prayer is a type of worship consisting of specific statements and actions. It
is begun by pronouncing the greatness of Allah, and is concluded with
salutations of peace. As prayer is the essence of Islam, we will discuss it
here in detail.
To state it simply, prayer must exist, for without it Islam cannot stand. The Prophet, upon whom be peace, said, “The head of the matter is Islam, its pillar is the prayer, and the top of its hump is jihad in the way of Allah.” It was the first act of worship that was made obligatory by Allah.
Its obligation was revealed directly to the Prophet, during his ascension to heaven. Said Anas, “The prayers were made obligatory on the Prophet, upon whom be peace, the night of his ascension to heaven. At first, they were fifty in number, but were reduced several times until they were five. Then it was proclaimed, ‘O Muhammad, the order is not changed. These five are (equivalent) to the fifty.’’
As to the authenticity of the report, it is related by Ahmad, an-Nasa’i and at-Tirmizhi, who said it is sahih.
Salah is the first act that the person will be held accountable for. ‘Abdullah ibn Qart related that the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, 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.” (Related by at-Tabarani.) It is the last thing that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, recommended to his nation before he died, saying, “Prayer, prayer and what your right hand possesses.
” It will be the last thing taken away from the religion. When it perishes, Islam will perish. The Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, said, “If Islam were stripped away, piece by piece, people would hold tight to the next one. The first thing taken would be ruling and governance, and the last thing would be prayer.” (Related by Ibn Hibban from the hadith of Abu Umamah.) In many verses of the Qur’an, Allah follows up prayer with the remembrance of Allah. “Lo! Worship preserves (one) from lewdness and iniquity, but verily, remembrance of Allah is more important.” (al-’Ankabut 45); “He is successful who grows and remembers the name of his Lord, so pray (al-A’la 14-15); “So serve Me and establish worship for My remembrance” (Taha 74). Sometimes He mentions prayer along with zakah: “Establish prayer and pay zakah” (al-Baqarah 110). And at times, with patience: “Seek help in patience and prayer” (al-Baqarah 45), and with hajj: “So pray unto your Lord and sacrifice” (al-Kauthar 2); “Say: Lo! My worship and my sacrifice and my living and my dying are for Allah, Lord of the Worlds.
He has no partner. This am I commanded, and I am the first of those who surrender (unto Him)” (al-An’am 162-163). At other times, Allah begins the acts of piety with prayers and ends with them, as in the verses about the ma’arij (ascension to heaven): “Successful indeed are the believers who are humble in their prayers,” and the verses, “And who pay heed to their prayers. These are the heirs who will inherit Paradise. There will they abide” (al-Mu’minun 1-29-11).
The importance of salah is so great that one is ordered to observe it while travelling or not, while one is safe or in fear: “Be guardians of your prayers, and of the mid-most prayer, and stand up with devotion to Allah. And if you go in fear, then (pray) standing or on horseback. When you are safe, remembers Allah, as He has taught you that which (heretofore) you knew not” (al-Baqarah 238-239).
Allah explains how to pray during fear, safety or wartime
“And when you are among them and arrange their prayers for them, let only a party of them stand with you (to worship) and let them take their arms.
Then, when they have performed their prostrations, let them fall to the rear and let another party come to pray with you, and let them take their precautions and arms. They who disbelieve long for you to neglect your arms and your baggage that they may attack. It is no sin for you to lay aside your arms, if rain impedes you or if you are sick. But take your precautions.
Lo! Allah prepares for the disbelievers shameful punishment. When you have performed your prayer, remember Allah, standing, sitting and reclining. And when you are in safety, observe your prayer properly. Prayer at fixed hours has been enjoined on the believers” (an-Nisa’ 102-103).
Allah also strongly warns those who tamper with their prayers or are heedless
Says Allah in the Qur’an, “Now there has succeeded them a later generation who have ruined their prayers and have followed lusts. But they will meet deception” (Maryam 59); “Ah, woe unto worshippers who are heedless of their prayers” (al-Ma’un 4-5).
Prayer is one of the most important acts in Islam
Prayer is one of the most important acts in Islam, and thus it requires a special guidance
Ibrahim asked his Lord to give him descendants who abided by their prayers: “My Lord! Cause me and (some) of my offspring to remain constant in prayer. And O our Lord! Accept my supplication” (Ibrahim 40).
One Who Ignores His Prayers
Not praying and denying its obligation is seen as disbelief and places the person outside the religion of Islam. All scholars agree on this point. They base their opinion on several hadith, some of which are:
Jabir reports that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said, “Between a person and disbelief is discarding prayer.” (Related by Ahmad, Muslim, Abu Dawud, at-Tirmizhi and Ibn Majah.)
Buraidah reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said, “The pact between us and them is prayer. Whoever abandons it is a disbeliever.” (Related by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, at-Tirmizhi, an Nasa’i and Ibn Majah.)
‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-’Aas reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, one day mentioned the prayer and said, “Whoever guards and observes his prayer, they will be a light and a proof and a savior for him on the Day of Resurrection.
Whoever does not guard and observed them, they will not be a light or a proof or a savior for him. On the Day of Resurrection, he will be with Qarun, Fir’aun, Haman and Ubayy ibn Khalf.” (Related by Ahmad, at-Tabarani and Ibn Hibban. Its chain is excellent.)
That one who does not pray will be with the leaders of the unbelievers in the Hereafter makes it evident that such a person is an unbeliever. Says Ibn al-Qayyim, “The one who does not pray may be preoccupied with his wealth, kingdom, position or business.
If one is kept away from his prayers by his wealth, he will be with Qarun. One whose kingdom keeps him away from the prayers will be with Haman, and one whose business keeps him away from the prayers will be with Ubayy ibn Khalf.”
Says ‘Abdullah ibn Shaqiq al-’Aqeely, “The companions of Muhammad, peace be upon him, did not consider the abandonment of any act, with the exception of prayer, as being disbelief.” (Related by at-Tirmizhi and al-Hakim, who said it met al-Bukahri’s and Muslim’s conditions.)
Says, Muhammad ibn Nasr al-Mirwazi, “I heard Ishaq say, ‘It is authentic (that) the Prophet (said or ruled): One who does not pray is an unbeliever.” It is from the Prophet himself that one who intentionally does not pray until the time for the prayer is over is an unbeliever.
To be Continued