In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
Indeed, God is with those who fear Him and those who do good1
If you want to see what a truly human duty and what a natural, appropriate result of man’s creation it is to perform the prescribed prayers and not to commit serious sins, listen to and take heed of the following comparison:
Once, at a time of general mobilization, two soldiers found themselves together in a regiment. One was well-trained and conscientious, the other, a raw recruit and self-centred. The conscientious soldier concentrated on training and the war, and did not give a thought to rations and provisions, for he knew that it was the state’s duty to feed and equip him, treat him if he was ill, and even to put the food in his mouth if the need arose. He knew that his essential duty was to train and fight. But he would also attend to some of the rations and equipment as part of his work. He would boil up the saucepans, wash up the mess-tins, and bring them. If it was then asked him: “What are you doing?”, he would reply: “I am doing fatigue duty for the state.” He would not say: “I am working for my living.”
The raw recruit, however, was fond of his stomach and paid no attention to training and the war. “That is the state’s business. What is it to me?”, he would say. He thought constantly of his livelihood, and pursuing it would leave the regiment and go to the market to do shopping. One day his well-trained friend said to him:
“Your basic duty is training and fighting, brother. You were brought here for that. Trust in the king; he will not let you go hungry. That is his duty. Anyway, you are powerless and wanting; you cannot feed yourself everywhere. And this is a time of mobilization and war; he will tell you that you are mutinous and will punish you. Yes, there are two duties which concern us. One is the king’s duty: sometimes we do his fatigue duties and he feeds us for it. The other is our duty: that is training and fighting, and sometimes the king helps us with it.”
Of course you will understand in what danger the layabout soldier would be if he did not pay attention to the striving, well-trained one.
O my lazy soul! That turbulent place of war is this stormy worldly life, and the army divided into regiments, human society. The regiment in the comparison is the community of Islam in this century. One of the two soldiers is a devout Muslim who knows the obligations of his religion and performs them, and struggles with Satan and his own soul in order to give up serious misdoings and not to commit sins. While the other is a degenerate wrongdoer who is so immersed in the struggle for livelihood that he casts aspersions on the True Provider, abandons his religious obligations, and commits any sins that come his way as he makes his living. As for the training and instruction, it is foremost the prescribed prayers and worship. And the war is the struggle against the soul and its desires, and against the satans among jinn and men, to deliver them from sin and bad morals, and save the heart and spirit from eternal perdition. And the first of the two duties is to give life and sustain it, while the other is to worship and beseech the Giver and Sustainer of life. It is to trust in Him and rely on Him.
Indeed, whoever made and bestowed life, which is a most brilliant miracle of the Eternally Besought One’s art and a wonder of dominical wisdom, is the one who maintains and perpetuates it through sustenance. It cannot be another. Do you want proof? The most impotent and stupid animals are the best nourished; like fish, and worms in fruit. And it is the most helpless and delicate creatures who have the choicest food; like infants and the young of all species.
For sure, it is enough to compare fish with foxes, newly born animals with wild beasts, and trees with animals in order to understand that licit food is obtained not through power and will, but through impotence and helplessness. That is to say, someone who gives up performing the prescribed prayers because of the struggle for livelihood resembles the soldier who abandoned his training and trench and went and begged in the market. But to seek ones rations from the kitchens of the All-Generous Provider’s mercy after performing the prayers, and to go oneself so as not to be a burden on others is fine and manly. It too is a sort of worship.
Furthermore, man’s nature and spiritual faculties show that he is created for worship. For in respect of the power and actions necessary for the life of this world, he cannot compete with the most inferior sparrow. While in respect of knowledge and need, and worship and supplication, which are necessary for spiritual life and the life of the hereafter, he is like the monarch and commander of the animals.
O my soul! If you make the life of this world the aim of your life and work constantly for that, you will become like the lowest sparrow. But if you make the life of the hereafter your aim and end, and make this life the means of it and its tillage, and strive in accordance with it, then you will be like a lofty commander of the animals, and a petted and suppliant servant of Almighty God, and His honoured and respected guest.
Those are the two ways open to you! You can choose whichever you wish! So ask for guidance and success from the Most Compassionate of the Compassionate!