If you are reading this as a Muslim, it would mean you feel a level of guilt that you are not performing your daily prayers. What you read might come across as harsh, but what option do you have if until now you wilfully leave what essentially defines you as a “practicing” Muslim.
I’ve come across people who don’t pray and admit it’s purely because they are just too lazy. I’ve met some who say ‘I pray, but in my own way’. Some say, ‘well at least I’m not hurting anyone, or backbiting’. Others say, ‘what’s the point of praying if I don’t feel anything, or understand what I am saying’.
This topic is of utmost importance, not only because we hear these statements from some Muslims – especially youngsters – who don’t pray; but also because it’s taken as the most devastating news for any parent to receive.
The one thing parents really want is for their children to pass on the legacy of Islam to their offspring and progeny. That’s probably why I can also say – as a parent – that it’s a very scary topic, and the worst thing we would want is for our children to abandon prayer.
You may be a kind person; generous, compassionate, loyal, truthful, and you’ve probably never hurt anyone before. You’re not the kind of person who backbites, gossips, tells lies, or starts problems. Being such a person is indeed commendable, and you should be proud of these positive social qualities.
Not to undermine these noble characteristics, but what about what will benefit you? What are you doing for yourself specifically as a Muslim? Social skills are very important, and so is having high moral standards. That’s really what Islam wants from us. What is equally important however is developing a relationship with God; making these noble things you do meaningful.
That’s what distinguishes you as a Muslim from somebody else, because you do good things not only because they are good, but also because it will bring you closer to God. Someone who doesn’t follow a religion would do good merely for goodness sake. Someone who does not follow a religion may do good for a variety of reasons, either because it gives them happiness or makes them known as a virtuous individual within their circles or perhaps because they are habituated to it. In either case, they don’t see anything in their actions beyond the act itself and what it potentially would bring for them in this life. Whereas you believe that in addition to the benefits in this world, these good deeds will be waiting for you in the afterlife.
Let’s make it very clear: we know God doesn’t need our prayers. The Almighty created everything, and therefore He is needless. Whatever we do ultimately benefits us. That’s why from the beginning of creation until now, most people on this earth have been worshipping God in some way or another.
What your religion offers is a stable, ongoing, intensifying and spiritually uplifting form of worship that will not only strengthen your relationship with your Creator, but also guarantee you a spiritual life, and a better hereafter. You probably haven’t thought of it this way, but not only would you personally benefit from praying, but you are also contributing to the strengthening and spreading of your religion. When you and all those around you pray, you are keeping your religious tradition alive. With abandoning your prayer, how can someone practically identify what religion you are?
Therefore, prayer is what practically defines you as a Muslim.
Of course, you are the only person who can look into the reason as to why you don’t pray, and then realise how easy it is to find cover-up stories, excuses, or justifications. None of them will work for you, and you yourself will believe that once you think about it.
If your parents taught you the wrong way, forcing you into it, by hitting you, or screaming at you, and now you have built a negative feeling about it, then their method is to blame, so you cannot hold God accountable, and reject prayer because you went through a bad experience.
Similar to this is when you are encouraged to study, and you do so passionately, or you are compelled to study, and you do so, but without passion, but then realise the approach used was wrong, but the act of study itself and what it gave you is very beneficial.
You need to ask yourself, does prayer make you ‘better’ or ‘worse’? Clearly your answer would be that remembering God and praying, especially when it’s done with a present heart, would not only make you better, but righteous and noble as well. As the verse in the holy Quran says, prayer itself will deter you from evil and corruption.
When I said earlier that it’s a parent’s most dreadful fear to find out their son/daughter doesn’t pray, it’s not just because they are ‘sinning’, but because of where they will end up.
There is no easy way to put it, but from many hadiths we can understand that a person who intentionally and consistently does not pray is deemed a non-believer – a Kafir.
Let me share a few of these traditions:
Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) narrates from the Prophet (s.a.w):
ما بين المسلم و بين الكافر إلّا أن يترك الصلاة الفريضة متعمداً، أو يتهاون بها ف لا يصليها.
The only thing that stands between a Muslim and a Kafir is intentionally abandoning prayer, or neglecting it and not praying.
Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (a.s.) narrates from the Prophet (s.a.w.):
ما بين الكفر و الإيمان إلّا ترك الصلاة.
The only difference between faith and disbelief is abandoning prayer.
This pretty much says that if you are not praying, you are on the border of leaving Islam. Maybe you will continue to be identified and treated as a Muslim, but in your grave, and on Judgment Day, that won’t be the case. To further explain this, what our scholars say is that if you don’t pray out of carelessness and negligence, then that is fisq, but if you don’t pray because you reject it being obligatory, then this is rendered as kufr. 
It is important for us to ponder on this issue. The hadiths don’t say it is a ‘sin’, or a ‘major sin’, but rather it being kufr.
This in itself would scare anyone, even someone who does pray. We think to ourselves, and say ‘are our prayers that we are offering accepted, and do they meet the requirements of Iman?’
In any case, it is our obligation to do ‘amr bil-ma’ruf, and nahi ‘an al-munkar, and try to do so in an encouraging, polite and positive way, although at times such realities do hit hard.
Is it not time for you to start fighting your demons, getting over your laziness, finding ways to strengthen your Iman, and start your spiritual journey to God?
What else will happen by you not praying?:
- That cloud of guilt of disobeying God will always follow you.
- There will be no barakah in your life, in your rizq, in your time.
- The noor of Iman will gradually start fading away.
- You won’t have that connection with God, nor will you feel or appreciate the sweetness and pleasure of worship.
- You will receive no reward for any other good you do. As the hadith says, prayer is the pillar of religion, if it is accepted, everything else is accepted, and if it is rejected, everything else will be rejected.
- Your duas will not be accepted.
- You will live a life of deprivation, humility and negativity.
- When you die, your punishment will start in Barzakh, from your grave.
- On Judgment Day, your judgment will be harsh and severe.
- You will not receive God’s mercy or compassion.
A genuine question that you might ask is: ‘Why can’t I worship God the way I want?’
You’re so busy and occupied with a thousand things you’re dealing with, navigating yourself though the difficulties of life and juggling your responsibilities. Sometimes you can’t even remember the most simple of things. Maybe days go past, and you don’t even get to sit or see your own parents. If prayer was optional, then it would be exactly the same as everything else you deal with.
But that’s not what God wants from you. He doesn’t want you to be like a robot, with a dry routine. He doesn’t want you to forget Him, or the greater purpose you have in life. Look into the topic of Ghaflah (being inattentive) and forgetting God, which is something that so many people are inflicted with.
If there was a way that we could worship God better than praying five times a day, which takes up no more than 20 minutes of our 24 hour day, then most certainly our Prophet (s.a.w.) and our Imams (a.s.) would have said so.
The Prophet (s.a.w.) refers to Prayer as the ‘delight of my eye.’ Imam Ali (a.s.) says that he prefers sitting in a mosque for an hour over everything that is in heaven.
You’re interested in spiritual development, and becoming a better person, and following the preferences of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.). How else did they reach those stages they were blessed with? The starting point that ignited it all, and kept them on that path was Salat.
When you pray, what else do you do, other than converse with God? The whole objective of prayer is to engage with Allah ta’ala.
So, in answering the above question, it is God Himself and the religion that establishes the method of how to connect to Him and how and when to pray. You should also look at it this way: imagine if there was no set method for us to pray, we would have over a billion people praying ‘their own way’. But one thing that we value very much is the uniformity that we have, as one Ummah. All of us are praying, in one way, to one direction, and all at one time. Isn’t that something powerful that encourages us to join them?
You see, something else that you might not really be paying attention to is the Shaytani whispering that is distracting you, and giving you false pretences.
Praying, along with all its correct components, like mental preparation, understanding the meanings, presence of the heart, flavouring it with mustahab acts, will all be the best form of spiritual ascension.
We know the famous tradition attributed to the Prophet (s.a.w.), saying: ‘Prayer is the Ascension (mi’raaj) of a believer.’
We all live hard and difficult lives, and we do need someone to lean on, and have a heart to heart conversation, without feeling judged or rejected. Who better else to this than Allah ta’ala.
You are a believer, and you want to gain that tranquillity and inner-peace. You want to feel that connection, and build yourself. You want to show your gratitude. You want to beseech and beg.
You can get all this, just by praying.
Let me share this hadith with you from Imam Ali (a.s.) who said he heard the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) say:
إِنَّمَا مَنْزِلَةُ الصَّلَوَاتِ الْخَمْسِ لِأُمَّتِي كَنَهْرٍ جَارٍ عَلَى بَابِ أَحَدِكُمْ فَمَا ظَنُّ أَحَدِكُمْ لَوْ كَانَ فِي جَسَدِهِ دَرَنٌ ثُمَّ اغْتَسَلَ فِي ذَلِكَ النَّهْرِ خَمْسَ مَرَّاتٍ فِي الْيَوْمِ أَ كَانَ يَبْقَى فِي جَسَدِهِ دَرَنٌ فَكَذَلِكَ وَ اللَّهِ الصَّلَوَاتُ الْخَمْسُ…
The five obligatory prayers for my Ummah is like a river flowing right at the doorstep of your house. What do you think, if you had dirt on your body, and you were to wash yourself in that river five times a day, would there be any dirt left on your body? By Allah, the five daily prayers is like this….
So when we fall into the snare of Shaytan, and commit sin, the best way of reclaiming our soul, and cleansing it, and repenting, is by praying. Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) says:
صَلَاةُ الْمُؤْمِنِ بِاللَّيْلِ تَذْهَبُ بِمَا عَمِلَ مِنْ ذَنْبٍ بِالنَّهَارِ
When a believer prays at night, the sins they have committed during the day will be erased.
If you want to control your nafs, if you want to stay humble, if you want to join the ranks of Muslims, if you want to preserve your faith, if you want a meaningful life, if you want your needs to be fulfilled, if you want to purify your soul, if you want to overcome your inner-demons and Shaytan, if you want to ascend to the heavens, if you want to be resurrected with the Prophets, the Imams and the Saints;
Once you get back into the mode of praying, and when you spice it up with being more attentive to it, and put effort to understand what you are saying, not only will you appreciate prayer, but you will also regret all that you’ve missed out on.
I think one more motivational boost is to look up clips of our great scholars, like the late Sheikh Bahjat, and see what they felt when they were praying and connecting with God.
It is said, if you want God to speak to you, read the Quran, but if you want to speak with Him, Pray.
 Surah ‘Ankabut, verse 45.
 Sheikh al-Saduq (quddisa sirruh) mentions here that there are different forms of kufr, and he says this is the fourth form, which is abandoning hat which Allah ta’ala has commanded. Please read verse 85 of Surah al-Baqarah.
 See: Sheikh al-Saduq, Thawab al-A’mal wa ‘Iqab al-A’mal, pp. 230-231.
 A fasiq is someone who violates Islamic law, a sinner, an evil-doer, a profligate.
 As said, it is because by intentionally rejecting prayer one is in fact rejecting the authority of God over us by denying His decree.
 There is a tradition where Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) was asked:
Why is it that you do not refer to an adulterer as a Kafir, but for someone who doesn’t pray, you call them a Kafir?
He (a.s.) said in reply:
لِأَنَّ الزَّانِيَ وَ مَا أَشْبَهَهُ إِنَّمَا يَفْعَلُ ذَلِكَ لِمَكَانِ الشَّهْوَةِ لِأَنَّهَا تَغْلِبُهُ وَ تَارِكُ الصَّلَاةِ لَا يَتْرُكُهَا إِلَّا اسْتِخْفَافاً بِهَا وَ ذَلِكَ لِأَنَّكَ لَا تَجِدُ الزَّانِيَ يَأْتِي الْمَرْأَةَ إِلَّا وَ هُوَ مُسْتَلِذٌّ لِإِتْيَانِهِ إِيَّاهَا قَاصِداً إِلَيْهَا وَ كُلُّ مَنْ تَرَكَ الصَّلَاةَ قَاصِداً إِلَيْهَا فَلَيْسَ يَكُونُ قَصْدُهُ لِتَرْكِهَا اللَّذَّةَ فَإِذَا نُفِيَتِ اللَّذَّةُ وَقَعَ الِاسْتِخْفَافُ وَ إِذَا وَقَعَ الِاسْتِخْفَافُ وَقَعَ الْكُفْرُ.
It is because the adulterer and their likes do that out of lust, because lust overtakes them, whereas, the person who abandons prayer does so out of belittling it. You find the adulterer committing adultery with a woman because he is lustful for it and intends to be with her. As for whoever abandons prayer, intentionally, it is not out of lust, and with the absence of lust, it becomes belittling, and when it is belittling then it is disbelief. (al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 386).
 Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 73, p. 141.
 Wasa`il al-Shi’ah, vol. 5, p. 199. Imam Ali (a.s.) then says that it’s because sitting in the mosque satisfies Allah, whereas being in heaven satisfies oneself.
 We know that Islam is not a buffet dinner where one can pick and choose as they please, it is a complete and comprehensive system for a believer’s life.
 ‘Awali al-La`ali, vol. 2, p. 24.
 Kitab Man La Yahdhurahu al-Faqih, vol. 1, p. 473.
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