My husband does not pray. Does my ...

Egypt's Dar Al-Ifta

My husband does not pray. Does my marriage become invalid?


My husband does not pray. Does my marriage become invalid?


The performance of the five daily prayers is one of the pillars of Islam and its position in faith is like that of the head to the body. There are many Quranic verses and prophetic traditions reminding Muslims of the importance of prayers and warning them of the dangers of neglecting them or performing them with laxity. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: "The barrier between a man and disbelief is the abandonment of prayers." Commenting on this hadith, the prominent scholar of hadith and jurisprudence, Imam Al-Nawawi, said that according to the consensus of Muslim scholars only the person who stops praying due to his belief that prayers are not obligatory ceases to be a Muslim. This is totally different from a person who has only recently joined Islam and has not lived with Muslims or was not informed that prayers are a religious obligation. Moreover, a person who believes that praying is a religious obligation and part of faith yet fails to perform them due to lack of commitment or laziness, cannot be considered an unbeliever according to the majority of prominent scholars. This person is rather considered a sinner and should be instructed to repent. Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal is the only imam who is reported to have taken the above hadith in one of two accounts as literal evidence to prove that someone who neglects to pray loses his faith.

In his book Tabaqat Al-Shafi'iyya Al-Subki includes Imam Al-Shafi'i and Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal's discussion of the status of those who abandon their prayers. Al-Shafi'i asked Ahmad: "Do you consider the person who abandons his prayers an unbeliever?" Ahmad replied: "Yes, I do." Al-Shafi'i then asked: "How does an unbeliever become a Muslim?" Ahmad said: "By testifying that there is no deity save God and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God." But Al-Shafi'i continued saying: "But he has never lost his faith in the shahada (testification of faith) as he still says it outside of prayer!" Ahmad responded: "To become Muslim, he must pray." Al-Shafi'i replied: "An unbeliever's prayer is invalid and he does not become a Muslim if he prays." At this, Ahmad was silent.

In Al-Mughni, Ibn Qudama argues that according to the school of Imam Ahmad, someone who abandons prayers is not counted as an unbeliever. If this is the case, then none of the four founders of the Sunni schools of jurisprudence or the majority of scholars describe this person as such i.e a non-Muslim. Therefore the relationship between a man and his wife must remain valid and beyond reproach.

Ibn Qudama also wrote in Al-Mughni that despite the number of people who throughout the ages have neglected their prayers, there are no records that a single Muslim judge has ever separated a Muslim man and his wife for this reason. He wrote: “It was never reported to us at any given time that someone who had abandoned their prayers was not washed for burial, prayed over, not buried in Muslim cemeteries, prohibited from inheriting and bequeathing, or separated from their spouse. Had they been judged non-believers, these penalties would surely have applied to them” (2/152).

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