading the necessary surahs or words too loudly, in a way that disturbs other worshippers
Other conditions for salah that are more open to debate include:
- Women not praying during their menstruation and for a period of time after childbirth.
- Covering of the whole body; and
- Praying within the time determined for each salah 
Sajdah of forgetfulnessEdit
During the ritual salat prayer, if a person forgets to do one of the actions of prayer he can make up for certain actions by performing two sujud at the end of the prayer. This can only be done if specific types of actions are forgotten by the person praying.
Each salah is made up of repeating units or cycles called rakats (singular rakah) which each includes a number of specific movements and the recitation of a certain amount of Koranic text and various traditional formulas, all in Arabic. The number of rakats for the five daily occasions of obligatory worship can be found below. One form of performing a rakah is given below: on minor details, there are different views in different schools of thought, but the major elements are universally agreed upon. People who find it physically difficult can perform salah in a way suitable for them.
Saying intention is the first act in prayer. For this, a Muslim stands with raised and open hands. Palms should be turned forward and held at ear level with thumbs placed behind the earlobes. Then he says Allahu akbar and puts his hands inside of the body.
- If this is the first rakah then prayer is commenced by the saying of the takbīr, which is اَللهُ أَكْبَرْ (transliteration "allāhu 'akbar", meaning "Allah is greater/greatest"). The hands are raised to the shoulders with palms facing the front, i.e., Qibla. This is done before, with or after saying the takbir. Both arms are placed on either the chest or above the navel.
- If this is the first rakat, a supplication praising Allah is said such as:
- (Arabic script) - سُبْحَاْنَكَ اَلْلّٰھُمَّ وَبِحَمدِكَ وَتَبَارَكَ اسْمُكَ وَتَعَالٰی جَدُّكَ وَلَا اِلٰه غَیْرِكَ
- (English script) - Subḥānaka llāhumma, wa-bi-ḥamdika, wa-tabāraka smuka, wa-taʿālā jadduka, wa-lā ʾlāha ġayruk.
- Meaning "Glorified be you, all praise is yours, perfect is your name, most high is your majesty and greatness. None has the right to be worshiped but you, the only one God."
- The recitation of the Qur'an begins by asking refuge with God from the accursed devil by reciting
- (Arabic script) - أَعُوْذُ بِاللهِ مِنَ الشَّـيْطٰنِ الرَّجِيْمِ
- (English script) - aʿūḏu bi-llāhi mina š-šayṭāni r-rajīm.
- Surah Al-Fatiha is recited.
- For the first or second rakat only, the recitation of Al-Fatiha is followed with a recitation of any other surah from the Qur'an. The customary practice is to recite the ayahs in the order found in the Qur'an.
- The takbīr is repeated and the hands are raised as previously described and the next position, bowing or ruku', begins.
- The palms are placed on the knees. Ideally, fingers are spaced out. The upper body should make a 90° angle with the lower body.
- Some of many types of remembrances of God are recited for this situation such as سبحان ربي العظيم (transliteration subḥāna rabbī l-ʿaẓīm, meaning "Glorified be Allah, the Tremendous") three times or more.
- I'tidal is the standing again after ruku'. The back is straightened, and the hands are raised as in takbir as mentioned before (not raised in Hanafi and Maliki schools) while saying سمع الله لمن حمده (transliteration samiʿa allāhu li-man ḥamidahu, meaning "God listens and responds to the one who praises him.")
- Some of many praises to God are said for this situation such as ربنا لك الحمد (transliteration rabbanā laka al-ḥamd, meaning "O Lord, all praise is for you.")
- The takbīr is said and the hands can be raised as mentioned before as the next position (not raised in Hanafi and Maliki schools).
- The forehead (and nose) are placed on the ground along with the knees, palms and toes.
- Some of many types of remembrances of God are recited for this situation such as سبحان ربى الأعلى وبحمده (transliteration subḥāna rabbī al-'aʿlā wa-bi-ḥamdihi meaning "Glorified be my God, the highest.") three times or more.
- The takbīr is repeated and the hands can be raised as mentioned before (not raised in Hanafi and Maliki schools) while the next position, kneeling, begins.
- The person performing the prayer sits between the two prostrations.
- Second prostrations are done exactly like the first time.
- The head is raised and the takbir is repeated, and the hands can be raised as mentioned before (not raised in Hanafi and Maliki schools). For every second and last rakat, only you would go to the sitting position again. Otherwise, the standing position begins again for the start of a new rakat.
- If this is the second raka'ah, sitting is done as before. If this is not part of the second raka'ah, then the left thigh is leaned against the ground, and both feet are protruding from the right side with the right foot either upright or along the ground. The left palm leans on the left knee.
- The right index finger is pointed towards the qibla.
- The Tashahhud is recited.
- Greetings on Muhammad, called the aṣ-ṣalātu ʿalā n-nabī are recited.
- If this is not the last raka'ah, a new raka'ah begins by standing up again with the takbir and the hands can be raised as mentioned before.
- If this is the last raka'ah, the greetings of taslim are said to the right such as السلام عليڪم ورحمة الله (transliteration "as-salāmu ʿalaykum wa raḥmatu llāh," meaning "Peace and God's mercy be upon you") and then similarly to the left.
The taslim brings the salah to an end.
Performing the Taslim Reciting the salam facing the right direction Reciting the salam facing the left direction
Takbir (saying Allah akbar, God is greater)Edit
Every movement from one position to another is accompanied by the takbir except the standing between the ruku and sujud, and the ending which has a derivation of the Muslim greeting As-salamu alaykum.
Differences in practiceEdit
Muslims believe that Muhammad practiced, taught, and disseminated the worship ritual in the whole community of Muslims and made it part of their life. The practice has, therefore, been concurrently and perpetually practiced by the community in each of the generations. The authority for the basic forms of the salah is neither the hadiths nor the Qur'an, but rather the consensus of Muslims.
This is not inconsistent with another fact that Muslims have shown diversity in their practice since the earliest days so the salah practiced by one Muslim may differ from another's in minor details. In some cases the Hadith suggest some of this diversity of practice was known of and approved by the Prophet himself.
Most differences arise because of different interpretations of the Islamic legal sources by the different schools of law (madhhabs) in Sunni Islam, and by different legal traditions within Shia Islam. In the case of ritual worship these differences are generally minor, and should rarely cause dispute.
- Position of legs and feet.
- Position of hands, including fingers
- Place where eyes should focus
- The minimum amount of recitation
- Loudness of recitation: audible, or moving of lips, or just listening
- Which of the principal elements of the prayer are indispensable, versus recommended, optional, etc.
Shia Muslims, after the end of the prayer, raise their hands three times, reciting Allahu akbar whereas Sunnis look at the left and right shoulder saying taslim. Also, Shias often read "Qunoot" in the second Rakat, while Sunnis usually do this after salah.
Ahmadi Muslims have the same salah practices as those belonging to the Hanafi madhab.
Types of prayersEdit
Fard (obligatory) SalahEdit
The Daily PrayersEdit
Most self-professed Muslims perform prayers five times a day. These prayers are obligatory on every Muslim who has reached the age of puberty, with the exception being those who are mentally ill, too physically ill for it to be possible, menstruating, or experiencing postnatal bleeding. Those who are sick or otherwise physically unable to offer their prayers in the traditional form are permitted to offer their prayers while sitting or lying, as they are able. Muslims who reject Hadith and Quranists, pray three times a day instead of five. Quranists in Algeria for example "perform the salat, unlike their usual pillars, and do not bow, but believe that prostration is the second pillar after the reading (of the Quran) is completed."
Times of prayersEdit
Each of the five prayers has a prescribed time measured by the movement of the sun. They are: between dawn and sunrise (fajr), after the sun has passed its zenith (zuhr), when afternoon shadows lengthen (asr), just after sunset (maghrib) and around nightfall (isha).
Salah must be prayed in its time unless there is a compelling reason preventing this.
Under some circumstances, ritual worship can be shortened or combined (according to prescribed procedures). If a given salah is not performed at the right time, it must be performed later.
The Fard Salah is all of the compulsory Muslim prayers – the five daily prayers, as well as the Friday prayer (Salat al-Jumu'ah) and the Eid prayers (Eid prayers). Non-performance of any of these prayers renders one a non-Muslim according to the stricter Hanbali madhhab of Sunni Islam, while the other Sunni madhhabs consider doing so a major sin. However, all four madhhabs agree that denial of the compulsory status of these prayers invalidates the faith of those who do so, rendering them non-Muslim. Fard prayers (as with all fard actions) are further classed as fard al-ayn (obligation of the self) and fard al-kifayah (obligation of sufficiency). Fard al-Ayn are actions considered obligatory on individuals, for which the individual will be held to account if the actions are neglected. Fard al-Kifayah are actions considered obligatory on the Muslim community at large, so that if some people within the community carry it out no Muslim is considered blameworthy, but if no one carries it out, all incur a collective punishment.
Men are required to perform the fard salat in congregation (jama'ah), behind an imam when they are able. According to most Islamic scholars, performing prayers in congregation is mustahabb (recommended) for men, when they are able, but is neither required nor forbidden for women.
Qasr and Jam' bayn as-SalaataynEdit
When travelling over long distances, one may shorten some prayers, a practice known as Qasr. Furthermore, several prayer times may be joined, which is referred to as Jam' bayn as-Salaatayn. Qasr involves shortening the obligatory components of the Zuhr, Asr, and Isha prayers to two rakats. Jam' bayn as-Salaatayn combines the Zuhr and Asr prayers into one prayer offered between noon and sunset, and the Maghrib and Isha prayers into one between sunset and Fajr. Neither Qasr nor Jam' bayn as-Salaatayn can be applied to the Fajr prayer.
There is no reference to Qasr during travel within the Qur'an itself; the Qur'an allows for Qasr when there is fear of attack, but does not forbid it for travel in non-hostile circumstances.
In certain circumstances, one may be unable to perform one's prayer within the prescribed time period (waqt). In this case, the prayer must be performed as soon as one can do so. Several Ahadith narrates that Muhammad stated that permissible reasons to perform Qada Salah are forgetfulness and accidentally sleeping through the prescribed time. However, knowingly sleeping through the prescribed time for Salah is deemed impermissible.
Muslims who reject Hadith and Quranists, pray three times a day instead of five. Quranists in Algeria for example "perform the salat, unlike their usual pillars, and do not bow, but believe that prostration is the second pillar after the reading (of the Quran) is completed."
Nafl salah (supererogatory prayers) are voluntary, and one may offer as many as he or she likes almost any time. There are many specific conditions or situations when one may wish to offer nafl prayers. They cannot be offered at sunrise, true noon, or sunset. The prohibition against salah at these times is to prevent the practice of sun worship. Some Muslims offer voluntary prayers immediately before and after the five prescribed prayers. Sunni Muslims classify these prayers as sunnah, while Shi'ah considers them nafil. One schema of the number of rakats for each of the five obligatory prayers as well as the voluntary prayers (before and after) are listed below - once again there are minor differences between schools.
|Name||Prescribed time period (waqt)||Voluntary before fard[t 1]||Obligatory||Voluntary after fard[t 1]|
|Dawn to sunrise, should be read at least 10–15 minutes before sunrise||2 Rakats Sunnat-Mu'akkadah[t 1]||2 Rakats[t 1]||2 Rakats[t 1]||—||2 Rakats[t 1]|
|Dhur (pronounced "Zuhr" by people from the Indian subcontinent)
|After true noon until Asr||4 Rakats Sunnat-Mu'akkadah[t 2]||4 Rakats||4 Rakats[t 3]||2 Rakats Sunnat-Mu'akkadah[t 2]||8 Rakats[t 1][t 4][t 5]|
|Afternoon[t 6][t 7]||4 Rakats Sunnat-Ghair-Mu'akkdah||4 Rakats||4 Rakats||-||8 Rakats[t 1][t 4][t 5]|
|After sunset until dusk||-||3 Rakats||3 Rakats||2 Rakats Sunnat-Mu'akkadah[t 2]||2 Rakats[t 1][t 4][t 5]|
|Isha (عشاء)[t 8]||Dusk until dawn[t 7]||4 Rakats Sunnat-Ghair-Mu'akkadah||4 Rakats||4 Rakats||2 Rakats Sunnat-Mu'akkadah,[t 2]
3 Rakats Witr
|2 Rakats[t 1][t 4][t 5]|
Many Sunni Muslims also perform two rakats nafl (voluntary) after the Zuhr and Maghrib prayers. During the Isha prayer, they perform the two rakats nafl after the two Sunnat-Mu'akkadah and after the witr prayer.
Salat al-Jumu'ah is a congregational prayer on Friday, which replaces the Zuhr prayer. It is compulsory upon men to perform it in the congregation, while women may perform it so or may perform Zuhr salat instead. Salat al-Jumu'ah consists of a sermon (khutba) given by the speaker (khatib) after which two rakats are performed. There is no Salat al-Jumu'ah without a khutba. Khutba is supposed to be carefully listened to as it replaces Sawaab of two Rakats.
|Name||Prescribed time period (waqt)||Voluntary before fard||Obligatory||Voluntary after fard|
|After true noon until Asr||4 Rakats Sunnat-e-Mu'akkadah||2 Rakats Sunnat/ Mustahab||2 Rakats Furz||4 Rakats Sunnat Mu'akkadah
2 Rakats Sunnat Mu'akkadah 2 Rakats Nafil
|2 Rakats Sunnat Mu'akkadah|
Wajib As-salat are compulsory, non-performance of which renders one a sinner. However, the evidence of the obligation is open to interpretation, with some of the madhab saying it is obligatory while others are saying it is optional. To deny that a fard salah is obligatory is an act of disbelief while denying the obligation of a wajib salat is not disbelief. Some believe that as the five prayers are obligatory, it automatically renders all other prayers optional.
Sun'nah sal'ah are optional and were additional voluntary prayers performed by Muhammad. They are of two types: the Sunnah Mu'akkaddah, practiced on a regular basis, which if abandoned causes the abandoner to be regarded as sinful by the Hanafi School; and the Sunnah Ghair Mu'akkaddah, practiced on a semi-regular practice by Muhammad, of which abandonment is not considered to be sinful.
Certain sunnah prayers have prescribed waqts associated with them. Those ordained for before each of the fard prayers must be performed between the first call to prayer (adhan) and the second call (iqama), which signifies the start of the fard prayer. Those sunnah ordained for after the fard prayers can be performed any time between the end of the fard prayers and the end of the current prayer's waqt. Any amount of extra rakats may be offered, but most madha'ib prescribe a certain number of rakats for each sunnah salah.
Witr is performed after the salah of Isha (dusk). Some Muslims consider witr wajib while others consider it optional. It may contain an odd number of rakats from one to eleven according to the different schools of jurisprudence. However, Witr is most commonly offered with three rakats.
Shi'ahs offer this as a one rakat salah at the end of salatul layl (the night prayer), which is an optional prayer according to some shi'ah scholars, and a wajib (obligatory) prayer according to others. This is to be prayed any time after Isha, up until fajr. The best time to perform the prayer is the last third of the night (the night being divided into three, between maghrib and fajr of that night). It is considered highly meritorious by all Shi'ah Muslims, and is said to bring numerous benefits to the believer, mainly gaining proximity to Allah. There are various methods of salatul-layl's performance, including shorter and longer versions, in the longer version the believer must perform eight nawafil salah, in sets of two rakats each, then they must pray a two rakats salah called 'salatul shafa'ah' this is to include surah nas after surah fatihah in the first rakat and surah falaq after surah fatihah in the second rakat, and unusually no qunut (a du'ah recited before going into ruku' of the second rakat of most prayers performed by shi'ahs) It is after this that the believer performs salatul witr, it's long method being - Starting with takbiratul ehram, then surah fatihah, then surah ikhlas, then surah falaq, then surah nas, then the hands are raised to recite qunut, upon which the believer can recite any du'a, however there are many recommended du'as for this purpose. Within qunut, the believer must pray for the forgiveness of 40 believers, then further prayers are read where the believer asks for forgiveness for himself a certain number of times using specified phrases and amounts of time to repeat those phrases. The believer then completes the salah in the usual way, by completing his qunut, reciting takbir whilst raising his hands, going into ruku' and reciting the usual phrase for that, then returning up right and reciting takbir whilst doing so and upon being upright recites 'sami allahu liman hamida' (verily Allah has heard the one who has praised him) thereupon the believer recites takbir whilst raising his hands and goes into sajda. He recites the proscribed phrase in sajda rises, recites takbir whilst rising and then again whilst returning to sajdah, then rises with takbir again and recites tashahud and salam, thus ending this prayer. It is then optional to recite certain other du'as and dhikr (remembrance of Allah through certain phrases and some of his names being repeated) It is then recommended to perform sajdah ash-shukr (prostration of thanks) and to then recite ayatul kursi (verse of the throne) and then perform another sajdah ash-shukr.
Eid salah is performed on the morning of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. The Eid prayer is most likely an individual obligation (fard al-ayn) and Niyyah for both Eid salah is made as Wajib, though some Islamic scholars argue it is only a collective of the obligation(fard al-kifayah). It consists of two rakats, with seven (or three for the followers Imam Hanafi) takbirs offered before the start of the first rakat and five (or three for the followers of Imam Hanafi) before the second. After the salah is completed, a sermon (khutbah) is offered. However, the khutbah is not an integral part of the Eid salah. The Eid salah must be offered between sunrise and true noon i.e. between the time periods for Fajr and Zuhr.
Salat al-Istikhaarah is a prayer performed when a Muslim needs guidance on a particular matter. To perform this salah one should pray a normal two non-fard rakats salah to completion. After completion one should request God that which on is better. The intention for the salah should be in one's heart to pray two rakats of salah followed by Istikhaarah. The salah can be performed at any of the times where salah is not forbidden.
Upon entering the mosque, "Tahiyyatul masjid" may be performed; this is to pay respects to the mosque. Every Muslim entering the mosque is encouraged to perform these two rakats.
Prayer in congregationEdit
Prayer in congregation (jama'ah) is considered to have more social and spiritual benefit than praying by oneself. When praying in congregation, the people stand in straight parallel rows behind one person who conduct the prayer, called imam, and face the qibla. The imam is usually chosen to be a scholar or the one who has the best knowledge of the Qur'an, preferably someone who has memorized it (a hafiz). In the first row behind the imam, if available, would be another hafiz to correct the imam in case a mistake is made during the performance of the salah. The prayer is performed as normal, with the congregation following the actions and movements of the imam as he performs the salah.
For two people of the same gender, the imam would stand on the left, and the other person is on the right. For more than two people, the imam stands one row ahead of the rest.
When the Worshippers consist of men and women combined, a man is chosen as the imam. In this situation, women are typically forbidden from performing this role. This point, though unanimously agreed on by the major schools of Islam, is disputed by some groups, based partly on a hadith whose interpretation is controversial. When the congregation consists entirely of women and pre-pubescent children, one woman is chosen as imam. When men, women, and children are praying, the children's rows are usually between the men's and women's rows, with the men at the front and women at the back. Another configuration is where the men's and women's rows are side by side, separated by a curtain or other barrier, with the primary intention being for there to be no direct line of sight between male and female Worshippers, following a Qur'anic injunction toward men and women each lowering their gazes (Qur'an 24:30–31).
The prayer commences with the imam saying "Allahu akbar" out loud. For the five daily prayers, the Imam would read the surah fatiha and the following section of the Quran out loud only for the first two rakats of Fajr, Maghrib and Isha. To move between positions, the Imam would say "Allahu akbar" out loud, such as when going to the bowing position, except when standing up again from the bowing position, when the Imam would say "SamiAllahu liman hamidah" out loud. The prayer is concluded with the imam saying the taslim out loud.
A Worshipper who has joined a congregation prayer late after missing rakats is called a masbuq. The masbuq would participate with the rest of the group in prayer, however, when the taslim is said at the end, he or she would not say the taslim but would instead stand up and continue for the number of rakats missed. If he joined after the bowing stage of a rakat, then he or she would have considered having missed that rakat.
- According to Shia Muslims, these are to be performed in sets of two rakats each. This is not the case for Sunni Muslims.
- According to Sunni Muslims, there is a difference between Sunnat-Mu'akkadah (obligatory) and Sunnat-Ghair-Mu'akkadah (voluntary). Unlike for the Sunnat-Ghair-Mu'akkadah, the Sunnat-Mu'akkadah was prayed by Muhammed daily.
- Replaced by Jumu'ah on Fridays, which consists of two rakats.
- Mustahab (praiseworthy) to do everyday. (Shias)
- According to Shia Muslims, this prayer is termed nawafil.
- According to Imam Abu Hanifa, "Asr starts when the shadow of an object becomes twice its height (plus the length of its shadow at the start time of Zuhr)." For the rest of Imams, "Asr starts when the shadow of an object becomes equal to its length (plus the length of its shadow at the start time of Zuhr)." Asr ends as the sun begins to set.
- According to Shia Muslims, Asr prayer and Isha prayer have no set times but are performed from mid-day. Zuhr and Asr prayers must be performed before sunset, and the time for Asr prayer starts after Zuhr has been performed. Maghrib and Isha prayers must be performed before midnight, and the time for Isha prayer can start after Maghrib has been performed, as long as no more light remains in the western sky signifying the arrival of the true night.
- Further information on the usage of the word "Isha" (evening) see Quran 12:16, Quran 79:46
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