Introduction and general thoughts about prayers

Taken from: Fiqh-us-Sunnah, by; Sayyid Saabiq.

The 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 can not 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, remember Allah, as He has taught you that which (heretofore) you knew not" (al-Baqarah 238-239).

Volume 1, Page 76: 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).

Volume 1, Page 77: 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).

Volume 1, Page 77a: 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).

Volume 1, Page 77b: 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 piont. 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, anNasa'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 obvserve 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."

Says Ibn Hazm, "It has come from 'Umar, 'Abdurahman ibn 'Auf, Mu'azh ibn Jabal, Abu Hurairah and other companions that anyone who skips one obligatory prayer until its time has finished becomes an apostate. We find no difference of opinion among them on this point." This was mentioned by al-Munzhiri in at-Targheeb wa atTarheeb. Then he comments, "A group of companions and those who came after them believed that an intentional decision to skip one prayer until its time is completely finished makes one an unbeliever. The people of this opinion incude 'Umar ibn al-Khattab, 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ud, 'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas, Mu'azh ibn Jabal, Jabir ibn 'Abdullah and Abu ad-Darda'. Among the non-companions who shared this view were Ibn Hanbal, Ishaq ibn Rahwaih, 'Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak, an-Nakha'i, al-Hakim ibn 'Utaibah, Abu Ayyub as-Sakhtiyani, Abu Dawud at-Tayalisi, Abu Bakr ibn Abu Shaibah, Zuhair ibn Harb, and others.

Some hadith make it clear that such a person should be killed. For example:

Ibn 'Abbas reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said, "The ties of Islam and the principles of the religion are three, and whoever leaves one of them becomes an unbeliever, and his blood becomes lawful: testifying that there is no god except Allah, the obligatory prayers, and the fast of Ramadan." (Related by Abu Ya'la with a hassan chain.) Another narration states, "If anyone leaves one of them, by Allah he becomes an unbeliever and no voluntary deeds or recompense will be accepted from him, and his blood and wealth become lawful." This is a clear indication that such a person is to be killed.

Ibn 'Umar related that the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, said, "I have been ordered to kill the people until they testify that there is no god except Allah, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and they establish prayer and pay the zakah. If they do that, their blood and wealth are protected from me save by the rights of Islam. Their reckoning will be with Allah." (Related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

Umm Salamah related that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said, "There will be rulers over you who will do good and evil things. Whoever hates these (latter) acts will be innocent of them. Whoever denies them will be safe, but (not) one who accepts and follows them." They asked, "Should we kill them?" He said, "Not if they pray." (Related by Muslim.) Therefore, he made it unlawful to kill even an unjust ruler who observes his prayers.

Abu Sa'eed reported that 'Ali, while he was in Yemen, sent the Prophet some gold, which he then divided among four people. A man said, "O Messenger of Allah, beware of Allah." The Prophet said, "Woe to you. Of all the people of the earth, am I not the most dutiful in being aware of Allah?" Khalid ibn al-Walid said, "O Messenger of Allah, shall I kill him?" He said, "Perhaps he is one of those who pray." Khalid said, "How many people say with their tongues what is not in their hearts?" The Prophet said, "I have not been ordered to look into the hearts of people, nor to rip open their bellies." (Abridged from al-Bukhari and Muslim.) In this hadith also, prayer is given as the reason for not killing a person. It is understood, therefore, that not praying would have resulted in the person's killing.

Even though the preceding hadith clearly rule that one who discards salah becomes an unbeliever and should be killed, many early and later scholars (excluding Abu Hanifah, Malik and ash-Shafi) believe that such people become evildoers who must repent. If such a person does not repent, he is to be killed, that being the prescribed punishment, according to Malik, ash-Shai'i and others. Abu Hanifah maintains that such a person is not to be killed, but must be given a minor punishment and confined until he prays. They say the hadith that calls such people unbelievers refer to those who deny the prayers, and so on. They say that any other interpretation is contradicted by other texts. For example, Allah says, "Lo! Allah does not pardon one who gives Him partners. He pardons all save whom He wills" (an-Nisa' 116). There is also a hadith related by Abu Hurairah and recorded by Ahmad and Muslim in which the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said, "Every prophet has a special supplication that is answered. Every prophet hastened to make his supplication, but I concealed mine and will use it for my nation on the Day of Resurrection. It will be granted--Allah willing--to whoever dies without associating any partners with Allah." Al-Bukhari also recorded that Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said, "The person who will be the happiest due to my intercession is the one who says, 'There is no god but Allah' sincerely from his heart."

Says ash-Shaukani, "The truth of the matter is that he becomes an unbeliever who is to be killed for his unbelief. The hadith authenticates that Islamic law calls one who does not pray an unbeliever. It has also put the performance as the barrier between a believer and an unbeliever. Abandoning prayer means he may be called an unbeliever. We need not concern ourselves with arguments presented by those of the opposing opinion. We can say to them: It is not impossible that some types of unbelievers may obtain forgiveness or may have a right to intercession, such as the unbelief of those who pray to ( our) qiblah. Nevertheless, the fact remains that they commit some sins which the Islamic law views as unbelief. To turn to the other narrow interpretations is just redundant."

Volume 1, Page 80: Who Must Pray

Prayer is obligatory upon every sane, adult Muslim. 'Aishah related that the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, said, "The pen is raised for three (meaning: there is no obligation upon three): one who is sleeping until he wakens, the child until he becomes an adult, and one who is insane until he becomes sane."

As to the authenticity of this report, it is recorded by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, at-Tirmizhi, an-Nasa'i, Ibn Majah, and al-Hakim, who grades it sahih according to the criterion of al-Bukhari and Muslim. At-Tirmizhi classifies it as hassan.

Although it is not obligatory for a child to pray, it is a must that his guardian order him to do so when he is seven, and he should beat him if he does not pray after he reaches the age of ten. A minor should practice praying until he reaches puberty. 'Amr ibn Shu'aib related from his father on the authority of his grandfather that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "Order your children to pray when they reach the age of seven. Beat them (if they don't pray) when they reach the age of ten. And have them sleep separately."

The hadith is related by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, and al-Hakim. The latter grades it sahih according to Muslim's criteria.


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