Of all acts of worship in Islam, prayer (salat) is the only circumstance under which a Muslim communicates directly with Allah. We are told by the Prophet (Salla-llahu Alayhi Wasalam, SAW) that prayer would be the first deed by which a Muslim would be judged on the final day. Where the daily obligatory prayers are found to be satisfactory, other deeds would be considered acceptable. But where prayers are found to be otherwise, every other deed would be deemed void. This is why the Prophet (SAW) referred to prayer as “the pillar of religion”. A ‘pillar’ is as good as a ‘backbone’. Prayer is the only practical means by which a practicing Muslim is distinguished from a nominal one. All these add up to signify the unique position of prayer in the spiritual life of Muslims.
Having known the true position of prayer in Islam, the casual and careless manner in which some Muslims attend to their five daily prayers is disrespectful, if not contemptible of religion. They routinely go very late to join congregational prayers and leave the mosque so quickly as if someone or something is chasing them. One wonders why such ‘fast-moving’ worshippers are so impatient that they cannot spare few minutes to seek guidance and forgiveness of their sins from Allah. As soon as such Muslims end their prayers with a taslim (saying of “Assalamu Alaykum”), they jump up and off they go. It’s understandable when that is done to give space for other worshippers to offer their prayers especially where the mosque is not spacious enough to accommodate large number of worshippers at a time.
Inattention, absent-mindedness, and unseriousness while observing prayers all depict disrespect for religion and for the creator of the heavens and earth. How come, for example, that when we visit men in constituted authorities including traditional rulers and those who command wealth and power, we are always mindful of the way we conduct ourselves for as long as we remain in their presence? Each time we come before those who command authority over us, we tend to sit, stand, and talk with courtesy and with strict adherence to the rules of decorum. We often do this without the slightest attempt to breach the existing protocol of entering into or leaving their presence.
You cannot even enter into government houses or the presidential villa to see governors or Mr. President with certain personal belongings such as the mobile handset let alone use them. In some cases, you may be required after interacting with your “VIP” host, to sign out in the visitor’s register as you leave such respected places. One is made to go through all these checks and procedures as a form of respect for those who, like oneself, are human beings but yet enjoy some reverence by virtue of the position they occupy as traditional, religious, community, or political leaders. Now, if we accept that it is inappropriate to leave a royal palace, a governor’s office, or the presidential villa in a discourteous or rude manner, what then makes us feel that it is normal to leave the mosque in the swift manner some of us do? Considering the fact that prayer is one singular instance during which a worshipper “speaks” with his creator.
Some of us are always eager to leave the mosque immediately after observing obligatory prayers as if those things we are anxious to chase outside of the mosque including wealth and power are better than what Allah has in stock for us in the hereafter. Wealth and/or power without guidance is only next to unrighteousness. Perhaps, the little time we are able to spare (after observing obligatory prayers) in order to glorify and give gratitude to Allah or engage in other forms of ibadah (worship) including recitation of the holy Qur’an could be a source of our earning Allah’s forgiveness, mercy, blessings and the prosperity we hanker after.
Imam Abi Alhassan Ali Al-Makki, author of Al-Muqaddimat ul-lzziyyah, one the famous foundation books of jurisprudence in our part of the Muslim world, mentions under the chapter dealing with the recommended (Mustahabat) acts of prayer that a worshipper, after every obligatory prayer, is required to say each of “Subhana-llahi”, “Alhamdu lillahi”, and “Allahu Akbar” thirty-three times; and then to round it up to a hundred by saying: “La ilaha illa Ilahu Wahdahu La Sharika Lahu, Lahul Mulku Wa Lahul Hamdu Wa Huwa ala Kulli Shay‘in Qadeer.” A Muslim who takes interest in rehearsing these supplications after prayer cannot be in a hurry to leave the mosque. The use of chaplets, fingers or counters to recite these supplications should not be our problem. Our concern should the benefit that Muslims would derive from repeating the supplications.
Prophetic traditions exhort us to observe superogatory (nafilat) prayers after offering each of the five daily obligatory prayers. Umm Habibah Ramlah, daughter of Abi Sufyan (RA), reports that she heard the Prophet (SAW) say, “‘No servant of Allah from among the believers offers (at least) twelve raka‘ats as nafilat in a day but Allah would build for him a house in the heaven.” Except after Subhi (early morning) prayer, the Prophet (SAW) would always observe at least two raka‘ts (as nafilat) after every obligatory prayer. Hurrying up to leave the mosque cannot be in the character of those who observe nafilat prayers after observing prayers.
These ‘secondary’ acts of worship (including supplications and nafilat prayers), which we are asking Muslims to observe do not always last more than five minutes in every instance; which would simply give us twenty-five minutes in a day. It should not be a big deal, I believe, for a Muslim to dedicate twenty-five minutes out of twenty-four hours in a day to the service of Allah who gave man eyes to see and read; nose to breath; ears to hear; mouth to eat, drink, and talk; legs to walk; and hands to do a lot of things. Let us utilize the respite we have now and send forth good works before we run out of time. May Allah guide and keep us on the path of righteousness, just as we pray that He denies us access to the devil’s path, amin,