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Prayer Positions

Prayer Positions
Tracing the derivation of prayer positions from Torah, to Temple times, to Modern Practice
By Ben Abrahamson
Published 2010


This paper discusses the various forms of bowing and prostration in use in the Mosque and Synagogue. It is not meant to be a full comparison between Rabbinic and Islamic prayer customs but instead to propose a place to begin when seeking correlations in prayers. The groundwork is laid for further research to discern the identity and customs of the Jews of Arabia and the source of additional rabbinic customs that were shared by Muslims. It also opens the possibility that Islamic custom may have influenced medieval rabbinic custom. Of particular interest is the section "Repetition of the Shemonah Esrei" where the calculation of Rabbinic and Islamic Ra'akat's are shown to be the same.

Bowing at the gate in the Temple soreg fence


Part I. Introduction

  1. Prostration in the Temple and Synagogue
  2. Formal Public Prayer: The Shemonah Esrei
  3. Types of Prostration
  4. Prostration after the Destruction of the Temple
  5. Halachic Rulings and Modern Practice

Part II

  1. Washing hands, feet, face; rinsing mouth before prayer (רחיצת רגליים וידיים) Hebrew Rechitzah, Arabic Wudu
  2. Removing shoes (חליצת נעלים)
  3. Prohibition to prostrate on stone floors (outside the Temple)
  4. Standing (עמידה) Hebrew Qam, `Amidah, Arabic Qiyam
  5. Feet touching (רגל אחת)
  6. Folding hands in prayer
  7. Raising the hands (נשיאת ידים) Hebrew Nisiyat Kapayim, Arabic Niyyat
  8. Swaying a prayers (מנוד ראש)
  9. Bending at the Waist until the Knees (בריכה) Hebrew breikhah, Arabic ruku
  10. Partial Prostration: getting down on hands and knees and face (קידה), Hebrew Qidah, Arabic Sajda
  11. Qida as a preparation for Hishtakhaweh
  12. Full Prostration (השתחויה) Hebrew Hishtakhaweh, Arabic Sajda
  13. Kneeling (כריעה) Hebrew Kri`ah, Arabic Qu’ud sitting
  14. Giving Shalom and three steps back (עשה שלום) Hebrew Oseh Shalom, Arabic Salaamu 'alaikum
  15. Repetition of the Shemonah Esrei
  16. To fall on the face (נפילת אפים) Hebrew nefilat apayim
  17. Appendix I. Gates of Prayer
  18. Appendix II. Linguistic Derivations
  19. Appendix III. Islamic and Rabbinic Prayer
  20. Appendix IV. Islamic and Rabbinic Raka’at
  21. Appendix V. Islamic and Rabbinic Prayer Times
  22. Appendix VI. Correspondence between Islamic and Rabbinic Prayer

This manuscript is also available as a pdf file.