After the Shahaadah, (declaration of faith), the most important duty upon the Muslim is performing the Salaah (obligatory Prayers). Indeed, Salaah is the thing that distinguishes between the Muslim and the kaafir (disbeliever) [according to the majority of scholars].
The Prophet, salla Allaahu 'alayhe wasallam, said; 'Between a man and disbelief is (only) the abandonment of salaah.' [Muslim] He, salla Allaahu 'alayhe wasallam, also said; 'The first thing for which the servant (of Allaah) shall be called to account for (on the Day of Reckoning), is the Salaah. If it was good, then the rest of his deeds are good and if it was bad, then the rest of his deeds are bad.' [At-Tabaraanee]
Allaah, subhaanahu wata'aala, and then His Prophet, Muhamaad, salla Allaahu 'alayhe wasallam, emphasised the importance of Salaah (Prayer). He, subhaanahu wata'aala, said: "Then there has succeeded them a posterity who have given up prayers and have followed lusts. So they will be thrown in Hell." [Maryam:59]
Also: "Every person is a pledge for what he has earned. Except those on the Right; (i.e. the pious true believers). In Gardens, they will ask one another concerning the guilty, 'What has caused you to enter Hell?'
They will say, 'We were not of those who used to pray ..." [Al-Muddathir: 38-43]
So to all those who abandon the prescribed Prayers, we ask: what will be your position on that terrible day when Allaah will resurrect you? On the Day of Judgement the Prophet, salla Allaahu alayhe wasallam, will indeed turn you away from his Hawd, (the Pond), where the true believers will be gathered with him, all because you have abandoned the salaah! Is this the condition you wish to be in?
He, salla Allaahu alayhe wasallam, will certainly know his true followers, who will be recognised from the brightness of their skins, this being the traces of their Wudoo’ (ablutions). So a person who abandons salaah will also be recognised since there will be no signs of the Wudoo’ on him!
Know that Allaah, subhaanahu wata aala, has cursed Shaytaan and on the Day of Judgement he will be thrown into Hell because he was too proud to prostrate to Aadam, alayhis-salaam, when ordered to. Such is the condition of the one who failed to prostrate to Allaah, subhaanahu wata aala and disobeyed His orders, so how will it be for the person who failed to prostrate in Salaah?
We should seriously ponder over the following example, which shows how worried the Khaleefah Umar ibn al-Khattaab, radiya Allaahu anhu, was about the affairs of the people under his rule, especially their salaah. When he was stabbed, he fell down unconscious and when he, radiya Allaahu anhu, regained consciousness, the very first thing he uttered was, 'Did the people pray?' They said 'Yes' to which he replied, 'No Islaam for him, he who abandons salaah.'
Some of the Companions even held that abandoning the obligatory duty of salaah was an act of Kufr! Ibn Masoud, radiya Allaahu anhu, said, 'Whoever leaves the salaah has no religion (i.e. he is not a Muslim)' and Abu Ad-Dardaa, radiya Allaahu anhu, said, 'He who doesn't perform salaah, has no Eemaan (belief).'
From the aforementioned haadeeths and verses of the Qur'aan, we can see clear warnings regarding those who abandon salaah. Do not fool yourself into believing that you are still young or that you are too busy trying to earn a living for your family. These excuses will not be valid in front of your Lord and this is a dangerous game we are playing with the Master of the Universe. Every soul will taste death. It could even be you in the next hour, if Allaah, subhaanahu wata aala, wishes. Spare a moment to think about yourself and how you will fare tomorrow in the presence of Allaah, the Almighty, the Supreme. Do we want to depart in such a wretched state, without performing such a momentous obligation? Allaah, subhaanahu wata aala, says:
"And Hell will be brought near that Day. On that Day will man remember, but how will that remembrance then avail him?" [Al-Fajr: 23]
On the Day of Judgement, man will remember that he abandoned salaah, yet he will cry to return to the world so that he could Pray. But there will be no return. Now he must stand before Allaah. Now he will realise that: "None punishes as He will punish on that Day." [Al-Fajr: 25]
It is a tragedy that one recognises the truth of his condition and yet still continues in the old ways and turns away. If we really believe in Allaah and the Last Day, if we believe in the Judgment and punishment, we should take Allaah's orders very seriously and eagerly hasten to fulfill them. We should rush to pray and prostrate to Allaah, expelling the whisperings of the deceiving Shaytaan.
Know that Shaytaan is good at making the salaah seem like a chore or a waste of energy. But the true believer will know that salaah is the greatest opportunity for every Muslim to have their sins forgiven, to earn Allaah's huge rewards and to get to the Jannah that He has promised for all those who bow down and prostrate to their Lord. These are the ones who love to obey the commands of their Lord, and who are constant in Praying their salaah.
Finally, let us heed Allaah's warning: "And who does greater wrong than he who is reminded of the revelation of His Lord, then he turns aside therefrom? Verily, We shall exact retribution from the guilty" [As-Sajdah:22]
And remember Allaah's glad tidings (interpretation of the meaning):
"Successful indeed are the believers. Those who offer their Prayers with humility and attentiveness (khushoo)."
"(They are those) Who are certain that they are going to meet their Lord and that unto Him they are going to return."