By: Dr. Aqeel Azmi
An old man sat next to a young man on the bus. They looked at each other, smiled and nodded to each other in acknowledgement. They sat in silence for a while until it was broken by the old man. “There is a long way to go; we might as well get to know each other.” They both exchanged names and shook hands and after the introductory small talk they sat in silence once again.
Then the old man said, “You know I envy you.”
The young man asked in surprise, “Why do you envy me?”
“Well because you are young,” he replied.
“I don’t understand,” said the young man quizzically.
“I wonder if you have heard the words of our Prophet (PBUH), “Take advantage of five before five: your youth before your old age..?” 
The young man shook his head in the negative.
“Well, the fact is that I wasted my youth chasing after my desires without spending any time worshipping Allah. I was one of those who used to say to others, “Live when you are young, repent and worship when you get old.” But do you know what I deprived myself of by thinking this way?” he asked.
The young man waited for the answer.
“I deprived myself of the shade of Allah’s throne on the Day of Judgment when the sun will be only a mile away and there would be no shade except the shade under His throne,” he said with regret in his eyes. “And why would I be deprived of that?” he asked.
The young man again waited for the old man to answer himself.
“Well for two reasons mainly. You see there will be seven categories of people who will be shaded under the Throne on the Last Day.  And of these seven I deprived myself of these two categories; a young man who grows up worshipping his Lord and a man whose heart is attached to the mosque.”
The young man listened intently.
“You see, a youth who grows up worshipping Allah will naturally perform every one of his five daily prayers in the mosque with the congregation, thereby falling into the category of the one whose heart is attached to the mosque. Therefore I have missed two easy paths to paradise! Now do you understand why I envy you?” asked the old man.
“Yes, I understand. Thank you for sharing all this with me. I pray at home but I go to the mosque on Fridays to attend the Jummah prayers,” the young man said defensively.
“Young man, I have said quite a lot but I feel that you are not fully convinced that the daily prayers should be made in the mosque with the congregation. If you allow me, I can share with you from the little knowledge that I possess about the duty of every able Muslim man to pray in the mosque,” said the old man gently.
“Yes, I am not very convinced on this matter and yes please share with me what you know,” replied the youth.
The old man adjusted himself in his seat and with a gentle expression explained, “Alright, first of all, what was the practice of the Prophet (PBUH) and his companions? Obviously it was to pray every obligatory prayer in the mosque. What would be the point of mosques if no one performed prayers in them? Praying side by side with other Muslims in the mosques is one of the best ways by which the feelings of love, unity and brotherhood can be established. Another question; why is the reward of praying with the congregation 27 times more than praying alone?  And praying in congregation is of such importance that Allah ordained the fear-prayer during times of war where groups of companions took turns praying behind the Prophet (PBUH).  Of course you will always find a congregation in the mosque but this may not be the case in our homes.
Do you know that the Prophet (PBUH) told us that when a man makes wudu (ablution) at home and then walks to the mosque, for every step that he takes he is raised in rank and forgiven for a sin?  He (PBUH) also told us that all the while the man is in mosque both before and after the prayer, the angels ask Allah to forgive him.  Have you ever heard of the merits of praying the morning and night prayers in congregation? The Prophet (PBUH) said that if people knew of the merits, they would come to these prayers even if they had to crawl to do so.  Where would they come crawling? To the mosque of course! And what are the merits? Performing Salah (prayers) the whole night!  Prayer in congregation at the mosque is so important that the Prophet (PBUH) did not even excuse a blind companion from coming to the mosque! 
Let us imagine that everyone decided that praying in the mosque in congregation is just a Sunnah. What do you think will happen after a couple of generations? The mosques will be totally empty except on Fridays, just as the churches are empty on all days except Sunday. The important sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH) would be lost as the great companion Ibn Masood said regarding a certain man, “If you have to perform prayers in your houses, as this man who stays away from the mosque and performs prayers in his house, you will abandon the Sunnah of your Prophet (PBUH) and departure from the Sunnah of your Prophet will lead you astray.” This matter is so important because Allah tells us in the Quran that if we really love Him then we have to follow the Prophet (PBUH) and as a result of that, Allah will love us and forgive us of our sins!” 
The bus passed by a mosque as the young man sat quietly in deep thought. Suddenly the old man got up from his seat and said, “It is time for me to get off. Oh! They are calling the adhaan as well. Perfect timing!” They shook hands, exchanged salaams and the old man vanished into the crowd of people who got off the bus. The old man crossed the road and made his way to the mosque to attend the congregational prayer.
After performing the prayer the old man walked to the shoe rack to retrieve his shoes. When he turned around to exit the mosque he saw the same young man crossing the road with a group of people who had exited the mosque. Then he quickly boarded the bus that was standing at the halt. The old man’s face lit up with a smile as he made a silent heartfelt prayer for the young man who he never saw again.
- Ibn Abbas reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said; “Take advantage of five before five: your youth before your old age, your health before your illness, your riches before your poverty, your free time before your work, and your life before your death.” (Shu’ab al-Imān, Sahih (authentic) according to Al-Albani)
- ‘Uqbah ibn ‘Aamir said: I heard the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) say: “The sun will be brought near to the earth and the people will sweat. For some people, the sweat will come up to their heels; for some it will come halfway up their shins; for some it will come up to their knees; for some it will come up to their backsides; for some it will come up to their hips; for some it will come up to their shoulders; for some it will come up to their necks; for some it will come up to the middle of their mouths; and some of them will be comepletely covered with their sweat.” (Narrated by Imaam Ahmad in his Musnad]
- Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “There are seven whom Allaah will shade with His shade on the day when there will be no shade except His: the just ruler; a young man who grows up worshipping his Lord; a man whose heart is attached to the mosque; two men who love one another for the sake of Allaah and meet and part on that basis; a man who is called by a woman of rank and beauty and says ‘I fear Allaah’; a man who gives in charity and conceals it to such an extent that his left hand does not know what his right hand gives; and a man who remembers Allaah when he is alone, and his eyes fill up.” (Agreed upon, narrated by al-Bukhaari, Muslim and others).
- The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Prayer in congregation is twenty seven times better than prayer prayed individually.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim]
- “When you (O Messenger Muhammad) are among them, and lead them in As-Salaah (the prayer), let one party of them stand up [in Salaah (prayer)] with you taking their arms with them; when they finish their prostrations, let them take their positions in the rear and let the other party come up which have not yet prayed, and let them pray with you” [al-Nisa’ 4:102]
- The Prophet (PBUH)said; “Whoever makes wuḍū’ at home and then walks to the House of Allāh to perform one of the five prayers, every step he takes wipes away a sin and the next step raises his status with Allāh.” [Muslim]
- Allah’s Apostle (PBUH) said: “The reward of the prayer offered by a person in congregation is twenty five times greater than that of the prayer offered in one’s house or in the market (alone). And this is because if he performs ablution and does it perfectly and then proceeds to the mosque with the sole intention of praying, then for every step he takes towards the mosque, he is upgraded one degree in reward and his one sin is taken off (crossed out) from his accounts (of deeds). When he offers his prayer, the angels keep on asking Allah’s Blessings and Allah’s forgiveness for him as long as he is (staying) at his Musalla. They say, ‘O Allah! Bestow Your blessings upon him, be Merciful and kind to him.’ And one is regarded in prayer as long as one is waiting for the prayer.” [Sahih Bukhari]
- Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him)reported: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, “If they knew the merits of Salah after nightfall (`Isha’) and the morning (Fajr) Salah, they would come to them even if they had to crawl to do so.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
- `Uthman bin `Affan (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: I heard the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) saying: “One who performs `Isha’ prayer in congregation, is as if he has performed Salah for half of the night. And one who performs the Fajr prayer in congregation, is as if he has performed Salah the whole night.”[Muslim]
- A blind man came to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and said: “O Messenger of Allah! I have no one to guide me to the mosque.” He asked the Messenger of Allah for permission to pray at his house and the Prophet granted it to him. But when the man turned to leave, the Prophet called him and said, “Can you hear the adhan?” He said, “Yes”. The Prophet then said, “Respond to it (by going to the mosque)” [Muslim]. According to a version narrated by Abu Dawood (552) and Ibn Maajah (792) he said: “I do not think there is any concession for you.”
- It was recorded in Sahih Muslim that Ibn Mas`ud (may Allah be pleased with him) said: He who likes to meet Allah tomorrow (i.e., on the Day of the Resurrection) as a Muslim, should strictly observe the Salah (Prayers) when the Adhan (call to prayer) is announced for them. Allah has expounded to your Prophet (PBUH) the ways of right guidance, and these (the Prayers) are part of the right guidance. If you have to perform Salah in your houses, as this man who stays away (from the mosque) and performs Salah in his house, you will have abandon the Sunnah (acts, sayings or approvals of the Prophet) of your Prophet (peace be upon him), and the departure from the Sunnah of your Prophet (peace be upon him) will lead you astray. I have seen the time when no one stayed behind except a well-known hypocrite. I also witnessed that a man was brought swaying (on account of weakness) between two men until he was set up in a row (in the mosque).
- Say (O Muhammad to mankind): “If you (really) love Allah then follow me (i.e. accept Islamic Monotheism, follow the Quran and the Sunnah), Allah will love you and forgive you of your sins. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [Surah Aal-E-Imraan 3:31]