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Not Praying: Major Sin or Nullifier of Islam?

“He who witnesses that there is no god but God, paradise is made obligatory for him.”

By Sidi Salman Younas / Sunni Path / 21 Mar 2014


There are people who say that abonding salaah nullifies your Imaan and makes you a disbeliever.I understand that the Hanafi position considers not praying a major sin- but does not take you outside the fold of Islam. Can you please provide proof of this. I would also be grateful if you could enlighten me what the other three Schools of thought are on this position (again with proofs). 


Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah 

The proofs showing that the one who abandons the prayer, without denying its obligatory nature, remains a Muslim and is ultimately saved are the various narrations of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) that demonstrate the sufficiency of the kalima in attaining salvation.

(1) It is narrated from the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace), “He who witnesses that there is no god but God, paradise is made obligatory for him.”

(Kattani in his Nazm al Mutanathir, Kitab al Iman #1. This narration is mass-transmitted in meaning (tawatur ma`nawi), as stated also in the Faydh al Qadir, by over 34 companions. Some narrations mention that “Allah will make prohibited for him the fire” while others state “Allah will make obligatory on him paradise” or “enter him into paradise”. Ibn Hajar `Asqalani in his Fath al Bari (kitab al riqaq) states that the narrations that come in the latter wordings are more emphatic than the former.)

(2) It is narrated from `Ubada ibn Samit that the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “Whoever witnesses that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is His Messenger, Allah forbids the fire from touching him.”

(Bukhari and Muslim)

Ibn Hibban narrated it in his Sahih with the addition “and makes paradise obligatory for him” (#199-204). Abu Hatim states, as mentioned by Ibn Hibban, that what is meant is the least level of paradise since the level one will attain in the hereafter varies depending on one’s actions, its amount, and quality.

(3) Abu Hurayra narrates that the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “Inform the people of the good news of my intercession on the Day of Judgment for he who witness that there is no god but God – sincerely with his heart.”


(4) It is narrated from Abu’l Darda’ that the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “He who says there is no god but God, He is one without partners, will enter paradise.” Abu’l Darda’ said, “I said: ‘Even the adulterer and the one who steals?’” The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) replied, “Yes, even the adulterer and on the one who steals.”

(Ahmad, Tabarani in his Kabir and his Awsat, Bazzar in his Musnad. Ibn Hajar Haytami says in his Majma` al Zawa’id, “The chain of Ahmad is the soundest.” Also narrated by Ibn Hibban #169 and #195)

This shows clearly that committing major sins does not make one a disbeliever.

(5) The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “Indeed he who dies witnessing that there is no god but God, one without partners, he attains paradise.”

(Tabarani in his Kabir. Haytami says, “Its men (s: in the chain) are trustworthy.”)

(6) The Prophet said, “Whoever dies without associating partners with Allah will be granted forgiveness.”

(Tabarani in his Kabir. Haytami says, “There is no harm in the chain.” Bukhari and Muslim narrate a similar narration from Ibn Mas`ud stating “will enter paradise.”)

The Position of the Shafi`is, Malikis & Hanbalis

The ruling for the Hanafi school has been provided previously and does not differ on the issue from the other schools.

(1) The Shafi`is:

The position of the Shafi`I school is that one who abandons the prayer without denying its obligatory nature is not considered a disbeliever.

Imam Nawawi explicates this in his Al Muhadhab stating, “He who is obligated to pray and he refuses to perform it, and [also] denies its obligatory nature, he is a disbeliever.” (Kitab al Salat, bab tarak al salat wa fih masa’il)

Further, he states, “Takfir is not done on abandoning the prayer [alone] because kufr relates to belief (i`tiqad) and his belief [s: regarding the prayer being obligatory] is sound. Thus, there is no ruling on his kufr.” (Ibid)

Imam Shirazi states in his Majmu`a, “When one abandons performing the prayer and denies its obligatory nature or denies its obligation yet does not abandon its performance, he is a disbeliever and an apostate according to the consensus of the community.”

Thus, it can be seen that even if one performs the prayer without believing it to be obligatory the verdict of disbelief applies. The crux of the matter is what Imam Tahawi mentions in his `Aqida, which is:

“A person does not step out or belief except by disavowing what brought him into it.” (Line 61)

The denial of the obligatory nature of prayer is denying decisively established texts from the Qur’an and the hadith, something one must accept and believe in.

(2) The Malikis:

It is stated in Mawahib al Jalil fi Sharh Mukhtasar Khalil that the fatwa of kufr only applies to the one who denies the obligatory nature of the prayer. Otherwise, he is not considered a disbeliever but is only subjugated to the prescribed punishment.

Similarly, Ibn Abi Zayd in his Risala states, “None from the people of the qibla become non-Muslims due to their wrong actions.”

Imam `Adawi in his commentary on the Risala says, “(due to their wrong actions) such as [abandoning] prayer.” He further states, “One does not exit from belief with us due to small sins or large, as opposed to the Kharijites and Mu`atizilites.”

(3) The Hanabalis:

Ibn Qudama in his al Mughni has a lengthy discussion on the topic of abandoning prayer and concludes that the correct verdict is that he who abandons the prayer without denying its obligation remains a Muslim. His case, he says, is the same as any other person who committed a major sin, such as murder or adultery. This is the position of the majority of the scholars.

He then proceeds to explain the narrations that stipulate the disbelief of the one who abandons the prayer and states, “He resembles the disbelievers” and not that he is one of them in “reality” (haqiqatan). This is because there are many narrations that state “such and such in kufr” without entailing the exiting of one from faith. For example, the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “Cursing a Muslim is fisq, killing him is kufr” and “Whoever addresses his brother as ‘oh disbeliever’, verily it returns to one of them” and “It is disbelief to deny ones lineage.” All of these narrations, says Ibn Qudama, mention such resemblance for the sake of emphasis and the gravity of committing certain acts. (Kitab al Salat, bab al hukm man tarak al salat)


With the above, one should also keep in mind that it is the prerogative of the scholars who are well-versed in the religion to pass verdicts on someone’s disbelief.


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