Sharpen the Saw: Do not Postpone or Miss Your Salah at Work

Posted on January 14, 2007


by Rafik Beekun

At work, one often gets trapped by a project or a deadline, and one may engage in postponing prayer (salah). Yet, as Steven Covey states in his book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People‘, one needs to stop periodically to sharpen one’s saw (cognitive, physical, emotional and spiritual acuity). Prayer, in its regular rhythmic timing, helps Muslims sharpen the saw at different times during the day. Just as a sharp saw cuts more wood than a dull saw, a Muslim who has refreshed himself with salah at the scheduled time is a more effective leader or follower. The following video is a TV ad from Kuwait seeking to encourage Muslims, in this case younger people, to pray at the scheduled salah time. All of us, youths or adults, should be punctual and not postpone prayer because of a video game, work, surfing the internet, or checking our e-mail. 

Missing one’s prayers is a grave issue. Ibn Mahyraiz narrated that ‘Ubadah ibn as-Samit […] heard the Messenger of Allah (s) say ‘Allah has laid five prayers upon His slaves. Whoever fulfills them and does not miss any of them will have a pact with Allah that He will let him enter Paradise. Whoever does not come with them will have no pact with Allah. If He wishes, He may punish him, and if He wishes, He may forgive him.” (Related by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, an-Nasa’i and Ibn Majah.) (Fiqh-us-Sunnah, volume 1, #81).

As indicated by the scholars in Fiqh Us Sunnah (volume 1, # 77b), not praying and denying its obligation is seen as disbelief and places the person outside the religion of Islam. All scholars agree on this point. They base their opinion on several hadith, some of which are listed below:

  1. Jabir reports that the Prophet (s) said, “Between a person and disbelief is discarding prayer.” (Related by Ahmad, Muslim, Abu Dawud, at-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah.)
  2. Buraidah reported that the Prophet (s) said, “The pact between us and them is prayer. Whoever abandons it is a disbeliever.” (Related by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, at-Tirmidhi, anNasa’i and Ibn Majah.)
  3. ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aas reported that the Prophet (s) one day mentioned the prayer and said, “Whoever guards and observes his prayer, they will be a light and a proof and a savior for him on the Day of Resurrection. Whoever does not guard and obvserve them, they will not be a light or a proof or a savior for him. On the Day of Resurrection, he will be with Qarun, Fir’aun, Haman and Ubayy ibn Khalf.” (Related by Ahmad, at-Tabarani and Ibn Hibban. Its chain is excellent.)

If someone has missed a salah intentionally, the majority of the scholars say that it is a sin and the missed salah must be made up for. (Fiqh-us-Sunnah, volume 2, #99).

The scholars agree that it is obligatory for one who has forgotten the salah or slept through its time to make up the missed [qada’) prayer. This opinion is based on another hadith of the Prophet (s) : “There is no negligence while one is asleep but forgetfulness occurs when one is awake. If one of you forgets the prayer or sleeps through its time, then he should perform the salah when he recalls it.” If one falls unconscious, then he need not repeat the salah, unless he regains his consciousness with enough time to purify himself and perform the salah within its proper time. (Fiqh-us-Sunnah, volume 2, #99).

Whenever one thinks of either postponing or missing one’s salah, one should remember that salah is the first act that the person will be held accountable for. ‘Abdullah ibn Qart related that the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, said “The first act that the slave will be accountable for on the Day of Judgement will be prayer. If it is good, then the rest of his acts will be good. And if it is evil, then the rest of his acts will be evil.” (Related by at-Tabarani.) (Fiqh-us-Sunnah, volume 1, #75)

Finally, salah is not only about ‘sharpening the saw’; it is also the first defining characteristics of those who succeed both in this dunya and in the Hereafter. This is how Allah describes them in the Qur’an (Surah 23, Al Mu’minun: 1-2):

The Believers must (eventually) win through–those who humble themselves in their prayers, ” […]