By Jami'at al-'Ulama KZN [Edited by Abu Ishaq Afriki]
Qari Ameer Hasan (Allah have mercy on him) once mentioned: "It was the habit of Mawlana Qasim Nanautwi (Allah have mercy on him) that he would make preparations for salāh one hour in advance. Similarly, when Shah Wasi Allah (Allah have mercy on him) used to travel to any place, he would not find out what time is jamāt, rather he would enquire about the time of adhān." (Kalimāt-e-Sidq wa Adl, p. 66)
Mawlana Yusuf Ludhyanwi (Allah have mercy on him) writes: "Once, some people had requested Mawlana Yusuf Binnori (Allah have mercy on him) to come to the opening of their shop after the Jumu`ah salāh. Hadhrat said to them: "On Fridays I perform Asr salāh in my masjid. Ensure that my jamāt salāh is not missed." They assured Hadhrat that they will make arrangements for him to make it for the jamāt. Generally, people are extremely enthusiastic to take [the pious to their place] since they only consider their own motives. As far as others are concerned, they are inconsiderate. When Hadhrat returned, the jamāt salāh was over. Seeing this, Hadhrat began to cry bitterly. I saw Hadhrat crying profusely on that day and he lamented: "We do not possess the reality of salāh. All we have is the imitation. The correct manner of salāh is unknown to us. We merely imitate the Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace). If this imitation also does not remain, then what else do we have!" (Tuhfat al-Madāris, vol. 1, p. 491)
Mawlana Muhammad Yasin (Allah have mercy on him), the father of Mufti Muhammad Shafi' (Allah have mercy on him) used to very greatly emphasise the importance of salāh with jamāt. In this regard, Mufti Muhammad Rafi` Usmani (Allah protect him) writes: "Salāh with jamāt was from amongst the very outstanding features in his life together with his aurād, ma`mulāt and takbir-e-ula. Towards the end of his life when he was constantly afflicted with various ailments and illnesses, he would find it difficult to even move about. Despite this, he would be the first person to reach the masjid for jamāt salāh. During his final illness, in spite of being afflicted with severe bouts of diarrhoea and high fever, he would walk to the masjid with the support of his walking stick. When eventually this became unmanageable he was forced to perform his salāh at home for about five to six days."
Explaining the importance that Mawlana Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri (Allah have mercy on him) showed to the performance of salāh with jamāt especially in the Haram Sharif, Mufti Āshiq Ilāhi Meeruthi (Allah have mercy on him) writes: "At all times, salāh with jamāt would be the source of pleasure and joy for Mawlana Khalil Ahmad (Allah have mercy on him). One can well imagine what would have been the extent of joy when it came to salāh in the Haram Sharif. It would be impossible for any one of Hadhrat's associates to declare that he had witnessed Hadhrat either missing the takbir-e-ula, the first saff or standing on the right of the imām. Despite the heat being so intense that by merely placing one's foot on the ground blisters would begin to appear, yet Hadhrat would hurriedly walk to the Haram Sharif so that he may perform his salāh in the first saff near the imām. I remember very clearly that we once experienced torrential rain after Maghrib salāh. On seeing the heavy downpour, some of the companions began saying that the concession of 'alā sallu fi rihālikum' (Perform your Salāh at home i.e. due to the severe rain.) could now be practised. However, no sooner did the sound of the adhan fall on Hadhrat's ears, he turned to me and said: 'Come, let us go for salāh.' Despite my spirits being low at that time, I plucked up the courage to accompany Hadhrat. I took a lantern whilst Hadhrat took a container of water. This confounded me, for Hadhrat had already made wudhu. However, Hadhrat then said: 'It is possible that our feet will get soiled with mud. Hence, we shall wash our feet at the entrance of the masjid so as not to soil the Haram Sharif.' Prior to that, I had not witnessed or seen the state of Makkah with rain and mud. As we stepped on to the road, it seemed as if the ground had caught hold of our feet. With each step, I wished that Hadhrat turns back and practises on the concession. I fully understood that this was unmanageable for Hadhrat, yet he was still walking ahead of me. Each one of us had separate umbrellas whilst I held the lantern in the other hand and Hadhrat had the pitcher of water in his other hand. We walked till the end of the bazaar until we reached the road. We only needed to cross the road to get to the masjid. As we got to the road we found that a 25 - 30 feet wide river was flowing very strongly. I became afraid of crossing it and was convinced that Hadhrat will decide to return. Contrary to my expectation, Hadhrat said: 'Fold the umbrellas and pull up your trousers (to your knees). Take off your shoes, place them under your arms and we shall hold each other's hands and step into the water. I have heard that these streams carry a lot of stones and there is a fear of falling.' That wonderful spectacle is still before my eyes; walking barefoot with our trousers folded to our knees, holding each other's hands like a pair of scissors and with the umbrellas hanging on our arms. Hadhrat then recited: 'bismillahi majrehā' and placed his foot into the fast flowing stream. Since the water was flowing downstream and the path was steep it carried along all sizes of stones and pebbles. They were coming with such force as if one was being struck with bullets. As we walked further, the water reached my knees and I was on the verge of falling. However, Hadhrat held my arms firmly which saved me from falling. With firm reliance on Allah we finally reached Bab al-Safa. As we got on to the steps Hadhrat rinsed his feet, placed his shoes in the rack and then entered the masjid reciting the masnun du`ā." (Tadhkirah al-Khalil, p. 370/371)
Mufti Muhammad Shafi` Sahib (Allah have mercy on him) writes explaining the daily routine of his father Mawlana Muhammad Yaseen (Allah have mercy on him): After lunch, he would never have his qailulah (siesta) at home. Rather, he would rest in a room adjacent to the masjid so that nothing may become an obstacle in the performance of Zuhr salāh with jamāt. This was his routine for his entire life. Towards the latter part of his life when he had become exceptionally weak, it became extremely difficult for him to leave the home in the severe heat and hot wind. Thereafter, on the insistence of some close ones he would rest at home. Despite this, he still deemed it necessary to go to the masjid for Zuhr salāh. Punctuality on jamāt salāh was a distinctive feature in all the murids of Mawlana Gangohi (Allah have mercy on him). My father also placed a lot of emphasis on it according to the teaching of his shaykh. He would not allow his jamāt salāh to be missed even at the time of heavy rain. When the path to the masjid would be dark and muddy because of the rain at the time of Esha and Fajr, he would go to the masjid holding an umbrella in one hand and a lantern in the other. Once there was a heavy downpour at the time of Fajr. By then I had completed my formal studies and had begun teaching in Dar al-'Ulum Deoband. I did not have the courage to go to the masjid due to the torrential rain. Thus, thinking this to be a valid shar`i excuse I performed my salāh at home. However, even in this condition my father went to the masjid. Upon reaching the masjid he found that there was no one else besides the mu'adhin. Hence, both of them performed salāh with jamāt. When he returned home, he reprimanded me saying: "Māshā Allah! You have become an 'ālim. You are able to quote the ahādith of rukhsat (concession) but, tell me, if the 'ulama continue looking for concessions, who will then practise upon azimat? These masājid will remain deserted." (Mere wālid mājid, p. 22)
Qāri Siddiq Ahmad Bāndwi (Allah have mercy on him) once mentioned regarding his shaykh, Mawlana Asad Allah Sahib (Allah have mercy on him): "Hadhrat Nāzim Sahib (Allah have mercy on him) seldom travelled, fearing he would miss his salāh with jamāt and his takbir-e-ula. Once he had to go to Deoband to visit Qāri Muhammad Tayyib (Allah have mercy on him). Prior to the journey he drew up an itinerary for the journey. He first found out the times for the trains. Those trains wherein there was a possibility of missing out salāh with jamāt were then avoided. It was his habit to travel only on those trains wherein he would not miss his salāh with jamāt. Thus we travelled to Deoband in this manner. After meeting with Qāri Muhammad Tayyib (Allah have mercy on him) we quickly returned. On our return, he was also very careful that no salāh was missed with takbir-e-ula." (Hayāt al-Siddiq - English, p. 105)
Sayyiduna Ubayy Ibn Ka'b رضى الله عنه said that the Messenger of Allah صلي الله عليه وسلم said:
"The prayer of a person with a person is better than the prayer of a person prayed individually. The prayer of a person prayed with two people is better than the prayer of a person prayed with one. The larger the number, the more beloved this prayer is to Allah, the Exalted."
[Abu Dawud; an-Nasa'i; and Ibn Khuzayma, who declared it to be saheeh]
Abu Qubbath Ibn Ashyam رضي الله عنه reported that the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم said,
"The prayer of two persons, with one of them leading his companion, is better with Allah سبحانه و تعالى than the prayer of four people prayed individually. The prayer of four people [in congregation] is better with Allah سبحانه و تعالى than the prayer of eight people prayed individually. The prayer of eight people [in congregation] with one of them leading is better with Allah سبحانه و تعالى than the prayer of one hundred people prayed individually."
al-Hafidh al-Mundhiree رحمه الله said, "Reported by at-Tabarani and al-Bazzar with a chain that has no problem."
Can a woman lead men in salah? If a man performs salah behind a woman, will he have to repeat that salah? Some groups in Canada and America who are associated with homosexual groups say it's permissible for women to lead men in salah.
It is not permissible for a woman to lead men in salah, this is an innovation that has been introduced in these latter times by women rights groups that wants women to stand side by side with men, and this innovation is addressed in the hadith of `Aa'ishah (Allah have mercy on her), where she reports that Allah's Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: "Whoever introduces something into this matter (i.e. Islam) of ours that is not part of it, it shall be rejected." (Sahih Muslim)
Regarding these gay groups, they do not accept the Qur'an and the Sunnah, so there's no need to even reply to them. Ironically these people are not even certain whether they're men or women, so in reality, who's the imam of who?
But for people who follow the Qur'an and Sunnah and the illustrious `ulama, then this is the ruling:
From a hadith point of view, Imam al-Bayhaqi (Allah have mercy on him) has a chapter in his Sunan al-Kubra titled: "No man may follow a woman in salah."
In that chapter he reports the following ahadith:
Abu Bakrah (Allah be pleased with him) reports that when the news reached Allah's Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) that the Persians had made the daughter of Kisra (title used for their kings) their queen, Allah's Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: "A nation who entrusts their affairs to a woman will never be successful." It is an authentic hadith, also reported by Imam Bukhari (Allah have mercy on him) in his Sahih.
And indeed, salah is one of the most important affairs in the life of a Muslim.
He continues and quotes:
Abu Hurayrah (Allah be pleased with him) said that Allah's Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: "The best row (in salah) for men is the first one, and their worst one is the last one, and the best row for women is the last one and their worst one is the first one." It is an authentic hadith, also reported by Imam Muslim (Allah have mercy on him) in his Sahih.
This action of theirs is in direct conflict to this hadith, because they are not even in the front row of the women, which is their worst row, but in fact they are right in front of all the men.
He then ends the chapter by quoting:
Jabir Ibn `Abdullah (Allah be pleased with him) reports that he heard Allah's Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) on his pulpit saying: "Let it be known, that no woman may ever lead a man in salah." This narration, although it has some weakness in it, but its meaning is accepted as being authentic by the `ulama.
`Abdullah Ibn Mas`ud (Allah be pleased with him) said: "Put them in the back where Allah has put them." (Musannaf 'Abd al-Razzaq)
As for the views of the four madhahib:
Imam Al-Haskafi (Allah have mercy on him) says in al-Durr al-Mukhtar: "And it is not permissible for a man to follow a woman (in salah)."
Imam al-Zayla'i (Allah have mercy on him) says in Tabyin al-Haqa'iq: "The salah is invalid of a man performing behind a woman or child."
The same is stated by Imam Ibrahim Ibn Muhammad al-Halabi (Allah have mercy on him) in Multaqa al-Abhar.
Imam Shafi'i (Allah have mercy on him) says in Kitab al-Umm: "And it is not permissible for a woman to be an imam for men in salah ever under any circumstance."
Imam Nawawi (Allah have mercy on him) says in al-Majmu`: "Our companions (the shafi`i scholars) have consensus that the salah of a male adult or child behind a woman is not permissible."
Imam Ibn Qudamah (Allah have mercy on him) says in al-Mughni: "As for (the ruling concerning) a woman, then it is not valid for a man to perform salah behind her under any circumstance, be it in fardh or nafl (salah)."
Imam Mansur al-Bahwati (Allah have mercy on him) says in Kashshaf al-Qina`: "And it is not permissible for a woman to be an imam for men, because of what Ibn Majah has narrated from Jabir (Allah be pleased with him) narrating it from Allah's Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace): 'No woman may ever lead a man (in salah).'"
Imam al-Nafrawi (Allah have mercy on him) says in al-Fawakih al-Dawani: "And it is not correct for a woman to lead men or women in fardh or nafl salah, because of the hadith: 'A nation who entrusts their affairs to a woman will never be successful.'"
Imam Qurtubi (Allah have mercy on him) says in his tafsir al-Jami' li Ahkam al-Qur'an: "Our (Maliki) scholars say, it not valid for her (a woman) to be an imam for men nor women."
Therefore, salah of a man behind a woman is not valid, and if a man performs salah behind a woman then he will have to repeat his salah.
Such incidents seem strange to those who are unaware of the belief of Ahl al-Sunnah wa 'l-Jama'ah that, Karamat al-Awliya' Haq (miraculous deeds of the pious are true). ('Aqidah al-Tahawiyya)
It is not impossible that Allah grants barakah (blessings) in the time of some of his chosen ones so as to enable them to do such deeds. Furthermore, such incidents are manifold and are quoted by many other great muhaddithin (hadith scholars). Thus, proving it to be a reality that cannot be refuted. Hereunder are a few examples:
1. Imam al-Tirmidhi (Allah haver mercy on him) reports from Maslamah ibn 'Amr that 'Umayr ibn Hani (Allah haver mercy on him) used to perform 1000 rak'ah everyday and he used to recite 100 000 tasbih.
2. Imam Abu Nu'aym has reported the same of 'Amir ibn 'Abd Allah (Allah haver mercy on him).
3. Imam Malik (Allah haver mercy on him) said regarding 'Ali ibn Husayn ibn 'Ali that he used to perform 1000 rak'ah every night till he passed away. This has been quoted and documented by Hafiz al-Dhahabi in his book, al-'Ibar.
4. Hafiz ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani (Allah haver mercy on him) has quoted regarding 'Ali ibn 'Abd Allah ibn 'Abbas (Allah haver mercy on him) that he used to perform 1000 rak'ah everyday. (al-Tahdhib)
The above has been mentioned in Iqamah al-Hujjah, p. 64, 65, 71, 74.
These incidents have been documented by the above-mentioned illustrious scholars and muhaddithin in praise of its doers.
They did not regard it to be strange; do we have the right to do so?
'O Abu Saeed (Allah have mercy on him)! I spend the night in a sound state of physical health, I even have a desire to wake up at night for worship (tahajjud) and I also make arrangements for ablution but why is it that I can not get up?'
The Shaikh replied, 'Your sinful activities hold you hostage (from getting up at this precious time).'
What sinful activities?
Shaikh Taiwiri (Allah have mercy on him) said, 'Once I was deprived of benefiting from the tahajjud prayers for seven month as a result of a sinful activity.'
On being question about this sinful act, he replied,
'I saw a person crying and I thought (actively and with conviction) that he is being pretentious (riya kar).'
Imagine the inconvenience one would have to undergo in arranging to meet the country's president? Imagine the numerous phone calls to parliament and the influence of the rich and 'powerful' people that would be required just to arrange a simple meeting with him? And finally, when the scheduled time does arrive after hours of anticipation, how alert and ecstatic wouldn't one be? Yet, the 'prominent' man, hard-pressed for time, would give one an inattentive hearing and will be eager to conclude the meeting. How disappointing?
Now compare all this effort with just a 'simple' wudu, donning of clean respectable clothing, and there you are, in the Majesty's court. With no hassle and no appointment, you have the distinguished opportunity of conversing with your Beloved Creator, The King of Kings with His full attention focused on you. Yet ironically, this time round, we are the ones 'too busy' in our thoughts to dedicate a few attentive moments to our Allah!
Allah Ta'ala states that an intoxicated person should not perform salāh until he is aware of what he says, that is, until he is sober. However, while commenting on this verse and the deplorable state of our salāh, Imām Ghazali رحمه الله mentions, "There are many who despite not being intoxicated are yet 'unaware' of what they utter in their salāh (due to being inattentive)." 
Moulānā Dhul Fiqār دامت بركاتهم has also very aptly compared our salāh to a passenger aboard an aeroplane. The passenger is asleep and therefore totally oblivious of his surroundings. It is only when the aircraft prepares for landing and the wheels forcefully strike the runway, does he awaken and realise what is happening around him. He states that, so too is the pitiable state of our salāh. That is, during our salāh, we are so unmindful of Allah; it is as though we also 'fly' in our own world of thoughts (touring countless destinations with neither a visa nor a passport at hand!). It is only when the imām makes the salām, do we 'awaken' from our 'slumber' only to realise that the salāh has terminated!
These comments really serve as a perfect reflection of our daily salāh. So in truth, isn't it time for us to improve on the 'outdated version' of salāh which we have been performing ever since!
The Perfect Salah:
In the Quran, Allah constantly reminds us of the need to improve our salāh by saying,"Establish your salāh (i.e. perfect it)."The Úlamā have defined a perfect and attentive salāh to mean that when one stands before Allah, being conscious of his Divine presence, (a) one should be motionless i.e. avoiding all unnecessary movement, while (b) divorcing oneself from worldly thoughts - worldly thoughts should not be voluntarily imported to the mind. Yes, if they arise naturally, one should just ignore them and continue with the salāh.
Disregarding this vital ingredient of concentration has led to our salāh becoming somewhat 'bland, boring and mechanical'. What did I just recite? Which rakat am I in? Do I have to stand up now, or sit for tashahud? are questions which haunt one in nearly every salāh. Remember that salāh is in reality a great gift from Allah which keeps us connected to Him despite our numerous involvements. However, as long as we don't make an effort to improve our concentration, salāh will continue to be regarded as a burden. For, Allah states, "(Salāh) is difficult and burdensome except for those who are mindful." 
The ahādīth also explicitly state that concentration in salāh is the factor which determines the amount of reward one receives for the salāh. Nabi sallallahu alayhi wasallam has mentioned, "Whoever makes a thorough wudu and then performs an attentive salāh, while being mindful and conscious of what he says, will complete his salāh with all his (minor) sins erased like the day his mother gave birth to him." 
A similar narration has it as, "Jannah becomes wājib (guaranteed) for this person." 
Note again that, these benefits depend on the level of one's concentration in the salāh. So why deprive ourselves when a little effort will make for a better, as well as a more enjoyable, salāh!
The 'Secret Ingredients' to a Better Salāh
ADVANCE PREPARATION -Try and complete all needs and duties before the approach of salāh, or at least leave them in such a condition that would not distract the mind during the salāh. It is sinful to perform salāh in an uneasy distracted state of mind when one is able to avoid it. A distracted mind also refers to performing salāh when in need of relieving oneself or of even passing 'wind' (i.e. flatulence). In fact, if such an acute need does occur during the salāh, the salāh should be terminated and only resumed once at ease (irrespective of whether, by doing so, the salāh with congregation is missed or not). 
A meticulous WUDU - Perform a thorough wudu maintaining the fard, sunnah and mustahab aspects. Utilise a moderate amount of water and desist from all worldly talk. Involvement in such talk ruins the spirituality of the wudu totally. Remember! The key to salāh is wudu. So, a better wudu will surely lead to a better salāh.
SWITCH THE MIND OFF -The stepping stone to an attentive salāh is to ensure one commences it with a tranquil and relaxed mind. To achieve this, try and be seated in the Musjid (or the place of salāh) before time and recite a little amount of zikr. Just as how the blades of the fan continue to rotate well after the switch is turned off, so too is the effect of all activities on one's mind. Coming early for salāh will also secure the good fortune of performing the salāh with the first takbīr (takbīr ūlā) which is extremely meritorious.
CLEAR THE AREA - Perform the salāh away from any distractions such as the T.V, radio, nasheeds which are playing, discussions of people, noise etc., as these naturally distract and divert the mind during the salāh. If possible, try to perform salāh on a plain printed musalla instead of a heavily designed one. Otherwise, one would be concentrating on the designs and counting of the domes and minarets instead of counting the number of rakats.
TIPS - Some Úlama have recommended a simple though effective technique to achieve concentration. In every posture of salāh, one should meditate on only three things. These are: (1) My Allah is watching me, (2) My Allah is listening to me, and (3) My Allah is aware of me. With this frame of mind, one should recite the various tasbīhāt, qirat etc. of the salāh. Those who are well versed in Arabic should ponder over the meanings of the verses while others should try to learn the meanings of a few sūrahs, especially Sūrah Fātihah, since it is recited most often. Many of us have our set sūrahs for a 2, 3 and 4 rakat salāh. Hence, on completion of Sūrah Fātihah, before even thinking and realising what sūrah to choose and recite, we are already half way through these sūrahs. In this case, we should recite other sūrahs such as Sūrah Yasin, Tabarak etc. Pronouncing the letters loud enough as to hear it yourself (but not loud enough as to disturb others) is also extremely useful in focusing one's attention in the salāh. We should also try to perfect the outer postures of salāh including the focusing of one's gaze in each posture. If greater concentration is achieved by closing the eyes during the salāh, then in this case only, one may close the eyes.  However, the ideal would be to achieve this concentration by keeping them open as was the Sunnah (practice) of our Nabi sallallahu alayhi wasallam.
THE YAWNS... - More often than not, yawning is the result of one being absent-minded during the salāh. Nonetheless, if it does occur, one should first try to suppress it (by closing the mouth). If one is unable to do so, then the right hand should be used to cover the mouth, if one is in the standing position. Otherwise the left hand should be used if in any other posture of the salāh.
NOTE: It is makrūh to use the hand to cover the mouth when yawning during salāh if one is able to suppress it by doing so with the mouth only.  Sounds such as 'Ha...' etc. should not be uttered while yawning as this has been prohibited in the Ahadith. 
FIDDLING - The most obvious and apparent sign of an inattentive mind is that of fiddling and fidgeting. Saeed Ibn Musayyib رحمه الله, a great Tābi'ī, once saw a man who was fidgeting with his beard during the salāh and commented, "If this man was attentive, his body would have (also) being motionless." 
If the mind is alert and attentive, subsequently, the physical body also becomes composed and tranquil. Let us avoid all unnecessary movement during the salāh.
SHORT AND SWEET - Initially, concentration should be developed by performing shorter (not quick and hasty) salāhs while trying to focus in each posture. Once the desired concentration is achieved, one may then perform lengthier rakats of salāh. This was the practice of many of our pious elders.
A GROSS MISUNDERSTANDING - A common understanding of an attentive salāh is that, one should be totally absorbed and oblivious of one's surroundings during the salāh. This is incorrect. Experiencing such a condition is simply a gift from Allah and is in no way a requirement of salāh. In fact, at times this may even be a subtle scheme from Shaytan to sway us away from mustering up courage and attempting to perform a perfect salāh. Since, one would think that such a salāh is out of my reach and impossible for me to perform, so I'll just carry on with my old inattentive one. Nevertheless, an attentive salāh simply means that one should be aware and realise what one is doing during the course of the salāh. For example, one should be conscious of the fact that now I am reciting Sūrah Fatiha, or now I am going into ruku, sajda etc. this much is sufficient when initially correcting our salāh.
If still you have problem concentrating...
If after carefully practicing on these points, one still does not achieve the desired concentration, one should not be disillusioned. Remember that concentration comes through practice while salāh has to be performed in all circumstances, with or without concentration. Shaytan will find this to be an ideal opportunity to sway us away from salāh with thoughts such as, 'what good is your salāh if your mind is wandering all over the place?' The Úlama state that our effort is to 'try' to concentrate in the event of not having achieved concentration. Allah wants to see our sincere attempt in developing that better salāh. If one entertains stray thoughts during the salāh, repent sincerely and make a resolute intention of improving the salāh. In addition to this brief compilation, the following books should also be consulted:
1) IS YOUR SALAH CORRECT - by Moulana Fadlur Rahman Azmi دامت بركاتهم
2) And especially, the transcribed bayans of Moulana Abdul Hamid Ishaq دامت بركاتهم entitled, ANWAARUS SALAH (also available on audio).
(1) Ihyā v.1 p.200
(2) Surah 2, verse 80
(3) Mustadrak Hākim #3508
(4) Sahih Muslim #552
(5), (6) & (7) Raddul Muhtār v.1 p.641
(8) Sahih Bukhari #3289, Sunan Abi Dawud #5028
(9) Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah # 6854
Of all the A'maal (actions) in Islam, Salah requires our first and foremost attention and care.
The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) stated, "The first thing one will be held accountable for on the Day of Judgment is Salah (prayer)." (Sunan Abu Dawud, al Nasa'i: Kitab al Salah Bab al Muhasabati `ala al Salat #469-471; Al Hakim also narrated it and said it is sahih)
In another Hadith it is mentioned, "On the Day of Judgement, the very first question that will be asked to man out of his deeds will be about Salah; if his Salah is correct he will succeed but if it is incomplete, he will be disgraced and will suffer loss.- Tabarani
Depending upon the inner and outer quality of Salah, the worshipers have different grades.
Shaykh Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi (رحمه الله) writes:
"There is nothing dry or mechanical about Salah. It is not a soulless ritual, frozen into rigidity, in which there is no scope for development and everyone is compelled to stay at the same level. On the contrary, its field is very vast in which the devotee is carried forward from state to state, from advancement to perfection and from perfection to heights that are beyond the imagination of man.
In it, the position of one is different from that of the other. The grade varies from person to person. A Salah performed with negligence and ignorance cannot be treated as equal to that of attention and awareness. In the same way, the Salah of the general body of Muslims cannot match the Salah of the enlightened men of God in virtue and excellence. It is also not necessary that a devotee always maintains the same standard and the Salah he offered today was identical in quality to what he had offered up yesterday or a few months or years earlier.
Thus, we find that two categories of Salah are mentioned in the Quran, praiseworthy and blameworthy.
Of the later type of Salah it says:
"Ah, woe unto worshippers who are heedless of their prayer, (and) who are hypocrites and refuse even small kindnesses." (Surah Al-Ma'oon- cvii: 4-7)
And, of the former:
"Successful indeed are the believers who are humble in their prayers."(Surah Al-Muminoon- xxiii: 1-2)
The Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, also, has spoken of two kinds of Salah, one of reverence, sincerity and humbleness and the other of negligence, hurry and carelessness.
Concerning the Salah of the first category Uthman bin Affan [رضي الله عنه] relates that "He [the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم] performed the Wudhu, and performed it well, and then, he remarked, he who performs the Wudhu like me and performs two Rakahs of Salah in such a way that he thinks of nothing else during it, all his previous sins will be forgiven". -Bukhari and Muslim
It is related by Hazrat Uqba bin Aamir (رضي الله عنه) that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) once said, "Paradise becomes the right of a Muslim who performs the Wudhu properly and then stands up and offers two Rakahs of Salah and remains attentive in it both with his face and his heart". -Muslim
About the Salah of the other kind, it is related by Ammar bin Yasir (رضي الله عنه) that once he heard the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) saying, "A person completes his Salah and yet only one‐tenth, and sometimes, one‐ninth, one‐eighth, one‐seventh, one‐sixth, one‐fifth, one‐fourth, one‐third or one‐half of it comes to his lot."- Abu Dawood and Nisai.
It is, again, related that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم once said, "The worst of men is he who steals his Salah". The Holy Companions, thereupon asked, "O Prophet of God! How can a person steal his own Salahs?" The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم replied, "He neither performs the Wudhu properly nor the Sajda". - Muslim
It is related by Hazrat Anas (رضي الله عنه) that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), once said, "He is a hypocrite who keeps on looking at the sun till it turns pale and comes between the two horns of the Devil and then gets up and hurriedly offers up four Rakahs of Salah like a hen pecking at the grain in which the remembrance of God is only nominal."- Nisai
In Salah the grades of the devotees are different. The Salah of one devotee cannot be judged by the Salah of the other. The Salah of the sacred Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was of the highest order, higher, superior and more perfect than that of any one, and it also held the greatest weight in the Scales of God. Closest to his Salah was the Salah of Hadhrat Abu Bakr (رضي الله عنه).
It was for this reason that Hadhrat Abu Bakr (رضي الله عنه) was commanded by the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), during his last illness, to lead the prayer‐service in his place though Hadhrat Ayesha (رضي الله عنها) had suggested the name of Hadhrat Omar (رضي الله عنه). But the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم insisted on it and, so, it was done. [Bukhari]
Salah is an indicator of one's level in the Deen:
Further, there is no better measuring‐yard of one's place and position in Islam than Salah. The quality of person's prayers tells more about his inner state than any other thing.
Thus, all the outstanding personalities of Islam, whose names are still cherished in history, have attained that lofty position and immortality by paying the greatest attention to Salah and carrying it to the highest stage of perfection which, in the Islamic parlance, is referred to as Ihsan."
The first: The category of the oppressor to himself, the negligent one, one who is deficient in performing ablution for it, negligent with its appointed time periods, its boundaries and its pillars.
The second: One who preserves it appointed time periods, its boundaries, its outward pillars and ablution for it. However, he forsakes striving against his own self from whisperings and thinking to himself, and so is preoccupied with whisperings and thoughts.
The third: One who preserves its appointed time periods, its pillars as well as strives against himself in repelling whisperings and distracting thoughts that overcome him, he is busy in striving against his enemy in order to prevent him from stealing his prayer, he is in prayer as well as Jihad (struggle).
The fourth: One whom when he stands for prayer perfects its rights, its pillars and its boundaries. His heart is occupied with preserving its boundaries and preventing anything of it being lost, rather all his attention is directed to performing it as it should be, in its most complete and perfect form, his heart is occupied with the prayer and worshiping his Lord the Elevated with it.
The fifth: One who performs the prayer like the previous person, but in addition to this, he has taken his heart and presented it to his Lord. He looks at his Lord with his heart, fully concerned with Him, in utmost obedience out of love and reverence for Him, it is as if he sees and witnesses his Lord. All distracting thoughts and whisperings fade away and the veil between him and his Lord is removed. The difference between this person in his prayer and others, is greater and better than all that is between the heavens and earth, he is fully occupied and overjoyed with his Lord in his prayer.
Results of the above types of Salaah
The first category is punished, the second is held accountable, the third is pardoned, the fourth is rewarded and the fifth is brought close to his Lord, because he gains a portion of what made the prayer a delight to him.
For whoever is delighted with his prayer in the life of this world, will be delighted by being close to his Lord in the afterlife as well as being delighted with his Lord in this life, and whoever is delighted with Allaah, everything would be delighted with him, and whoever is not delighted with Allaah, his soul will be torn apart for the life of this world in loss.
'Turning away' from Allaah during Salaah!
It is narrated that when a servant stands for prayer, Allaah the Glorified says; "Remove the veil.", and if the servant turns away He says: "Replace it."
This 'turning away' has been explained as the turning of the heart away from Allaah the All-Mighty to other than Him. So if he turns away, the veil is replaced between him and his Lord and Shaytaan enters and presents worldly affairs to him, he shows them to him in the image of a woman.
But if he turns with his heart to Allaah and does not turn away, Shaytaan would not be able to come between Allaah and that heart, he only enters if the veil is replaced. If he returns to Allaah with his heart, the Shaytaan would escape, and if he turns away, the Shaytaan would return, such is his state with his enemy in prayer.
"To be certain that Allaah سبحانه و تعالى would accept just one prayer from me would be dearer to me than the world and everything in it, for Allaah سبحانه و تعالى says (interpretation of the meaning):
"...Verily, Allaah accepts only from al-Muttaqeen." (5:27)
"When you stand in prayer, stand in due obedience as Allaah سبحانه و تعالى has ordered you, beware of negligence and looking (here and there), beware that Allaah سبحانه و تعالى be looking at you while you are looking at something else, asking Allaah سبحانه و تعالى for Paradise and taking refuge with Him from the Fire, yet your heart is heedless, not knowing what the tongue is saying."
[Muhammad Ibn Naasir al-Marawazee رحمه الله, Ta'dheem Qadr as-Salaah #140]
This cannot be undone and I am sure it will be greatly appreciated.
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