Prayer is the second pillar and also the most important pillar of Islam after the testimony of faith. It’s a practical sign of our obedience and submission to Allah Almighty and also a practical proof of our faith in Him and Islam.
:The Almighty Allah says
Attend regularly to your prayers, particularly the middle prayer, and stand up before God in devout obedience. If you are in fear, pray walking or riding. When you are again secure, remember God, since it is He who has taught you what you did not know. (Al-Baqarah 2:238-239)
This is a clear instruction to Muslims to attend regularly to the five daily prayers, offering them in the proper manner, in the correct form, and at their appointed times.
The middle Prayer is generally taken to refer to `Asr (Afternoon Prayer) on the basis of reports that on the day of the Battle of the Trench (Ghazwat Al-Khandaq), 5 AH-627 CE, the Prophet (peace be upon him) was heard cursing the enemy forces for “causing us to miss the middle prayer of `Asr. May Allah engulf their hearts and homes in fire.” The reason for a specific mention of the `Asr Prayer is perhaps because it falls during that part of the afternoon when people take a short rest and may easily miss it.
Surat Al-Baqarah also emphasizes a total devotion during prayers, because in the early days, Muslims used to, if they felt the need, talk and break away from the prayer to attend to urgent business. When this verse was revealed, it became clear that nothing should distract one from prayer and that worshippers must stand before Allah in a state of complete submission and devotion.
The verse also points out that even in times of danger and war, Muslims must not neglect the obligatory prayers. They may perform them in the most convenient way possible under the circumstances. They are permitted to perform the prayer in whatever posture they find themselves in, walking or riding, without having to face the qiblah (the direction of the Ka`bah) or follow the prescribed procedure. This is not to be confused with Salat Al-khawf or ‘prayer while in a state of fear’, referred to in Surat An-Nisaa’), which relates specifically to the performance of prayer in the battlefield.
If fighting actually breaks out, or an enemy attack is imminent, the ruling given in the present verse will apply. The great importance that Allah attaches to prayer is very clear. It is seen as a source of inspiration and moral support, and should not be neglected no matter how dangerous or threatening the situation may be. In times of war, it is another weapon a Muslim may use in facing the enemy. It is a supply line from Allah Almighty at a most crucial moment.
Islam is a religion founded upon the worship of Allah, in various forms and in all circumstances. Prayer is the foremost manifestation of man’s submission to Allah. Through the worship of Him, man attains the highest level of purity, gains divine support and direction, and achieves total peace of mind. Hence, prayer must never be neglected, even if one is in the line of fire. When safety and security prevail, prayer must be observed in the normal way, as taught to Muslims by Allah Almighty in the Qur’an and through the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
This article is based on the interpretation of some verses from Surat Al-Baqarah quoted in Sayyid Qutb’s In the Shade of the Qur’an published by Islamic Foundation in 2003.