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A Wrong Prayer and a Perfect Attitude (Story, Part 2/2)

Editor’s note: This article is a continuation of reflections on the story of a  man who “mishandled his prayer.” As a reminder of the story, the hadith relating the incident is re-quoted below. Read also part 1 of this reflections series.


A man entered the Masjid, wherein the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) was sitting. He prayed and then came to greet the Messenger of Allah.

The Prophet, after answering his salam, said, “Go back and pray for you have not prayed.” So the man went back, performed his prayer and then came back and repeated the salam.

The Prophet answered the salam and then said, “Go back and pray for you have not prayed.

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The man went back, prayed like he did the first time and then came back and repeated the salam. The Prophet answered his salam and once again he said, “Go back and pray for you have not prayed.

So, after this third time the man said, “By He who sent you with the truth O Messenger of Allah, I do not know any better than this. Teach me.”

The Prophet then said:

If you stand up for salah say ‘Allahu Akbar.’ Then recite whatever is easy for you from the Qur’an.

Then, bow until you are comfortable in your ruku`. Then, stand up until you are standing up straight.

Then, prostrate until you are comfortable in your sujud. Then, sit until you are comfortable in your setting.

Then, prostrate until you are comfortable in your sujud. And do this in your entire salah.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Patience is necessary

In Surat Al Kahf (18:60-82), Allah relates the story of a prophet (Musa, peace and blessings be upon him) seeking knowledge from a righteous man (Al-Khidr). While the story carries a lot of meanings, it is interesting how patience was shown as a major component of the knowledge-seeking process:

{He [Al-Khidr] said, “Indeed, with me you will never be able to have patience. And how can you have patience for what you do not encompass in knowledge?”.

[Moses] said, “You will find me, if Allah wills, patient, and I will not disobey you in [any] order.“} (al-Kahf 18:67-69)

Back to our story, let’s assume that this Companion took 5 minutes to pray each of his prayers, so he probably spent 15-20 minutes in repeating those prayers and going back and forth to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).

These might be the longest 20 minutes in his life, but again, patience is a prerequisite for knowledge. Amazingly, this patience was accompanied with high manners, without any argument or angry reaction.

A careful teacher

We cannot leave this incident without reflecting on the wonderful leader and teacher (peace and blessings be upon him). He is the political leader of the whole community, but this does not stop him from noticing the actions of individuals and taking the time to educate them, even if that was during the Madinah period where the population of Muslims increased drastically.

In addition, the Prophet did not believe in spoon-feeding. In addition to the short lectures and sermons he conducted, he always encouraged the Companions to think about their actions and how they can improve them.

In this story, he could have told the man from the first time what was wrong. He rather tried three times to hint to him his mistake “Go back and pray for you have not prayed”.

Sometimes teachers and parents take shortcuts in the educational process, jumping to conclusions and using commands and orders to correct their kids’ behavior. We expect the younger generation to pray just because we taught them how to pray, or to love the Qur’an just because we had them go through a Quran recitation contest.

Human beings need to OWN the knowledge they are receiving, they have to earn it, to take some time and effort to think about it before it becomes part of them and their identity.

Learning environment

Another interesting point is the attitude of the audience, the Companions of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him). None of them interfered in the learning experience. None of them tried to outsmart the man and answer the Prophet’s question.

They understood that sometimes silence is a virtue, and that wisdom means to say the right thing at the right time.

Compare the reaction (or the lack of reaction) from the Companions to what would have happened if such an incident occurred in any of our mosques:

– Ten people will start lecturing the man how to pray (of course according to THEIR understanding of Salah)

– If he dared to ask the imam about something, he would hear all kinds of answers from those attending the session, all trying to give their “opinions” on this matter, rather than waiting for the correct answer from the imam.

– People may even take the side of the questioner, asking the Imam to be more lenient and find excuses for the man’s ignorance (which may lead him to take a shortcut and not wait for 10-20 more minutes to get the full answer and knowledge).

Equation of knowledge-seeking

The Prophet’s Companions are indeed great people. Due to their human nature, they do fall into mistakes, but sometimes we end up learning from their mistakes more than learning from their virtues.

After this story and based on the above discussion, we can summarize the equation of seeking knowledge, which carries the solution for man’s ignorance:

(LOVE to the teacher + honesty + humbleness + courage) × patience × (the right teacher + the right environment) = effective useful learning experience.

In conclusion

Sometimes little actions can yield great results. The main character in this story was not a super hero in the battlefield like Khalid ibn Al-Waleed and was not a huge scholar like Abdullah ibn `Umar.

His name – in fact – is Khaled ibn Rafi`, and, Subhana Allah, his name is a manifestation of the reward he attained due to his character (Khalid = eternal, and Rafi`= raising and elevating).

This story became eternally known and narrated everywhere in the context of teaching people tranquility in their prayer, and this companion was raised among other Companions, only due to his honesty and dedication in seeking knowledge.

About Dr. Mohannad Hakeem
Dr. Mohannad Hakeem is an educator, activist, and author who has studied traditionally under multiple scholars in the Muslim world for the past 20 years. He is originally from Lebanon and currently resides in Dearborn, MI, USA, where he has helped establish multiple community initiatives and organizations, with a focus on youth empowerment and education. His most recent book, "The 40 Hadith on Community Service," draws inspiration from the Quran and the Sunnah to provide young Muslims with an "algorithm" for success and excellence in both the worldly life and the afterlife. In his professional career, Dr. Hakeem earned a PhD in Mechanical Engineering. In this role, he has taught several students, conducted research, and authored 80+ patents and technical papers.