One Who Neglect Solāh Out Of Laziness is Kufur
Shaikh Muhammad Ibn Salih Al-‘Uthaimin.
In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and Thanks is due to Allāh, the Lord of al-‘ālameen. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam is His Messenger.
Imam Ahmad (rahimahullāh)said that the one who does not pray because of laziness is a kafir. This is the more correct view and is that indicated by the evidence of the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger, and by the words of the salaf and the proper understanding.
[Al-Sharh Al-Mumti’ ‘Ala Zad Al-Mustanqi’, 2/26].
The Qur’an and Sunnah indicate that the one who neglects the prayer is guilty of Kufur Akbar (major kufur) which puts him beyond the pale of Islam.
“But if they repent [by rejecting syirik (polytheism) and accept Islamic Monotheism], perform As-Solāh (Iqamah-as-Solāh) and give Zakat, then they are your brethren in religion.”
The evidence derived from this ayat is that Allah defined three things that the Mushrikin have to do in order to eliminate their differences with the Muslims: they should repent from syirik, they should perform prayer, and they should pay zakah.
If they repent from syirik but they do not perform the prayer or pay zakah, then they are not our brethren in faith; if they perform the prayer but do not pay zakah, then they are not our brethren in faith.
Brotherhood in religion cannot be effaced except when a person goes out of the religion completely; it cannot be effaced by Fasiq (Immoral Conduct) or lesser types of kufur.
Allah SWT also says:
“Then, there has succeeded them a posterity who have given up As-Solāh (the prayers) [i.e. made their Solāh (prayers) to be lost, either by not offering them or by not offering them perfectly or by not offering them in their proper fixed times] and have followed lusts. So they will be thrown in Hell. Except those who repent and believe (in the Oneness of Allah and His Messenger Muhammad), and work righteousness. Such will enter Paradise and they will not be wronged in aught.”
The evidence derived from this ayat is that Allah referred to those who neglect the prayer and follow their desires, except those who repent and believe, indicates that at the time when they are neglecting their prayers and following their desires, they are not believers.
The evidence of the Sunnah that proves that the one who neglects the prayer is a kafir includes the hadith of the Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam):
“Between a man and syirik and kufur there stands his neglect of the Solah.”
[Narrated by Muslim in Kitab Al-Iman from Jabir Ibn ‘Abdullah (radiyallāhu`anhu)from the Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam)].
It was narrated that Buriadah Ibn Al-Husaib (radiyallāhu`anhu) said: “I heard the Messenger of Allah (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) say:
‘The covenant that distinguishes between us and them is the Solāh, and whoever neglects it has disbelieved (become a kafir).’”
[Narrated by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidzi, An-Nasa’ie and Ibn Majah].
What is meant here by kufur or disbelief is the kind of kufur which puts a person beyond the pale of Islam, because the Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) made prayer the dividing line between the believers and the disbelievers. It is known that the community of kufur is not the same as the community of Islam, so whoever does not fulfill this covenant must be one of the kafirun (disbelievers).
There is also the hadith of ‘Awf Ibn Malik (radiyallāhu`anhu), according to which the Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) said:
“The best of your leaders are those whom you love and who love you, who pray for you and you pray for them. The worst of your leaders are those whom you hate and who hate you, and you send curses on them and they send curses on you.” He was asked, “O Messenger of Allah, should we not fight them by the sword?” He said, “Not as long as they are establishing Solah amongst you.”
This hadith indicates that those in authority should be opposed and fought if they do not establish prayer, but it is not permissible to oppose and fight them unless they make a blatant show of kufur and we have evidence from Allah that what they are doing is indeed kufur.
‘Ubadah Ibn Al-Samit (radiyallāhu`anhu) said: “The Messenger of Allah (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) called us and we gave Bai’ah (Oath of Allegiance) to him. Among the things that we pledged to do was to listen and obey him both when we felt enthusiastic and when we were disinclined to act, both at times of difficulty and times of ease, and at times when others were given preference over us, and that we would not oppose those in authority. He said: ‘unless they made a blatant show of kufur and you have evidence from Allah that what they are doing is indeed kufur.’” [Al-Bukhari, Muslim and others].
On this basis, their neglecting the solah, for which the Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam)said we should oppose them and fight them by the sword, constitutes an act of blatant kufur for which we have evidence from Allah that it is indeed kufur.
If someone were to say: is it not permissible to interpret the texts about a person who neglects solah being a kafir as referring to the one who neglects the solah because he does not think it is obligatory? We would say: it is not permissible to interpret the texts in this way because there are two reservations about this interpretation:
1. It involves ignoring the general description that the Lawgiver took into consideration and to which the ruling was connected. The ruling that the person who neglects solah is a kafir is connected to the action of neglecting Solāh, not to his denial of it being obligatory. Brotherhood in religion is based on performing the solah, not on whether a person declares it to be obligatory. Did not, Allah say, “If they repent and state that the prayer is obligatory”, and the Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) did not say “Between a man and syirik and kufur there stands his denial that the prayer is obligatory” or “The covenant that distinguishes between us and them is our statement that the prayer is obligatory, so whoever denies that it is obligatory has disbelieved.” If this is what Allah and His Messenger had meant, then not stating it clearly would have contradicted what is said in the Qur’an. For Allah SWT says:
“And We have sent down to you the Book (the Qur’an) as an exposition of everything” [An-Nahl, 16:89]
“And We have also sent down unto you (O Muhammad) the dzikir [reminder and the advice (i.e. the Qur’an)], that you may explain clearly to men what is sent down to them” [An-Nahl 16:44]
2.It is not correct to refer to a reason which the Lawgiver did not make a factor in ruling a person to be a kafir, because if a person who does not have the excuse of ignorance denies that the five daily solat are obligatory then he is deemed to be a kafir, whether he prays or not. If a person performs the five daily prayers, fulfilling all the conditions of solah and doing all the actions that are obligatory or mustahabb, but he denies that the solat are obligatory with no valid reason for doing so, then he is a kafir, even though he is not neglecting the prayers.
From this it is clear that it is not correct to interpret the texts about neglecting the prayers as referring to denying that they are obligatory.
The correct view is that the person who neglects the Solāh is a kafir who is beyond the pale of Islam, as is clearly stated in the report narrated by Ibn Abi Hatim in his Sunan from ‘Ubadah Ibn Al-Samit (radiyallāhu`anhu), who said: “The Messenger of Allah (Sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) exhorted us:
‘Do not associate anything in worship with Allah, and do not neglect the solah deliberately, for whoever neglects the Solāh deliberately puts himself beyond the pale of Islam.”
Moreover, if we interpret the hadith about neglecting the solah as referring to a denial that it is obligatory, there would be no point in the reports referring specifically to the solah, because this ruling applies equally to zakah, fasting and Hajj – whoever neglects any of these, denying that it is obligatory, is a kafir, if he does not have the excuse of ignorance.
Just as the one who neglects the prayer is deemed to be a kafir on the basis of the evidence of the texts and reports, so he may also be deemed to be a kafir on the basis of rational analysis. How can a person be a believer if he neglects the solah which is the pillar of religion, and when there are ayat and hadith urging us to perform solah which make the wise believer rush to do the prayer, and when there are ayat and hadith warning against neglecting it, which make the wise believer scared to ignore the solah? Once we have understood this, a person cannot be a believer if he neglects the solah.
If a person were to say: can we not interpret kufur in the case of one who neglects the prayer as meaning a lesser form of kufur (Kufr Al-Na’mah) rather than the kind of kufur which puts a person beyond the pale of Islam (Kufur Al-Millah)? Or can we not interpret it as being less than Kufur Akbar (major kufur) and more like the kufur referred to in the hadith, “There are two qualities that exist among people which are qualities of kufur: slandering people’s lineage and wailing over the dead” and “Trading insults with a Muslim is fasiq (immoral conduct) and exchanging rage with him is kufur”, etc.?
We would say that this interpretation is not correct for a number of reasons:
1. The Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) made Solāh the dividing line between kufur and faith, between the believer and the disbeliever. This is where he drew the line, and the two things are quite distinct and do not overlap.
2. Prayer is one of the pillars of Islam, so when the person who neglects it is described as a kafir, this implies the kind of kufr that puts a person beyond the pale of Islam, because he has destroyed one of the pillars of Islam. This is a different matter from attributing kufur to a person who does one of the actions of kufur.
3. There are other texts which indicate that the kufur of the one who neglects the prayer is the kind of kufur which puts a person beyond the pale of Islam, so what is meant here by kufur should be interpreted according to the apparent meaning, so as avoid contradictions between the texts.
4. The description of kufur in those hadith is different. Concerning neglecting the prayer, the Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) said: “Between a man and syirik and kufur.” Here the word kufur is preceded in the original Arabic by the definite article “al”, which indicates that what is referred to here is the reality of kufur. This is in contrast to the other hadith where kufur is referred to without the definite article, or in a verbal form, which indicates that this is a part of kufur or that the person has disbelieved by doing this action, but it is not the absolute kufur which places a person beyond the pale of Islam.
Shaikh Al-Islam Ibn Taimiyyah (rahimahullāh)said in his book Iqtida’ Al-Sirat Al-Mustaqim (p. 70, Al-Sunnah Al-Muhammadiyyah.), concerning the hadith of the Messenger (Sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) ““There are two qualities that exist among people which are qualities of kufur”:
“The phrase ‘which are qualities of kufur’ means that these two qualities which exist among people are qualities of kufur because they are among the deeds of kufur and they exist among people. But not everyone who has a part of kufr becomes a kafir because of it, unless there exists in his heart the reality of kufur. Similarly, not everyone who has a part of faith becomes a believer because of it, unless there exists in his heart the essential reality of faith. So there is a distinction between the kufur that is preceded [in the original Arabic] by the definite article “al”, as in the hadith ‘Between a man and syirik and kufur there stands nothing but his neglecting the solah’, and the kufur that is not preceded by the definite article but is used in an affirmative sense.’”
It is clear that the person who neglects the solah with no valid excuse is a kafir who is beyond the pale of Islam, on the basis of this evidence.
This is the correct view according to Imam Ahmad, and it is one of the two opinions narrated from Al-Shafi’e, as was mentioned by Ibn Kathir (rahimahullāh) in his tafsir of the ayat:
“Then, there has succeeded them a posterity who have given up As-Solat (the prayers) [i.e. made their Solāh (prayers) to be lost, either by not offering them or by not offering them perfectly or by not offering them in their proper fixed times] and have followed lusts” [Maryam 19:59]
Ibn al-Qayyim (rahimahullāh) mentioned in his book Al-Solāh that it was one of the two views narrated from Al-Shafi’e, and that Al-Tahhawi narrated it from Al-Shafi’e (rahimahullāh) himself.
This was also the view of the majority of the Sahabah, indeed many narrated that there was consensus among the Sahabah on this point. ‘Abdullah Ibn Shaqiq said: the companions of the Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) did not think that neglecting any deed made a person a kafir, except from neglecting the solah. This was reported by At-Tirmidzi and Al-Hakim, who classified it as sahih according to the conditions of Al-Bukhari and Muslim. Ishaq Ibn Rahawaih, the well known imam, said: It was reported with a sahih isnad from the Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) that the one who neglects the solah is a kafir.
This was also the view of the scholars from the time of the Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) until the present day that: the person, who deliberately neglects the solah with no valid excuse, until the time for that solah is over, is a kafir.Ibn Hazm said that it was reported from ‘Umar, ‘Abd Al-Rahman Ibn ‘Awf, Mu’adz Ibn Jabal, Abu Hurairah (radiyallāhu`anhum) and others among the Sahabah. Ibn Hazm said: “We do not know of any opposing view among the Sahabah.”
Al-Mundhiri narrated this from him in Al-Targhib wa’l-Tarhib, and added more names of Sahabah: ‘Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud, ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Abbas, Jabir Ibn ‘Abdullah and Abu Darda – (radiyallāhu`anhum). He said: apart from the Sahabah, there are also Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Ishaq Ibn Rahawaih, ‘Abdullah Ibn Al-Mubarak, An-Nakha’ie, Al-Hakam Ibn ‘Utaibah, Ayyub Al-Sakhtayaani, Abu Dawud Al-Tayalisi, Abu Bakar Ibn Abi Shaibah, Zuhair Ibn Harb and others.
And Allah knows best.
Reference: "Risalah fi Hukum Tarikh Al-Solāh"-Paper on the Ruling on One Who Neglects the Prayer, by Shaikh Muhammad Ibn Salih Al-‘Uthaymin.
[Via Islam Q&A]