Neglect of Nafl and Sunnah is A Sign Of Deficiency

The Spiritual Lethargy of the Present-Day Men ofKnowledge

A salient characteristic of the majority of the Maulanas and Sheikhs of the present-day is their spiritual lethargy and indifference to the very important and significant acts of ibaadat. The lackadaisical attitude of these learned men in regard to ibaadat is not restricted to Nawaafil (plural of Nafl), but extends to Waajib (compulsory) and Sunnatul Muakkadah (Near compulsory) acts of ibaadat as well.

This deplorable lethargy, in fact indifference, is flagrantly displayed in the matter of Jama’at Salaat. In many places, the Maulanas show scant regard for Jama’at Salaat. They arrive at the Musjid the very last moment, late or absent themselves totally. They seek to justify their lethargy and indifference by the presentation of lame excuses —extremely lame — excuses which are not valid in the Shariah.

Due to their indolence and high rate of absenteeism from the Musjid or their lamentable late arrivals after the Salaat has commenced, these learned men lack the moral integrity to give naseehat o­n the significance, importance and Wujoob of Jama’at Salaat in the Musjid. They know that the musallis will look askance should they deliver bayaans o­n this subject. They know that the Qur’aanic rebuke : “Why do you say that what you are not practising.”, will be hurled at them, hence they cannot muster up the courage to speak o­n the fadhaail (virtues) of Jama’at Salaat whereas the importance of this ibaadat cannever be exaggerated. Whatever virtues are explained of this vital ibaadat will always be an understatement


What actually is the cause for this attitude of spiritual lethargy of the learned men? This type of attitude is totally unexpected and highly unbecoming of Ulama and Huffaaz. The Qur’aan Majeed declares:

“Verily, of the servants of Allah o­nly the Ulama fear Him.”

Humility and fear are the natural attributes of Ilm-e-Deen or should be so. But, why are the present-day ‘ulama’ lacking so terribly in these imperative attributes of Ilm-e-Deen?

It is not difficult to trace the root cause of this evil malady from which so many learned men suffer. This spiritual lethargy has been inherited from the Madaaris. In the present system of the Madaaris, the Waajib and vital branch of knowledge, viz., Islaah and Tarbiyat-e-Baatin (moral and spiritual reformation and training) has been excised. No importance whatsoever is accorded to this goal which is among the vital Maqaasid (Aims and Objects) of the knowledge of the Deen.

The emphasis nowadays in the Madaaris is o­nly o­n the external dimension of Ilm, i.e. mere textual knowledge. Practical application in daily life of the Qur’aan and Hadith is not assigned any importance whatsoever in the Madaaris. Minus amal (practice of the Deen), the acquisition of true Ilm based o­n Taqwa is a virtual impossibility because Ilm is a Noor from Allah Ta’ala which settles in the heart of the uprighteous Taalib-e-Ilm (Searcher of Knowledge).

And, this is possible o­nly by means of strict observance of the Shariah and meticulous adoption of every dimension of the Sunnah of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). But, the Madaaris nowadays are emulating the spiritually bankrupt and immoral secular institutions of the western world.


Instead of instilling the importance of ibaadat in the hearts of the Talaba (Students), the method of teaching detracts from the significance of ibaadat and concentrates o­n o­nly the external façade of knowledge, namely, the texts. Ahaadith are explained in such a way which leads the students to gain the idea that Nawaafil is insignificant, unimportant and that there is nothing wrong in the wholesale neglect of Nafl acts of Ibaadat.

To compound this false impression, the students are led to believe by the system of Dars (teaching) that they need not practise Nawaafil while they are engaging in the pursuit of Deeni studies. While this is not overtly proclaimed, the lackadaisical approach of the Ustaadhs and their indifference to the moral reformation of their students, ingrain in the minds of the Talaba that it is okay to discard Nafl since such discardence is not sinful as the definition of Nafl goes or as it is interpreted to them by their Ustaadhs. But it is a great deception to neglect Nawaafil o­n the basis of this misconception.

The idea that because there is no sin in abstention from Nawaafil, this category of ibaadat is unimportant and may be discarded at whim and fancy —at the behest of the nafs — is spiritually ruinous. It is this idea which is gradually extended to Sunnatul Muakkadah and Waajib acts. This idea induces the student to become neglectful of fostering his bond with Allah Ta’ala. The Hadith emphasizes that the servant gains proximity to Allah Ta’ala by virtue of his abundance of Nawaafil. This is not to say that Nawaafil is the o­nly requirement for Divine Proximity. Nevertheless, it is a vital requirement for coming closer to Allah Ta’ala.

Abstention from Nawaafil not being sinful is o­nly initially. After Nawaafil has been commenced, the order with regard to abstention changes. If a Nafl ibaadat is invalidated or ended prior to its completion, then its rendition becomes Waajib. Thus, if Nafl Salaat or Saum is invalidated , i.e. after beginning, it is not completed, then to make Qadha of it is Waajib. It is Waajib to complete the Nafl ibaadat o­nce it has been initiated.


Discontinuance of a Nafl ibaadat after its adoption is Makrooh Tahrimi (prohibited and sinful). In this regard Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said to Hadhrat Abdullah Bin Umar (radhiyallahu anhu):

“O Abdullah, do not be like that person who used to stand at night

(i.e. he was in the practice of Tahajjud Salaat), then he abandoned it.”

While it is not sinful to abstain from Nawaafil prior to commencement, such abstention is nevertheless, deprivation. The o­ne who abstains from Nawaafil will bemoan his fate in Qiyaamah when he will see and understand the harm he had caused himself with his neglect of Nawaafil.

It is this indifferent attitude to Nawaafil which students acquire nowadays at the Madaaris, which engenders in them spiritual lethargy in all acts of ibaadat throughout their life. The indifference shown for Nawaafil is gradually extended to Sunnatul Muakkadah, then to Waajib. This is the manner in which Shaitaan operates to weaken the roohaani(spiritual) fibre of the student of the Deen.

Later, after the student has bid farewell to the Madrasah, he displays his indolence and indifference even for the Waajib Jama’at Salaat. Thus, we find so many learned men feeling no pangs of conscience for missing Salaat with Jama’at in the Musjid. Arriving late for Jama’at and missing a raka’t or two are not viewed with any seriousness despite the fact that such acts are among the Kabaair (major) sins.


When the Talaba come across Ahaadith o­n the significance of Ilm and o­n the superiority of knowledge over worship (Nafl acts of ibaadat), they gain the destructive impression that in view of their engagement in the pursuit of Ilm, there is no need for Nawaafil ibaadat. They are students of Deeni knowledge, hence there is no need for Nawaafil.Subhaanallaah! This corruption in their thinking is further solidified by the method of teaching and the lack of Taqwa of the Ustaadhs.

The superiority of engagement in Ilm over Nawaafil is accepted. But this superiority does not or should not produce indifference to Nawaafil. After all, the purpose of Ilm is amal (i.e. to give practical expression to the ahkaam of the Deen). The Hadith which says that an hour in the night spent in Ilm is better than spending the entire night in Nafl ibaadat does not apply to present day Talaba whose relationship with Ilm is extremely weak. The students in the Madaaris of this age have considerable time for indulgence in futility, kuffaar sport, holidays, nonsensical discussions, reading newspapers, listening to nafsaani radio programmes and other activities which are not o­nly unrelated to the pursuit of Ilm, but decidedly harmful for the acquisition of the Noor of Ilm. It is a monstrous deception of shaitaan for these types of students to believe that the Ahaadith in this regard are applicable to them.


The Ahaadith which mention the superiority of spending some time in Ilm are for such pious, Muttaqi students who do not differentiate between night and day in their pursuit of Ilm. They do not know what is the meaning of holidays. Sickness does not constrain them to be absent from classes. Their total immersion in Ilm makes them oblivious of their surroundings. The Ahaadith apply to such true Talaba, never to the type of students we find in the Madaaris nowadays.

It is imperative for the Asaatizah and the Talaba to understand that their failure to attend to their moral reformation and their abstention from the Masnoon acts of Nawaafil deprive them of the Noor of Ilm. The vile consequences of such deprivation will be properly understood in Qiyaamah.


Hakimul Ummat,Hadhrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thaanvi (rahmatullah alayh) commenting o­n the indifference of the Talaba in the matter of Nawaafil, said:

“People in general regard Nafl as superfluous, and so do the Ahl-e-Ilm (People of Knowledge) in particular. The People of Knowledge are more trapped in this misconception. From the very beginning the students are taught that while there is thawaab for Nafl, there is no sin in abstaining. In view of this definition, the students labour under the impression that there is nothing wrong if Nawaafil is discarded. A more ruinous idea is that Nafl is not an act of importance.

Thus, they dismiss Nawaafil as if the Shariat’s exhortation to perform Nafl is futile. Nafl is never futile or unimportant. It is complimentary of Faraaidh compulsory acts of ibaadat. It perfects Fardh (by compensating for the deficiencies in the way of discharge). From this angle, Nafl is exceedingly important. Furthermore, Nafl is a salient sign of Divine Love.”


Hadhrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thaanvi (rahmatullah alayh) offered the following advice to students of the Deen:

“What are the adverse affects o­n ta’leem if the Talaba perform Ishraaq, Chaasht (Duhaa) and Tahajjud Salaat? And, if instead of becoming involved in futile talks, the Students of Hadith engage their tongues in Thikr and Durood Shareef, what negative affect will there be o­n their studies? (If they engage in these acts), then Insha’Allah, the Noor of Ibaadat and the sweetness of Thikr will develop in the Students.

Fahm-e-Saleem (correct understanding) and the Noor of intelligence cannot be acquired without Taqwa and Amal. Adherence to this is highly beneficial for studies.

While students should be prevented from participation in the special ways of Sulook, they should diligently observe the Athkaar (plural of Thikr) which are narrated in the Ahaadith, and without fail be regular and punctual with Tilaawat of the Qur’aan Majeed. These are such acts which may not be discarded in any way.”

The Majlis Vol 16 No 01


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