Some people claim that not performing prayers is shirk (polytheism) and unbelief. How true is their statement?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Instead of accusing a person of unbelief and polytheism, it is necessary to explain the meaning and nature of prayer to him by talking softly. It is necessary to tell such a person that if man performs a prayer, he enters into the presence of his Creator, who created him out of nothing, that he becomes a direct addressee of Him and that it is possible to attain the consent of God Almighty only through performing prayers. The Prophet, the Companions and great people encouraged people to worship by treating them softly and nicely; they avoided scaring and frightening people.

Performing prayers is the greatest reality after belief. Therefore, prayer is mentioned in almost one hundred places in the Quran. No deed of worship is emphasized as much as prayer because prayer is a believer’s closest relationship with his Lord. A person who does not perform prayers weakens this relationship and throws himself among the enemies like his soul and Satan, which is a big danger.

All verses of the Quran related to prayer encourage people. Some verses regarding the issue are as follows:

“Who believe in the Unseen, are steadfast in prayer." (al-Baqara, 2/3)

“It (prayer) is indeed hard, except to those who bring a lowly spirit.” (al-Baqara, 2/45)

“And who (strictly) guard their prayers.” (al-Muminun, 23/9)

“Prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds.” (al-Ankabut, 29/45)

“Speak to my servants who have believed, that they may establish regular prayers.“ (Ibrahim, 14/31)

It is possible to see the same things in hadiths too. When we go over the hadiths about prayer, we see that the virtue and rewards of performing prayers are mentioned.

However, Islamic scholars explain the following hadiths as “those who deny that performing prayers is fard and who regard not performing prayers legitimate”:

”Between man and unbelief/polytheism is abandoning performing prayers.“ (Muslim, Iman 134; Abu Dawud, Sunnah 15)

“The covenant between munafiqs (hypocrites) and us is prayer.” (Tirmidhi, Iman 9; Nasai, Salah 8)

Polytheism and hypocrisy are not in question for a person who accepts prayer as a command of Allah but acts lazily related to performing prayers.

Ibn Abidin states the following at the beginning of the chapter related to prayer in his book called Raddul-Muhtar: “A person who denies that performing prayers is fard becomes an unbeliever. He who abandons performing prayers deliberately due to heedlessness, that is, /laziness becomes a sinner.”

Thus, not performing prayers is among major sins. Only the followers of Mutazila, which is a heretic madhhab, state that those who commit major sins become unbelievers. However, it should not be forgotten that a person who does not perform prayers will be exposed to some dangers over time.

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