Question: Is the person who abandons the prayer (As-Salaah) considered a disbeliever?
Answer: The person who abandons the prayer is considered a disbeliever (Kaafir) due to what Al-Imaam Ahmad reported in his Musnad and also Muslim in his Saheeh, from Jaabir (Radhiyallaahu 'anhu) who related from the Prophet (Sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) that he said,
"There is nothing between the servant (of Allaah) and disbelief (Al-Kufr) or polytheism (Ash Shirk) except the prayer (As Salaah)."
It is also due to what Aboo Daawood reported in his Sunan from Buraydah (Radhiyallaahu 'anhu) that he said that the Messenger of Allaah (Sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said, "The covenant that stands between us (the Muslims) and them (the disbelievers) is the prayer (As-Salaah), so whoever abandons it then indeed he has disbelieved."
And the Lord of Might says in His Noble Book, Then, there has succeeded them a posterity who have given up As-Salat (the prayers) [i.e. made their Salaat (prayers) to be lost, either by not offering them or by not offering them perfectly or by not offering them in their proper fixed times, etc.] and have followed lusts. So they will be thrown into Hell." - [Soorah Maryam: 59]
Therefore, the correct view among the statements of the people of knowledge is that the person who abandons the prayer is considered a disbeliever (Kaafir), regardless of whether he abandoned it due to rejecting its obligation or if he abandoned it without rejecting its obligation. This is the opinion of Al Imaam Ahmad bin Hanbal and it is also the opinion of a group among the companions. Rather, Aboo Muhammad ibn Hazm mentioned a group among them (who held this view) and then he said, "I do not know anyone who disagreed with these companions."
Source: Ijaabatus Saa'il, pp. 41,42
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