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What is the ruling on the one who does not pray?

All praises be to Allaah, Lord and Sustainer of the worlds, and may the peace and blessings of Allaah be upon our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and upon his family and companions.

The most important obligatory deed in Islam is the performance of the five daily prayers. The high status of prayer is shown by many evidences from the Quraan and Sunnah such as that:

1. The prayer is the first obligatory act of worship prescribed in Islaam. This is the only obligation which Allaah Subhanahu-wa-Ta'alaa did not send through an angel, rather he called Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to above the Seventh Heaven and gave this directly to him.

2. The prayer will be the last part of the Dheen-al-Islaam that will be removed from earth before the coming of the Day of Judgement.

3. The prayer is prescribed by fixed times:

"Verily, As-Salaah (the prayer) is enjoined on the believers at fixed hours..."

[An-Nisaa: 103]

4. On the Day of Judgement the prayer will be the first thing a person will be accounted for.

5. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said that prayer is what supports the whole Deen-al-Islaam as he said:

" for its (Islaam's) pillar, it is the prayer."

He also informed us that prayer is what distinguishes between beleif and disbeleif because he said:

“Indeed the covenant between us and them is prayer, whoever gives up the prayer, then he commits a disbelief.”

(Narrated by At Tirmidhi and Ahmad)

He also said:

“Indeed between a man and the Shirk and Kufr is the giving up of the prayer.”

(Narrated by Muslim)

He (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) also said that Islaam is built upon five, mentioning prayer as the second after the Shahaadathayn.

Therefore, nothing of the worldly life, whether a person's trade or his job, or his education is allowed to interfere with the prayer, as Allah Subhanahu-wa-Ta'alaa says:

"(By) men whom neither trade nor sale (business) diverts them from the Remembrance of Allâh (with heart and tongue), nor from performing As-Salaah (Iqaamatas-Salaah), nor from giving the Zakât. They fear a Day when hearts and eyes will be overturned (out of the horror of the torment of the Day of Resurrection)..."

[An-Noor: 37]

Allaah Subhanahu-wa-Ta'alaa admonishes those who are careless with their prayer:

"Then, there has succeeded them a posterity who have given up As-Salaah (the prayers) (i.e. made their Salaah (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, etc.) and have followed lusts. So they will be thrown in Hell..."

[Surah Maryam: 59]

People who would enter the fire, when they will be asked about the reason for their outcome, the first thing that they would mention would be that they didn't use to pray:

"About Al-Mujrimoon (polytheists, criminals, disbelievers, etc.), (And they will say to them): What has caused you to enter Hell. They will say: We were not of those who used to offer the Salaah (prayers)."

[Al Mudaaththir: 41-43]

Allaah Subhanahu-wa-Ta'alaa makes prayer a condition for a person to be our brother in the religion and not to be fought with:

"But if they repent, perform As-Salaah (Iqaamat-as-Salaah) and give Zakât, then they are your brethren in religion. (In this way) We explain the Ayât (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) in detail for a people who know..."

[At-Tawbah: 11]

And there are other verses of Qur'aan and narrations from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to this account.

Lastly, an important question that is frequently asked, is whether the one who does not pray is a sinner or a disbeliever. This question is important for many legal reasons, most importantly; the validity of a marriage, the funeral and burial of a person and the inheritance, as the one who is proved to be a disbeliever can neither stay in a marriage with his/her spouse, nor be bathed, shrouded, prayed on with the funeral prayer by Muslims and buried with Muslims, nor can he inherit from Muslims or vice versa.

Following is a summary of the ruling regarding the one who does not pray, according to the the type of people who abandon prayer:

1. The one who denies the obligation of prayer, whether in words or by refusing to pray.

There is no dispute among Scholars that this person is a disbeliever. He should be advised and warned. If he does not repent then he is to be dealt with as a disbeliever in all the above matters.

2. The one who does not deny the obligation, but makes excuses and does not pray.

Here there is a difference of opinion and the matter needs further investigation. A well known view is that he cannot be declared as a disbeliever until he dies, and until people are certain that he never prayed. If this was established, then he would have died as a disbeliever and the same rulings will be applied as the first category, but only after his death.

3. The one who sometimes prays and leaves other times.

This is the one who does not have a promise from Allah Subhanahu-wa-Ta'alaa and comes under the warning mentioned in the Hadeeth of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), reported in Sunan Abu Dawud on the authority of Ubaadah bin Samit (may Allah be pleased with him):

“Five are the prayers Allah Subhanahu-wa-Ta'alaa has made obligatory on his slaves in a day and night, whoever would guard them will have the promise from Allah Subhanahu-wa-Ta'alaa that he has enetered into Paradise and whoever is careless of them then he has no promise from Allah Subhanahu-wa-Ta'alaa, if He wishes He will punish him, if He wishes He will forgive him.”

May Allah Subhanahu-wa-Ta'alaa make us obedient to His commands and give us the ability to fulfil all the duties that He has prescribed.