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Ibadah – Is More Always Better?

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more_isnt_always_better.JPGThroughout my childhood, my family would visit my five uncles and grandmother in Michigan, making us well experienced in taking road trips and traveling. As a result, I was familiar with the practice of shortening one’s prayers while traveling, even in my youth.

At one point in my childhood, I started rethinking the practice altogether. I thought that while I’m allowed to shorten my prayer, why not just pray them in full, especially since I have the time and energy as a nine-year old on summer break. After all, logically speaking, more is always better, right?

Plus since we were living in a world of air conditioning and refrigeration, there was no real difficulty in traveling, and thus, no need to shorten my Salah. So for a few days, I began to pray my Salah in full, even as a traveler.

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Shortly thereafter, I learned I was completely wrong. Not only was my logic of “more is always better” incorrect, I actually would have been rewarded more for doing less. How was that?

One of the beautiful aspects of this religion is in following the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) as a complete guide in life. Whatever he commanded, we comply with, and whatever he practiced, we try to emulate.

As a result, if the Prophet (SAW) refrained from doing something, such as praying less prayer while traveling, Muslims subsequently get reward from also refraining from that act. More isn’t necessarily always better; following the actions of the Prophet (SAW) is.

Musa ibn Salamah al-Hadhali said: “I asked Ibn ‘Abbaas, ‘How should I pray if I am in Makkah and I do not pray with the imam?’ He said, ‘Two rak’ahs, and this is the way of Abu’l-Qaasim (SAW).” [Sahih Muslim]

Many people, like me in the traveling story, tend to believe that more is always better. In obeying Allah (SWT) and His Messenger (SAW), this isn’t always the case. Acts of worship in Islam aren’t so primitively ritualistic. Rather, there is a science behind them that falls back on the tradition of the Prophet (SAW), regardless of whether it seems like we’re doing more or less.

It’s important to realize this and teach it to ourselves and our children. This not only gives us the proper understanding of our religion, it prevents us from doing silly things like praying the prayers in full while traveling out of town. :P

May Allah ‘azza wa jal give us the proper understanding of His religion and guide us to actions that reward us, be they more or less.

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SaqibSaab is an average Desi Muslim guy living in Chicago. He enjoys videography and design as side hobbies, and helps out with AlMaghrib Institute in Chicago, Wasat Studios, and other projects here and there. His go-around vehicle is a 2007 Volkswagen Jetta 5-speed Wolfburg Edition. Originally born in Michigan, he and his wife reside in Chicagoland with his parents who come from Bangalore, India. He blogs personally at SaqibSaab.com.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Dawud Israel

    May 5, 2008 at 2:01 AM

    But outside of the whole traveling scenario–more is always better right? Are there any other situations?

  2. N.Y

    May 5, 2008 at 7:18 AM

    Salaam,

    Isn’t it a case of quality and quantity (I know – it’s a bit cliche)? The greater the quantity of quality Ibadah a person can complete, the better his/her chances in the hereafter. And the brilliant thing about doing Ibadah with sincerity and to the best of your ability (the quality aspect) is that it it become easier for you over time, and therefore doing these acts of Ibadah more frequently and consitently becomes easier too – a virtuous cycle!

    Situations where quantity isn’t always good: isn’t there a hadith running along the lines that a person should not spend all his time in nafl prayers etc to the extent that His family & wife do not get to spend time with him ? Obviously the Hadith was indicating that we should strike a balance between all our responsibilities etc, so I’m not sure if this is quite the same as the ‘travellers prayer’ scenario.

  3. Faraz

    May 5, 2008 at 11:03 AM

    As Rasulullah salallaho’alayhi wa salam instructed Mu’adh ibn Jabal on his departure to Yemen:
    “Be sincere in your deen, for then just a little action will suffice for you.”

    So if the ikhlas is there, a small action is worth much more than a seemingly big action without ikhlas. Of course, doing big actions with ikhlas is commendable as well, and we should remember that the Prophet and his Companions did occasionally spend their entire nights in ‘ibadah. But they balanced that by spending time with their families and earning their livelihood. Rasulullah salallaho’alayhi wa salam discouraged one companion who said he would pray all night and fast all day, advising him to eat sometimes and sleep sometimes as well. It’s all about moderation.

  4. waleed

    May 5, 2008 at 9:25 PM

    isnt the reason for this that if you don’t shorten your prayers while travelling, then Allah does not like it that you refused his mercy?

  5. Umm Ibrahim

    May 6, 2008 at 4:52 AM

    Waleed wrote: “isnt the reason for this that if you don’t shorten your prayers while travelling, then Allah does not like it that you refused his mercy?”

    Assalaamu alaikum,

    That is exactly what I was taught regarding this issue – Allah, Azza wa Jal, has given us permission to shorten our prayers when travelling and He loves it when we accept His permission, or as stated above ‘mercy’. :)

  6. SaqibSaab

    May 6, 2008 at 10:44 AM

    That’s another reason that I heard while listening to Code of Scholars: Usul al-Fiqh while going over Rukhsahs. JazakAllah khair for the reminder.

  7. Shawn Thompson

    May 6, 2008 at 9:55 PM

    as salamu alaykum wa rahmatullah.

    just a comment, in the shafi’i school, it is actually better to pray the full salat and not join them. jazak Allahu khayr for all your efforts.

    wa salam.
    abd al Shakur

  8. Ayesha

    May 12, 2008 at 3:19 PM

    I think there is another prohibition on the amount of fasting one does. Isn’t fasting the entire year off limits?

  9. Yus from the Nati

    May 13, 2008 at 11:23 AM

    Just another side point…

    Imam Shaukani’s (r) opinion was that it was WAJIB to shorten while traveling….(if my memory serves me correctly) Ilm al-Fiqh, Vol. II, p. 130, Durr al-Mukhtar

    Although many have disagreed with this opinion…it brings to light the REASON one has a particular opinion (which is what we should be thinking rather than the opinion in of itself).

    Anyways, for me it’s a reminder to uphold the Sunnah and follow in the Messenger saw footsteps to the T iA.

    thus when we talk about “more being better”…we should be thinking that “more”= Sunna….meaning anything within it (including all the Fiqh etc) So more IS better…as long as the Messenger saw did it…and it was upon the understanding of the companions.

    This is religion is easy people…rejoice because of Allah’s mercy!

  10. Sr.

    May 24, 2008 at 9:32 PM

    ameen ameen ya rub al-alimeen

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