Abandoning the Prayer is from the Most Dangerous of Sins (Imām Adh-Dhahabi)

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In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Bestower of Mercy.

Al-Imām Al-Hāfidh Abu Abdillāh Muhammad bin Ahmad Adh-Dhahabi (d. 748H, rahimahullāh) mentioned abandoning the Prayer (As-Salāt) as the fourth major sin in his tremendous work entitled, “The Major Sins (Al-Kabā’ir).” The following is an abridgement of the Chapter: Abandoning the Prayer.

Note: I have, in places, used alternative narrations to those used by Imām Adh-Dhahabi (rahimahullāh), which carry the same meaning or provide further clarity. I have also given references taken from various available checkings of this work.

Allah, the Most High, stated:

فَخَلَفَ مِن بَعْدِهِمْ خَلْفٌ أَضَاعُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَاتَّبَعُوا الشَّهَوَاتِ ۖ فَسَوْفَ يَلْقَوْنَ غَيًّا – 19:59

“But then, there came after them those who gave up the Prayers (Salāt) and they followed their lusts. So they will be thrown in Hell.” (Maryam: 59)

إِلَّا مَن تَابَ وَآمَنَ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا فَأُولَٰئِكَ يَدْخُلُونَ الْجَنَّةَ وَلَا يُظْلَمُونَ شَيْئًا – 19:60

“Except for those who repent, and they believe and do righteousness––they will enter Paradise and will not be wronged at all.” (Maryam: 60)

فَوَيْلٌ لِّلْمُصَلِّينَ
الَّذِينَ هُمْ عَن صَلَاتِهِمْ سَاهُون

“So woe unto those performers of Prayer, who are heedless, delaying their Prayer from its fixed times.” (Al-Ma’ūn, 4-5)

And, in the Hereafter, the people of Paradise will ask the people of Hellfire:

مَا سَلَكَكُمْ فِي سَقَرَ
قَالُوا لَمْ نَكُ مِنَ الْمُصَلِّينَ

“What has caused you to enter Hell?” They will say: “We were not of those who used to offer the Salāh.” (Al-Mudaththir)

The Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) mentioned the seriousness of the Prayer in numerous hadeeths. He (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) stated:

الْعَهْدُ الَّذِي بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَهُمُ الصَّلاَةُ فَمَنْ تَرَكَهَا فَقَدْ كَفَرَ

“The covenant between us and them (the unbelievers) is the Prayer (as-Salāh), so whoever abandons it has disbelieved.” (At-Tirmidhi, no. 2621––authentic upon the conditions of Imām Muslim)

He (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) also said:

مَنْ تَرَكَ صَلاَةَ الْعَصْرِ فَقَدْ حَبِطَ عَمَلُهُ

“Whoever leaves the ‘Asr prayer [deliberately], then all his good deeds will be nullified.” (Bukhari, no. 553)

The Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) also said:

بَيْنَ الرَّجُلِ وَبَيْنَ الشِّرْكِ وَالْكُفْرِ تَرْكُ الصَّلاَةِ

“Between a man and [him falling into] polytheism and unbelief is the abandonment of Prayer.” (Sahih Muslim, no. 82)

‘Umar (radiyallāhu ‘anhu) stated: “There is no share of Islam for the one who abandons the Prayer.” (Ibn Abi Shaybah in Al-Musannaf, no. 103, Abdur-Razzāq in Al-Musannaf, nos. 579, 580, 581––with an authentic chain of narration)

Ibrāheem An-Nakha’ee (rahimahullāh) stated: “Whoever abandons the prayer has disbelieved.” (Abdur-Razzāq in Al-Musannaf, no. 5009––with an authentic chain of narration).

And Ayyoob As-Sakhtiyāni (d. 131H) stated the same. (See: Muhammad bin Nasr in Ta’dheem Qadris-Salāh, no. 978)

Al-Jurayri narrated from ‘Abdullah bin Shaqeeq (rahimahullāh) who said: “The Companions of Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) did not see the abandonment of any deeds to amount to unbelief other than the abandonment of the Prayer.” (At-Tirmidhi, no. 2624––its chain of narration is saheeh, and it was authenticated by An-Nawawi in Al-Majmoo’, 3/19)

Ibn Hazm (rahimahullāh) stated: “There is no sin after shirk (polytheism) that is greater than leaving the Prayer until its time has passed, and [then] the killing of a believer without just cause.” (See Al-Muhallā of Ibn Hazm, 11/19 at the end of point 2115)

The Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said:

إِنَّ أَوَّلَ مَا يُحَاسَبُ النَّاسُ بِهِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ مِنْ أَعْمَالِهِمُ الصَّلاَةُ قَالَ يَقُولُ رَبُّنَا جَلَّ وَعَزَّ لِمَلاَئِكَتِهِ وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ انْظُرُوا فِي صَلاَةِ عَبْدِي أَتَمَّهَا أَمْ نَقَصَهَا فَإِنْ كَانَتْ تَامَّةً كُتِبَتْ لَهُ تَامَّةً وَإِنْ كَانَ انْتَقَصَ مِنْهَا شَيْئًا قَالَ انْظُرُوا هَلْ لِعَبْدِي مِنْ تَطَوُّعٍ فَإِنْ كَانَ لَهُ تَطَوُّعٌ قَالَ أَتِمُّوا لِعَبْدِي فَرِيضَتَهُ مِنْ تَطَوُّعِهِ ثُمَّ تُؤْخَذُ الأَعْمَالُ عَلَى ذَاكُمْ

“The first matter that the people will be called to account for on the Day of Judgement from their deeds will be the Prayer. Our Lord, the Exalted, will say to the angels, though He knows better: ‘Look into the prayer of My servant and see whether he has offered it perfectly or deficiently.’ If it is perfect, it will be recorded as perfect. If it is deficient, He will say: ‘See if there are some optional prayers offered by My servant.’ If he has optional prayers, Allah will say: ‘Compensate the obligatory Prayers with the optional Prayers for My servant.’ Then all the actions will be accounted similarly.” (Reported by Abu Dawood, no. 846––graded saheeh by Al-Albāni)

The Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said:

أُمِرْتُ أَنْ أُقَاتِلَ النَّاسَ حَتَّى يَشْهَدُوا أَنْ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ وَأَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ، وَيُقِيمُوا الصَّلاَةَ، وَيُؤْتُوا الزَّكَاةَ، فَإِذَا فَعَلُوا ذَلِكَ عَصَمُوا مِنِّي دِمَاءَهُمْ وَأَمْوَالَهُمْ إِلاَّ بِحَقِّ الإِسْلاَمِ، وَحِسَابُهُمْ عَلَى اللَّه

“I have been commanded to fight and strive against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah––and that they establish the Prayers and pay the Zakāt. So, if they do that, then their lives and property are safe from me except for the rights of Islam, and their reckoning is with Allah.” (Bukhāri, no. 25, Muslim, no. 22)

Abu Sa’eed Al-Khudri (radiyallāhu ‘anhu) said regarding Dhul-Khuwaysrah, the one who challenged the justice, taqwa and trustworthiness of the Messenger of Allah (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam):

قَامَ رَجُلٌ غَائِرُ الْعَيْنَيْنِ، مُشْرِفُ الْوَجْنَتَيْنِ، نَاشِزُ الْجَبْهَةِ، كَثُّ اللِّحْيَةِ، مَحْلُوقُ الرَّأْسِ، مُشَمَّرُ الإِزَارِ، فَقَالَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ، اتَّقِ اللَّهَ‏.‏ قَالَ ‏”‏ وَيْلَكَ أَوَلَسْتُ أَحَقَّ أَهْلِ الأَرْضِ أَنْ يَتَّقِيَ اللَّهَ ‏”‏‏.‏ قَالَ ثُمَّ وَلَّى الرَّجُلُ، قَالَ خَالِدُ بْنُ الْوَلِيدِ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ، أَلاَ أَضْرِبُ عُنُقَهُ قَالَ ‏”‏ لاَ، لَعَلَّهُ أَنْ يَكُونَ يُصَلِّي ‏

A man stood up who had sunken eyes, raised cheek-bones, high forehead, a thick beard, a shaven head and a waist sheet that was tucked up––he said, “O Allah’s Messenger! Fear Allah!” The Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, “Woe to you! Am I not of all the people of the earth the most worthy to fear Allah?” Then that man walked away––and Khalid bin Al-Waleed (radiyallāhu ‘anhu) said, “O Allah’s Messenger! Shall I strike his neck?” The Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, “No, for maybe he is one who prays.” (Bukhari, no. 4351)

Imām Ahmad narrated in his Musnad from the Hadeeth of Abdullah bin ‘Amr (radiyallāhu ‘anhumā) that the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: “The one who does not maintain the Prayers will not have any light, or proof, or salvation for himself––and on the Day of Resurrection, he will be alongside Qāroon, Fir’awn, Hāmān, [Abu Jahl] and Ubayy bin Khalaf.”

Reported by Ahmad in Al-Musnad, 2/169, no. 353, Ibn Hibbān (Al-Mawārid), no. 245, Ibn Battah, 2/683, no. 895––the isnād is hasan. Al-Mundhari said in At-Targheeb wat-Tarheeb (1/386), “Its chain of narration is good.”

Note (Abu Khadeejah): Ibn Al-Qayyim (rahimahullāh) said in As-Salāh wa Hukmu Tārikihā (p. 46-47) regarding this hadeeth: “These four are singled out with mention because they are the leaders of unbelief––and in it, there is a wonderful point and that is that the abandonment of the prayer is because either the person is occupied with wealth, or occupied with his kingdom, or occupied with his leadership, or occupied with his trade. So, whoever is occupied away from his prayer due to his wealth will be with Qāroon. Whoever is occupied away from it due to his kingdom will be with Fir’awn. Whoever is occupied away from it due to his leadership and ministerial position will be with Hāmān. And whoever is occupied away from it due to his trade will be with Ubayy bin Khalaf.

These texts show the unbelief of the one who abandons the obligatory Prayers.

And the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said to Mu’ādh bin Jabal: “There is not a person who bears witness that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah except that Allah will save him from the Fire.” (Bukhari, no. 128, Muslim, no. 32) So, [this shows that] the one who delays the Prayer beyond its correct time is a major sinner and the one who leaves off praying even one Prayer is like the one who has fornicated and stolen––that is because leaving the Prayers or delaying them beyond their correct times is a major sin. And the one who does that on many occasions is from the major sinners until he repents. And the one who leaves off praying habitually and constantly is from the losers, the wretched ones and the criminals.

Note (Abu Khadeejah): Ibn Abdul-Barr (d. 453H) stated in At-Tamheed (4/225): “Ibrāheem An-Nakha’ee, Al-Hakam bin ‘Utaibah, Ayyoub As-Sakhtiyāni, Ibn Al-Mubārak, Ahmad bin Hanbal and Ishāq bin Rāhooyah all said: ‘Whoever deliberately abandoned a single Prayer (Salāh) until its time had passed without an excuse and refuses to make it up or to fulfil it and says, ‘I will not pray’ then he is an unbeliever, his blood and wealth are halāl (i.e. he is arrested and presented in court for judgement), and his relatives do not inherit from him.'”

The Prayer is the barrier between a person and sins, just as Allah (the Most High) said, “Recite, O Prophet, what has been revealed to you of the Book and establish the Prayer. Indeed, the Prayer keeps away lewd and immoral conduct, and wrongdoing.” (Al-‘Ankabūt, 45)

Its importance is such that during the final hours of the life of the noble Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) he advised with it. ‘Ali Ibn Abī Tālib (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the last words spoken by the Messenger of Allah (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) were, “The Prayer, the Prayer! And fear Allah regarding what your right-hands own.” (Saheeh Sunan Abī Dāwūd, 5156)

The Prayer is the first affair that the people will be asked about on the Day of Resurrection. Allāh’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, “The first thing that a person will be accounted for on the Day of Resurrection will be the Prayer – if it is sound then the rest of the deeds will be sound, and if it is corrupt then the rest of the deeds will also be corrupted.” (At-Tabarāni in Al-Awsat no. 1859. See As-Saheehah no. 1358)

The Five Daily prayers must not be neglected. The most difficult of prayers upon the hypocrites who profess faith are ‘Ishā (last prayer at night) and Fajr (the prayer before sunrise). Abu Hurairah (radiyallāhu ‘anhu) narrated that the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, “The most burdensome prayers for the hypocrites are the ‘Ishā and  Fajr. If only they knew what reward there is in them, they would come to them even if they had to crawl.” (Ibn Mājah, 797)

A Muslim should never underestimate the importance of the Prayers. 

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  1. Dear Ustadh, is there an audio version of this article? If yes, how may I find it? Thank you and may Allah bless you and reward you.

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