What was the attitude of the Prophet toward those who did not perform prayers?

Details of the Question
What was the attitude of the Prophet toward those who did not perform prayers?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

There was one daily prayer in each religion beginning from Hz. Adam. The prayers that they performed were brought together and were rendered fard for those who believed in Muhammad (pbuh). Performing prayers is not one of the principles of belief. However, it is a principle of belief to believe that it is fard to perform prayers.

"Prayer is the pillar of the religion." A person who performs prayers regularly, properly and fully establishes his religion and supports the building of Islam. A person who does not perform prayers demolishes his religion and the building of Islam. The Prophet (pbuh) stated the following:

"The head of our religion is prayer."

There is no man without a head; similarly, there is no religion without prayer. 

Hz. Prophet (pbuh) criticizes those who abandon the congregation as follows:

"I was thinking of commanding that the call to prayer be given, then I would tell a man to lead the people in prayer, then I would go out with some other men carrying bundles of wood, and go to people who do not attend the prayer, and burn their houses down around them." (al-Muwatta', Jamaa 3; Ibn Majah, Masajid, 17).

The Decree on Abandoning Prayers

It is unanimously agreed that performing prayers is fard for every sane person who has reached the age of puberty and who is not in the period of menstruation and puerperium. Appointing others or performing worshipping for others is not valid in worshipping like prayers and fasting. A person who denies that prayer is fard exits the religion of Islam. For, it is definite through verses, hadiths and consensus that it is fard. A person who abandons performing prayers due to laziness or heedlessness becomes a sinner and fasiq.

Not performing prayers brings about punishment in both the world and the hereafter. Allah states the following related to punishment in the hereafter:

"(They will be) in Gardens (of Delight): they will question each other, And (ask) of the Sinners: ‘What led you into Hell Fire?’ They will say: ‘We were not of those who prayed.’" (al-Muddaththir, 74/40-43).

"But after them there followed a posterity who missed prayers and followed after lusts soon, then, will they face Destruction,- Except those who repent and believe, and work righteousness." (Maryam, 19/59, 60).

"So woe to the worshippers Who are neglectful of their prayers!" (al-Maun, 107/4-5).

Hz. Prophet (pbuh) stated the following:

"The guarantee of Allah and His Messenger is removed from a person who abandons prayers deliberately."(Ahmad b. Hanbal, IV/238, VI/461).

"The deeds of a person who abandons the afternoon (asr) prayer go for nothing." (Bukhari, Mawaqit,13, 34; Nasai, Salat,15).

"Allah seals the heart of a person who skips three Friday prayers heedlessly." (Nasai, Jumua, 2; Tirmidhi, Jumua 7; Ibn Majah, Iqamah, 93).

According to Hanafis, a person who abandons prayers due to laziness does not exit the religion unless he denies prayers; however, he becomes a sinner and fasiq. He is warned and asked to repent; he is isolated from the community so that he will not serve as a bad example; he can also be beaten in order to be educated. The same thing is valid for a person who abandons Ramadan fasting. (Ibn Abidin, Raddul-Muhtar, Egypt, n.d., I/326; ash-Shurunbulali, Maraqil-Falah, Egypt 1315, p. 60; az-Zuhayli, al-Fiqhul-Islami wa Adillatuh, Damascus 1985, I/503).

According to the madhhab imams except Hanafis, a person who abandons prayers without an excuse is regarded to have opposed the community of Islam like an apostate and is punished very severely.(1)

(1) see Ibn Rushd, Bidayatull-Mujtahid, Egypt, n.d., I/87; ash-Shirazi, al-Muhedhdhab, al-Nalabi impression, I/51; Ibn Qudama, al-Mughni, 3rd impression, Cairo n.d., II/442-447; az-Zuhayli, ibid, I/503, 504; see at-Tawba, 9/5; Bukhari, Diyat, 6; Muslim, Qasama, 25, 26.

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