The Traditions say: No good deeds will be accepted from one who does not pray – no zakat, no fasting, no Hajj or anything else. Al-Bukhari (520) narrated that Buraydah said: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever does not pray . . . . . . his good deeds will be annulled.” Rather harsh, you would say! But that is the pronouncement that tends to exemplify the importance of prayer in the Islamic code.
What is meant by “his good deeds will be annulled” is that they will be rendered invalid and will be of no benefit to him. This hadeeth indicates that Allah will not accept any good deed from one who does not pray, so the one who does not pray will not benefit at all from his good deeds and no good deed of his will be taken up to Allah.
Sheikh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen was asked in Fatwa al-Siyam (p. 87) about the ruling on the fasting of one who does not pray. He replied: The fast of one who does not pray is not valid and is not accepted, because the one who does not pray is a kafir and an apostate. Allah says:
But (even so), if they repent, establish regular prayers, and practice regular charity, –they are your brethren in Faith: (Thus) do We explain the Signs in detail, for those who understand. (Quran 9:11)
And the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Between a man and shirk and kufr stands his giving up prayer.” Muslim 82. And he said: “The covenant that separates us from them is prayer; whoever gives up prayer is a kafir.” al-Tirmidhi, 2621;
This is also the view of most of the Sahabah (The Companions), if not their consensus. ‘Abd-Allah ibn Shaqeq, who was one of the well-known Tabi’een, said: The companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) did not think that omitting any action made a person a kafir, except for prayer. Based on this, if a person fasts but he does not pray, then his fast is rejected and not accepted, and it will not avail him anything before Allah on the Day of Resurrection. We say to him: Pray then fast, because if you fast but do not pray, then your fast will be rejected, because acts of worship are not accepted from a kafir.
A Standing Committee of Islamic Clerics was asked: If a person is keen to fast in Ramadan and to pray in Ramadan only, but he stops praying as soon as Ramadan is over, does his fasting count?
They replied: Prayer is one of the pillars of Islam, and it is the most important pillar after the Shahadatayn (Testimony of Faith). It is an individual obligation and whoever does not do it because he denies that it is obligatory, or he does not do it because he is careless and lazy, is a kafir. With regard to those who fast Ramadan and pray in Ramadan only, this is trying to cheat Allah, and unfortunate indeed are those who only acknowledge Allah in Ramadan. Their fasting is not valid if they do not pray at times other than Ramadan, rather this makes them Kafirs, even if they do not deny that prayer is obligatory, according to the sounder of the scholarly opinions.
However, according to the Permanent Committee for Research and Verdicts, Fatwa Islamiyya, in Fatwa Regarding Fasting & Zakah, By Sheikh ‘Abdul-‘Aziz bin ‘Abdullah bin Baz, Sheikh Muhammad bin Salih Al-‘Uthaimin, Sheikh ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abdur-Rahman Al-Jibreen, ruling on whoever fasts but does not pray: Whomsoever the prayer is obligatory upon and he intentionally abandons it , then he has disbelieved according to the consensus of scholars. Whoever abandons it due to laxity and laziness has also disbelieved. When it is ruled that such a person is a disbeliever, then his fasting and other acts of worship are nullified. This is due to Allah’s statement:
This is the Guidance of Allah: He giveth that guidance to whom He pleaseth, of His worshippers. If they were to join other gods with Him, all that they did would be vain for them. (Quran 6:88)
However such a person should not be ordered to abandon fasting. This is because his fasting will only increase him in goodness and closeness to the religion. Also, due to the fear of his heart, it is hoped that it will lead him to return to the performance of the prayer and repentance from abandoning it.
The importance of the prayer in Islam cannot be understated. It is the first pillar of Islam that the Prophet (May the mercy and blessings of God be upon him), mentioned after mentioning the Testimony of Faith, by which one becomes a Muslim. It was made obligatory upon all the prophets and for all peoples. God has declared its obligatory status under majestic circumstances. For example, when God spoke directly to Moses, He said,
“I have chosen thee: Listen, then, to the inspiration (sent to thee). “Verily, I am Allah: There is no god but I: So serve thou Me (only), and establish regular prayer for celebrating My praise. (Quran 20:13-14)
Similarly, the prayers were made obligatory upon the Prophet Muhammad during his ascension to heaven. Furthermore, when God praises the believers, such as in the beginning of the chapter entitled ‘al-Muminun’ (the Believers), one of the first descriptions He states is their adherence to the prayers.
Once, a man asked the Prophet about the most virtuous deed. The Prophet stated that the most virtuous deed is the prayer. The man asked again and again and for the first three times, the Prophet answered, “The prayer,” then on the fourth occasion he stated, “Jihad in the way of God.”
The importance of prayer is demonstrated in many of the Prophet’s statements. For example, the Prophet said: “The first matter that the slave will be brought to account for on the Day of Judgment is the prayer. If it is sound, then the rest of his deeds will be sound. And if it is incomplete, then the rest of his deeds will be incomplete.”
God has mentioned this aspect of the prayer when He has said:
Recite what is sent of the Book by inspiration to thee, and establish Regular Prayer: For Prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds; and remembrance of Allah is the greatest (thing in life) without doubt. And Allah knows the (deeds) that ye do. (Quran 29:45)
The overall affect that the properly performed prayers should have upon humans is described in other verses in the Quran:
Truly man was created very impatient; Fretful when evil touches him; And niggardly when good reaches him; Not so those devoted to Prayer; Those who remain steadfast to their prayer; (Quran 70:19-23)
As for the Hereafter, God’s forgiveness and pleasure is closely related to the prayers. The Messenger of God said: “God has obligated five prayers. Whoever excellently performs their ablutions, prays them in their proper times, completes their bows, prostrations and has his mind fixed on the prayer, has a promise from God that He will forgive him. And whoever does not do that has no promise from God. He may either forgive him or punish him.”
Prayer is a unique training and developmental program which, if well and devotedly performed, can achieve for a Muslim many valuable spiritual, physical, and ethical gains. Prayers are a type of purification for a human being: He turns and meets with his Lord five times a day. This repeated standing in front of God should keep the person from doing sinful acts during the day. Furthermore, it should also be a time of remorse and repentance, such that he earnestly asks God for forgiveness for those sins that he committed. In addition, the prayer in itself is a good deed that wipes away some of the evil deeds that he performed. These points can be noted in the following hadith of the Prophet: “If a person had a stream outside his door and he bathed in it five times a day, do you think he would have any filth left on him?” The people said, “No filth would remain on him whatsoever.” The Prophet then said, “That is like the five daily prayers: God wipes away the sins by them.”
(Sahih Al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim)
There is no doubt that prayer is an important requisite for the acceptance of Fast. However, we should realize that Allah is a merciful God and gives man very long respite before resort to punishment. Perhaps we should admonish the non-praying to embrace prayer rather than being judgemental and condemnatory. After all, it is only Allah that has a final say on who would or would not receive reward or punishment: Not even the prophets. That is the reason why all prophets were sent to warn and admonish and not to pass judgement. Judgement should be left to God as that is His exclusive prerogative. The prayerful man who sleeps in the mosque and pray all night might be surprised if Allah throws his prayers in his face because his life lacks compassion for his fellow man. As important as it is, prayer without compassion is useless. He prayeth in vain, who lacks compassion for his fellow man; so also does he fasteth in vain, who fast without compassion. Doing good is the ultimate religion and it is the bedrock of all worship.
May Allah through our prayers and Fast wash away our sins and forgive our transgressions. May we reap a bountiful reward for our Fast; Amen.
Barka Juma’at and Ramadan Kareem!