By: Muhammad Mahmoud As-Sawwaf
The fundamental point about Prayer is that it purifies the soul, refines the character, and keeps one who performs it from falsehood and all forbidden actions. It cleanses one of base and shameful acts. If we see someone who prays, yet at the same time unlawfully enriches himself with the possessions of others and spreads evil among men, and whose actions are incompatible with the noble precepts of the religion, who perhaps uses Prayer as a snare with which to capture the good opinion of people, behind which he conceals his many misdeeds, then the benefits which his Prayer should bring upon him and which should restrain him from doing evil will be canceled out.
If we see someone like this, we should know that his Prayer is rejected and futile. It will be rolled up like a bundle of worn-out clothes and thrown in his face whether he likes it or not. His Prayer will avail him nothing and will not draw him near to Allah. Rather, it will increase his distance from Him and incur more loss on himself, for the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “He whose Prayer has not restrained him from evil and misdeeds has only increased his distance from Allah.” (At-Tabari)
Furthermore, the Shari`ah of Islam (Islamic Law) rejects the Prayer of one who does not persevere in it, who does not perform the ritual ablution properly, who does not perform it with humility, who does not bow the body, and who does not prostrate himself for an absence of concern for these matters indicates an absence of interest in them. If one does not pay attention to this important first principle, then why should one concern oneself with what follows it?
Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) was reported to have said that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, ”One who has performed the Prayers at the rightful times, who has carried out its ritual ablutions, who has carried out the requirements of standing, submission, bowing, and prostration, his Prayer shall emerge in shining white. It will say, ‘May Allah protect you as you have protected me.’ But one who has performed the Prayers at other than the rightful times, who has not carried out its ritual ablutions, who has not carried out the requirements of submission, bowing, and prostration, then shall his Prayer emerge in jet-black. It will say, ‘May Allah ruin you as you have ruined me.’ (Ad-Daraqutni)
So when it arrives where it is intended it will be rolled up like a bundle of old clothes, then he will be struck with it in the face.” Listen to these words, as related in the sacred hadith, which explains from whom Prayer will be accepted. Let this be a warning to those who have strayed from the path and those who have adopted religion as a means of achieving their private ends, who pray only for their own requirements. May Allah turn against them while they are so alienated and let them see what He promises to those whose Prayer is accepted!
“I will accept the Prayer of one who humbles himself before My greatness, who does not display arrogance towards what I create, who does not constantly spend the night disobeying Me, who spends the day remembering Me, who has compassion for the wretched, the wayfarer, the widow, and the afflicted. That man’s light is as the light of the sun. I will protect him with My Might, guard him with My angels, and provide him with a light in the darkness, and an understanding in the ignorance. His likeness in My creatures is as Paradise in the Garden.” (Al-Bazzar)
The honorable hadiths of the Prophet (peace be upon him) make clear the judgment on those who mix good deeds with bad ones. Can this possibly be advanced as an argument by those who would use it as evidence whereby to discredit religion and Prayer unjustly and with enmity?
Source: Quoted with slight modifications from the author’s The Muslim Prayer Book: Rules, Concepts & Merits.