Shaykh Abdullāh ibn Humayd:
The Salāh (Prayer) has merits and special characteristics which other aspects of the Islamic legislation do not have.
Firstly: Zakāh is not obligatory except once a year, and it is not obligatory except upon the wealthy. Likewise, fasting is not obligatory except once a year, and it is not obligatory except upon those who are able to perform it. Hajj is not obligatory except once in a lifetime, and it is only obligatory upon those who are able to perform it and have the means to do so. As for the prayer, it is obligatory five times a day. It must be performed by the sick, the traveller and the resident; and this shows its great importance.
Secondly: The prayer is performed in congregation. The Muslims perform it organized in rows behind the one leading them. No other religious practise in Islām is performed in this manner, rather, each person performs his acts of worship individual. As such, one person’s worship is not connected to another person’s worship. Thus, you perform Hajj individually, you fast individually, you pay your Zakāh individually – unlike the Salāh, for indeed the Muslims gather in one place all in rows next to one another, shoulder to shoulder performing it organized in rows behind the Imām. This indicates its great importance.
Thirdly: The Messenger (ﷺ) commanded us to teach it to our children when they reach seven years of age. He ﷺ said: “command your children to pray when they reach seven years of age.”
He did not say: ‘command your children to fast’ or ‘command your children to perform Hajj’ – rather he ﷺ said: “Command your children to pray when they reach seven years of age, discipline them regarding it when they reach ten years of age, and separate their sleeping quarters.”
This is despite the fact that seven year olds are not under obligation to pray, as is agreed by all Muslims. So, if a seven, eight or nine year old does not pray, he would not be doing anything wrong and neither would his guardian be guilty of any sin because it is not obligatory upon him. However, Allāh’s Messenger (ﷺ) commanded us to teach our young ones when they reach the age of seven because the daily prayers are of such high importance. This results in the children receiving a proper upbringing through which they become accustomed to going to the masjid and a love for the daily prayers is planted in their hearts, and they grow up to be good and righteous.
This is because the daily prayers discourage lewd and sinful behaviour and because it is the greatest pillar of Islām after the Shahādatayn (two testimonies of faith).
Then the Messenger (ﷺ) commanded us to spank them when they reach the age of ten. This spanking is not given using a stick but rather it should be a spanking that matches the [child’s] physique and intelligence, such as pulling his ear or a smack with a hand and such, because it is not mandatory for him to pray, but rather it is out of fear that he will grow up as someone who habitually abstains from the daily prayers or takes them lightly.
All of this indicates the great importance of the Salāh.
Fourthly: The Lord took it upon Himself to give the commandment for the daily prayers to the Messenger (ﷺ) directly. This is in contrast to all the other instructions whereby Allāh (ﷻ) commands [angel] Jibrīl who then informs the Prophet (ﷺ) of Allāh’s command. The instruction for the daily prayers, on the other hand, was not given through Jibrīl, instead it was given above the seventh heaven during his ascension which indicates its great importance since it was obligated in the highest and most raised of places.
Fifthly: Allāh (ﷻ) initially made it obligatory upon the Messenger (ﷺ) as fifty prayers. Which indicates Allāh’s love for it, its great status and that it causes the slave to have humility, submission and powerlessness in front of his Lord. However, the Messenger (ﷺ) continued to go back and forth between his Lord and Mūsá (). Mūsá kept on telling him, “go back to your Lord and ask Him for a reduction [in the amount], for your people will not be able to do that [amount].” until it became five prayers and Mūsá () said: “Go back to your Lord and ask him to lighten it”. The Messenger (ﷺ) said, “I have asked my Lord to reconsider many times. I have now become too shy [to ask Him again].”
Then a caller announced, “I have decreed My obligation and have reduced the burden on My slaves.” For indeed the reward did not decrease, so it is as if you are praying fifty prayers, all that reduced was the number of prayers. All of this indicates the greatness of it.
Sixthly: The prayer is the most mentioned obligation in the Qur’ān. We find that the verses related to Fasting and Hajj are much fewer, for indeed they have been mentioned in around four verses whereas the Salāh has been mentioned a lot.
For indeed Allāh (ﷻ) gives it exclusive mention in His statement:
“Establish as-Salāh (prayer), at the two ends of the day and in some hours of the night.” (Hud 114)
“Perform as-Salāh (prayer) from mid-day till the darkness of the night.” (Sūrah al-Isrā’ 78)
Sometimes He coupled it with the Zakāh as Allāh (ﷻ) said:
“Perform as-Salāh (prayer) and give Zakāh.” (Sūrah al-Baqarah 43)
Allāh (ﷻ) also coupled it with sacrifice in His statement:
“Say (O Muhammad): Verily, my Salāh (prayer), my sacrifice, my living, and my dying are for Allāh, the Lord of the ‘Alamin (all that exists), He has no partner.” (Sūrah al-An’ām 162-163)
And with patience in His statement:
“Seek help in patience and as-Salāh (the prayer).” (Sūrah al-Baqarah 45)
Occasionally He would mention it after mentioning worship generally:
“Verily! I am Allāh! none has the right to be worshipped but I, so worship Me, and perform as-Salāh (prayer) for My Remembrance.” (Sūrah Tāhā 14)
Which is specification after generalisation.
Likewise, in the other verse:
“And We made them leaders, guiding (mankind) by Our Command, and We inspired in them the doing of good deeds, performing Salāh.” (Sūrah al-Anbiyā’ 73)
So establishing the prayer is categorised under the performance of good deeds, however He mentioned it specifically from the method of specifying after generalising which indicates its greatness.
He also said:
“…always turning in repentance to Him (only) and be afraid and dutiful to Him; and perform as-Salāh (prayer).” (Sūrah ar-Rūm 31)
For indeed prayer enters into taqwa (piety), since taqwa is: complying by Allāh’s commands and avoiding His prohibitions. All of this indicates its greatness and significant importance.
Also, when Allāh (ﷻ) mentioned the believers and their virtuous actions and noble manners, he started it with the prayer and concluded it with the prayer
“Successful indeed are the believers. Those who offer their Salāh (prayers) with all solemnity and full submissiveness.”
Until He said:
“And those who strictly guard their prayers.” (Sūrah al-Mu’minūn 1-9)
Seventhly: The Salāh is a pillar of Islām, so your portion from Islām is according to your portion of the Salāh. A house cannot stand without pillars, likewise it is not possible for a tent to stand without a pole, so if the pole falls then the tent falls – so the Prophet (ﷺ) likened the Salāh to a pillar, as it is found in the hadeeth of Mu’ādh (I).
Eightly: Allāh (ﷻ) made it obligatory upon male, female, rich, poor, resident, traveller , healthy and sick; no one is excused for abandoning it.
The traveller must pray, but he is allowed to break his fast. The poor person must pray, but Hajj and Zakāh are not obligatory upon him. The sick person is allowed to break his fast in the day of Ramaḍān, and he is not obligated to perform Hajj, unless he is rich, then he must appoint someone to perform Hajj and Umrah on his behalf, as it is known – however he is obligated to pray.
If he is able to, he should pray standing, and if not then on his side, if he is not able to do that then he should indicate even if it’s just with his eyes.
Rather the scholars say: the Salāh does not fall even from the sick person, as long as he still has his intellect. All of this indicates the greatness of the Salāh.
Ninthly: That it is from the last of things which the Prophet (ﷺ) advised with before his death with his statement: “The prayer, the prayer and those whom your right hands possess.”
Tenthly: The Salāh is the first of the actions of the slave which Allāh (ﷻ) will look at on the day of Judgement. Allāh (ﷻ) will not look at the persons Zakāh, Siyām (fasting) or Hajj until he looks at his prayer.
Eleventhly: The one who abandons the prayer, Allāh (ﷻ) will not accept his Zakāh, Siyām, Hajj, Jihād, enjoining the good, forbidding the evil, maintaining the ties of kinship, and his dutifulness to his parents. Rather all his actions are rejected if he does not pray.
Twelfthly: The one who abandons the prayer is killed as a disbeliever – upon the opinion of a group of the scholars – even if he accepts the obligation of the prayer, and that is the position of Ahl al-Hadīth and Imām Ahmad, and upon this opinion when he is killed: he is not to be washed, nor shrouded nor prayed over, nor buried in the graveyards of the Muslims, rather he is thrown (buried) in any hole, he has no worth, the dog is better than him.
This is the great status of the Salāh.
 Musnad Ahmad (6756) Sunan Abū Dāwūd (494)
 Sahīh al-Bukhārī (349) Sahīh Muslim (163)
 Sunan at-Tirmidhī (2616)