Abu'l Ala Mawdudi
Has the Prayer Lost its Power ?
Brothers in Islam! Undoubtedly you often ask yourselves:
Why is it that the Prayer, good and beneficial as it is, seems
to make no difference to our lives? Why does it neither im-
prove our morals, nor transform us into a force dedicated to
Allah? Why do we continue to live disgraced and subjugated?
The usual answer will be that you are not offering the
Prayer regularly or in the manner prescribed by Allah and the
Messenger. Such an answer may not satisfy you. I shall
therefore try to explain the matter in some detail.
Parable of the Clock
Look at the clock fixed to the wall: there are lots of small
parts in it, joined to each other. When you wind it, all the
parts start working and, as these parts move, the result appears
on the clock face outside it which you observe. Both hands
move to denote each second and each minute. The purpose of
the clock is to indicate correct time. All those parts which are
necessary for this purpose have been fitted together and the
winding system has been made so that each of them moves as
required. Only when all the parts have been assembled cor-
rectly and the clock wound up properly will it begin fulfilling
the purpose for which it is made.
If you do not wind it, it will not show the time. If you wind
it but not according to the prescribed method, it will stop or,
even if it works, it will not give the correct time. If you
remove some of the parts and then wind it, nothing will hap-
pen. If you replace some of the parts with those of a sewing
machine and then wind it, it will neither indicate the time nor
sew the cloth. If you keep all the parts inside the case but
disconnect them, then no part will move even after winding it
up. The presence of all the parts will not serve the purpose for
which the clock is made because you will have disrupted their
arrangement as well as their connection.
In all these situations, both the existence of the clock and
the act of winding it become useless, although an observer
from a distance cannot say that it is not a clock or that you
are not winding it. He will surely consider that it is a clock
and will expect it to be useful as a clock. Similarly, when
from a distance he observes you winding it, he will take it as a
genuine effort on your part to do the job, hoping to notice
the result which comes from winding the clock. But how can
this expectation be fulfilled when what looks like a clock
from a distance has in reality lost its 'existence'?
Aim of Muslim Ummah
Imagine Islam like this clock. Just as the purpose of the
clock is to indicate the correct time, so the aim of Islam is that
you should live in this world as the vicegerents of God, as
witnesses of God unto mankind and as standard-bearers of
truth. You must yourselves follow the commandments of
God and bring all other people under Him:
You are indeed the best community brought forth for
mankind: you enjoin the doing of right and forbid the
doing of wrong, and you believe in God (Al Imran 3: 11O) .
And thus We have made you a just community, that you
might be witnesses unto mankind (al-Baqarah 2: 143).
God has promised those of you who believe and do
righteous deeds that He will surely make you to accede to
power on earth (al-Nur 24: 55).
And fight them, until there is no rebellion [against God],
and all submission is to God alone (al-Anfal 8: 39).
Wholeness of Islamic Teachings
To fulfil this purpose, various parts as were required, like
those of the clock, have been brought together in Islam.
Beliefs and principles of morality; rules for day-to-day con-
duct; the rights of God, of His slaves, of one's own self, of
everything in the world which you encounter; rules for earnmg
and spending money; laws of war and peace; principles of
government and limits of obedience to it - all these are parts
of Islam. As in a clock, they are linked to each other in such a
way that as soon as the winding is done, every part starts
moving and, with the movement of all these parts, the desired
result is obtained. Rule of Godss law in the world, domina-
tion of Islam, start manifesting just as, with the movement of
the parts of the clock in front of you, the time appears on its
In order to fasten together different parts of the clock,
screws and small pieces of metal have been used. SimilarlY, to
join all the parts of Islam together, there is an arrangement
called the Jama'ah or organization. Muslims should organize
themselves, and have leaders equipped with proper
knowledge and endowed with taqwa; the brains should help
them and the limbs should obey them, as they all strive to live
When all the parts have been brought together and properlY
assembled, regular winding is necessary to set them in motion
and to continue their movement: Salah which is offered five
times a day provides that winding, creating the energy which
sets an Islamic life in motion. Cleaning this clock is also
necessary: fasting observed for thirty days a year cleanses
hearts and morals. Lubrication, too, is required: Zakah is
like the oil which is applied to its parts once a year. Then it is
also necessary to overhaul it periodically: Hajj is that
overhauling which should be performed at least once in a
lifetime. And the more often it is done, the better.
Abusing the Clock
The processes of winding, cleaning, lubricating and
overhauling are of use only when all the parts are present in
the frame, when they are linked in the order designed by the
clock-maker, and when all are so trained that immediately on
winding they start moving and begin showing results.
Alas, today the situation has become very different. For a
start, the very Jama'ah, the organizational structure, which
was supposed to link the parts of the clock together has ceased
to exist. The result is that all the fittings have come apart,
each has gone its own way. Everybody does whatever takes
his fancy. There is nobody to question anything. Everyone is
autonomous. If someone wants to follow the Islamic code, he
can; if he does not want to, he need not.
Since even this so-called freedom has not satisfied you, you
have pulled out many parts of the clock and in their place put
anything and everything: a spare part from a sewing machine,
perhaps, or from a factory or from the engine of a car. You
call yourselves Muslims, yet you render loyal service to Kufr,
yet you take interest, you insure your lives, you file false law
suits, your daughters, sisters and wives are forsaking Islamic
manners and your children are being given secular materialistic
educations. Some have become disciples of Gandhi; others
are following Lenin. Which un-Islamic gadget is there that
you have not fixed into the frame of the clock of Islam?
Despite this, you expect the clock to work when you wind
it! And you suppose that cleaning, lubricating and overhaul-
ing it will also be of use. With a little reflection, however, you
should see that in the condition to which you have reduced
the clock you can wind it, lubricate it, and overhaul it, for the
whole of your lives without any effect. Nothing will happen
until you remove the parts brought in from other appliances,
replace them with the original parts, and restore the original
priorities. Then, and only then, will the winding and so forth
produce any results.
Why Worship Rites Are Ineffective
This state of affairs is the real reason why your Salah,
Sawm, Zakah and Hajj make no impact upon your lives.
First, there are so few among you who perform these acts of
worship. Due to the dissolution of Islamic Jama'ah
everybody has become autonomous. Whether you fulfil your
obligations or not, there is nobody to care. Nor do those who
do apparently carry out their obligations do so in a proper
manner. They are not constant in attending the congrega-
tional Prayer. People are selected to lead the Prayers in the
mosques simply because they are fit for no other work: people
who exist on the free bread doled out to mosques, who are
uneducated, who lack moral calibre. How can congregations
led by them turn you into the leaders of mankind? Similar is
the situation regarding your Fasting, Almsgiving and
Despite all these facts, you may argue, there are
nonetheless many Muslims who do discharge their religious
duties conscientiously. Why does that make no difference?
But, as I have said, when the parts of the clock have become
unhinged and numerous foreign bodies have been inserted in
it, it makes no difference if you wind it or not, clean it or not,
lubricate it or not. From a distance it does look like a clock.
An outside observer may say: This is Islam and you are
Muslims. But what he cannot see is how badly its inside
machinery has been tampered with.
Our Deplorable Condition
Brothers! You understand why it is so that you pray and
fast and yet remain trampled under the heel of cruel tyrants.
But, should I tell you something even more distressing?
Although most of you no doubt regret this situation but, I
would say, 999 people out of 1000 are not prepared to change
their situation. They have no urge in their hearts to assemble
the clock of Islam again properly. They are afraid that any
such reconstruction would mean that their own favourite im-
ported parts would be thrown out, and this they are not
prepared to accept. They are afraid that any tightening of
various parts would mean that they will have to discipline
themselves, and this they are not willing to undertake.
Instead, they prefer that the clock remains a piece of
decoration on the wall for people to be shown and told how
wonderful Islam is, what miracles it can perform. Those who
are supposed to love this clock more than others would like to
wind it repeatedly and zealously and to clean it most
laboriously; but they want to do nothing to reset its parts
properly or tighten them, nor will they seek to get rid of the
I wish I could endorse your attitudes and behaviour, but I
cannot say anything which I believe is wrong. I assure you
that if, in addition to praying five times a day, you were to
offer Tahadjud (pre-dawn), Ishraq (post-sunset) and Chasht
(mid-morning) Prayers, read the Qur'an for hours every day,
and observe, over and above Ramadan, extra fasts for five
and a half months in the remaining eleven months, you would
still achieve nothing. What is needed is to restore the original
parts to the clock and fix them firmly. Then even the little
necessary winding will make it work smoothly; and the
minimal amount of required cleaning and lubrication will be
Wa ma 'alayna illa 'l-balagh
There is no responsibility on us except conveying the