Some claim that not performing the prayer is idolatry and unbelief. To what extent are these claims correct?
It would be best to explain the meaning and the essence of the prayer in a friendly way to someone who does not perform the prayers, rather than accusing him/her of unbelief and idolatry. He/she must be reminded that if human performs the prayers, he/she ascends to the presence of his/her Creator, Who has created him/her out of nothingness. he/she becomes His direct addressee, and that it would be possible to attain the acceptance of God only by performing the prayers. Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, the Companions, and other great personalities encouraged people to worship always with tenderness and in a nice manner, and avoided putting people off.
Performing the prayers is the greatest principle after faith. For this reason, in the Glorious Quran, in nearly one hundred places, the prayer is mentioned. No other worship is given that much importance. This is because the prayer is the closest connection that the believer has to his Lord. The one who does not pray causes this connection to weaken and casts himself among such enemies as the evil commanding soul and the Satan, which is actually the greatest danger.
All the verses in the Quran about the prayer always encourage people into prayer. Here are the translations of some of the verses about this issue: Those who believe in the Unseen, establish the prayer with its conditions, The prayer is not a burden only for those who truly fear God., The believers protect their prayer., The prayer prevents human from evils and evil utterances., Say to my believing servants; let them perform their prayers.
It is possible to see the same points also in hadiths-the sayings of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. When we go through the hadiths about the prayer, we will see that the virtues and rewards of the prayer are always mentioned. However, there are also warnings in the hadiths: Between human and idolatry and unbelief, there is abandoning the prayer., The covenant between the hypocrites and us is the prayer.; these warnings are for the ones who deny that the prayer is obligatory or who see not performing the prayer as permissible. There is no idolatry or hypocrisy in question for the one who accepts the prayer as the command of God but shows laziness in performing it.
Ibn-i Abidin says in his work Reddul-Muhtar, in the first parts of the topic of prayer: The one who denies the prayers being obligatory becomes an unbeliever. On the other hand, the one who intentionally abandons it not paying attention; in other words, out of laziness, becomes a sinner.
Therefore, not performing the prayer is among the major sins. Only the followers of the Mutazila, which is a false sect, say that the one who commits the major sins becomes an unbeliever. However, it should not be forgotten that the faith of the one who perpetually does not perform the prayer may be exposed to certain dangers in time.