Prayer (Salat) is a series of actions and statements performed in a set order in the worship of our Lord Allah.
It starts with the opening Takbir (Allahu Akbar) in which we praise our Lord Allah and end with salutations of peace.
Prayer is one of the five pillars of Islam.
In one hadith, the Prophet 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.”
Prayer was the first matter made obligatory in Islam.
When the Prophet ascended Heaven (Miraj) he was given this obligation to pray.
Anas (ra) said the following: “The prayers were made obligatory on the Prophet, upon whom be peace, the night of his ascension to heaven. At first, they were 50 in number, but were reduced several times until they were five. Then it was proclaimed, O Mohammed, the order is not changed. These five are (equivalent) to the fifty’ (Ahmad, An Nasai and At Tirmithi).
It is said that on the Day of Judgement, prayer is the first thing for which we will be accountable. The Prophet 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. If it is evil, then the rest of his acts will be evil.” (At Tabarani)
It is also the last thing that our Prophet said before he passed away. He said, “Prayer, prayer and what your right hand possesses.” It is the last thing that will be taken away from our religion. When it perishes, so will Islam.
The Prophet said, “If Islam were stripped away, piece by piece, people would hold tight the next one. The first thing taken would be ruling and governance, and the last thing would be prayer” (Ibn Hibban, Abu Umamah).
Allah has raised the importance of prayer to such a level that you are ordered to pray even when ravelling or when 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 (previously) did not know” (Surah Al
Baqarah verses 238-239).
The method of prayer when you are in fear or in wartime is explained in Surah An Nisa verses 102 103: “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.”
Allah also cautions those who are heedless or those who tamper with their prayers:
“Now there has succeeded them a later generation who have ruined their prayers and have followed lusts. But they will meet deception” Surah Maryam, 59); and “Ah, woe unto worshippers who are heedless of their prayers” (Surah Al Maun, 4-5).
Ibrahim asked Allah to give him descendants who stood by their prayers.
“My Lord! Cause me and (some) of my offspring to remain constant in prayer. And O our Lord! Accept my supplication.”
Missing prayers intentionally is seen as disbelief and makes the person come out of Islam.
All scholars agree on this point. There are several hadiths on this topic:
The one who does not pray is a non-believer, and he will be the leader of the non-believers in the hereafter.
Ibn Al Qayyim says, “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 Quran (one of the people of Moses). One whose kingdom keeps him away from the prayers will be with Haman (an associate of the Pharaoh), and one whose business keeps him away from the prayers will be with Ubayy Ibn Khalf (a Non-Muslim contemporary of Mohammed).”
Ibn Hazm said, “It has come from Umar, Abdurrahman Ibn Auf, Muazh 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 At Tarheeb.
‘Rocket Science,’ monthly Newsletter of Mt Albert Islamic Trust