When the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) ascended to the heavens on the night of Al Me'raj, which is mentioned in the first verse of Surah Bani Israel, he ascended each of the seven heavens and upon ascending each, he met with the Prophets (alaiyhimus-salam) before him. They all expressed their faith in his prophethood. When he finally reached Allah, He prescribed fifty daily prayers for the believers. Musa (alaiyhis-salam) said to the Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam), "Your followers will not be able to perform so many prayers, you must go back to your Lord and ask Him to reduce the number." The Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) discussed this matter with Jibreel (alaiyhis-salam) who said, "Yes, if you desire," and ascended with him to the Highest Heaven to speak to Allah again, Who, then, reduced the prayers to ten. Again, Musa (alaiyhis-salam) advised for Muhammad (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) to go back and ask Allah for another reduction. So the Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) again begged his Lord for another remission. Allah, Praise and Glory be to Him, then reduced the daily prayers to five. And when the Noble Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) went back to Musa (alaiyhis-salam) for the third time, he insisted him to go back to Allah and ask for further reduction, but this time the Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) refused and said, "I feel ashamed now for repeatedly asking my Lord for reduction. I accept and resign to His will." When the Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) went further, a Caller was heard saying, "I have imposed My ordinance and have alleviated the burden of My servants." (Ar-Raheeq-al-Makhtum, p.148) Thus was the salah made obligatory upon every Muslim believer, male and female.
Statistics show that there are approximately 6 billion people on Earth. Of these 6 billion people, 1.2 billion are Muslims. That is twenty percent or one-fifth of the world population. In this twenty percent, only 5 people out of every 100 offer their salah! Out of the 6 billion people, twenty percent being Muslim and eighty percent non-Muslim, only five percent offer their prayers! Therefore it is vitally important to discuss the importance of Salah: the reason for it, the rewards of guarding them, and the punishments for discarding this essential pillar of faith.
Creation of Man
When Allah (Subhanahu wa ta'ala) decided to create man, He informed the angels of His plan and said,
"So when I have made him and have breathed into him of My spirit, then fall down prostrating yourselves to him." (Al-Hijr 15:29)
So the angels all fell prostrate except for Iblis, or Satan. He refused through pride and said,
"Why should I prostrate myself to a mortal whom You have created out of potter's clay of dark putrid mud?" (Al-Hijr 15:33)
The All-Mighty then banned him from Paradise, but Satan begged to be reprieved until the Day of Resurrection. Allah granted his low request and caused him to be of those who fall under His curse and wrath. As told in the Qur'an, Iblis replied,
"He said: 'My Lord! Because You have sent me astray, I shall verily adorn (make fair-seeming) the path of error for them in the earth and shall mislead them everyone, except for your perfectly devoted slaves." (Al-Hijr 15:39-40)
"Then I will come to them from before them and from behind them, from their left and their right and You shall not find most of them thankful." (Al-A'raaf 7:17)
The Plan of Satan
In the Glorious Qur'an, Allah reveals to us the plan of Shaytaan--to lead mankind astray, despised, and banned from Paradise, away from the mercy of Allah, just as he is.
Then Allah warns us how Iblis plans to do this:
"O you who believe! Strong drink, games of chance (gambling), idols, and divining arrows are only an infamy of Satan's handiwork so leave it aside in order that you may succeed. Satan seeks only to cast enmity and hatred by means of strong drink and gambling and to turn you away from the remembrance of Allah and from (His) worship. Will you then have done it? Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and Beware!" (Al-Ma'idah 5:90-92)
"...Do not follow the footsteps of Satan, for, he is an open enemy for you." (Al-An'am 6:142)
Look at the mercy of Allah in these divine verses! How Great He is to warn us that Shaytaan is indeed the enemy of man, who only seeks to beguile mankind with his false promises, from his true goal in life, eternal Paradise,
"The devil promises you destitution and enjoins on you lewdness, but Allah promises you forgiveness from Himself with bounty. Allah is All-Embracing, All-Knowing." (Al-Baqarah 2:268)
"He promises them and stirs up in them desires and Satan promises them only to beguile." (An-Nisaa' 4:120)
"Satan says to him 'disbelieve', but when he disbelieves, Satan says, 'I am free of you! I do fear Allah, Lord of the worlds!" (Al-Hashr 59:16)
The Shayateen are after the soul of every single human being, whether he be the "lowest of the low" or the most religious, pure and pious person of all of mankind. The Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) said, "Verily an ifreet (strong and powerful evil jinn) from among the jinn spat on me last night trying to break my Salah. However, Allah let me overpower him..." So the devils were even trying to stray the best of all creation, the Blessed Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam).
Protection Against the Accursed
What can protect us from Satan? Allah gave us the answer in the previous verses of Surah Al-Ma'idah--the constant remembrance and worship of Allah. We do not pray because Allah needs our worship, for, He is Independent of all things, but salah has been enjoined on the believers for their own good as Allah says,
"If you do good, you do good for your ownselves and if you do evil, it is for them (in like manner)..." (Bani Israel 17:7)
"And whoever strives, strives only for himself, for lo! Allah is altogether Independent of all (His) creation." (Ankabut 29:6)
As Al-Haj Muhammad Masoud said in his book, The Islamic Prayer Book, "Salah is the heart of faith. It saves from evil and helps to lead a pure life." It is also a means of safeguarding oneself from the temptations of the devil,
"Recite that which has been inspired in you of the Scripture (the Qur'an) and keep up prayers regularly. Indeed prayers save from shameful and unjust deeds and remembrance of Allah is the greatest and Allah knows what you do." (Ankabut 29:45)
"...Prostrate in adoration and bring yourself close (to Allah)." (Al-Alaq 96:19)
The Pillars of Islam
The Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) said, "A slave is closest to Allah when he is prostrating." We are given the recipe to success in attaining Allah's pleasure--the observance of salah, prayer. The Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) said in a hadith, "Islam is founded on five pillars: bearing witness that there is no god, but Allah and Muhammad (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) is His servant and messenger, establishing salah, paying zakah, performing Hajj, and fasting during Ramadan." The Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam), then, compared these pillars to a canopy which rests on five supports, the shahadah being the main support and the other four pillars standing in each corner helping to hold up the canopy. Without the main support (shahadah) the canopy will not be able to stand and if one of the other corner supports is missing, this will result in a collapse of the canopy. Let us judge how well we have been keeping up the canopy of Islam.
Virtues and Rewards of Salah
The Noble Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) said the likeness of the five daily prayers is the likeness of a stream in which one bathes five times a day. Just as no dirt will remain on the body after bathing five times, likewise, one will become clean of his sins from the performance of the five daily prayers. A companion narrated that he (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) said, "At the approach of the hour of a salah, an angel is deputed to proclaim, 'Arise, O Children of Adam! And extinguish the fire that you have (by committing sins) kindled to burn yourselves. So, the people rise, perform wudhu and offer their Dhuhr prayer. This causes forgiveness of their sins committed since day-break. The same is repeated at Asr, Maghrib, and Isha. After Isha, people go to bed, but there are some who busy themselves in good, and others in evil deeds."
"Establish salah at the two ends of the day and at the approaches of the night.Verily, good deeds remove evil deeds. This is a reminder for the mindful." (Hud 11:114)
What is implied is that the salah is a great blessing. One which has the powerful virtue of removing one's sins. Indeed salah is a favor and bounty, which Allah has bestowed upon His servants. It is as the Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) said, "The coolness of the eyes." It is the peace of mind and only through it can one attain peace in his mind, heart, and life:
"Those who believe and whose hearts find rest in the remembrance of Allah; verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest." (Ar-Ra'd 13:28)
Salah is a means of communicating with the All-Mighty to thank and glorify Him, to cry to Him, to ask of Him. The Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam), whenever a calamity occurred, always turned to his Lord in prayer. The Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) said that Satan says, "Woe unto me! The son of Adam was commanded to prostrate and he prostrated and Paradise was entitled to him and I was commanded to prostrate, but I refused and am doomed to Hell." A companion once said to the Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam), "Inform me about an act which would entitle me to Paradise and remove me away from Hellfire." The Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) said, "You have asked a matter (which appears to be difficult), but it is very easy for those whom Allah has made it easy. Worship Allah and do not associate anything with Him, establish prayer, pay zakah.....Should I not direct you to the highest level of the matter to the pillar on which (it rests) and its top?" The companion eagerly replied, "Yes, O Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam)!" He (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) said, "The uppermost level of the matter is Al-Islam. Its pillar is prayer and its top is Jihad..." Another companion inquired of the Holy Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) which act was most dearest to Allah. He (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) replied, "Salah, at its fixed time." In another hadith, the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) said, "Salah is the best of all that has been ordained by Allah."
From the above narrations, we can conclude that salah is the most important act of a Muslim next to Iman (faith). Salah distinguishes a believer, a Muslim, from a non-believer, a kafir. It is the light of a mu'min. It is a mark of Islam and is the first thing one will be questioned about on the Day of Judgement. Only through the salah can one show true devotion and love for Allah. It is the key to paradise. It scares away the devil so long as one is regular in his salah. When a person stands in salah, the gates of Paradise are let open and all the veils between him and his Lord are lifted. A devotee of prayer is closest to Allah and the fire of hell will not touch the parts of the body, which touched the ground while performing prostration if he is thrown into Hell for some major sin. Allah says in His beautiful Kalaam,
"Those who patiently persevere, seeking the countenance of their Lord, establish regular prayers, spend out of that which we have bestowed for their sustenance secretly and openly and turn off evil with good; for such there is the final attainment of the (Eternal) Home. Gardens of bliss, they shall enter there, as wellas the righteous among their fathers, their spouses, and their children and the angels shall enter unto them from every gate (with the salutation): Peace be unto you for that you persevered in patience. Now how excellent is the Final Home. But those who break the covenant of Allah after having plighted their world thereto and cut asunder those things which Allah commanded to be joined and work mischief in the land, on them is the Curse; for them is the (most) terrible Home." (Ar-Ra'd 13:22-25)
The Discard of Salah
When one rejects salah, it is like rejecting Allah, the Lord and Creator and, choosing Satan as a protector and friend. The Qur'an says,
"Whoever forsakes Allah and takes Satan as a friend, has of a surety suffered a manifest loss." (An-Nisaa 4:119)
"O Children of Adam! Let not Satan seduce you as he seduced your parents out of the Garden, stripping them of their raiment, to expose their shame; for he and his tribe see you from a position where you cannot see them; We made the devils friends (only) to those without Faith." (Al-A'raaf 7:27)
"Some He has guided; others have deserved the loss of their way; surely they took Satan as friend and protector instead of Allah and think that they are on the right path." (Al-A'raaf 7:30)
The most severe punishment of neglecting salah is being thrown out of the fold of Islam, therefore, becoming a kafir and it is well-known that the abode of the kafiroon is in the Hellfire. The Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) said, "Hurry up with your salah when it is cloudy (lest you miss the correct time), for, to discard salah is to become a kafir."
Even after such stern warning, most people still discard salah. People most often use the excuse, "I can't pray at work!" And a whole list of other excuses will follow as to why they can't pray at work. This is one of the most lame excuses of missing salah one could make. Nowadays, non-Muslims employers are well aquainted with Muslim practices, including the salah, and most do not have a problem with it, especially if it is done during break or lunch time. Other reasons, which lead one to neglect salah, is being in the company of friends and family, who, themselves, do not perform salah and so one may become "embarrassed" to call out that it is prayer time. When people are out of the house, for example, when they go to weddings or other parties, they will intentionally neglect salah because they are having too much fun to leave the worldly pleasure for worship of their Lord or making wudu in elegant clothing becomes a "hassle" at such events. And others neglect salah because they are "too busy" or because they "have a business to run." Those who make excuses to get away with worship and prayer should know that the Blessed Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) said, "A person who has missed one salah is like one who has lost all his family and wealth." The greatness and reward of salah is such that if a person misses even one prayer, it is like he has lost the two things which he holds most dear in his life. If we miss even one salah at its fixed time, our emotion and reaction should be such as we've lost our parents and spouses and children and siblings and all our money and property. But with the majority, it is the opposite.
The Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) said, while talking on the subject of salah, "For its votary, salah shall, on the Day of Judgment, be a light for him, an argument in his favor, and a means of deliverance. Whereas, there will be no light, no defense, no deliverance from doom for him who does not guard his salah and he shall meet the fate of Fir'aun, Hamaan, and Ubay bin Khalaf." Fir'aun was one of the worst and most rebellious transgressors against Allah. He was full of pride and persecuted the Children of Israel mercilessly. He killed his own wife by putting pegs in her body and placed a stone on top of her back, killing her for her belief in the God of Moses (alaiyhis-salam). His helper was Hamaan. Not only did they commit these heinous crimes, but Fir'aun called himself God!
"And Fir'aun said: O chiefs! I do not know of any god for you besides myself..." (Al Qasas 28:38)
"And (We destroyed) Qaroon, Fir'aun, and Haman." (Ankabut 29:39)
"If front of the Fire will they be brought, morning and evening, and on the Day of Judgement when the Hour comes to pass (it will be said): Cast the people of Fir'aun in to the severest penalty." (Al-Mu'min 40:46)
Ibn Hajar wrote:
"Sharing the fate of these people on the Day of Judgement is due to the fact that it is so often the pursuits specific to those guilty persons, which cause neglect of salah. If, therefore, a person neglects salah due to craving for wealth, he will meet the fate of Qaroon; if due to love of power, then that of Fir'aun, if due to yearning of attachment to a ruler, then that of Haman, and if due to occupation in trade, then that of Ubay bin Khalaf (who was a businessman)."
It is extremely sad that people do not realize the fact that on the Day of Judgment, there will be no protector or helper besides Allah and one's power, wealth, and family will, in no way, avert the doom which they will be faced with on that Day.
A person who rejects the worship of Allah, their sole Creator and Sustainer, shall be inflicted with five types of punishments in the world, three at the time of death, and three after resurrection.
In the world, he will not be blessed, he will be deprived of the special nur (light) that shines on the faces of the righteous believers, he will receive no reward for his good deeds, his prayers will not be answered, and he has no share in the prayers of the pious.
At the time of death, he will die disgracefully, feeling hungry and thirsty. His thirst would be so great that all the water in the oceans of the earth will not be able to quench it. When he is laid in the grave to "rest," the earth will squeeze him so hard that the ribs on one side will pierce into the other side. Fire will be burned inside of him and he will be rolled in cinders night and day. A serpent with fiery eyes and iron nails equal to the length of a day's journey will attack him and shout with a thunderous voice, "My Lord has charged me with thrashing you till sunrise for neglecting Fajr, till 'Asr for neglecting Dhuhr, till sunset for neglecting maghrib, till dawn for neglecting Isha!" The serpent will keep on thrashing him in this manner until the Last Day. Each blow will push him to a depth of seventy arm's length and the punishments will last until the Day of Judgment.
The punishments after the resurrection are that his reckoning will be a hard one, he will be incurring the wrath of Allah, and he will be thrown into the Fire. According to one report, he will have the following three lines inscribed on his forehead:
'O you who neglected Allah's duty!'
'O you who deserve Allah's wrath!'
'Now despair of Allah's mercy as you neglected your duty to Allah!'
In confirmation of the severment of missing one's salah even if he makes it up later, is in the following statement of the Blessed Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam), "A person neglecting salah though he makes it up later, shall remain in hell for a period of one huqb. A huqb is equal to eighty years of 360 days each and a day in the hereafter shall equal to 1,000 years of this world." May Allah save the believers from such punishment! Imagine the punishment of one who rejects and neglects salah all together.
Results of Observing and Discarding Salah
The Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) said, "Salah is the cause of Allah's pleasure, is loved by the angels, is a tradition of the Prophets (alaiyhimus-salam), gives enlightenment about Allah, causes prayers to be granted, blesses the daily bread, is the root of Iman, refreshes the body, is a weapon against the enemy, shall intercede for its adherent, is a light in the darkness and a companion in the grave, is a reply to the questioning of the angels (in the grave), is a shade against the sun on the Day of Resurrection, is a protection against the hellfire, is a weight for the scales of good deeds, is a means of swift crossing over the siraat, and is a key to paradise."
Abu Hurairah (radiallahu anhu) said that the Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) said, "A prayer performed by someone who has not recited the Essence of the Qur'an (Surah Al-Fatiha) is deficient (and he repeated the word three times), incomplete." Someone asked Abu Hurairah, "(Even though) we are behind an imam?" He said, "Recite it to yourself, for I have heard the Prophet of Allah (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) say that Allah had said, 'I have divided my prayer between Myself and My servant into two halves, and My servant shall have what he has asked for. When the servant says: 'Alhumdulillahi Rabbil Alameen (All praise be to Allah, Lord of all worlds),' Allah says, 'My servant has praised Me.' And when he says, 'Ar-Rahma-nir-Raheem (The Beneficent, The Merciful),' Allah says, 'My servant has glorified Me,' and on one occasion, He said, 'My servant has submitted to My power,' and when he says, 'Iyyakana' budu wa iyyakanas ta'een (You alone we worship and You alone we ask for help),' He says, 'This is between Me and My servant and My servant shall have what he has asked for.' And when he says, 'Ihdinas-siratal mustaqeema, siratalladhina anamta alaiyhim, ghayril-maghdubi alaiyhim walad-daalleen (Show us the Straight Path, the Path of those of whom You have favored, not those who earn Your anger, nor those who go astray),' He says, 'This is for My servant, and My servant shall have what he has asked for.' "
How can a sane believer deny such a gift, such a blessing, and such a favor from his Lord? The blessings of salah are numerous and those who reject it are denied the favors.
"Those who believe and do good deeds and establish regular prayer and give zakah, will have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve." (Al-Baqarah 2:277)
"As to those who hold fast by the Book (Qur'an) and establish regular prayer--never shall We suffer the reward of the righteous to perish." (Al-A'raaf 7:170)
Undoubtedly, the discard of salah holds the most severest and painful of all punishments. It is the type of pain no one will want to endure and the fire of hell is seventy times hotter than that of the fire on earth, as stated by the Blessed Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam). The Quran says:
"In the Garden, they shall ask each other about the guilty: What has brought you to Hell? They shall say: We were not of those who prayed and we used to not feed the poor." (Al-Muddath-thir 74:40-44)
"The Companions of the Garden will call out to the Companions of the Fire: 'We have indeed found the promises of our Lord to us true. Have you also found your Lord's promises true?' They shall say: 'Yes.' And a Caller shall proclaim between them: 'The curse of Allah is on the wrong-doers.' " (Al-A'raaf 7:44)
"The companions of the Fire will call to the Companions of the Garden: 'Pourdown to us water or anything that Allah does provide for your sustenance.' They shall say: 'Both these things Allah has forbidden to those who rejected Him.' " (Al-A'raaf 7:50)
No one has any excuse in discarding, neglecting, and rejecting the blessing of salah. It is a mercy to the believers from Allah to His creation, and distinguishes one from the kuffar, the disbelievers. It protects its devotee from evil deeds and from the eternal torment of the Hellfire. Yet, still, people abandon and reject salah. As stated in the beginning of this writing, only five percent of the world population guards their salah. This means that if the world was to come to an end today, 95 percent of the Earth's inhabitants would be dragged into the raging fires of Hell! The Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) said that Allah said, "The first of his actions for which a servant of Allah will be held accountable on the Day of Resurrection will be his prayers. If there is something defective in his obligatory (fard) prayers, the Lord (Glorified and Exalted be He) will say, 'See if My servant has any disproportionate prayers with which may be completed that which was defective in his obligatory prayers. Then the rest of his actions will be judged in like manner.' " The mercy and love of Allah is such that He even checks a person's extra prayers to make up for the obligatory prayers he missed. The Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) also said that Allah said, "O Muhammad! I have ordained five daily prayers on your followers. I have made a covenant with Myself that whosoever is regular in performing salah at its fixed hour (on time), he shall be admitted into Paradise. Those of your followers who do not guard their salah, are not included in this covenant."
"Then which of the favors of your Lord will you then deny?" (Ar-Rahman 55:18)
Ibn Hajar narrated a very beautiful and inspiring event, which occurred with the Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam), and his companions:
"Once when the Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) was sitting among his companions, he remarked, 'Three things of this world are very dear to me: perfume (ittar), women, and salah--the comfort of my eyes.' 'Quite true,' rejoiced
Abu Bakr (radiallahu anhu), 'and I cherish three things: a look at your face, spending my wealth on you (cause of Allah), and that my daughter is your wife, O Prophet of Allah (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam)!' 'Quite true,' said Umar (radiallahu anhu), 'And the three I love most are: enforcing that which is right,forbidding evil, and wearing old clothes.' 'Quite true,' said Uthman (radiallahu anhu), 'And the three I love most are: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and reciting the Qur'an.' 'Quite true,' said Ali (radiallahu anhu), 'And I love three
things most: serving a guest, fasting on a very hot day, and smiting the enemy with my sword.' At this, Jibreel (alaiyhis-salam) appeared on the scene and said, 'Allah has sent me to tell you what I would love if I be one of the mortals.' The Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) replied, 'Yes! Do tell us Jibreel.' Jibreel then replied, 'If I had been like you, I would have loved three things: guiding the people gone astray (to the straight path), loving those who worship in poverty, and helping the poor family men. And as for Allah, He loves three characteristics of His slaves: striving in His Path, crying at the time of repentance, and stead-fastness in the want and hunger.' "
I would like to conclude this significant and important topic by providing a statement of Hafidh Ibn Qayyam and a few verses from the Glorious Qur'an:
"Salaat ensures daily bread, promotes health, drives out diseases, strengthens the heart, brings light and beauty on the face, pleases the soul, refreshes the body, cures the indolence, relieves the mind, feeds the soul, illuminates the heart and guarantees Allah's favor. It grants protection against Allah's doom. It keeps the Devil away and brings us nearer to Allah. In short, salah is a guarantee for all that is desirable and a protection against all that is undesirable for both, the body and the soul, equally, in this world and the Hereafter."
"Seek help in patience and prayer; it is indeed hard, except for the humble." (Al-Baqarah 2:45)
"Establish regular prayers at the sun's decline till the darkness of the night and the recital of the Qur'an at Fajr; for the recital at Fajr is ever witnessed."
"I have only created the jinn and men that they may worship Me." (Az-Zaariyaat 51:56)