Omitting Prayer Intentionally is a Greater Sin
By: Shaheed Ayatullah Abdul Husain Dastghaib Shirazi
Omitting prayer intentionally is a greater sin. The traditions of Imam Taqi (a.s.), Imam Riďa (a.s.) Imam Mūsa Kadhim (a.s.) and Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) (mentioned in Abdul Azīm’s Sahifa) support this view. This fact is also confirmed by the tradition of Amir ul-Mu’minīn (a.s.). In Islam prayer is an obligatory duty which has to be performed without fail. Anyone who does not offer prayer considering it non-obligatory is an infidel and outside the pale of Islam. To deny prayer is to deny the Holy Prophet (S) and to deny the Holy Qur’an and such a person is an unbeliever. Many traditions have been recorded in this connection
(Layali al-Akhbār page 394, Salāt & Zāsail)
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says,
A person came to the Holy Prophet (S) and begged him for a moral lesson. The Messenger of Allah (S) said, “Do not omit prayer intentionally because whoever leaves prayer voluntarily has exited from the pale of Islam.
(Salāt, Wasa’il ul-Shia Vol. 3 page 29)
The Messenger of Allah (S) says:
“The thing that turns a Muslim into Kafir is to omit prayer intentionally or to offer prayer considering it insignificant and unimportant.”
(Wasa’il ul-Shia Vol. 3 page 29)
The Holy Prophet (S) also says,
“There is no difference between faith and infidelity except the omitting of prayer
(Wasa’il ul-Shia Vol. 3 page 29)
Allamah Majlisi (r.a.) writes in the commentary of al-Kāfi that some of these traditions emphasise that to omit all or some obligatory acts is infidelity. This itself is one of the connotations of ‘Kufr’ as recorded in ayats and traditions. It is mentioned, ‘One who intentionally omits prayer is a Kafir, one who doesn’t pay Zakat is a Kafir one who omits Hajj is a Kafir.’
In the traditions omitting obligatory acts is not separately mentioned as a greater sin. This is perhaps so, because when a person commits an act which is Harām, he is under some compulsion, either emotional or physical or social or of some other need which he seeks to fulfil. For example a person may commit fornication due to a physical urge; or under the influence of anger he may use foul language or may even commit murder and do injustice to others in many other ways. But in the case of omitting obligatory acts and particular prayers, there are no such compulsions. Obligatory acts are avoided by those who consider religious commands insignificant and attach no importance to them; and this amounts to denial of the Almighty.
In the tradition which equates omitting prayers to infidelity it may be argued that a person may avoid Hajj and Zakat for being a miser, or he may not fast out of concern for his health or because the idea of hunger and thirst deters him. But as far as prayer is concerned, there is not a single factor that can come in the way of a person offering prayer to the Creator, except that he considers religion insignificant and takes prayers lightly.
Sadūq (r.a.) quotes a tradition from Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) wherein it was asked from the Imam (a.s.) why adulterers and drunkards are not called Kafirs while one who omits prayer is labelled so? Imam (a.s.) said,“Adultery etc. are committed when a person is subdued with sensuality but prayer is not omitted except that it was considered insignificant because one who commits adultery, does so to derive pleasure but one who leaves prayer does not get any pleasure.”
The above hadith proves that if one leaves an obligatory duty considering religion unimportant one is a kafir. The Messenger of Allah (S) says,
“One who considers prayers light (insignificant) is not from us.” Another hadith mentions that such a person will not get the intercession of Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s.). “And one who consumes intoxicants is not from us and by Allah one who drinks wine will not be able to arrive at the Pool of Kawthar.”
(Furu Kāfi, Vol. 3, page. 271)
In his last moments, Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) has been recorded to have said,
“Our intercession will not reach those who consider prayer light (insignificant).”
(Furu Kāfi, Vol. 3, page. 241)
It may be mentioned that a person who accepts that prayer has been prescribed by the Almighty and he believes in the prophethood and in the message of the Seal of the prophets (S), but fails to offer prayers due to sheer laziness, is not considered an unbeliever, but a transgressor.
Misunderstanding of some stupid people
When those who do not pray are warned and exhorted to pray and asked why they do not pray, they say that the Almighty Allah (S.w.T.) is not in need of their prayer. These thoughts are inspired by Shaitan. The fact is that these people believe that they are not in need of Allah (S.w.T.). They do not realize that they owe their very existence to Allah (S.w.T.)’s mercy and they function because they are always surrounded by divine favours. This attitude prompts them to give up all acts of thankfulness and service to their Benefactor. Their refusal to pray is due to hard heartedness, stubbornness and injustice. Accordingly Allah (S.w.T.) will also give them the destination they deserve (hell) and reward the obedient in the abode of peace.
Promise of chastisement in the Qur’an
There are numerous Qur’anic Verses that emphasise the importance of Prayer and the certainty of Divine chastisement for neglect. A few of these ayats are given below:
“In gardens, they shall ask each other. About the guilty: What has brought you into hell? They shall say: We were not of those who prayed; And we used not to feed the poor; And we used to enter into vain discourse with those who entered into vain discourses. And we used to call the day of judgment a lie.”
(Surah al-Muddaththir 74:40-46)
“So he did not accept the truth, nor did he pray, But called the truth a lie and turned back, Then he went to his followers, walking away in haughtiness.”
(Surah al-Qiyāma 75:31-33)
“Nearer to you (is destruction) and nearer, Again (consider how) nearer to you and nearer.”
(Surah al-Qiyāma 75:34-35)
Some commentators of Qur’an explain that ‘destruction’ is ‘wael’ (a place in hell). And the repetition of word ‘nearer’ four times is for emphasis. Or the four repetitions may signify four stages of destruction: Once in this world, second the punishment of grave, terror in Qiyāma and fourth the everlasting stay in Hell.
In Surah al-Mā’ūn, the Almighty remarks,
“And wael (woe) to the praying ones, who are unmindful of their prayers, who do (good) to be seen.”
(Surah al-Mā’ūn 107: 4–6)
‘Waelun’ (terrible punishment) is for those who are unmindful about prayers; prayer which is a pillar of faith and the dividing line between belief and disbelief. ‘Waelun’ is one of the sections of Hell, or a well situated in Hell. It is also used as a word denoting terrible punishment the ‘Un’ which is added at the end makes it a superlative.
The Almighty Lord says in Surah Maryam,
“But there came after them an evil generation, who neglected prayers and followed sensual desires, so they will meet perdition.”
(Surah Maryam 19: 59)
The word ‘gayya’ which is translated as ‘perdition’ above is a valley in Hell where the punishment is far more severe than other areas. Even the inmates of Hell seek Allah (S.w.T.)’s refuge from this punishment. Ibn Abbas has related that, ‘There is a serpent in this valley which is sixty day’s journey long and thirty day’s journey wide. Since the day it was created it has opened it’s mouth only to swallow those who neglect prayer and those who drink.” Allah (S.w.T.) the Almighty remarks in Surah ar-Rūm,
“…And keep up prayer and be not of the polytheists…”
(Surah ar-Rūm 30: 31)
This verse implies that a person who neglects prayer is at par with the idol worshippers and polytheists.