A Wrong Prayer & a Perfect Attitude (Story, Part 1/2)

This is a cool story about one Companion who made a mistake!

Time: During the best years, featuring the best generation to ever walk the face of this earth.

Place: The blessed Mosque of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), in Madinah

Event: A man entered the mosque and prayed quickly.

Result: An amazing, monumental teaching experience for everyone who witnessed, narrated, read, and heard about what happened (hopefully, you will be included with that group, if you bear with me till the end of this piece)…

Without further introductions, let’s go over the event, narrated in an authentic hadith in the books of Al-Bukhari and Muslim: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.

The man went back, prayed like he did the first time and then came back and repeated thesalam. 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)

Yes he did mishandle his salah but…

This famous incident is commonly referred to as the story of the man who mishandled his prayer, only in the negative sense, talking about a man who rushed in his prayer and didn’t give it its due.

However, if we examine the attitude of that particular companion, reflect on it, and implement it into our lives, we will find a cure to many problems that we encounter in our Muslim Ummah, particularly those originating from the two diseases: ignorance and arrogance.

1. True Love for theTeacher

We all claim to love the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him); but here, we see that love was manifested in manners, behavior, and concrete sensible actions. Seriously, no one can tolerate what happened and continue that embarrassing situation except a person with true love for his teacher, a love that is expected to be followed by actions as in surat Aal-`Imran:

{Say (O Mohamed), if you truly love Allah, then follow me, to gain the love of Allah and His forgiveness} (Aal-`Imran 3:31)

The man immediately rushed to greet the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) after finishing his salah. Probably he was hoping to get some special attention, special du`aa’, or maybe learn some new information and be a narrator to one of the famous hadiths and carry this information to the future generations to come.

Suddenly, he received that brief statement: “Go back and pray“, and you can imagine his disappointment when hearing: “you have not prayed”!! The man did not argue with the Prophet, but rather obeyed and did what he was asked to do.

2. Honesty and Integrity

These qualities represent high ranks of righteousness, in fact they come directly after the rank of Prophets, and are a direct outcome of obedience and love to the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him), as the verse says:

{And whosoever obeys Allah and the Messenger, then they will be in the company of those on whom Allah has bestowed His Grace, of the Prophets, the honest ones (Siddiqeen), the martyrs, and the righteous. And how excellent these companions are} (An-Nisaa’ 4:69)

The man was honest, and his honesty was tested in public, in front of all the Companions present in the Masjid; in fact, it was related to us and narrated for the generations to come.

This test of honesty was repeated three times, and the situation got more embarrassing with time; he could have asked from the first time: “what’s wrong in my prayer?  Correct me”.

He could ask around and get a “cheat sheet” from other Companions, who definitely knew the answer or could give some hints.

He could have repeated his prayer once, and then avoided the criticism and left the room. But his honesty and sincerity made him go back to the Prophet, regardless of all the eyes staring at him, and the whispers that might be going against him, and meet the Prophet again.

As defined by Imam Junaid: “Honesty is to be truthful in situations where nothing can save you but lying”.

3. Humbleness and courage

It is said that two types of people will never learn: the arrogant and the shy. The arrogant thinks he already knows and would never accept advice from others. The shy, on the other hand, is passive and overprotective and would never take the extra step to learn or find out about his mistakes. This Companion was free of the two impediments to knowledge.

It is OK if you don’t know; it is not a shame that you didn’t have the chance to learn Qur’an recitation properly or to improve your understanding of the Arabic language. What is shameful is denying this fact, and remaining on the defensive/justification side for years!

Arrogance was defined by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) as “rejecting the truth and looking down to people” (Muslim). The fastest way to diagnose for this disease is simple: go to a true friend (if you have one) and ask them to give you true sincere advice about yourself. It might be hard for some people to do that, either because they don’t accept advice from others or because their friends do not dare to give them true advice.

We build those fences around our egos and we challenge anyone who approaches them, directly or indirectly, and we keep ourselves busy trying to prove others wrong; Sometimes the best way to end any discussion is to be like that Companion and say: “I do not know any better than this. Teach me”

As for shyness, known in Arabic as Khajal, it is mistakenly considered to be a virtue, and is mixed with Hayaa’ (modesty) which is basically a positive virtue. Shyness can be considered a personality trait, which is fine as long as it does not stop the person from seeking knowledge and particularly from asking about their own mistakes and trying to correct them.

To be continued. Read in the next part about the amazing teacher, the amazing environment and the equation of successful learning.


Some parts of this article (specially the introduction and the first two lessons) is based on an article written by Dr. Ahmad Khalil Kheirallah. The rest of the article is contributed by Dr. Mohanand Hakeem.