“Allahu Akbar… Allahu Akbar…”
I hear the adhan through the windows of my office, and I see the pop up on my computer, “It’s time for dhuhr prayer.”
Few minutes earlier, I just started getting into the flow of my work and I don’t want the momentum to be lost. So I tell myself, “I still got 20 minutes until iqama time. Let me wrap this up and I will make it in time, in sha Allah.”
25 minutes later, I know salaah started and I am frantically trying to send that last e-mail before rushing off to make a quick wudhu and join the prayers. I am late, again!
And this was not only for zuhr prayer, but for all 5 daily prayers: late for fajr because I woke up late, late for zuhr and ‘asr because of work, late for maghreb because of rush hour, late for ‘isha because of dinner!
And each time I was late, I felt bad, and told myself, “This is the last time I will ever be late!” And guess what? For the next salaah, I was late again. In fact, I was the brother who seemed to have a permanent position in the last rows of every musallah/masjid I entered.
Initially, I was taking this lateness lightly. In fact, I fell into the classic trap of shaytaan and said to myself: “Alhamdulillah, brother, at least, you pray, and in the masjid as well! Masha Allah, how many brothers are out there who do not pray in the masjid, or pray at all!” But slowly I realised, this lateness was making an impact on my spirituality and character, and affecting my overall productivity.
Why being chronically late for salaah is bad for you?
When you are always late for salaah, it says a lot about you and your character. It shows that you lack discipline, internal strength, and integrity to be where you are supposed to be ‘on time’ for your most important appointments of the day, and you are not dependable.
No one likes to say about themselves that they are not dependable or lack discipline, but actions speak louder than words, and being late for salaah is the first warning that you are on a slippery slope towards being chronically late in everything else in your life.
Al-Hasan Al-Basri said:
“When salah is the least of your concerns, then what is your most important concern? As much as you fix your salaah, your life will be fixed. Did you not know that salaah was equated with Success: ‘Come to Prayer, Come to Success.’ How can you ask Allah for success when you are not responding to His right upon you?”
If you are wondering why there is a delay in your sustenance, in your marriage, in your work, in your health, look into your salaah: are you delaying it?
Why are we late for salah?
When I started looking deeper into myself and asked myself why am I ALWAYS late for salaah, it boiled down to 3 spiritual reasons and 3 practical reasons:
1. Lack of understanding of who Allah is
My lateness for salaah was, unfortunately, a sign that I had not understood who Allah is. I failed to comprehend His Power and Majesty. You probably have heard the cliche’ example of “If you are invited by the King or the President or the Prime Minister of a country, would you not attend in your best manners, best clothes, and very early? How come when Allah , the King of kings, invites us for salaah, we do not take this invitation seriously?” I will go a bit deeper than this and say, ‘If we truly have faith in the unseen and have faith in the Messenger of Allah telling us that Allah wants us to meet Him 5 times every day in our salaah, then we should take salaah more seriously.’
2. Lack of appreciation of the gift of salaah
It always fascinates me how salaah is the ONLY OBLIGATION that was revealed to Prophet Muhammad in the Heavens during the Israa and Mir’aj journey. Every other obligation was revealed here on earth. It is as if Allah is sending the message that salaah is so important that He wants to gift it personally to Prophet Muhammad and his Ummah. When we are late for salaah, what does that tell us about our appreciation of this gift from Allah ?
3. Lack of knowledge of the relation between salah and rizq (sustenance)
The number one excuse people (including myself) use for being late for salah is that they are chasing after their sustenance. You hear excuses such as “I have a meeting…”, “I have an important call…”, “I have a lecture…” etc.
What we fail to realise is that by delaying our salah and taking salah so lightly, the barakah is being removed from our sustenance even if we make material gain during the period we miss salah. Allah Ar-Razzaq says in the Qur’an:
“And enjoin prayer upon your family [and people] and be steadfast therein. We ask you not for provision; We provide for you, and the [best] outcome is for [those of] righteousness.”[Qur’an: Chapter 20, Verse 132]
Notice how Allah linked salah with seeking provision and He is promising us through these verses that if we pray and enjoin our families to pray, He will provide for us.
1. Underestimating how long things will take
I used to have the wrong perception of time where I think it takes me 10 minutes to get to the masjid. But I forget to factor in the time it takes me to make wudhu, go downstairs, leave the office building, walk across to the masjid, and put my shoes away before finally entering the masjid. The time taken from the moment I leave my office till I get to the masjid is actually closer to 20 minutes and not 10 minutes!
A lot of times the reason why I am late for salaah is that I procrastinate on a task earlier on those days or weeks. This procrastination then leads to impending non-negotiable deadlines that I have to meet and does not allow me to make it for salaah on time.
3. Enjoying the ‘rush’
Deep down, I used to enjoy the ‘rush’ that the time between adhan and iqama provides. As soon as adhan goes off, I switch to laser sharp focus and I get a lot done in those 20 minutes, but of course, at the expense of salaah.
How to break out of being chronically late for salaah?
Being chronically late for salaah is a pattern and the moment you understand how that pattern develops, you can make small tweaks in your daily life and mindset, and develop a new pattern that helps you make it to salaah on time – every time. Below are the top 10 tips to break out of being chronically late for salaah:
1. Own up to the problem
Admit you have a problem of being late. If you think you are OK, and that you should be applauded for just praying, then you will never take this lateness seriously. By realising that being late for salah is not what Allah or His Messenger love, it forces you to own up to the problem and want to do something about it.
2. Redefine punctuality as a matter of faith
We hear the verse from the Qur’an that says:
“…Indeed, prayer has been decreed upon the believers a decree of specified times”[Qur’an: Chapter 4, Verse 103]
Let us internalise it and make it part of our faith. Ask yourself the following questions:
Do you truly believe that Allah is calling you to meet Him?
Do you truly believe that salaah is His gift for you?
Do you truly believe that success, sustenance, and barakah will come from praying on time?
If you do, then be punctual with your salaah and show Allah that you are eager to meet Him.
3. Note the benefits of being on time for salaah
Unfortunately for some people, they think it is a waste of time to be early for salaah. They say, “What will I do? Just sit there and wait?” What they do not realise is the immense virtue of simply waiting for salah. I will mention three ahadith to inspire you:
- Narrated ‘Abdullah :
I asked the Prophet “Which deed is the dearest to Allah ?” He replied, “To offer the prayers at their early stated fixed times.” [Bukhari]
- Narrated Abu Huraira :
Allah’s Apostle said, “The angels keep on asking for Allah’s Blessing and Forgiveness for anyone of you as long as he is at his Musalla (praying place) and does not do Hadath (passing wind). The angels say, ‘O Allah! Forgive him and be Merciful to him.’ Each one of you is in the prayer as long as you are waiting for the prayer and nothing but the prayer detains you from going to your family.” [Muslim]
- Narrated Abu Huraira :
The Prophet said: “If the people knew the reward for the zuhr prayer in its early time, they would race for it. If they knew the reward for the ‘isha and the fajr prayers in congregation, they would join them even if they had to crawl. If they knew the reward for the first row, they would draw lots for it.” [Bukhari]
4. Stop work at adhan
Allah says in the Qur’an:
“So woe to those who pray [but] those who are heedless of their prayer” [Qur’an: Chapter 107, Verses 4-5]
This verse is a stern warning for those of us who pray but are heedless of their prayers and do not give it its due attention. The safe thing to do, when you hear the adhan or you know it is time for salah, is to get ready for it and answer the call of Allah .
5. Shoot to arrive 5-15 minutes early
I explained in a previous post about how I wake 45 minutes early before Fajr regardless of the season. The same principle I now apply for other daily prayers. I had set an alarm 30 minutes before when I am supposed to leave for the masjid and that gives me 30 minutes to wrap up whatever I am doing and get to the masjid 5-15 minutes early.
6. Time yourself
One of the ways that helped me understand how long it truly takes me to get from my office to the masjid, was to use a timer. So I will press start on a timer as soon as I leave my office and press stop when I enter the masjid. This gives me an accurate door to door estimation of how long it takes me to get to the masjid and I build that into my schedule. If you do this exercise you will be surprised at how the little things add up and end up delaying you without you even realising.
7. Keep things at specific places
One of the biggest reasons people end up late is they misplace something they need before going out. Could be their keys, wallet, handbags, etc. Do not fall for this and keep things at a particular place and leave important things (keys, wallet etc.) by the door that you are not wasting time trying to find them and ending up waiting for salah.
8. Keep a salah clock in around the house
To inspire your family to always pray on time and not delay salaah, purchase one salaah wall clock and have it somewhere centrally in the house. Train your children when they hear the adhan from this clock (especially if they do not live close to a masjid) to drop what they are doing and get ready for salaah.
And this is a note to parents: If your kids see you are careless about salaah and do not drop what you are doing to get ready for it when the adhan goes off, guess what the children will learn!
9. Plan your life around salaah
All the aforesaid tips boil down to planning your life around salaah. What I recommend my coaching clients to do is to block time out for salaah in their calendars and set a 30-minute reminder before each one. This way they will not accidentally place a meeting or a call or an errand during salaah time and end up delaying salaah. As we say on ProductiveMuslim:
“Plan your life around salah and not the other way around!”
10. Do not put anything between you and salaah
I learned this from a scholar who said that his teacher told him never to place anything between him and salaah. What this means is that you should not place an errand or a task or somebody between you and salah. The moment the adhan goes off, do not say ‘I will pass by the groceries and then head out to salaah’ or ‘I will send this e-mail and then I will pray’ or ‘I will beat the rush hour traffic then I will pray.’ Do not place anything between you and salaah. This is the guidance of the Prophet who would be with his family helping them and serving them, but when the adhan is called, he would proceed for salaah.
‘Aishah was asked: “What did Messenger of Allah used to do inside his house?” She answered: “He used to keep himself busy helping members of his family, and when it was the time for salaah (the prayer), he would get up for prayer.” [Bukhari]
The tips in action
“Allahu Akbar… Allahu Akbar…”
I hear the adhan through the windows of my office, and I see the pop up on my computer, “It is time for zuhr prayer.”
I stop what I am doing because I already had a 30-minute head start to wrap up, go make wudhu and head to the masjid. I arrive 10 minutes early, pray the sunnah prayers, make dua, and read the Qur’an. I pray in jama’a in the first row, and sit after salaah to complete the athkar, and pray the sunnah prayers. I come back to the office refreshed, rejuvenated and ready for another productive session at work.
What a difference from my rushed, and late salah!
Here is a thought I always keep in mind to push me to go early for salaah: Prophet Muhammad taught us that on the Day of Judgement when the people of Heaven enter Heaven, and the people of Hell enter Hell, there will be a special day every week (Friday according to most hadith) where people of heaven will be called to meet Allah . On that Day, we will be sitting in rows and speaking to Allah . But the interesting bit is: How close you are to Allah on that Day, i.e. which row you will be sitting at, depends on how early you used to go for Jumuah.
It was narrated that ‘Alqamah said: “I went out with ‘Abdullah to Friday (prayer), and he found three men who arrived before him. He said: ‘The fourth of four, and the fourth of four is not far away. I heard the Messenger of Allah say: “On the Day of Resurrection people will gather near Allah according to how early they came to Friday (prayer), the first, second, and third.’” Then he said: ‘The fourth of four, and the fourth of four is not far away.’” [Ibn Majah]
Those who are always keen to be in the first rows of the masjid for Jumuah will be the closest to Him on the day Allah meet people of the Heaven. Now think about it this way: If throughout the week, you’ve been practicing with the 5 daily prayers to be there early and on-time, don’t you think it’d be easier for you to be early for Jumuah?
So next time when you are tempted to be late for salah (especially for Jumuah), ask yourself: Am I willing to fall further and further behind in the rows on that Day when there will be nothing sweeter or more special than being closer to Him?
May Allah make us all of those who are in the front rows in this life and the next.
Written by Mohammed Faris
Mohammed Faris is an international coach, author, and speaker who helps individuals and teams live the best versions of themselves – spiritually, physically, and socially. He’s the founder of The Productive Muslim Company and author of “The Productive Muslim: Where Faith Meets Productivity.