Imagine going shopping and buying the most expensive Versace suit (for brothers) or the most expensive Louis Vuitton purse (for sisters).  Then imagine not ever taking it out in public and showing it off.  Rather, no one knowing that you owned that Louis Vuitton purse, Versace suit, Rolex watch, or Mercedes-Benz car.

Such was the case of one of the pious predecessors of this Ummah.  He bought amongst the most expensive clothes and these clothes were amongst the most beautiful and precious in his time, yet he never wore them in public.  You may ask, “what did he do with them then?”  Rather, this man wore these beautiful clothes when he stood in front of His Lord to pray in the night prayer when no one would see him except for His Lord, for indeed Allah (SWT) tells us in the Quran, “O Children of Adam! wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer” (Translation of the Meaning of the Holy Quran, 7:31). 

Indeed, we should beautify ourselves when we stand in front of our Lord.  Now ask yourself, “what did I look like when I prayed fajr this morning?”  And compare that attire with what you looked like when you last went to a dinner party you were invited to.

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By Sheikh `Abd al-Majîd b. Sâlih al-Mansûr
 
Anas b. Mâlik relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Women and fragrance have been made dear to my affections, but prayer was made the sweetness of my eyes.”

This hadîth is related in Musnad Ahmad and Sunan al-Nasâ’î al-Kubrâ, among other sources. It is an authentic hadîth. It has been authenticated by al-Hâkim in al-Mustadrak and by Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalânî in Fath al-Bârî.

In some narrations it reads, “From your worldly life, women and fragrance have been made dear to my affections…”

However, the variant narration that begins: “Three things from your worldly life have been made dear to me…” is not authentic. It is not established in any of the primary hadîth source works. Moreover, it is a strange narration since its meaning is contradictory, as prayer is not a matter of our worldly lives, but rather off our spiritual lives.

This hadîth is rich in its benefits. It informs us of the relationship a believer should have with prayer as well as with the world. It shows how Islam balances our spiritual lives and our worldly aspirations.

For the devotees of Allah, prayer is the most beloved of all experiences. It is where they find peace and contentment. Without it, they cannot find harmony, balance, and satisfaction in their lives. They need the experience of reverence and awe before Allah that prayer affords them.

Ibn Hajar al-`Asqlânî explains: “The ‘sweetness of one’s eyes’ is the beloved that one hopes never to depart from to the bliss that this beloved brings and the happiness that it enriches one’s life with. This is experience with prayer only by those who are reverently patient.”

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had attained an unparalleled level of devotion, where worshipping Allah became something much more than beloved to him. Ibn al-Qayyim writes:
No pleasure in this world compares to the bliss of the denizens of Paradise except for this. This is why the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Women and fragrance have been made dear to my affections, but prayer was made the sweetness of my eyes.”

Here the Prophet (peace be upon him) tells us that two things of the world have been made dear to him – women and fragrance. Then he informs us that it is prayer which is the sweetness of his eyes. This is something far more than love. The “sweetness of the eyes” is the most beloved of all – that which is loved for its own sake. The object of this love is none other than Allah. Everything else that is loved is beloved for His sake and does not in any way contend with the love for Him…

Prayer is the sweetness of the eyes of Allah’s devotees in this world, since it is the communion between the worshipper and his Lord, and this is the only way that the heart finds contentment and the soul finds peace.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said to his caller to prayer: “O Bilal, give us our rest in prayer.” From this we know that prayer is what brought the Prophet relaxation and respite, just as it was the sweetness of his eyes.

We should, therefore, think twice before we say something like: “I offered so much prayer and then I took a rest from praying.” For a true devotee, it is within prayer that rest and contentment are to be found. Such a person will love to prolong the prayer so as not to depart from that which is beloved.

By contrast, the person whose heart is heedless of Allah will find prayer to be a burden. Standing for each prayer will be like standing on a hot coal, and the person will fidget until that prayer is over and done with – the shorter the prayer, the better.

What factors will make prayer the sweetness of your eyes?

1. Sincerity: Your reason for offering the prayer is the love of Allah and your desire to draw near to Him and seek His pleasure.

2. Devotion: Your heart is focused entirely on Allah. Your inner being is as fully involved in the prayer as your body which is going through the outward motions. Your mind is not distracted.

3. Proper performance: Your prayer must be carried out in accordance with the Prophet’s example. The Prophet (peace be upon him) instructed us, saying: “Pray as you have seen me praying.” Care should be taken to observe the prayer in all of its details as it was learned from the Prophet by his Companions. It also means that no additional rites or practices should be added to the prayer.

4. Perceptiveness: The Prophet said: “Worship Allah as if you see him, and though you do not see him, you know that He indeed sees you.” This is how the Prophet (peace be upon him) defined the perfection of faith.

5. Gratefulness: You should recognize that it is only by Allah’s grace that you are praying to Him. It is the greatest of privileges that He has blessed you to be offering this prayer. This is a key factor in prayer becoming the sweetness of your eyes. The more acutely privileged you feel to be offering your prayer, the more beloved that prayer will be to you.

6. Humility: We should never feel haughty and self-satisfied with our piety. Rather, we need to feel that the prayers we are offering are not enough. Though we may strive to do the best we can, our worship must always fall far short of the mark. Allah’s greatness far surpasses our ability to glorify Him. His kindness and mercy far outweigh our gratitude.
Our Worldly Desires

This hadith refutes the idea that piety means the renunciation of worldly pleasures or devotion to Allah requires monasticism. This is one of the benefits we derive from the Prophet (peace be upon him) telling us: “Women and fragrance have been made dear to my affections.” We are not called upon to forsake what Allah has made lawful and good. There is no piety in renouncing wholesome pleasures.

Some people think of asceticism in outward terms. They mistake a “pious image” that other people can see for true piety and Godliness. This is because they are ignorance of the Prophet’s guidance in this matter. He was the most God-fearing of all people, but he would fast on some days and eat on others. He would spend part of the night in prayer, but he would also sleep. He got married. After elaborating this to his followers, he said: “And whoever desires something other than my way is not of me.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim]

He never behaved like those conspicuously “pious” people who look emaciated and dress in rags. The Prophet (peace be upon him) taught us that piety is an inward quality. It is the relationship that we have with our Lord. The Propet (peace be upon him) took great care of his appearance. He was a clean person. He wore presentable clothes. He wore fragrance. This did not contradict with his asceticism in any way.

Ibn Rajab, while commenting on this hadîth, explains: Asceticism means to turn your heart away from being preoccupied with the world and to focus on seeking knowledge of Allah and nearness to Him. It means to long for Allah and to desire to ultimately return to Him.

These things are not of the world in the first place. This is why the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “From your worldly life, women and fragrance have been made dear to my affections, but prayer was made the sweetness of my eyes.” He did not count prayer among the worldly matters that were made beloved to him.

I conclude by beseeching Allah to make our words and deed righteous, and that He may bless us to be sincere to Him.

(Source: www.muslimlinkpaper.com)

Here is a small compilation of hadith that are an encouragement, insh’Allah, for one to attend the congregational prayer in the masjid.  The ahadith are broken into two categories (the ones that invoke hope and the ones that invoke fear) followed by a few statements of the sahabah. 

Firstly, the ahadith that invoke hope:

  1. “Whoever goes to the mosque not desiring except to learn or teach what is good has the reward of a pilgrim who completed his Hajj.” [at-Tabarani, classed as Saheeh by Al-Albani]
  2. “Whoever leaves his home in a state of purity to perform obligatory prayer, his reward is like that of a pilgrim (while) in the state of ihram [i.e. he receives reward similar to that of spending time in ihram during Hajj].” [Abu Dawud, classed as Saheeh by Al-Albani]
  3. “He who prays Isha’ in Jama’ah [congregation] is as if he has prayed for half the night. As to him who (also) prays Fajr in congregation, it is as if he has prayed all night.” [narrated by Malik and the wording is that of Muslim who also reported it]
  4. “Prayer in congregation is superior to praying individually twenty-seven times.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
  5. “Whoever goes to the mosque not desiring except to learn or teach what is good has the reward of a pilgrim who completed his Hajj.” [at-Tabarani, classed as Saheeh by Al-Albani]

And now the ahadith that invoke fear:

  1. “The heaviest salat for the hypocrite is that of Isha’a and Fajr and if they knew what was in them they would have attended them even if it meant crawling, and I have a strong desire to order the salat to be established, then order a man to lead the people in salat then I would go with some men carrying bundles of wood to a people not attending the salat and burn their houses on them.” [al-Bukhari and Muslim, this is the version of Muslim]
  2. “Whosover hears the call to salat, and does not respond, then there is no salat for him unless he has a valid excuse.” [Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah, classified as legit by al-Albaani]
  3. “There are not three in a town where no Athan is called, and congregational prayers are not established amongst them except that the Sheitan will overcome them, so you must stick to jama’ah because the wolf gets the stray one.” [Abu Dawud and Ahmed, authentic]

Want a few sahabah statements?

  1. Abu Asha’a’thaa’a Al-Muharibi said: We were sitting in the masjid (mosque) then the Mu’athin (the one that makes the call to prayer) made the call to prayer. Then a man got up from the masjid walking. Abu Huraira followed him with his sight until he left the Masjid. Then Abu Huraira said “as for this person he has disobeyed Abal Qasim (the Messenger) .” [Muslim]
  2. Ibn Mas’ood, Abu Musa Al-Ash’ary, Ali, Abu Huraira, Ayesha, and Ibn Abbas have stated, “Whoever hears the call to salat and does not answer, there is no salat for him unless he has a valid excuse.”
  3. Abdullah ibn Masud said, “And there is not a man amongst you that purifies himself (yatatahhar), and does so properly, then directs himself to one of these mosques except that Allah will write for him with each step he takes a hasanah (merit), and raises him a grade, and drops from him a sayyi’ah (demerit). And I have seen us, where not one of us would stay behind from prayer in congregation except for a hypocrite whose hypocrisy is known. And one that could not come on his own would be carried between two men until he is stood in the row.

These are not my words, only the words of the Messenger of Allah (SAW) and his beloved companions!
Sources: www.islamqa.com and www.islaam.com