What do the scholars of the Din and muftis of the Sacred Law state regarding the following issue: The Prophet ﷺ has stated that the difference between a Muslim and a disbeliever is salah. Is this hadith authentic? Does it mean that a person who does not offer salah become a kafir (disbeliever)?
Questioner: Badr from UK
بسم اللہ الرحمن الرحیم
الجواب بعون الملک الوھاب اللھم ھدایۃ الحق والصواب
Yes this hadith is sahih and is narrated in four books of the Sihah Sittah (Six Authentic Books). It is narrated in Sahih Muslim,
إِنَّ بَيْنَ الرَّجُلِ وَبَيْنَ الشِّرْكِ وَالْكُفْرِ تَرْكَ الصَّلَاةِ
“Between a believing man and shirk (polytheism) and kufr (disbelief) is the leaving of salah.” [Sahih Muslim]
Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah have also recorded this hadith. No, it does not mean that a believer who leaves salah will become a disbeliever. It means that the one who leaves salah will be punished like a disbeliever. It also means that the one who considers it lawful and permissible to leave salah will become a disbeliever. It can also mean that the abandonment of salah will take one towards kufr (disbelief). Another meaning of this hadith is that this action of the one who abandons salah is like that of the disbelievers.
Imam Nawawi (may Allah have mercy upon him) has stated the following in the explanation of this hadith:
تَأَوَّلُوا قَوْلَهُ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ بَيْنَ الْعَبْدِ وَبَيْنَ الْكُفْرِ تَرْكُ الصَّلَاةِ عَلَى مَعْنَى أَنَّهُ يَسْتَحِقُّ بِتَرْكِ الصَّلَاةِ عُقُوبَةَ الْكَافِرِ وَهِيَ الْقَتْلُ أَوْ أَنَّهُ مَحْمُولٌ عَلَى الْمُسْتَحِلِّ أَوْ عَلَى أَنَّهُ قد يؤول بِهِ إِلَى الْكُفْرِ أَوْ أَنَّ فِعْلَهُ فِعْلُ الْكُفَّارِ وَاللَّهُ أَعْلَمُ
Translation: “The scholars have explained the statement of the Prophet ﷺ, ‘Between a believing man and shirk (polytheism) and kufr (disbelief) is the leaving of salah’, to mean that the one who abandons salah is befitting of a punishment like that of an apostate – the punishment for an apostate being capital punishment [under Islamic Law], (It can also mean that) this hadith is regarding the one who considers the abandonment of salah to be permissible. It can also mean that the abandonment of salah will take one towards kufr (disbelief) or this act is like that of the disbelievers. Allah knows best!” [Sharh Sahih Muslim of al-Nawawi]
واللہ تعالی اعلم ورسولہ اعلم صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم
کتبہ ابو الحسن محمد قاسم ضیاء قادری
Answered by Mufti Qasim Zia al-Qadri
Translated by the SeekersPath team
Read the original answer in Urdu here – [Q-ID0393] Does a person who doesn’t pray become a disbeliever?