The word Salat is an Aramaic loan word and has the following meanings, taken from classical Arabic lexicons: prayer, supplication, petition, oration, eulogy, benediction, etc. Its core underlying meaning relevant to all its usage in the Quran is to go/turn towards, as mentioned in the Quran 75:31-2.
If prayer existed in pre Islam, it must have been informal, un-organised and very individualistic. The pagan Arabs had no written or formalised rites nor a structured theology to follow.
Salat is the ritual prayer practised by Muhammadan Muslims in supplication to Allah. The term is commonly used to refer to the five daily prayers, which are compulsory upon all mature Muhammadans.
Salat (plural salawat) is considered the most important act of worship in Muhammadan Islam and its importance is such that under very few circumstances can it be omitted.
Salat is one of the Five Pillars of Sunni Islam and one of the ten Practices of the Religion in Shia Islam.
The person performing salat is termed a musallee, while the traditional prayer mat used to perform the prayers on is called a musalla.
Long before Muhammad, the pagan Arabs went to mosque/masjid and conducted prostrations and prayed to their gods. The Sabeans, prayed five times a day which Muhammad copied and incorporated in his 'Islamised' version of pagan rituals which suited his agenda since it had two more prayers than that of the Jews.
The regulations concerning prayer are very clearly derived in the main from Jewish tradition. In both rituals, the preliminary ablutions are indispensable.
The texts of the Quran do not give detailed instructions of the rituals of these prayers; it is mentioned in general terms only but it is made very clear of its utmost importance and became the second pillar of the Muhammadan faith.
Although the Quran stipulates THREE prayers only, Muhammadan theologians built the 'final' rituals of prayers upon the texts of the Hadith reports. Even then, there are manifest differences in the traditions of the various schools of law although basic elements are common to all of them.
The stipulation of the five prayers a day allegedly came about from the Hadith story about Muhammad's Mi'raj and his meeting with Moses who advised him to ask Allah to reduce it - from the originally incredible number of fifty that the Allah first ordained - to only five. (Bukhari Hadith 1.345).
Prayers are held in a Jami' (Mosque/Congregational Building). At the beginning of his 'ministry', the service in the mosque was a copy of that of the synagogue. The Friday prayer is obligatory on all male Muhammadans. Every prayer is conducted by an Imam - the prayer leader/conductor - who can be a lay person.
` In the mosque, especially during Friday noon prayer, every member of the congregation must be sober and attentive. This particular prayer is obligatory for all adult males. No frivolity is either allowed or tolerated.
Exactly like a military drill ground, all the worshippers are oriented in the same direction - towards Mecca - and all will perform the same general postures and genuflections.
In emulation of the tradition of the Jews regarding the reading of the Torah, the Quran must only be read in the Arabic language, no matter what the nationality of the believer is.
It is particularly on Friday that the leader (Imam) - or a lay person - delivers a sermon/khutba, in which an intercessory prayer is offered on behalf f the ruling head of state. This congregational assembly and rites had for its prototype the Synagogue of the Jews.
17: 78 Establish regular prayers at the sun's decline till the darkness of the night and the morning prayer and reading: for the prayer and reading in the morning carry their testimony.
79 And pray in the small watches of the morning: (it would be) an additional prayer (or spiritual profit) for thee: soon will thy Lord raise thee to a station of Praise and Glory!
24:58 O ye who believe! let those whom your right hands possess and the (children) among you who have not come of age ask your permission (before they come to your presence) on three occasions before morning prayer; the while ye doff your clothes for the noonday heat; and after the late-night prayer: these are your three times of undress: outside those times it is not wrong for you or for them to move about attending to each other: thus does Allah make clear the Signs to you: for Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom.
29: 45 Recite what is sent of the Book by inspiration to thee and establish Regular Prayer: for Prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds; and remembrance of Allah is the greatest (thing in life) without doubt. And Allah knows the (deeds) that ye do.
*** The reader should be made aware that almost every fetish and tradition of the Pagan Arabs which had existed for centuries BEFORE Muhammad, were ultimately and very conveniently INCORPORATED, Lock Stock and Barrel into his version of ISLAM, that his followers have no choice but to SLAVISHLY REPEAT and EMULATE even unto the present and the future ***