Those who are irregular in their obligatory prayers:
Read the translation of the verses 4 and 5 of the surah Al-Maa’oun:
(107:4) Woe, then, to those who pray,8
(107:5) but are heedless in their Prayers,9
Surah Al-Maa-oun exp. notes 8 and 9:
8. The fa in fa-wail-ul -lil-musallin signif
ies that such was the condition of the open deniers of the Hereafter. One may then consider the condition of the hypocrites who are included among the praying ones (i.e. Muslims). Since, despite being Muslims they regard the Hereafter as a falsehood, one may note what path of ruin they are following.
Though musallin means the praying ones, in view of the context in which this word has been used and the characteristics of these people that follow, this word, in fact, does not have the meaning of the praying ones but of the people of salat, i.e. of those included among Muslims.
9. The words used are an-salat-i him sahun and not fi salati- him sahun. In case the words fi salat-i him had been used, the meaning would be that they forget in the course of their Prayer. But forgetting in the course of the Prayer is no sin in the eyes of the Shariah, nothing to say of its being hypocrisy, nor is it a fault or anything blameworthy. The Prophet (peace be upon him) himself sometimes forgot in the Prayer and to compensate for it he prescribed the method of sajdah sahv. On the contrary, an salat-i-him sahun means that they are neglectful of their Prayer. Whether they perform the Prayer, or do not perform it, it is of little importance to them. They are not regular at the Prayers. When they perform it, they do not observe the prescribed times, but offer it carelessly at the eleventh hour. Or, when they rise up for the Prayer, they rise up and perform it with an unwilling heart, as if it were a calamity imposed on them. They play with their garments, yawn and betray absence of every trace of Allah’s remembrance in their hearts. Throughout the Prayer they show no feeling at all that they are performing the Prayer, nor of what they are reciting; their minds wander and they perform articles of the Prayer without due attention; they somehow perform a semblance of the Prayer and try to be rid of it as soon as possible. And there are many people who would perform the Prayer only when they must, otherwise the Prayer has no place in their lives. The Prayer time comes but they show no concern that it is the Prayer time; they hear the call to the Prayer but do not understand what the caller is calling to, whom he is calling and for what purpose. These in fact are the signs of absence of faith in the Hereafter. The claimants to Islam believe thus only because they do not believe that they would be rewarded for performing the Prayer, nor have the faith that they would be punished for not performing it. On this very basis, Anas bin Malik and Ata bin Dinar say: Thanks to God that he said an salat-ihim and not fi salat-i-him. That is, we do forget in the course of the Prayer but we are not forgetful and neglectful of it; therefore, we shall not be counted among the hypocrites.
The Quran at another place has described this state of the hypocrites, thus: They come to offer their Prayer but reluctantly, and they spend in the way of Allah with unwilling hearts. (Surah At-Taubah, Ayat 54
). The Messenger (peace be upon him) of Allah has said: This is the Prayer of the hypocrite; this is the Prayer of the hypocrite; this is the Prayer of the hypocrite! He watches the sun at the Asr time until when it reaches between the two horns of Satan (i.e. when the time of sunset approaches), he gets up and performs the Prayer carelessly, in which he remembers Allah but little. (Bukhari, Muslim, Musnad Ahmad). Musab bin Saad has related from his father, Saad bin Abi Waqqas: When I asked the Prophet (peace be upon him) about the people who are neglectful of their Prayer, he said: These are the people who perform their Prayers when the prescribed time for it has passed. (Ibn Jarir, Abu Yala, Ibn al-Mundhir, Ibn abi Hatim, Tabarani in Ausat; Ibn Marduyah, Baihaqi in As-Sunan). This tradition has been related as a statement of Saad himself also as a mauquf hadith and its sanad is stronger. Its being a marfu narration of the saying of the Prophet (peace be upon him) has been regarded as weak by Baihaqi and Hakim). Another tradition from Musab is that he asked his father: Have you considered this verse? Does it mean giving up the Prayer, or wandering of one’s attention in the course of the Prayer, who among us has not his attention divided. He replied: No, it implies wasting the prescribed time of the Prayer and performing it when its time has elapsed. (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Abi Shaibah, Abu Yala, Ibn al-Mundhir, Ibn Marduyah, Baihaqi in As-Sunan).
Here, one should understand that coming of other thoughts in the mind in the course of the Prayer is one thing and being unmindful of the Prayer and thinking other things during it quite another. The first state is a natural human weakness. Thoughts do interfere without intention, and as soon as a believer feels that his attention is wandering from the Prayer, he gathers it and brings it back to the Prayer. The other state is of being neglectful of the Prayer, for in it man only goes through an exercise of the Prayer mechanically, he has no intention of the remembrance of God in his heart. From the commencement of the Prayer till its completion his heart is not turned towards God even for a moment, and he remains engrossed in the thoughts with which he entered the Prayer.
Surah Al-Ankaboot verse ----expl with ahaadeeth
(29:45) (O Prophet), recite the Book that has been revealed to you and establish Prayer.77 Surely Prayer forbids indecency and evil.78 And Allah's remembrance is of even greater merit.79 Allah knows all that you do.
Exp.notes . 77---79:
77. The address apparently is directed to the Prophet (peace be upon him) but, in fact, it is meant for all the believers. Until now they were being counseled patience and reliance on Allah to brave the extreme trying conditions in which they found themselves, and the persecutions they were being subjected to on account of their faith. Now they are being told to recite the Quran and establish the Salat as a practical device, for these are the two things which endow a believer with a strong character and a wonderful capacity by which he can not only brave successfully the most violent storms of evil and falsehood but can even subdue them. But man can acquire this power from the recitation of the Quran and the prayer only when he does not remain content with the mere recital of the words but also understands well the Quranic teachings and absorbs them in his soul. And his prayer does not remain confined to physical movements but becomes the very function of his heart and the motive force for his morals and character. The desired quality of the prayer is being mentioned by the Quran itself in the next sentence.
As for its recitation, one should know that the recitation which does not reach the heart beyond the throat, cannot even give man enough power to remain steadfast to his faith, not to speak of enabling him to withstand the furies of unbelief. About such people, a Hadith says: “They will recite the Quran, but the Quran will not go beyond their throats; they will leave the faith just as the arrow leaves the bow.” (Bukhari, Muslim, Muatta).
As a matter of fact, the recitation which does not effect any change in a man’s way of thinking, and his morals and character, and he goes on doing what the Quran forbids, is not the recitation of a believer at all. About such a one the Prophet (peace be upon him) has said: “He who makes lawful what the Quran has declared unlawful, has not believed in the Quran at all.” (Tirmidhi).
Such a recitation does not reform and strengthen a man’s self and spirit, but makes him even more stubborn against Allah and impudent before his own conscience, and destroys his character altogether. For the case of the person who believes in the Quran as a divine Book, reads it and comes to know what his God has enjoined, and then goes on violating His injunctions, is of the culprit, who commits a crime not due to ignorance but after full knowledge of the law. The Prophet (peace be upon him) has clarified this point in a brief sentence, thus: “The Quran is a testimony in your favor or against you,” (Muslim).
That is, “If you follow the Quran rightly, it is a testimony in your favor. Whenever you are called to account for your deeds, here or in the Hereafter, you can produce the Quran as a testimony in your defense, saying that whatever you did was in accordance with this Book. If what you did was precisely according to it, no jurist in the world will be able to punish you, nor will God in the Hereafter hold you accountable for it. But if this Book has reached you, and you have read it and found out what your Lord demands from you, what He enjoins and what He forbids, and then you adopt an attitude opposed to it, then this Book will be a testimony against you. It will further strengthen the criminal case against you in the court of God. Then it will in no way be possible for you to escape the punishment, or receive a light punishment, by making the excuse of ignorance.
78. This is an important characteristic out of the many characteristics of the prayer, which has been presented here prominently in view of its relevance to the context.
To counter the severe storm of opposition and resistance that the Muslims were experiencing in Makkah, they stood in need of a moral force rather than any material power. To bring about the moral force and develop it suitably two practical devices were pointed out in the first instance, the recitation of the Quran and the establishment of the Salat.
Now they are being told that the establishment of the Salat is the means through which they can get rid of those evils in which they themselves had been involved before they embraced Islam and in which the non-Muslim Arabs and the non Arab world around them were involved at that time.
With a little thinking one can easily understand why this special advantage of the prayer has been particularly mentioned here. Evidently, getting rid of the moral evils is not only useful insofar as it is beneficial for those who attain the moral purity, both here and in the Hereafter, but its inevitable advantage is that it gives them unique superiority over those who might be involved in diverse moral evils, and who might be exerting their utmost to sustain the impure system of ignorance, which nourishes those evils, against the efforts of the morally pure people. Indecent and evil acts are those which man by nature abhors, and which have always been held as evil in principle by the people of every community and society, however depraved and perverted practically. The Arab society in the days of the revelation of the Quran was no exception to this. Those people also were aware of the moral virtues and the evils: they valued the good above the evil and there might be none among them, who regarded the evil as identical with the good, or depreciated goodness. Under such conditions, in a perverted society like that, the emergence of a movement which revolutionized morally members of the same society itself as soon as they came into contact with it, and raised them in character high above their contemporaries, inevitably had widespread effects. The common Arabs could not possibly fail to feel the moral impact of the movement, which eradicated evils and promoted goodness. And could not go on following those who were morally corrupt and were fighting to sustain a system of ignorance which had been nourishing those evils since centuries. That is why the Quran at that time exhorted the Muslims to establish Salat instead of urging them to collect material resources and force and strength that could win over the people’s hearts and defeat the enemy without any material force.
Thus considered, one cannot help admitting that the prayer not only restrains man from the evils and indecencies but, in fact, there is no other method of training in the world which may be so effective as the prayer is in restraining man from the evils. As for the question whether or not man in actual fact refrains from the evils even after attendance at the prayer, this depends upon the man himself, who is undergoing training for self reform. If he has the intention to benefit from it, and endeavors for it, the reformatory effects of the prayer will certainly have their impact on him. Otherwise, evidently, no reformatory device in the world can be effective with a person, who is not prepared to receive any impact of it, or tries to avoid its impact intentionally. This can be explained by an example. The essential quality of food is to nourish the body and develop it. But this advantage can be had only when food is allowed to be assimilated. If a person vomits what he eats after every meal, his food cannot profit him in any way. Just as, keeping such a person in view, one cannot say that food is not nutritious for the body, because so and so is becoming a skeleton in spite of eating food. So, one cannot present the example of an unrighteous performer of the prayer and say that the prayer does not restrain from the evils, because so and so is unrighteous in spite of his prayer. Just as about such a person it will be apt to say that he does not offer the prayer at all, so about the person who vomits everything he eats, it will be apt to say that he does not eat his food at all.
Precisely the same thing has been reported from the Prophet (peace be upon him) and some great companions and their followers. Imran bin Husain reports that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “He whose prayer did not restrain him from the evil and indecent acts, offered no prayer at all,” (Ibn Abi Hatim). Ibn Abbas has reported the Prophet (peace be upon him) as saying: “The prayer which did not restrain a person from the evil and indecent acts, led him further away from Allah.” (Ibn Abi Hatim, Tabarani).
A Hadith containing the same theme has been reported by Hasan Basri directly from the Prophet (peace be upon him). Another Hadith reported on the authority of Ibn Masud is to the effect: “He who did not obey the prayer, offered no prayer at all, and obedience to the prayer is that one should refrain from the evil and indecent acts.” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Abi Hatim).
Several sayings to the same effect have been reported on the authority of Abdullah bin Masud, Abdullah bin Abbas, Hasan Basri, Qatadah and Aamash, etc. Imam Jafar Sadiq has said: He who wants to know whether his prayer has been accepted or not, should see how far his prayer has restrained him from the evil and indecent acts. If he has been restrained from the evils, his prayer has been accepted, (Ruh-al Maani).
79. This can have several meanings: (1) That the remembrance of Allah (i.e. prayer) is a thing of much higher value: it not only restrains from the evils but, over and above that, it induces people to act righteously and urges them to excel one another in good acts. (2) That Allah’s remembrance in itself is a great thing: it is the best of acts: no act of man is greater in value than this. (3) That Allah’s remembrance of you is a greater thing than your remembrance of Him. Allah has said in the Quran: “So remember Me: I will remember you.” (Surah Al-Baqarah: Ayat 156). Thus, when the servant remembers Allah in the prayer, inevitably Allah also will remember him, and the merit of Allah’s remembering his servant is certainly greater than the servant’s remembering Allah. Besides these three meanings, there is another subtle meaning also, which the wife of Abud Darda has explained. She says, “Allah’s remembrance is not restricted to the prayer, but, its sphere is much vaster. When a man observes a fast, or pays the Zakat or performs a righteous act, he inevitably remembers Allah. That is why the righteous act emanates from him. Likewise, when a man refrains from an evil act when an opportunity exists for it, even this also is the result of Allah’s remembrance. Thus, the remembrance of Allah pervades the entire life of a believer.