Pray a set number of times each day
Of course, individuals may pray any time they want, as often as they want, and as many times as they want. But in both Judaism and Islam, there is also a fixed number of set times each day that the faithful are religiously required to engage in formal prayers. Any additional prayers beyond that essential baseline is optional, but this bare minimum is mandatory. Many with only a smattering of knowledge about Islam may at least be aware of the relatively well-known Muslim practice of praying five times each day. This prayer practice is one of the so-called “Five Pillars of Islam,” the observance of each of which is mandatory for all Muslims. Five times a day, every day, Muslims stop whatever else they may be doing in order to participate in their formal prayers. Wherever they may happen to be at the designated prayer times, they must find a suitable location (if nearby, a mosque is ideal, but not necessary). These five daily prayer times are obligatory; if one of them is missed due to unavoidable circumstances, it must be made up later. Wherever on the face of the earth that they may currently find themselves, Muslims worldwide are required at these five daily periods to face the direction of Mecca (in Saudi Arabia), and then perform the prescribed ritual prayers. Whatever language they may otherwise speak in their daily lives, these formal prayers are memorized and uttered in Arabic, the language of the Quran. These five prayer times are set, and specific: at dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset, and nightfall. Traditionally, a muezzin (a sort of Islamic town crier) would announce the call to prayer for the local community from atop a mosque’s high minaret (a tall tower or spire) at the onset of each appointed prayer time. Today, such modern conveniences as P.A. systems, automatic timers, and even online websites have supplemented or replaced the traditional muezzin‘s prayer call in many places around the globe.
Likewise, Jews also traditionally pray a fixed set of times each day. However, rather than numbering five, these Jewish formal daily prayers occur at only three times each day — at morning, afternoon, and evening. (A fourth daily prayer is added on sabbaths and holidays, and a fifth one for Yom Kippur, Judaism’s most sacred holy day.) Daily synagogue services are held corresponding to each of these three daily Jewish prayers. Of the four major contemporary branches of the Jewish faith, both Orthodox Judaism as well as Conservative Judaism regard the three daily prayers as mandatory; Reform Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism both consider them optional, a matter of personal choice.
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