Many a times, people are unaware about the importance of offering prayers within their respective times and the significance of the congregational prayers.
I would be much thankful if you could kindly revert with Quranic verses and Hadith to prove the same, so as to enlighten each Muslim’s belief.
Prayer is, actually, of utmost importance. It is the epitome of worship; and worship is necessary for each and every one of us.
Allah (swt) says in the Glorious Qur’an:
I have not created Jinn and men but for the purpose of worshipping Me (alone). I seek not any provision from them nor do I ask that they should feed Me. – Al Dhariyat 51:56-58
The above; while on the one hand refuting polytheism also hints at the importance of worship in our life. Worship is in our very bone. It is part of our nature. We cannot go without it. We naturally feel the need and desire to express our gratitude; hence, we say that “the worst moment in an atheist’s life is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank”. The best expression of gratitude to God is prayer. If we do not express our gratitude to the truly deserving One, then in all likelihood we will express this thanks to someone or something which has done nothing to deserve it and itself owes it’s thanks to God. Doing such is a deviation from our nature but it is what we risk when we refuse to express our gratitude and of course also pray for our needs to the Almighty. People when forgetting God have turned to all sorts of disgraceful means be it worshipping inanimate objects such as stone to worshiping some lowly creatures, fellow humans or even the accursed Satan. Such is a ‘zulm‘; a great going wrong. It is like placing a square in a circular hole; it just does not fit. Like the above verses go on to explain; God does not need us, it is we that need Him and so it is for our own good that we call out to Him.
As the saying goes; prayer is the key of the day and the lock of the night. Thus, we start and end the day with a prayer to God. In between these two, we have three more doses of prayers to keep us going through the day. As such, we turn from the hustle and bustle of life just after midday and in the busy afternoon in order to stand bow and prostrate before our Lord as our Prophet (pbuh) taught us. Again as the sun begins to set we have the great honour and privilege of communicating to our Creator in His presence. These are five particular times during the day that we submit to God and leave everything else behind. This has a great significance not just in the reward that we garner but also psychologically. Praying at different times of the day strengthens our conscience and keeps it sharp and alert. It thus keeps our mind clean and protects us from indulging in evil deeds. Thus God Almighty states:
Recite that which has been revealed to you of the Book and keep up prayer; surely prayer restrains from indecency and evil, and certainly the remembrance of Allah is the greatest, and Allah is aware of what you do. – Al Ankaboot 29:45
Setting prayers to five different times a day also has the wisdom of giving us the right balance. Without such instruction, humanity was likely to err. We know from throughout history that man has either taken too little time to pray or even ignored the prayer completely while on the other extreme; he would remove himself entirely from life for prayer. Setting prayers to five times a day meant that we would train ourselves to remain God conscious yet also stop ourselves from remaining in prayer all day as there would then be no point of having five different times during which we pray. This way we do not disconnect from our relationship with God nor from the community in which He placed us.
We Muslims, by declaring that “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah” are actually taking an oath of allegiance to God, promising to obey all His orders as given to us through His final Messenger (pbuh). If we know the set up of the prayers, how can we dare change this? Does our oath mean nothing to us? Unfortunately, there are many amongst us who give little thought of what this pledge, this declaration, actually means.
Turning aside to pray to God during each of the appointed prayer times is actually a response to the call of God. We demonstrate our complete submission to Him. We prove that our declaration of “La ilaha Illallah, Muhammadur-Rasullullah” is not mere air coming from our mouth. It is something that we truly believe in and are ready to sacrifice our lives for. When we turn from these prayers, we actually turn from God. Yet Allah (swt) told us “Remember Me, I shall remember you, and be thankful to Me, and do not be ungrateful to Me” (Al Baqarah 2:152). But, when we turn from the prayer while we know that we have been asked to pray at these times, then what are we portraying other than a complete lack of appreciation? When we know that God has provided so much for us, protects us and cares for us so lovingly and all He asks of us is to turn to Him at certain times of the day and to always remember Him which in fact is also only for our own good as it keeps us intact to our nature, then is refusing this not pure arrogance? For most it is laziness, but unfortunately this is inexcusable. Many of us would jump through hoops just to answer the call of our employer, relative or friend and yet we are too lazy for God?! It is something we must ponder over and change.
The Almighty after listing a number of Prophets of the past goes on to say:
…These are they unto whom Allah showed favour from among the prophets, of the seed of Adam and of those whom We carried with Noah, and of the seed of Abraham and Israel, and from among those whom We guided and chose. When the Signs of the Beneficent were recited unto them, they fell down, adoring and weeping. But after them there followed a generation who missed their prayers and followed after their lusts, so they will face destruction, except such as repent and believe and do good, these shall enter the garden, and they shall not be dealt with unjustly in any way. – Maryam 19:58-60
We must be careful not to be amongst those who abandon the prayers and follow their lusts. If we happen to be amongst such, then we must immediately “repent and believe and do good” as we do not know when it will be too late. Indeed it is usually when we make our lusts and desires our master that we tend to become selfish, bigheaded and careless toward others. On the contrary when we submit before God we humble ourselves and become more caring, kind hearted and friendly toward each other. True submission to God brings peace to the world.
What often happens with misinformed individuals is that they think that it is alright for them to delay all the prayers to a time that is more to their liking. Thus for instance, some may decide that they will perform all their missed prayers during the night just before they go to bed. This would mean that we contradict what we know God set out for us and it means that we are not adhering to the Sunnah of His Messenger (pbuh). Nay, if we delay all the prayers to a time of our liking then how are they still the five daily prayers? They really are not. Such an attitude shows only that by our actions we actually contradict the Shahadah (i.e. the declaration of faith) that we pronounce.
The idea that “if my favourite programme is on TV and prayer time is passing, I will just pray the prayer that I am missing later and whenever friends come by and want to have a great day with me I will likewise pray once I feel up to it” is just not on. This is not the character of a ‘Muslim’ (i.e. one who surrenders unto God) as this implies that the person actually surrenders unto his own wishes and desires and that of others perhaps but not of what God has pleased for Him. Indeed, God knows better what is best for us and He only wants what is good for us as He loves us truly. The “favourite TV programmes” will hardly care about what is best for us and it often so happens that we and our friends do not either. God does. Submit to Him; not partially but fully!
In the Holy Qur’an Allah (swt) spells out very clearly that the prayers at their fixed times are incumbent upon us:
…keep up prayer; surely prayer is enjoined upon the believers at prescribed times. – Al Nisa 4:103
He also says:
Guard your prayers, especially the midmost prayer; and stand before God in utmost obedience. – Al Baqarah 2:238
Say to My servants who believe, that they should keep up prayer and spend out of what We have given them secretly and openly before the coming of the day in which there shall be no bartering nor mutual befriending. – Ibrahim 14:31
It has been reported in several Hadith compilations that the Holy Prophet upon whom be peace, said:
There are five prayers which Allah, Mighty and Sublime, has made compulsory: he who performs ablution well for them, prays them at their proper times, and is complete in their bowings, prostrations and humility, he has a guarantee from Allah that He will forgive him; but he who does not do so, has no guarantee from Allah: if He wishes, He will forgive him or if He wishes, He will punish him. [Saheeh Abu Daawood, Book 2, Hadith number 0425]
In the Holy Qur’an Allah (swt) says concerning the polytheistic enemies of the Prophet (pbuh):
But if they repent, establish regular prayer and practice regular charity, then they are your brethren in faith. – Al Tawbah 9: 11
Here repenting from their wrong beliefs and adopting the right beliefs along with keeping up the prayer and paying the Zakat is what makes them “brethren in faith”. It implies that these are the most important signs of a Muslim. If a Muslim is missing the prayers, then he is missing a big part of what it actually means to be a ‘Muslim’. The Prophet (pbuh) was narrated to have said that “prayer is the key to paradise” (Tirmidhi). Passing through the door without a key will surely be difficult. I would therefore urge all of my brothers and sisters to read the Shahadah again, but this time to make a firm resolution at this very moment to keep up prayers regularly and thus respond to the call of Allah (swt) when He calls out to you during each of these prayer times — showing yourself to be a truly obedient and worthy servant of His. In turn He will — without a shadow of a doubt — raise you immensely in rank as He pleases. Moreover, He shall love you and what can be better than being loved by the Almighty because of something we actually did? So, let us make a difference from today without delay and may He help us to do so successfully, Inshallah.
Lastly, you have made mention of the superiority of praying in congregation. It is certainly true that there is great reward in it. Indeed, the Prophet (pbuh) almost always prayed the five obligatory prayers in congregation and it would do us much good to mirror him by doing the same.
When we pray in congregation we get the chance to meet with fellow brethren from our community and stand together for a good cause. We all unite in order to pray to our Lord; to extol His greatness, ask for His forgiveness and blessings and together to feel His presence and compassion. It brings peace and love between the brothers as we all stand side by side with a common objective. The Mosque is the House of God; it is where the members of the community in unison retreat to pray to the Almighty; at that moment it is like there is a complete connection between God and all His servants. It no doubt creates something special. Therefore, if there is a mosque near our location we should not leave it empty, but attend it so that the purpose for which it is there is met. This too is our duty.
I would strongly advise those of our brothers who do not at all attend the Masjid to do so at least once a day. Slowly, they should increase it as much as is possible. They shall find that it will boost their faith. There is no place for laziness, just do it! Make no mistake about it; God does help the sailor, but he must row. Bear in mind, now we have a choice to all meet on appointed times and stand before the Lord in humility but there shall be a day in which we will stand before Him whether or not we like it; that will be for judgment only. If we want the Garden of delight; it helps those who help themselves. Hell shall be full of sorry people, let us not be among them Inshallah.
Since you wanted Ahadith, I shall produce one. There are many more but I think this one will get the point across very well. The Prophet (pbuh) was narrated to have said:
The reward of the prayer offered by a person in congregation is twenty five times greater than that of the prayer offered in one’s house or in the market (alone). And this is because if he performs ablution and does it perfectly and then proceeds to the mosque with the sole intention of praying, then for every step he takes towards the mosque, he is upgraded one degree in reward and his one sin is taken off from his account (of deeds). When he offers his prayer, the Angels keep on asking Allah’s Blessings and Allah’s forgiveness for him as long as he is (staying) at his Musalla (i.e. place of prayer). They say, ‘O Allah! Bestow Your blessings upon him, be Merciful and kind to him.’ And one is regarded in prayer as long as one is waiting for the prayer. (Sahih Bukhari Volume 1, Book 11, Number 620)
In another narration the Prophet (pbuh) was reported to have said: “The prayer in congregation is twenty seven times superior to the prayer offered by a person alone.” (Volume 1, Book 11, Number 618)
It seems that the number was not supposed to be taken literally; all he meant was that there is much greater reward in a prayer in congregation than there is in a prayer alone.
May Allah, the Exalted Help us to do such acts as please Him regularly and to keep away from such as displease Him!
July 2, 2005