Personal Development Prayer With the Divine

Salah and the Worst Kind of Theft

3981433112_b5cc0f2f50_bThe only sad part of finding the straight path is when you lose it. There are many ways to fall, but no fall is more tragic than a fall in one’s deen. Sometimes it’s a sister who decided to take off her hijab and live a different type of life, other times it’s a brother who was once active in the community, but got caught up with the wrong crowd. But, with each story, somehow, somewhere along the line, our brothers and sisters fell so far.

Sadly, these stories are not uncommon. Sometimes we can’t help but look at them and wonder: How? Why? We wonder how someone who was so straight could have gotten so far off the path.

In wondering this, we often don’t realize that the answer may be simpler than we think. People fall into all types of sin, but there is one sin all these people have in common. There is one common denominator for every individual who lives a life full of sin. Whether that person was once on the straight path and fell, or whether that person was never on that path at all, one thing is for sure. That person had to first abandon, minimize, put aside, or ignore their salah (prayer) before they were able to fall.

If one is praying, but continues to live a life full of sin, that salah is likely only the action of limbs—not heart or soul. See, there is a crucial characteristic of salah that is often overlooked.  Besides being a sacred meeting with our creator, salah is a protection of the realest kind. Allah says, “Recite, [O Muhammad], what has been revealed to you of the Book and establish prayer. Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing, and the remembrance of Allah is greater. And Allah knows that which you do.” (Qur’an, 29:45)

When someone decides to abandon salah, they are also abandoning this protection. It is important to remember that this abandonment of salah often does not happen all at once, but rather in stages. It begins by delaying prayers out of their specified times and then combining one prayer with another. Soon it turns into missing the prayer all together. Before you know it, not praying becomes the norm.

Meanwhile something else is happening that cannot be seen. With every delayed or missed prayer, a hidden battle is being waged: The battle of shaytan. By abandoning the salah, the human being has put down the armor given to them by Allah, and has entered the battle field with no protection. Now shaytan can have full reign. Of this truth Allah says: “And whoever is blinded from remembrance of the Most Merciful – We appoint for him a devil, and he is to him a companion.” (Qur’an, 43:36)

So it should be of no surprise to anyone that neglecting salah becomes the very first step in the path to a lower life. Those who have fallen off the path need only to look back at where it began; and they will find that it began with the salah. The same is perfectly true the other way around. For those who wish to turn their lives around, it begins by focusing on and perfecting the salah. Once you put salah back as the priority—before school, work, fun, socializing, shopping, TV, ball games—only then can you turn your life around.

The irony of this truth is that many people are deceived into thinking that they need to first turn their life around, before they can start to pray. This thinking is a dangerous trick of shaytan, who knows that it is the salah itself which will give that person the fuel and guidance necessary to turn their life around. Such a person is like a driver whose car is on empty, but insists on finishing the journey before filling up on gas. That person won’t be going anywhere. And in the same way, such people end up in the same place for years: not praying, and not changing their lives. Shaytan challenged them, and won.

In so doing, we have allowed him to steal from us what is priceless. Our homes and our cars are so precious to us, that we would never think to leave them unprotected. So we pay hundreds of dollars on security systems to keep them safe. And yet our deen is left unprotected, to be stolen by the worst of thieves—a thief who has vowed God Himself to be our relentless enemy till the end of time. A thief who is not simply stealing some carved metal with a Mercedes symbol on it. A thief who is stealing our eternal soul and everlasting ticket to Paradise.

Originally published by InFocus News

About the author

Yasmin Mogahed

Yasmin Mogahed

Yasmin Mogahed received her B.S. Degree in Psychology and her Masters in Journalism and Mass Communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After completing her graduate work, she taught Islamic Studies and served as the Sisters’ Youth Director for the Islamic Society of Milwaukee. She also worked as a writing instructor for Cardinal Stritch University, and a staff columnist for the Islam section of InFocus News. Currently she’s an independent media consultant and a writer for the Huffington Post, where she focuses most of her work on spiritual and personal development. Her written works, including a book chapter on the portrayal of Islam post-911, have appeared in print and online publications worldwide.

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  • Masha’Allah a great article.
    The beauty of salat is amazing …

    It is so true how we guard our possessions more than our salat.
    How many of us would deliberately leave our house or car keys on the street or in the ignition?

    and how many deliberately delay or miss the salat.

    Our lives should fit around salat and not the other way round.

  • This is so true. I have always had problems with living in my own skin (not an image problem as many people would assume). I converted not too long ago and began to wear the hijab when I wasn’t at work (that’s another story). But lately I stopped wearing it because I would always make myself worry that I never tried things with my hair like wearing my hair down more or something else entirely different. Now it is starting with the salah. I would have to miss it if I was in a meeting or commuting from work and make it up when I get home. But now, even when I’m at home, time would go by and it wouldn’t even bother me too much.

    This article now has given me a different perspective on what I need to work on and hopefully improve soon.

  • All you have to do is make your wudu, face the qiblah. I’ve been there, it is the simplest thing there is yet it seems so hard (another shaytan game)

  • Ali,

    How many Muslims are you hoping to convert to your doctrine of “reason” on sidi Suhaib’s blog? Is your strategy of insult-preach working well?

    Indeed, atheists and agnostics are some of worst, most elitist people I have met. Extremism has many faces.

  • Hi Ali,

    I know you neither believe in God or Islam, so I’m not here to argue with you on this point here. Rather to point out:

    1. This entire discussion is applicable for the one who does believe in God and in the supremacy of the Islamic way of life as a means for gaining nearness to Him. For such a person, success is defined both in terms of worldy progress and spiritual development in accordance with the Islamic way, and that cannot be gained without Salah.

    2. I don’t think the argument claims that success at work, school, or social relationships is contingent upon Salah. Rather, it claims that success in gaining God’s pleasure and allowing a relationship with God to permeate one’s life, requires Salah. The purpose has already been set.

    3. Many people spend their lives learning about nutrition and reading books, but never take the effort to eat well to improve their health. That does not mean nutritional concepts are faulty, but that the people are lazy or not properly educated.

    Your analogy with Salah and people who don’t change their condition is flawed because it follows the same pattern as the above. It is the people who are flawed in their implmenetation, understanding, and effort, not the Salah itself.

    The Quran clearly brings a comprehensive order in 22:77: “Oh You Who Believe: Bow down, and prostrate yourself, and worship your Lord, and Do Good, in order that you might succeed.”

    Success has been tied not only to the Salah, but to worship of God comprehensively, and then to wholesome, righteous, beneficial actions – which covers the span of all good things in this world to improve the human condition, whether it is spiritual, or material. If a Muslim doesn’t practice that comprehensiveness, it is his/her fault.

    4. As for your statement about Shaytan and how it conflicts with General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics…I find it ironic that you brought up conflicts when these two theoretical systems – as awesome and useful as they are to us in understanding the world – have not yet been reconciled with each other.

    Nevertheless, people who believe in religion, most often believe in a spiritual world that is not neccessarily dependent on known physical laws so such a reconciliation is not neccessary. I’m surprised you even brought this up.

    Abdul Sattar

  • Abdul Sattar

    First of all, thank you for your response. And I understand you’re not aiming to convince me, and neither am I trying to convince you. I’d like some interesting discussion.

    1. You are absolutely correct. It is a message intended to preach to the choir, and I completely agree with you.

    2 and 3. I agree with that claim, that if one wishes to feel a sense of closeness to the Islamic conception of God, then yes salah is key. But that was never my concern. Rather it was the way the statement was phrased suggesting that success was contingent on salah. “Once you put salah back as the priority—before school, work, fun, socializing, shopping, TV, ball games—only then can you turn your life around.” I disagree with the idea because it has no proof, and numerous examples to contradict such a statement. I think if Islamic scholars wish to impart life changing ideas, then they should talk about people taking initiative to change their social condition, and not merely trust in supernatural or metaphysical claims.

    4. Absolutely correct. GR and QM have not yet been reconciled. The word of interest being yet. But there is significant evidence that the two models accurately predict our universe at the scale of large bodies of mass and at atomic and subatomic levels. If the Shaytan exists within this universe, he must be constrained by those laws. Yet, he depicts behavior completely in violation of both, so he cannot exist either at the atomic level, or at the level of large bodies. He joins the ranks of Maxwell’s demon and Laplace’s demon. Interesting ideas to talk about our universe, but nothing more.

    But since you advocate a spiritual world beyond the physical, I must concede to you, for I have only knowledge of this world. I was taught to believe that Shaytan was in the physical world, which is why I brought it up. But if he isn’t, then as you say, the reconciliation is unnecessary.

    As for Abd ul-Ghafur, I did not intend to be insulting. I articulated my points, perhaps in a way that you found insulting, but I suppose my right to free speech should guarantee the right for me to say what I want, in the manner I want.

    Which brings me to the interesting point that my comments are being censored by the ‘Adab patrol’. Oh well done! Mr. Abd ul-Ghafur, there is your elitism. A people who take it upon themselves to police the words of others. Indeed extremism begins with inability to tolerate criticism and opposition.

    • Assalamu alaikum Ali,

      I wouldn’t say the article was intended to ‘preach to the choir’–otherwise it would be useless. It was, however, intended for Muslims (ie those who believe the Quran is the faultless, unchanged word of God–the same book that tells us without a doubt that indeed Shaitan does exist). That is also the same book that defines ultimate success and failure.

      And so while, in a wordly sense, ‘success’ may be defined in many different ways, by many different people, the Quran defines it for those who believe in it:
      “Every soul shall have a taste of death: And only on the Day of Judgment shall you be paid your full recompense. Only he who is saved far from the Fire and admitted to the Garden will have attained success: For the life of this world is but goods and chattels of deception. “(3:185)

      “And [by] the soul and He who proportioned it And inspired it [with discernment of] its wickedness and its righteousness, He has succeeded who purifies it, And he has failed who instills it [with corruption].” (91:7-10)

      The Quran says: “And remind, for indeed, the reminder benefits the believers.” (51:55)
      This article was not intended to convince anyone to believe.
      It was intended to remind those who already do.

  • As’Salaamu Alaikum w/r w/b!

    I absolutely loved this article and have found myself in similar situations, but alhamdulillah I can say I found out what the priorities are and put Allah (swt) on the mind 24/7.

    But I do have one question, what happens to those who pray so adamantly, yet they still find themselves veering off the straight path? I ask because I notice some of my own friends (who are masha’Allah so knowledgable) yet they still insist to do what is blatantly wrong. May Allah (swt) guide us all and I must speak to myself before I speak to others because I myself am not perfect.

    It’s true that we don’t know what’s truly in the hearts of these people, but It seems as though if one “shows” outwardly that they are firm believers, yet they do things that are looked down upon, where do they fall with their salah? What would be their “diagnosis” although that probably isn’t the correct word?

    Allah Khair, May He guide us all and open the hearts of those who want it. May He give us the tawfiq to improve our spiritual state. Ameen.

    Holy Crackers

  • Islam is not about seeking the true path even though that is what every person should strive for. But, it is about seeking eternal peace…submitting yourself to a way of life that will give you peace of mind, peace of heart, peace of soul. We were created to worship God. That is our purpose in life. While reading quran, doing good deeds, being morally upright, all constitute acts of worhship in Allah’s eyes….Salah is the main act of worship. When you bow down and prostrate to Allah, your soul feels a sense of peace like no other. You are the closest to God and feel the safest. The only thing that can come close as when a child hears its mother’s voice or lays in its mother’s arms. It is our fitrah (our nature) to want to be close to Allah. Without it, we are spiritually sick or dead. Hence, God states our hearts become diseased.
    Now some might disagree with this due to the fact that salah has become a routine in their lives and don’t really feel any sense of spiritual connection or fulfillment. Then, honestly you are not really praying…You need to have khushoo which is dedication and you need to maintain this…I am a prime example..I have been going in circles with salah for years and recently stopped praying…My soul and body have become both sick and I am praying again…This time the right way. On top of reading the quran and struggling to be better. The only reason why we see it as a struggle is because of the challenge of the Shaitan. Remember he is ever present and bangs his head on the ground every time one of us prays and gets guided by Allah (Swt). He wasnt guided and had pride. So he sees as his mortal enemy until the day of judgement. DONT LET HIM WIN!! Allah tells us in the Quran that he is a plain Enemy and will challenge us over and over until he succeeds in misguiding us. YOu have to fight and struggle within your soul. INshallah i am trying to do the same…Believe me its not easy. But, I know my Rabb. He is my protector and my provider. I seek refuge

  • sorry made a few mistakes…
    I meant to say Islam is not only about seeking the true path and in the end I meant to say all must seek refuge with Allah (SWT). Peace be to all….Too bad no spell check!
    May ALlah guide us all and is make us strong in our salat…Dont give up on yourself…and Dont give up on Allah….He loves you and will forgive you…You must turn to him….Act Now! Excuse me…its prayer time where I’m at!
    P.S. There is that song…”You’ve got to pray just to make it today” That applies to us 100 %. IF your not Muslim or left Islam….”God help and guide you” Because Islam is like no other!!!!
    PEACE OUT!!!

  • Dear Brother Suhaib Webb,

    My name is Hanaa Hamad, and I’m a senior in college about to receive my bachelors in creative writing. To write on these types issues, to write about Islam, would be my dream job! InshaAllah, I will find that job soon.

    I was wondering if there is any way I could work for you and contribute to this website?


    A sister wanting to make a difference

  • […] everybody who provided feedback. It seems like there's a lot of demand for this kind of thing. …Salah and the Worst Kind of Theft Suhaib Webb – audio …Salah and the Worst Kind of Theft. 21 Comments. By Yasmin Mogahed | Also published at InFocus News. […]

  • My life was a complete mess before Allah guided me to salah. I started praying and all of a sudden, I found strength where there was nothing but weakness before. I still get confused sometimes and things still seem so new to me, but with prayer I find the strength to keep going. May Allah guide us all to this beautiful means of connecting with him and purifying our souls, Ameen. 🙂

  • Masyaallah and alhamdulillah! A simple reminder with a deep message on coming back to basics in life to all of us. SALAH! Thank you very much for this writing and please continue reminding as I want to improve my life now and in the akhirat.

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