Despite genuine desire, I have been unable to say prayers regularly. Could you help me overcome this serious problem? (Mrs. Ali, Mason Road, Lahore)
If you desire is genuinely earnest, I see no reason why you should not be saying prayers regularly already. I would ask you, first of all, to do everything to make sure that it is. There are certain facts, however, which, if clearly known help in ensuring regularity in prayers. I mention them here for you to consider:
1. No person can be considered a Muslim unless he prays regularly. This fact has been mentioned clearly both in the Qur'an and the Hadith. The Holy Qur'an says:
But if they repent and establish prayers and pay zakah, they will then by your brothers in faith. We explain our commands distinctly for those who understand. (9:11)
The Prophet of Allah (sws), had said:
The prayer is the distinguishing sign between Islam and Kufr [disbelief].
The Qur'an has also informed us that the first crime those condemned to hell would admit would be 'We were not among the praying ones.' (74:43). How can a Muslim with even the faintest glow of faith in him be neglectful to such an important obligation?
2. The prayer is an expression of gratitude to the Almighty for the countless mercies He has showered on us. If even for small favours from others we carry a feeling of indebtedness unless paid back in some form, how can any one reasonable remain content by reaping the enormous blessings of life without expressing feelings of thankfulness to the real Benefactor? The offence grows in proportion manifold with the knowledge that a formal way of expressing these feelings has been suggested by the Benefactor Himself. What else, after all, is the formal prayer except a demand from the Almighty Creator to regularly express our feelings of acknowledgement in a prescribed manner? Anyone neglectful about prayers, therefore is infact discourteous and arrogant.
3. Whatever we recite in the prayers, moreover, is a precise expression of the true feelings of a devoted servant of the Almighty. Many of us don't feel inclined to say prayers because the utterances formally prescribed for it are not meaningful to us. As a result, some people question the relevance of praying in Arabic and suggest that the individual's own language should be used to convey the message of the All-Knowing God. The hazards associated with saying prayers in languages other than Arabic can be discussed someother time, but here we emphasise that the problem can be more effectively solved by learning the meanings of all utterances associated with prayers. The exercise would certainly be a fairly simple one yet as a result, saying prayers would become an extremely meaningful and a spiritually involving exercise.
4. The real binding prayer is not a time consuming formality. An important reason why many of us skip prayers is the highly erroneous concept of obligatory prayers. Whereas it is obvious beyond doubt that the obligatory prayer are only those we normally call 'farz', Muslims have generally self-imposed as practically binding additional optional prayers as well. The very idea of saying prayers, as a result, looks so difficult, specially when one is busy or not in a mood for it, that some prefer non-performance to taking up the uphill task of saying the discouraging number of 'rakats'. The truth is that apart from the two 'rakats' of 'Fajr, four of 'Zuhar', four of 'Asar', three of Maghrib' and four of 'Isha' generally called 'farz' prayers, we are not responsible to the Almighty on non-performance of any other. The rest are all optional. Some of these optionals (twelve in all) attached to the obligatory ones were regularly said by the Prophet (sws) except in journeys. Such optionals have come to be called as 'Sunnat-i-Moakkadah'. About these prayers the Prophet of Allah(sws), had remarked:
If any Muslim prays for the sake of AllahTwelve 'rakats' everyday, over and above the obligatory ones, Allahwill build for him a house in paradise. (Muslim)
The prayers referred to are of course the two 'Sunnah' of 'Fajr', four and two of 'Zuhar', two of 'Magrib' and four and two of 'Isha'. Muslims have not been warned of grave consequences on non-performance of any of them and hence there is no reason to declare them obligatory. If the 'Farz' prayers are left out, however, no excuse will be good enough to be accommodated as acceptable. But then who can afford to neglect such a simple formality for the Gracious Allahsave the most ungrateful?
A sincere request through the following supplication of Prophet Ibraheem can go a long way in making you regular in prayers:
O My Lord make me consistant in my prayers, and my children too, and our Lord, grace our request with your kind acceptance. O Our Lord grant me and my parents and the believers at large forgiveness on the Day justice would prevail. (14:40-41)