The 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