The Position of the Prayer In Islam
Prayer has a great standing, elevated above the other actions of worship; indeed, it has a great position in Islam, a position which no other act of worship holds.
The prayer is the pillar of the religion, without which the religion itself cannot be established. Allah said,
“Indeed prayer has been prescribed upon the believers at fixed times” [an-Nisaa (4):103].
Prayer is the pillar of every religion.
It takes precedence over other acts of worship since it arises as one of the necessary implications of faith.
Every messenger and prophet has enjoined its practice and encouraged its performance.
This is due to its having a great effect in nurturing the souls and in drawing one close to Allah.
There is nothing that can correct the soul, strengthen it and make it desire the virtuous actions and noble manners more than prayer.
There occurs in the words of Abraham (peace be upon him) while supplicating to his Lord,
“O my Lord! Make me one who is devout and steadfast in prayer and [also of] my progeny…” [Ibraaheem (14):40].
Allah said with regards to Ismaa’eel (peace be upon
“He used to enjoin his family to prayer and to give zakaah and he was well pleasing in the Sight of his Lord” [Maryam(19):55].
Allah said while addressing His Prophet Moses (peace be upon him),
“Indeed I am Allah, there is none worthy of worship save Me; so worship Me and establish the prayer for my remembrance” [Taa Haa (20): 14].
The angels called to the mother of Jesus (peace be upon him), as is stated in the Quran,
“O Maryam, stand devoutly before your Lord, prostrate and bow along with all those who bow” [Aali Imraan (3): 42].
Jesus (peace be upon him) mentioned the favors bestowed by Allah saying,
“He made me blessed wherever I may be and enjoined upon me prayer and zakaah for as long as I live” [Maryam (19):31].
Allah took the covenant from the Children of Isra’eel. Among the most important aspects -of that covenant was the prayer, “And when We took the covenant from the Children of Israa’eel, (saying):
Do not worship anyone save Allah, be dutiful and good to the parents, relatives, orphans and homeless, and speak to people in a good way. Establish the prayer and give the zakaah” [al-Baqarah (2):83].
Allah, the Exalted, said while addressing our Prophet (peace be upon him), “Command your family to perform the prayer and be constant in doing so. We do not ask sustenance of you; rather We provide you with sustenance and the end is for the God fearing” [Taa Haa (20):132].
Definitely, prayer is the peak and pillar oflslam. It is the connection between the servant, who acknowledges his position as servant and who is sincere to himself, and his Lord
Who nurtures him-the One Who nurtures the whole of creation by His grace and beneficence.
The prayer is the sign of the servant’s love for his Lord, his acknowledging of Allah’s favors and his giving thanks for His beneficence.
The prayer is the action that truly distinguishes the believer from the disbeliever as proven by the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) saying,
“The covenant between us and them is the prayer, whoever leaves it has committed disbelief.”
Know that whoever is lax in performing the prayer will be even more so lax with regards to any other act of worship.
In fact, he has severed all connection between himself and his Lord, as was stated by the Rightly Guided Khaleefah of the Messenger of Allah, Abu Bakr as-Siddeeq. He wrote to his governors, “Know that your most important affair in my eyes is the prayer.
Whoever fails to perform them is more likely to fail to perform other actions of worship. Know that there are actions due to Allah during the day that He will not accept during the night and there are actions due to Allah during the night that He will not accept during the day.”2
Ibn Abu Shaybah reports in his Musannaf from Zayd al-Haarith that when death approached Abu Bakr, he sent for Umar so that Umar could succeed him.
The people exclaimed, “Are you putting one who is harsh and severe in authority over us? If he is put in authority over us, he will surely become harsher and more severe.
What will you say to your Lord when you meet Him having left Umar in charge of us?” Abu Bakr said, “Are you trying to make me afraid of my Lord?
I would say, ‘O Allah I have left the best of Your creation in charge of them.”‘ Then he sent for Umar and said, “I enjoin upon you a bequest that you must preserve.
Indeed, Allah has a right during the day that He will not accept during the night and Allah has a right during the night that He will not accept during the day…”1
Shaykh al-Islam ibn Taimiyyah, may Allah have mercy upon him said, “As for the actions of the day that Allah does not accept during the night and the actions of the night that Allah will not accept during the day, they are the prayers of Dhuhur and Asr for it is not permissible for a person to delay them until the night.
In general, there is no work that can lift the obligation from a person to pray the prayer at its time such that the person would delay the prayers of the day to the night and the prayers of the night to the day. Rather it is necessary to perform them at their appointed times.”2
Umar bin al-Khattaab used to write to his governors in outlying regions, “Indeed the most important of your affairs in my eyes is the prayer.
Whoever preserves them has preserved his religion and whoever misses them will be even more likely to miss performing anything else. There is no portion of Islam for the one who leaves the prayer.”3
Hence, every person who treats the prayer as something inconsequential has treated Islam as inconsequential.
In fact, the portion of lslam a person has is proportional to the extent that he preserves the prayer and his desire for Islam is the same as the desire he has for the prayer.
So beware of meeting Allah while you possess no respect for Islam. For indeed, in reality, the respect for Islam that you have in your heart is like the respect you apportion to the prayer in your heart. It is reported from the Prophet (peace be upon him) that he said, “The prayer is the pillar of the religion.”4
Do you not know that when the pillar of the tent is removed, the tent collapses and neither its ropes nor pegs are of any avail? The same applies to the prayer in Islam.5
The Position of the Prayer Among the Other Acts of Worship
The prayer was the first obligation to be instituted in Islam after the testimony of faith. For ten years in Makkah, the Messenger (peace be upon him) called to tawheed (Islamic monotheism) and forbade shirk (associating partners with Allah).
When the correct belief became instilled in the hearts of the Muslims and they had complete faith in the Tawheed of Allah, Allah obligated upon the Prophet (peace be upon him) and upon the Muslims the five daily prayers.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) prayed the obligatory prayers for three years before he migrated to Madeenah.
In order to impress upon the Muslims the importance of prayer and the great position accorded to it that is not shared by any other action of worship, Allah obligated it upon the Prophet (peace be upon him) directly, without any intermediary, by addressing him on the Night of Ascent.
This great favor that Allah bestowed upon his beloved (peace be upon him) on the night of the greatest connection was a reward for the sincere servitude that he had established—a level that had not been reached by any other who came before him and that will not be reached by anyone who comes after him.
This is why the prayer was the joy of the eye of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him). It was the prayer that he would resort to whenever a matter concerned him. It used to be his avenue of relief from anything that worried him. This is why he said to Bilaal,
“O Bilaal, comfort us with the prayer.”2
The prayers were obligated on the Night of Ascent but there is a difference of