“So woe to those who pray! Those who are neglectful of their prayer.” ~ Surat Al-Maun, Verses 4-5
For this month’s Quranic reflection, I chose verses 4 and 5 of Surat Al-Maun. If you read the translation of these verses, you may find yourself quite confused. The word “woe” means a “terrible calamity.” You may be asking yourself: Why would Allah (swt) claim that there will be a terrible calamity for the ones who pray? Aren’t the ones who pray considered to be amongst the practicing believers and the friends of Heaven?
Just like all of the words of Allah (swt), the answer is always multi-layered. Most of the verses in the Quran connect with one another. For that reason, we must recognize that the meaning continues on to the next verse which states, “Those who are neglectful of their prayer.” Allah (swt) is talking about those who consider themselves believers and pray, but are forgetful and careless of their prayer. Specifically, those who constantly miss and/or purposefully delay their prayers until the next prayer is about to enter.
One of the many beauties of Quranic language is that it is very specific and detailed in nature. These verses are a perfect example for such. Many may mistake the meaning of this verse to be about the people who are forgetful IN their prayers. However, that is not the case at all. Allah (swt) uses the word عَنۡ, which means “of” or “about.” Why didn’t Allah (swt) use the word “في,” which translates to “in.” Although it may be just one small word, it makes all the difference. In fact, mistaking this one small word will change the entire meaning of the verse.
If Allah (swt) used the word “في,” then the verse would be directed towards the people who are forgetful in, or during their prayers. Meaning, forgetting any step of the prayer, getting distracted while performing the prayer, or making a mistake during prayer. If this was the case, then nearly every Muslim in the world would be in dire trouble. However, it is important to recognize that out of His grace and mercy, Allah (swt) used the word “عَنۡ.” The verse actually translates to “Woe to those who are neglectful OF their prayers.”
Although it is very humbling and encouraging to say that over 1.6 billion Muslims exist all around the world in nearly every country, how many actually pray? Unfortunately, the number of Muslims around the world that actually pray is much lower than how many Muslims exist.
The first step in fixing this problem of neglecting and delaying prayer is understanding why Allah (swt) gave us the prayer. Allah (swt) blessed Muslims with the prayer because we, as Muslims, need a connection to our Lord. Allah (swt) does not need our prayer. In fact, He gets absolutely nothing from our prayer. He does not need us. Rather, it is we who need Him. We need the prayer so that we can talk to the most Merciful and seek His guidance.
The prayer is a gift from Allah (swt) to his servants. So, it makes absolutely no sense for us to neglect a gift. It almost seems as though we are not grateful or deserving of such a blessing from the most generous Allah (swt). Allah (swt) was generous and merciful enough to warn us of our destructive habits regarding the prayer, so let us not be amongst the ones who listen but don’t follow the best out of it just as many of the past nations have done with the Messengers (peace be upon them all).
By Ahmad Salah