When most people think of “Islamic prayer,” they picture rows of worshippers bowing and prostrating in unison, usually inside a mosque, facing Mecca (Makkah). But the act of worship pictured is salat, a specific act of worship with geophysical as well as body-language physical protocols, requiring a ritual ablution, preferably in water, prior to its performance. The word du’a, on the other hand, is equivalent in meaning to the English word “prayer,” which is simply “supplication.” To refer to salat as “prayer” is convenient, because there is no English equivalent, but inaccurate.
Continuing from Day 1 of Ramadan with al-Fatiha, we shall begin to look at the structure of this Sura, guided by its unique significance and characteristics.
The first Sura of the Qur’an is al-Fatiha, or “the Opening.” It is short, consisting of 29 words arranged in seven ayat. Note the word for “verse,” when referring to the Qur’an, is aya (singular) or ayat (plural), and means “sign” or “signs.” This carries the sense of “miracle” as it does in English.