According to the Statement in the Surah (Chapter) Neighborly Needs (Al-Máun): So woe to the worshippers; who are neglectful of their prayers (who lapse in their prayers) : Would it not be Better not to Perform Prayers Instead of Performing i

We sometimes received information that particularly the 4th and 5th verses of the Surah Maun: So woe to the worshippers; who are neglectful of their prayers (who lapse in their prayers). distressed many Muslims who carried out their worshipping duties regularly. The reason why some Muslims who read only its translation got worried was, briefly, that they criticized themselves as follows: While performing prayers, many Muslims are in a manner of negligence and so they cannot stand in a humble manner. Referring to the verses of the Surah Maun, would the prayers which we performed be considered as the signs of hypocrisy or would they not be accepted really? Seeing that our minds are lost in thought while performing prayers and we cannot always stand still in the manner of humbleness, if the dreadful reprehension of those verses were considered, then would it not be better not to perform prayers instead of performing in negligence?

We shall try to clarify the matter with the hope of remedy for the wound that the profound self-criticism of the conscience made in the minds of Muslims. Firstly, let us look at the statements of the Surah Maun which caused question marks in the minds:

The meaning of the Surah
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
1. Did you see one who denies the Judgment (to come)?
2. Then such is the (one) who repulses the orphan,
3. And encourages not the feeding of the indigent.
4. So woe to the worshippers
5. Who are neglectful of their prayers,
6. Those who (want but) to be seen,
7. But refuse (to supply) (even) neighborly needs.
The matter, which we are going to discuss and which was asked, is the verse: So woe to the worshippers; who are neglectful of their prayers. Actually the statement of their prayers is different from the statement in their prayers, but generally people cannot comprehend this difference. Therefore, they would feel deep sorrow and unease. From this point of view, we shall introduce the meaning of the verses in brief items:

- The chapter makes mention of deniers from its beginning to the end. In the first verse, the profiles of those who do not believe in the Hereafter are depicted: Did you see one who denies the Judgment (to come)?
As for the last verse, it mentions the ones who do not help, even at the slightest degree, the poor because they do not expect reward in return for that support –on account of not believing in the Hereafter-. Thus, the first and the last verse describe the people that meet at the common point of denying.

- In the second and third verses, the picture of mercilessness, cold-heartedness, excessive meanness and arrogance which are the causes of disdaining other people, particularly, orphans is described, emerging from not believing in the Day of Judgment,. All of those attributes are expressed in a style showing that they are all because of denying the Day of Judgement, which is mentioned in the first verse.

-The fourth verse is in a position of connecting the first verses with the last three ones. However, in this case, instead of saying So woe to the worshippers, it should have been So woe to the ones whose attributes are mentioned.

That is to say, using worshippers pronoun instead of the ones is surely because of some reasons. We can express two of those reasons as follows:

a. Performing prayer is emphasized in the verse; this way, its importance in the religion and its close relationship with belief is manifested. Verily, worshipping comes in the second place, after belief, in Islam. Therefore, at the beginning of the Surah Heifer (Al-Baqarah), coming after the Surah Opening (Al-Fatiha), and the first Surah of the Quran, the ones who Fear Allah that is to say who avoid disobeying Allah are demonstrated as Who believe in the Unseen, are steadfast in prayer; prayer is placed in the second place after belief. Therefore, as the belief in the Day of Judgment weakens, the desire of worshipping decreases. Surely, it does not mean that the one who does not worship does not believe in the Day of Judgment but every individual who does not believe in the Day of Judgment does not pray either. According to this explanation, the fourth verse could be understood as follows: woes to the ones who deny the Day of Judgment; although they are commanded to worship, they do not perform their prayers - because of not believing in the Day of Judgment-.

b. The reason why that verse mentions worshipping is to point that hypocrites could worship, as well. However, there is one of their characteristics which betrays them; that is, they do not care performing their prayers. Since they do not expect a reward in return for worshipping, praying or not praying has no importance for them. It does not make any difference for them.

In some other verses of the Quran, that characteristic of theirs is also mentioned
Hypocrites - they think they are over-reaching God, but He will over- reach them: When they stand up to prayer, they stand without earnestness, to be seen of men, but little do they hold God in remembrance;

(They are) distracted in mind even in the midst of it, - being (sincerely) for neither one group nor for another whom God leaves straying, - never will you find for him the way.(Women (An-Nisa), 4/142-143)

That they reject God and His Messenger; that they come to prayer save lazily; and that they offer contributions unwillingly. (Repentance (Al-Tauba), 9/54)

As it is seen, the discussed characteristics of hypocrites in those verses match up with the features mentioned in the Surah Maun. The common point: Not to take care of worshipping, go to prayer lazily and to show off, to help the poor unwillingly. It is because hypocrites are identical with the deniers. They do not expect a reward in the Hereafter.

Therefore, they are generally neglectful of their prayers; not neglectful in their prayers. However, they perform prayers with the people so as not to be ashamed.

- According to some scholars, because the first three verses were revealed in Mecca and the last four in Madinah, the first three verses, which explain the characteristics of the deniers of the Day of Judgment, mention the idolaters in particular. As for the last four verses revealed in Madinah, they mention hypocrites.

According to some other scholars, those first three verses were revealed in order to point out Abu Jahl. He was the one denying the eternal life. Also the last four verses were revealed in order to point out the famous hypocrite Abdullah b. Ubay b. Salul and his friends in Madinah. They were the ones worshipping to show off.

Look at the miraculous expression of the Quran; although there are many years between the revelations of those two groups of the verses, no contrast can be observed between them. This fact is not only valid for its words, but also for the conditions of its meaning which manifests immaterial speech.

For example: the common characteristic of the idolaters that both group of the verses described was denying the Day of Judgement. Both of those two groups of people do not perform their prayers sincerely. Idolaters do not perform prayers at all. Hypocrites perform prayers to show off. It is because hypocrites generally lived in Madinah in the era of bliss. Hypocrites who lived among people who were performing prayers in Madinah, performed prayers to show off, not for the sake of Allah.

-Some companions of the Prophet (PBUH) such as Hazrat Ali, Hazrat Ibn Abbas and Hazrat Anas drew attention to the subtlety of the verse and said that the phrase of their prayers is much more different from the statement in their prayers

Accordingly, if it is said Fi salatihim=in their prayers; then the meaning changes to So woe to the worshippers who are neglectful in their prayers and it will be wrong. It is very difficult for man not to lose his concentration and not to lapse, not to make any mistake in the prayer. Moreover, it is known that even the Prophet (PBUH) himself did lapse in his prayer. There are also lapse in the prayer sections in all of the Islamic law books.

Because of this, the phrase an salatihim= of their prayers was used in the verse. That is to say, they are the ones who are neglectful of their prayers. In other words, they are ignorant of the meaning of the prayer. They completely forget it and give no importance to it. They would not perform it if they did not have the worry of to be seen.

On account of this fact, some scholars, in order to emphasize that subtle difference said, Thanks be to Allah that it was not revealed as Fi salatihim=in their prayers but an salatihim= of their prayers.

- Abdullah b. Abbas commented: That verse concerns hypocrites. They do not perform prayers when they go out of sight. On the other hand, they perform their prayers to show off when they are with people. They worship in the public but do not when they are alone.

One of the famous commentators, Wahidi, said: That verse concerns hypocrites because they do not believe in the Day of Judgment; when they worship, they do not expect any reward in return for it; when they give it up, they do not fear punishment. Being neglectful of the prayer manifests their position.

According to the narrative of Tabari, one of the Islamic scholars, the Prophet (PBUH) said Allah is the greatest when that verse was revealed and added: This verse is more precious for you than being awarded with the entire assets of the world. A person who is neglectful of his prayer is the one who does not expect any reward in return for it when he worships and who does not fear his Sustainer, when he gives it up.

In that Hadith, the subtlety of the phrase of their prayers in the verse is mentioned.

- In the discussed verse, using directly the expression worshippers instead of who are steadfast in prayer is also evidence that the verse mentions hypocrites.

It is because the expression who/they are steadfast in prayer is used in the Quran for sincerely and orderly performed prayers,

The reason why the expression worshippers is used in the verse is to indicate they are not sincere in their prayers, and when they perform prayers for effect although their bodies are praying, their spirits and thoughts are far away from prayer. Even though they worship when necessary to save the day, they are not steadfast in prayer.

- It is understood from all of those entire explanations that in the above-mentioned verse, the performed prayers of hypocrites in order to be seen so is mentioned but not the lapses and forgetting by decent believers which occur in the prayers.

As a matter of fact, in the first three verses coming before this fourth verse, three characteristics of hypocrites and unbelievers are pointed out; and the other three attributes are mentioned in the last three verses coming after this fourth. The characteristics in the first three verses are denying the Day of Judgment, repulsing the orphans, not encouraging feeding the indigent. Other characteristics mentioned in the last three verses are as follows: neglecting the prayers, desire to be seen while performing, refusing to supply even neighborly needs. When we consider those six attributes in the six verses wholly, the unbelief of the hypocrites is going to be observed.

Then, why such a style of expression that seems to prick Muslims is preferred in the Quran?

The main reason of this choice is to help Muslims to draw a moral from the Surah. Therefore, sincere believers should avoid possessing the features of hypocrites, try to strengthen their belief in the day of Judgment, not forget about the reckoning, not give up performing prayers and not delay performing them, not occupy their minds with worldly business during the prayer; as Mawlana said- Ser be zemin, dum be heva = the head is on the rug, the tail is aloft/ that is to say, Muslims should refrain from reducing prayers to performances carried out casually and carelessly ; they should not forget that they are in the presence of Almighty God while praying; they should perform prayers correctly and paying attention to being steadfast; they should not perform prayers for effect; they should not refrain from charity for the sake of Allah and they should especially take care of the poor and orphans.

The phrase they are steadfast in prayers".

This phrase is mentioned for the first time in the 3rd verse of the Surah Heifer (Al-Baqarah) and although it is longer than the phrase worship it is preferred especially. According to commentators, the reason of the choice of the phrase They are steadfast in prayers rather than they worship is to draw attention to the meanings which the word steadfast implies; performing prayers through complying with its conditions, correctly and paying attention to being steadfast, additionally, performing it within the certain period of time, without being late. (1) Qadi Baydhawi drew attention to the same point and said in order to commend the one who performs prayers through complying its conditions, correctly and paying attention to it or in the verses uttering the prayer is obligatory and is prescribed, the phrase steadfast is used, on the other hand, that phrase is not used in the verses which admonish the ones who worship in negligence as in the verses of Surah Maun. (2)

The word steadfast has relations with the words to stand up, consistence and has the meaning to make stand through rising or to straighten by correcting. (3) This is a close meaning with the word salat=prayer in the Arabic dictionary. When the acts of making stand through rising and straightening by correcting are taken into account for body movements, the performance during prayers come to mind. Then, when these explanations are considered, being steadfast in prayer means: reciting allusions and invocations accurately, also -from point of performing- to make the body straight for carrying out prayers well.

Referred sources: The related verses of the commentaries: Tabari, Zamakhsharî, Samarqandî, Râzî, Qurtubî, Saalibî, Ibn Kathir, Abu Suud, adDurrul-Mansur, Baydahwi, Nasafî, Shanqîtî; Shavkânî, Âlûsî, Ibn Ashur, Fi Zilal, Elmalili.

1- See az-Zamakhshrî, al-Kasshaf (The Explorer), I/39-40; Nursî, Ishãrâtu'l-I'câz (The Signs of Miraculousness), 45-46.
2- al-Baydhawi, Tawâliu'l-Anvâr, 45-45. Also see Khatib ash-Shirbînî, as-Sirâcu'l-Munîr (The Luminous Lamp), I/17-18; ar-Râghib, 491-492; Jamaluddin al-Qasimî, Mahasinu't-Tawil, I/35-36. For the examples of the word steadfast in the Quran: see. 4/162; 5/55; 11/114; 17/78; 20/14; 29/45; for the examples where this word is not used while mentioning worshipping: see. 107/4-5; 9/54.
3- See the commentary of Yazir, I/175.

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