For salat to be complete, there are few criteria that need to be met: Purification from filth and dirt, physical purification (ablution), covering of private parts, time of prayer, intention and turning to the qiblah.
Additionally, there are six conditions that must be applied during salat: Opening takbir, standing position (qiyam), reciting of Quran (qiraah), bowing (ruku), prostration and the final sitting position.
Purification from filth and dirt can be described as two types, one that is visible and one that is invisible. The latter is more significant for this is the type of filth the Quran refers to as the filth of duality.
For one to thoroughly turn to salat, he must be cleansed from the concept of duality, which is also of two types: one that is apparent and one that is hidden.
On the contrary, it is debatable how beneficial it can be to turn to an assumed god in space without understanding the reality of the One whose name is Allah.
The second condition is to take ablution. Physically, this is done with water or with soil… Since ablution can be taken even with one glass of water or, in case of no water, by rubbing soil onto one’s face and other parts of the body, clearly this isn’t about physical cleansing.
The spiritual component of ablution is to cleanse one’s self from the deeds that have come about from one’s senses and organs – or in other words, from accrediting deeds to yourself and thinking you created them. It is to come to the understanding that the One creates everything based on divine wisdom.
In fact, it is to not even condition the One by ‘wisdom’!
Covering of private parts during prayer is different for men and women. At the level of the mind, covering means to cover one’s personal and identity based conditionings, value judgments and emotions and to be objective and open to the knowledge of Allah. In other words, to cover one’s ego! The ego is one’s point of shame, which if it can’t be thrown out altogether, it should at least be covered.
The right timing is a necessary factor for salat to be fulfilled, for you can only pray the salat of the time that you are currently in. All other salats you make other than the salat of that particular time are also beneficial practices. Externally, there are five known time periods for salat. Spiritually, the right time comes when one is cleansed from the ego and is ready to go into the divine presence selflessly!
Intention is part of preparation for salat; it is to consciously turn towards and make a decision. The purpose is to realize one’s nothingness in the sight of Allah and to become His conduit, such that it is He who recites through the person.
Turning to the Kaaba. A deeper meaning is turning to Allah, for it is He who exists in all essences. It is to feel the real existence in the non-existence of one’s ego. It is to recognize one’s nothingness in the sight of Allah, the Absolute Unknown… This is how salat begins…
As for the criteria that must be met for salat to be fulfilled:
The opening takbir is to say ‘Allahu Akbar’ in order to commence salat. If the person can really say Allahu Akbar – contemplating the Earth, the galaxy and the infinite vastness of space and understand his place within this magnificent infiniteness, and discern that the Sublime Creator of this infinite greatness is beyond comprehension – salat will have commenced.
The proper application of this creates such awe that many may shiver and feel some form of rapture at this point, experiencing the annihilation of their ego and reciting the Basmalah and Fatiha, at which point the reciter will no longer be the person. It will be Allah doing hamd to Himself through the person! As the verse evidences, “It was not you who threw when you threw”!
This is the type of salat referred to as ascension; it enables the person to reach the essence of salat and allows him to observe the Qayyum within his being.
Bowing is to bend and lower one’s self before the Reciter, for everything in existence is fulfilling its servitude under the command of the Reciter by actualizing their creational purpose.
Then it is said, “Samiallahu liman hamidah” i.e. “Allah has perceived the hamd of the one who is doing hamd!”
How can He not? It was He who was doing the hamd in the first place, though the tongue belonged to the servant!
Then going back to upright position we say, “lakal hamd kama yanbagheey li jalali wajhika wa li azimi sultaniq...” i.e. “Hamd belongs to You! I am impotent from duly evaluating the sublimity of Your countenance and the might of Your sovereignty!”
Then taking the Rasul (saw) as example and feeling total impotence, we delve into nothingness by going down to prostration! Prostration is where the nothingness of the entire existence in the sight of Allah is observed and felt.
Then we sit up and say, “Have mercy on us, forgive us, bestow Your mercy and grace”… Then we prostrate again, this time, the one who observed the inexistence of everything in the sight of Allah has now become inexistent himself, he has reached the state of nothingness. Then the sitting position is taken again, and the calling comes, “At tahiyyatu lillahi was salawatu wattayyibat!” The answer is directly from the Rabb to the Reality of Muhammad in his essence: “As salamu alayka ya ayyuhan nabiyyu wa rahmatillahi wa barakatuhu!”