Please comment on the hadith that goes as follows:
A believer is distinguished by a non-believer by praying five times a day.
Does this mean that prayer is the only way a believer is determined?Â That doesnt seem to follow the Qur’anic injunctions…
To fully understand this saying ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh), it must be understood at the outset that deciding about the Islam of a person (i.e., whether a person is a Muslim or not) has two aspects: One is from the perspective of the hereafter; the other, from the perspective of an Islamic state.
In the hereafter, it is going to be the all-knowing – God – Who, with His absolute knowledge, shall decide about the truthfulness or otherwise of a person’s claim of being a Muslim. On that day, only a person who submitted to the will of God with all his heart and soul shall be considered to be a true Muslim.
Besides the hereafter – the ultimate judgment – day another instance when we might have to decide regarding the Islam of a person is when an Islamic state, for any reason, wants to distinguish between its Muslim and non-Muslim citizens. In such a case, because of the dependence of human beings on apparent and observable signs only, a decision regarding the Islam or otherwise of a person has to be taken on the basis of some observable signs. According to the Qur’an, there are three observable signs, which if found in a person, make him eligible to be called a Muslim (while there absence makes him ineligible for being called a Muslim). These (observable) signs have been mentioned in Surah al-Taubah (the ninth chapter of the Qur’an) in the following words:
But if they repent (from un-Islamic beliefs), establish regular prayer and practice regular charity, then leave their way. (9: 5)
But if they repent (from un-Islamic beliefs), establish regular prayer and practice regular charity, then they are your brethren in faith. (9: 11)
It must also be kept in mind that the opening of the ninth chapter of the Qur’an (Surah al-Taubah) is a declaration of war against the polytheists. The Muslims are directed to take severe action against the polytheists. It is in this context that the quoted verses have been placed. These verses give the criteria of distinguishing Muslims from the polytheists. The three criteria mentioned in these verses are:
declaration of Islamic faith;
establishing prayers (sala’h); and
payment of Zaka’h to the treasury of the state (the baita’l-maal).
From the above explanation, it should be quite clear that the three criteria mentioned in these verses are the criteria given to the newly established Islamic state at Medinah for distinguishing Muslims from the others.
It is the same topic covered by the quoted tradition of the Prophet (pbuh). It says that a Muslim is distinguished from a non-Muslim by “sala’h“. A person who, besides his declaration of being a Muslim and payment of zaka’h, establishes regular prayers cannot be called a non-Muslim.
On the basis of the referred verses and the likes of the quoted hadith, it is our opinion that prayers (sala’h) and zaka’h (Islamic tax) are a part of the public law of an Islamic state. A person who refuses to abide by any of the three criteria mentioned in the referred verses (which include sala’h) by his refusal to do so declares himself to be a non-Muslim.
28th February 1998