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Exalting Allāh’s Command to Pray

Imām Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah

A warning against fulfilling the commands of Allāh for reasons other than exaltation of your Lord.

A man may fulfil the commands of Allāh solely because of the creation’s gaze towards him, or out of seeking a place of high standing or repute before them. Likewise, he may refrain from engaging in that which is forbidden solely out of fear of losing his position of honour before them or out of fear of the prescribed punishments of this worldly life set by the legislator for the perpetrator of certain crimes. The actions that are carried out, and those that are abandoned by such a person are borne not out of exaltation of the orders and prohibitions themselves, nor do they come from exaltation of the Commander or Prohibitor.

The true mark of exalting the orders issued by Allāh is to pay close attention and care to the timing of that order and its boundaries. To closely inspect its pillars, its obligatory aspects and the means by which perfection is attained in it. To aspire to perform it in the very best, most excellent way possible. Performing it at its appointed time, and rushing forth towards it as soon it becomes obligatory. To be saddened, grief-stricken, and feel despair if one of its rights are missed. Like the one who is saddened from missing the congregational prayers knowing that, even if the ṣalāh he prays individually is accepted, it is twenty-seven times more deficient than it could have been [had he prayed in congregation].

For if a man overly concerned with buying and selling knew that a single business transaction in his country without travel or hardship was worth twenty seven diīnār less [than with travel], he would eat both his hands in regret and out of perceived misfortune. How [then could one miss congregational ṣalāh] when every time its reward is multiplied is better than a thousand [diīnār], added to another thousand, and another, and even more than that according to the Will of Allāh—the Most High. Thus, if a servant of Allāh allows himself to miss such a profitable opportunity, he is undoubtedly among the losers.

Moreover, many of the scholars say: His ṣalāh is invalid, and his heart is cold, completely absent and infertile as a result of the catastrophe [of missing congregational ṣalāh]. Such an action is borne from the lack of exalting the commands of Allāh in his heart.

The same can be said regarding missing the beginning of the time for prayer which represents the pleasure of Allāh—the Most High.1 Or missing the first row, the denizens of which Allāh shows mercy and His angels seek forgiveness for those on the right [of the imām].2 If the slaves of Allāh truly knew its associated blessings, they would vie with one another for it, drawing lots to decide who occupies it.3

Also, missing the congregational ṣalāh whose reward is multiplied proportional to how large or small the size of the congregation. The larger the congregation, the more beloved to Allāh.4 Likewise, the more steps that are taken towards it. Each step erases a past misdeed, the next raises the level of the walker.5

Likewise showing carelessness with regards to having humility in the ṣalāh and allowing one’s heart to be present before his Lord—the Exalted in Might. For this humility is the very soul and essence of the ṣalāh itself. As a ṣalāh that is devoid of humility and mindfulness is like a soulless dead husk of a body. Is a servant of Allāh not ashamed of himself that he should give another member of the creation like himself a lifeless man or woman servant as a gift? What would this servant of Allāh think had he been the recipient of such a gift from a prince or a king or other than them?

This is the same as that. For a ṣalāh completely devoid of humility, mindfulness, and concentration on Allāh—the Most High is like the gift of a completely lifeless man or woman servant which someone wishes to grant as a gift to a great king. For this reason, Allāh does not accept such an offering from him—even if the obligation of praying is fulfilled by means of it—nor does he reward such a person for it. For a servant of Allāh does not possess [reward or benefit] from his ṣalāh except for the parts within it he showed mindfulness. As it has been narrated in al-Sunan and Musnad al-Imām Aḥmad and in others that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: “Indeed, a slave of Allāh prays but only a half of it is written for him, or a third, a fourth, a fifth, until a tenth.”6

It is most appropriate here to acknowledge that all other acts of worship occur in this vein. The disparity in goodness between actions of worship before Allāh occurs in proportion to the amount of īmān held in the heart of the one carrying out the act, his sincerity, love and its related effects. A complete action results in complete expiation of sin, just as a deficient one produces a proportional effect.

It is in consideration of these two rules that many issues are resolved:

  1. The excellence of acts of worship is proportional to the amount of true īmān held in the heart.
  2. The expiation of sin caused by an act of worship occurs in relation to the completeness of that act and its deficiency.

From these two principles, we are able to solve the confusion experienced by those who lack understanding in this issue with regards to the ḥadīth: “Fasting on the Day of ʿArafah expiates the sins of two years, and fasting the Day of ʿĀshūrāʾ expiates the sin of one year.”7

[1] Referencing a ḥadīth with the same wording. Graded weak by Shaykh al-Albānī in Ḍaʿīf al-Jāmiʿ:2130
[2] Referencing the ḥadīth: “Indeed, Allāh and His angels send their ṣalāh upon those on the right side of the rows.” Shaykh ʿAbd al-Muḥsin al-ʿAbbād said: “In this ḥadīth there is some weakness. However, people praying on the right sides of the rows is more befitting due to the general evidence narrated that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) used to favour the right side in every honourable matter.” See Sharḥ Sunan Abī Dāwūd 8:90. Graded Ḥasan by Ibn Ḥajar in al-Fatḥ 2: 213.
[3] Referencing the ḥadīth of Abū Hurayrah (رضي الله عنه): “If you knew [the reward] of the first row, you would draw lots [to occupy it].” Authentic; narrated by al-Bukhārī: 615 and Muslim: 131.
[4] Referencing the ḥadīth of Ubayy ibn Kaʿb (رضي الله عنه) who said: The Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: “The ṣalāh of one man with another is better than his ṣalāh by himself. His ṣalāh with two men is better than his ṣalāh with just one. The bigger the gathering, the more beloved it is to Allāh—the Most High.” Narrated by Abū Dāwūd: 554, al-Dārimī: 1269 and others. Graded authentic by Shaykh al-Albānī in Ṣaḥīḥ Abī Dāwūd: 563.
[5] Referencing the ḥadīth of Abū Hurayrah (رضي الله عنه): “Whoever purifies himself in his house, then walks to a house among the houses of Allāh so that he may pray an obligatory ṣalāh from among those that have been made obligatory, for each of his steps that he takes one of them will erase a misdeed and the other raises his station [in Paradise].” Authentic; narrated by Muslim: 282.
[6] Authentic: narrated by Abū Dāwūd: 786 and al-Nasāʾī: 614-615. Graded authentic by Ibn Ḥibbān: 1889 and al-ʿIrāqī in al-Mughnī Fī Ḥaml al-Asfār 1:120.
[7] Authentic: narrated by Muslim: 1162.

Source: Al-Wābil al-Sayyib:16-18
Translated by: Riyāḍ al-Kanadī

Published: February 25, 2024
Edited: February 25, 2024


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