Questioner: Many people today are lax and neglectful regarding the prayer. What are the causes (for this situation) in your view, and what are the means that can be used to help Muslims return to it (to establishing the prayer properly) if Allaah wills?
As-shaykh al-‘allaamah Muhammed Ibn Saalih al-Uthaymeen (rahimahullaah) replied:
There are many causes for this. From the greatest and most important of them, is following the desires, and that is why Allaah – Blessed is He and Most High – mentioned neglecting the prayer together with following desires, when He – Exalted is He – said: “But there came after them successors [i.e. later generations] who neglected the prayer and pursued desires, so they are going to meet evil.” [19:59]
And from the causes, is people’s ignorance about the reality of this prayer; their ignorance about its importance; their ignorance about its benefits; their ignorance about its excellence and virtues; their ignorance about its (great) reward; their ignorance about its (lofty) status with Allaah – The Mighty and Majestic – and other than that from the affairs that cause many people to underestimate the prayer.
And from the causes of neglecting the prayer, is that many people who pray, merely go through the motions – may Allaah grant us and them pardon and safety, merely performing an action of the limbs, not an action of the heart (as well), so you can hardly find in them any submissiveness or reverence or humility before Allaah – The Mighty and Majestic, nor any awareness of what they are saying in their prayer, nor any awareness of what they are doing, and that is why they leave the prayer (when they finish) without benefitting anything; without attaining any light for their hearts; without achieving any increase in their eemaan; and without abandoning immoral acts and evil deeds; all of that (is so), because they pray the prayer of a body that has no soul, and if they gave the prayer its due right, in terms of humility, awareness of the heart, repentance to Allaah, and feeling that one is standing before his Lord, then one would have loved the prayer; and would have become attached to it, and his heart would become inclined towards it, and that is why the Prophet (peace and prayers be upon him) said:
“The prayer was made the coolness of my eyes (my comfort).” [Sunan An-Nassaa’i, no. 3939]
[Fatawaa Noor ‘ala Darb 4/7-8]