What has made us careless in our prayers?
Allah the Almighty, Creator of the Heavens and Earth addresses mankind, reproaching them: “O man, what has made you careless concerning your Lord, the Most Generous. Him Who created thee. Fashioned thee in due proportion and gave thee a just bias. In any form He willed, He put you together.” Qur’an 82:6-8
What has seduced you, into such a state that you neglect the One who created you in love and mercy, inducing you to disobey Him and feel secure from His punishment, neither admitting His right upon you nor showing gratitude for the countless blessings bestowed upon you?
“O my people, worship Allah. You have no other deity but Him” Qur’an 11:84
That was the message of every prophet sent to mankind. It was not a new message, but a reminder of the inherent truth that all men carry deep in their souls, that Allah the Creator, alone is worthy of worship.
No other form of worship can be compared to Formal prayer or “Salat”. It is the basis of religion, without which there is no religion. Prayer was practiced in some form by the earlier prophets and their followers as an essential part of the religion of God.
Prophet Ibrahim, alayhi wa sallam, asked Allah’s support in this duty:
“O my Lord! Make me one who establishes regular Prayer and also (raise such) among my offspring O our Lord! And accept my invocation.” Quran 14:40
Allah spoke to Prophet Musa, alayhi wa sallam, saying:
“Verily I am Allah: none has the right to worshipped but I: so worship me (only) and establish regular Prayer for celebrating My praise.” Qur’an 20:14
Prophet Isa, alayhi wa sallam, says of his Lord:
“And He has made me Blessed wheresoever I be and has enjoined on me Prayer and Charity as long as I live;” Quran 19:31
And Allah orders Prophet Muhammad, Sallah Allahu Alaihi wa Salaam:
“Recite what is sent of the Book by inspiration to you, 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 you do.” Qur’an 29:45
Islam, which is the final religion, the completion and confirmation of monotheistic religion, considers prayer essential. The denial of prayer removes one from the ranks of Islam. Prayer was the first duty ordered of the Muslim community, having been made obligatory upon them in Makkah about three years before the Hijra (emigration) to Madinah.
All Islamic obligations were revealed to Prophet Muhammad upon the earth, while prayer alone, due to it’s importance, was ordered in Heaven on the night of Israa’ and Mi’raj. This is proof enough of the Creator’s great concern that this communion between Himself and His servants be established.
Prayer is expected of every Muslim (and Muslimah) who is sane and of age. It is reported that the Prophet, Sallah Allahu Alaihi wa Salaam said:
“The pen is raised for three groups [of people]”–that is, they will not be responsible for their actions—“the insane until they become sane, those who are sleeping until they awaken, and the young until they reach puberty.” Ahmad, Abu Dawud, and At-Tirmidhi.
All others are responsible for their duties before Allah, and the foremost of these duties is prayer. Prayer is ordered continuously throughout Qur’an. Allah, in His mercy emphasizes it’s importance over and over so there can be no doubt. He tells us:
“Guard strictly your (habit of) Prayers, especially the middle prayer and stand before Allah in a devout (frame of mind).” Qur’an 2:238
And He says:
“When you have finished the (congregational) Prayers, celebrate Allah’s praises standing, sitting down or lying down on your sides; but when you are free from danger, set up regular Prayers: for such Prayers are enjoined on believers at stated times.” Qur’an 4:103
It should be noted as well that in Islam, the establishment of prayer is emphasized: The Qur’an does not tell us: “pray”, but it tells us: “establish prayer”. Prayer should not to be merely a series of words and movements practiced occasionally, without thought. But it must be established in the heart, if it is to give the desired result. Prayer is to be established for the individual at it’s proper times and according to it’s definite conditions. It is to be established in the home, in the family, and finally in the community as a whole. This is because the prayer, when established and practiced in the proper fashion ties the individual (and the group) to Allah in a positive and fruitful way. It awakens the believer’s heart to his Lord and to himself, and reminds him of that Day on which he will stand before his Creator with nothing between them.
The Messenger of Allah, Sallah Allahu Alaihi wa Salaam, said “The first act that the slave will be accountable for on the Day of Judgement will be prayer. If it is good, then the rest of his acts will be good. And if it is evil, then the rest of his acts will be evil.” At-Tabarani
We know from the sayings of the Prophet , that an important purpose of prayer is to wash away sins. Another is it’s effect on the believer’s conscience. But most important, as Allah tells us in Qur’an, is the remembrance of Himself, for that is the source of all benefit:
“Recite what is sent of the Book by inspiration to you 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 you do.” Qur’an 29:45
The importance of keeping the prayer is affirmed in every situation: at home or while traveling, in security or fear, in peace or war, in health or illness. Even if it is not possible to fulfill the usual required conditions of prayer, such as cleanliness or proper dress, permission to neglect or postpone the prayer altogether is never given. Allah, in his Mercy, has given us concessions or substitutes in certain circumstances one might face, such as making Tayammum (using dust or soil for purification instead of water) and Kasr wa Jama’ (shortening and joining the prayers) during a journey. However, the only permission to neglect or postpone the prayer, is for a women at the time of childbirth or her monthly cycles. Even the person too ill to move or threatened by an enemy must pray, if only with his eyes or in his heart – as much as he is able, and as long as his mental faculties are intact. During the last breaths of his life, the Messenger of Allah , in concern for his community continued to remind them: “The prayer … the prayer…”.
There are several authentic sayings of the Prophet, Sallah Allahu Alaihi wa Salaam, defining the abandonment of prayer as “kufr” or disbelief, which as we know, subjects the person to eternal punishment in the hereafter. Among the most well known of these sayings are:
“Between a person and disbelief is discarding prayer.” Ahmad, Muslim, Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah
“The covenant that is between us and them is (on the basis of) prayer, so he who (abandons it, in fact shows) infidelity (to Allah).” Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Nasa’i and Ibn Majah
Most scholars have interpreted this to mean that anyone who does not pray is to be considered from the kuffar or non-Muslims.
Some others have divided such persons into categories, judging them by intention since the Prophet, Sallah Allahu Alaihi wa Salaam, has said:
“The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended…” Sahih Bukhari
They hold the view that
• The person who denies the words of Allah and His messenger, that prayer is obligatory upon him and refrains from it deliberately removes himself from Islam because of his disbelief.
• The person who admits that he should pray, neglecting it due to laziness or pre-occupation with worldly pursuits is still considered a Muslim, although an extremely disobedient one subject to severe punishment in the hereafter.
Sheikh of Islam, Ahmad bin Taimiyyah said: “But most people perform prayers at times and leave them at times, not keeping to it regularly. These are the ones who come under the threat, and it is them about whom the saying of the Messenger of Allah, Sallah Allahu Alaihi wa Salaam, came:
“Allah has laid five prayers upon His slaves. Whoever fulfills them and does not miss any of them will have a pact with Allah that He will let him enter Paradise. Whoever does not come with them will have no pact with Allah. If He wishes, He may punish him, and if He wishes, He may forgive him.” Ahmad, Abu Dawud, An-Nasa’i and Ibn Majah
So the keeper of prayer is the one who prays at it’s given times, as Allah has ordered, and does not postpone it or neglect it’s essential parts. The one who neglects the times or essentials of the Prayer is subject to the decision of Allah the Exalted.
Alhamdulillah (all praise is due to Allah alone) that we might have some extra prayers (nawafil) to complete any shortcomings in our obligatory prayers…
The Prophet, Sallah Allahu Alaihi wa Salaam, is reported to have said: “The first thing about which the people will be called to account out of their actions on the Day of Judgment is Prayer. Our Lord, the Exalted, will say to the angels – though He knows better: “Look into the prayer of My servant and see whether he has offered it perfectly or imperfectly.” If it is perfect, that will be recorded perfect. If it is defective, He will say: “See if there are some optional prayers offered by My servant.” If there are optional prayer to his credit, He will say: “Compensate the obligatory prayer by the optional prayer for My servant.” Then all the actions will be considered similarly.” Abu Dawood
Any person, who has never been informed of his duties in Islam and therefore is ignorant, is not responsible until he has this knowledge. But once he knows that prayer is binding upon him as a Muslim, he is to be judged according to his response.
A number of the Prophet’s companions were of the view that refraining from even a single prayer deliberately, until its time has passed, is reversion to disbelief punishable by death. Among them were Omar bin al-Khattab, Abdullah bin Masoud, Abdullah bin Abbas, Muath bin Jabal and others, may Allah be Pleased with them all. None of the other companions were known to have disputed this view.
Do the negligent Muslims of today belong to this category of deliberate rejectors, or are they simply ignorant of their duties? Could any believer commit such a sin except out of ignorance? On the other hand, is it possible that ignorance could be so completely widespread?
Refusing the invitation of our Creator to establish this permanent relationship with Him is the ultimate ingratitude and rejection of His mercy. On the contrary, the person who responds and strives to please his Lord will be loved by Him and gain the happiness of both worlds. As the above hadith said, he is the only one who has a covenant with Allah. The reward of the righteous servants of Allah are mentioned in His book:
“Now no person knows what delights of the eye are kept hidden (in reserve) for them as a reward for their (good) Deeds.” Qur’an 32: 17
Finally, no soul should despair because of sin. The door of tawbah (repentance) is open to all, whatever their previous condition. Most scholars are of the opinion that sincere repentance and regret for the past and determination to correct the situation is all that is needed to be accepted by Allah. One can start anew at any time, without the burden of compensation for years of past neglect.
Abu Bakr reports: I heard the Prophet, Sallah Allahu Alaihi wa Salaam, saying: “Allah forgives the man who commits a sin (then feels ashamed), purifies himself, offers a prayer and seeks His forgiveness.” Then he recited the ‘ayah: “And those who, when they do an evil thing or wrong themselves, remember Allah and implore forgiveness for their sins – and who can forgive sins except Allah? – and will not knowingly repeat (the wrong) they did. The reward of such will be forgiveness from their Lord, and gardens underneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide forever- a bountiful reward for workers.” [Qur’an 3:135-136]” Abu Dawud, An-Nasa’i, Ibn Majah, al-Baihaqi, and At-Tirmidhi
The final word is spoken by Allah Himself:
“Say: O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving Most Merciful.” Qur’an 39: 53
“When those come to you who believe in Our Signs say: “Peace be on you”: your Lord had inscribed for Himself (the rule of) Mercy: verily if any of you did evil in ignorance and thereafter repented and amended (his conduct) lo! He is Oft-Forgiving Most Merciful.” Qur’an 6:54