Q&A: Fort Collins Islamic Center’s Shakir Muhammad explains Muslim prayer

Evan Vicchy

A group of men praying
The congregation follows in evening prayer on March 26, 2018 at the Islamic Center of Fort Collins. During this ritual prayer, payers were led by an imam. (Josh Schroeder | Collegian)

Praying is a central part of any religion; in Islam, this is especially the case. Muslims pray five times a day in accordance with traditional movements and recitation. 

The Collegian sat down with Shakir Muhammad, outreach chairman for the Fort Collins Islamic Center, to gain a better understanding of Muslim prayer. 

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Collegian: What is Islam to you?

Muhammad: Islam, to me, is the culminating belief in all the prophets and messengers. We believe in the prophets and messengers in the Bible like Jesus, Moses and Noah, and we believe the prophet Mohammad is the last prophet sent to mankind. The main definition of faith is to basically leave off idolatry and to worship God alone.

Collegian: What are your praying habits? 

Muhammad: The five times daily prayer is known as the Salah. It happens five times a day and is based on the position of the sun. Each position of the sun to the next is the prayer window for that previous prayer.

Collegian: Do you have a prayer leader?

Muhammad: The Imam is the leader of a congregation, and the Imam is the leader of any type of Islamic gathering or community. Typically, it’s a person who leads a prayer. In the greater scheme of things, it would be a person who leads the whole community, and even larger than that, it would be a person who has a larger following across nations.

Collegian: Can you explain the process of the Salah?

Muhammad: In the prayer, there is basically a cycle of prayer movements. So there is standing, there is bowing and there is prostration when your head is on the ground. So that’s one cycle, and then you go up again. Some prayers have more than one movement cycle. There’s one that has two, one that has three and the other three have four cycles.

A group of men praying
Prayers move through the movements of the round during the evening prayer time. These prayers had participants moving through various positions, from standing to bowing to kneeling to touching their forehead to the ground. (Josh Schroeder | Collegian)

Collegian: What is recitation? 

Muhammad: The chanting or singing you hear during the prayer. The opening chapter of the Koran is mentioned in all of the prayers. After that, there are some things that you say in a prayer like “God hears those who praise him,” or “exalted be God” and “God is most great”. After that, a person might recite something from the Koran that they feel inspired to recite. So, a person might recite what fits the moment.

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Collegian: Is praying time separated by gender? If so, why?

Muhammad: Yes, they are separated by gender. Typically, at any mosque, you’ll find men are in the front and women are in the back. Here, the women are actually above on the second level. We wanted to give the women their own space, and often we have Muslim women who wear the face veil, and obviously they wear the hijab. So, she might come from outside and want to take off her head cover. She can do that in the privacy of the women’s section without wondering about men who see her to protect her modesty.

Collegian: What is the main goal of the mosque?

Muhammad: In the house of God, everything is taken down to the greatest common denominator, which is worship of God. When you saw the prayer, we lined up side by side, and that represents unity and solidarity in worship before God. Islam is very much a communal religion. You cannot be a complete Muslim alone. Islam encourages you and commands you to be a part of the group.

Collegian reporter Evan Vicchy can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @evanNOTkevin7