I have a question regarding something you said in two of your lectures available on YouTube. The first is entitled: “Deen & Culture: Conflict or Compromise” and the other: “Steps to strengthen Aqida in times of doubt.” You said that all the Imams of the Muslims agree that if someone does not pray Salat continuously and systematically and takes the matter lightly and does not even care about praying, then he is a kafir according even to the hanafis and shafiis. Is this true and what does this mean? Why then would someone, who did not pray for 20 years or so, have to make all those prayers up, if he was considered a kafir anyway? Please clarify your position. Jazak Allah.
May Allah reward you for bringing this important issue to my attention. It seems (after going through the video lectures pointed out by you) that I was not clear in what I said and perhaps gave the wrong impression. I ask Allah to forgive me for my mistake.
My understanding of the issue is similar to that of the vast majority of classical and contemporary Islamic scholarship in that a Muslim only commits disbelief (kufr) if he or she leaves prayer out of denial of its obligation (istihlal/juhud) or out of disdain and contempt (istikhfaf). All the four Schools of Islamic law are in agreement that such a person leaves the fold of Islam, and as such, if he or she became Muslim again, the missed prayers would not have to be made up according to the Hanafis and Malikis. According to the Shafi’is, however, such a person would have to make those prayers up, as a disciplinary measure.
As for leaving out prayer out of laziness (kasl), even if continuously, it does not entail disbelief according to the vast majority of Imams as long as one firmly believes in the obligation of the prayer and does not treat it with disdain and contempt. Such a person will need to make up for all the prayers missed. Yes, there is an opinion within the Hanbalis that such a person becomes an unbeliever and is dealt with as a renegade (murtad) from Islam. (See: al-Majmu, al-Mughni, Fath al-Qadir, al-Bahr al-Ra’iq and other Fiqh references)
In my lectures, I did use the Arabic terms “Istihlal (denying the obligation of prayer)” and in particular “Istikhfaf (disdain)” but it seems that I failed to explain them properly! Disdain means a lack of respect, or to look down upon someone or something, and a feeling that someone or something is unworthy of one’s consideration or respect. This is what I meant when I said, “taking the matter lightly and not caring” in the said lectures.
The majority of those who neglect the prayer, even for long periods, do so out of laziness, and not out of disdain. As such, their behavior does not entail Istikhfaf, and they remain Muslims al-Hamdulillah. However, there may be some who do in actual fact neglect prayers out of disdain, and feel that praying is not important. They do not perform even a single prayer including the Friday prayers for years on end (and some not even performing a single prayer in their entire life!), and when reminded, laugh off or dismiss lightly the importance of praying. I myself came across an individual who was of the opinion that bringing about peace in the world, having moral ethics and being an activist was far more important than praying. Another said he does not believe Allah will take him to account for neglecting the prayer as long as he does not hurt people’s feelings and offers the odd Eid or Friday prayer.
Having said that, it is not for us to start judging others or assume the worst of them; but rather, we should maintain a good opinion and consider them to be neglecting the prayer out of laziness unless there is an obvious admission on their part. As such, my lecture was geared towards avoiding falling into such tendencies rather than judging and classifying believers as disbelievers. May Allah keep us all steadfast on the deen, Ameen.
And Allah knows best.
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK