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There's a number of questions on this site that essentially amount to: My prayer was imperfect, do I need to redo it? or I did [something] wrong in prayer, will it be accepted? E.g. thinking about stopping, mispronunciation, flatulence, conditional non-obligatory prayer, praying at home (x2), twice performing prostration of forgetfulness, bathroom impurities, doubts, cat hair, and so on. I've been thinking the same thing about my own prayer...

Question: Does a 90% correct prayer count for nothing?

The Qur'an gives me the impression that a 90% correct prayer should count for something.

So whoever does an atom's weight of good will see it, -- Qur'an 99:7

But this hadith indicates the opposite (at least, in regards to purification):

It was narrated that Ibn 'Umar said:

"The Messenger of Allah said: 'Allah does not accept any prayer without purification, and He does not accept any charity from ghulul.'"

Sunan Ibn Majah (sunnah.com, listed as sahih)

Basically, the notion of a prayer being accepted/rejected leaves me with the impression that if one does not get it 100% correct, then it's equal in value to not praying at all (which is discouraging). If I tried, I'm sure I could identify flaws in my prayer and maybe, despite doing my five prayers, I am yet to have a prayer accepted.

In a sense, this is an extension of my earlier question What does it mean for a prayer to be invalid or not accepted?, where it seems prayers can be rejected for failing to meet obligations (direction of prayer and purification primarily; and hair covering in another answer).

  • "If I tried, I'm sure I could identify flaws in my prayer and maybe, despite doing my five prayers, I am yet to have a prayer accepted." The hadith about having a singe perfect prayer in all your life guaranteeing paradise comes to mind; I can't find it right now though, maybe someone else can. – G. Bach Jan 5 '17 at 9:16
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    Considering the list of questions there is, a 100% correct prayer seems like an unachievable goal. – user5751924 Jan 5 '17 at 11:48
  • I'm not even sure if my prayer is 1% correct (valid). – Medi1Saif Jan 5 '17 at 18:58
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Does a 90% correct prayer count for nothing?

The answer is NO:

‘Ammar b. Yasir said: I heard the apostle of Allah (ﷺ) say: A man returns after performing his prayer while a tenth part of his prayer, or a ninth part, or an eight part, or a seventh part, or a sixth part, or a fifth part, or a third part, or half of it, is recorded for him.

Sunan Abi Dawud 796

Correction

The hadith you mentioned “Allah does not accept any prayer without tohoor” (tohoor translated as purification) and means ‘Wudu’ or ‘Tayammum’, so that is not related to the subject you are discussing.

The whispers of Satan

  • Satan may whisper evil to you that your prayer is not accepted, so you get disappointed and stop praying.
  • Whispers are two types (*), light thoughts do not affect your concentration and understanding of what is being read, a prayer without those thoughts is better, but if they happen your prayer is still correct. The other type is thoughts which affect realization and understanding of the contents of the prayer and that will cause cutting parts of the reward as much as you miss of the prayer.

(*) Ibn Taymiyyah - Majmoo’ Fataawaa – 22 – (Do whispers cancel the prayer)

So the max would be losing all the reward, but yet that is not a reason to stop praying because then that person will not get rewarded but will not be punished for not performing the prayer so you can say he gets 0 but not minus.

Sunnah prayer supplements the deficiency of the obligatory

Prophet (ﷺ) said:

The first thing about which the people will be called to account out of their actions on the Day of Judgment is prayer. Our Lord, the Exalted, will say to the angels - though He knows better: Look into the prayer of My servant and see whether he has offered it perfectly or imperfectly. If it is perfect, that will be recorded perfect. If it is defective, He will say: See there are some optional prayers offered by My servant. If there are optional prayer to his credit, He will say: Compensate the obligatory prayer by the optional prayer for My servant. Then all the actions will be considered similarly.

Sunan Abi Dawud 864

Remember

Well perform wudu, well perform Rukou, and well perform Sujood (do not rush).

... The Prophet said, "When you get up for the prayer, perform the ablution properly and then face the Qibla and say Takbir (Allahu Akbar), and then recite of what you know of the Qur'an, and then bow, and remain in this state till you feel at rest in bowing, and then raise your head and stand straight; and then prostrate till you feel at rest in prostration, and then sit up till you feel at rest while sitting; and then prostrate again till you feel at rest in prostration; and then get up and stand straight, and do all this in all your prayers."

Sahih al-Bukhari 6667

Some (not all) of the things that prevent accepting prayer:

“Whoever drinks Al-khamr and gets drunk, his prayer will not be accepted for forty days…"

Sunan Ibn Majah Vol. 4, Book 30, Hadith 3377

Prophet (ﷺ) who said, "He who goes to one who claims to tell about matters of the Unseen and believes in him, his Salat (prayers) will not be accepted for forty days."

[Muslim]

Acceptance

Scholars explained acceptance as levels:

  • Satisfaction, love and praise
  • Reward but not as good as the first one
  • Prevent punishment but no reward and this is when one prays but spend the prayer thinking about other things. (Ibn Al-Qayyim)
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The hadith you quoted is one evidence which demonstrates how Wudu (ablution) is required before prayer. Prayer without Purification (Wudu/Tayammum) is 100% invalid. You have to do Wudu and then offer the prayer again.

But as for a prayer which you offered (after Wudu) having imperfections, does that count for something? - The answer is yes. This is why Sunnah prayers are so important/beneficial. They make up for deficiencies you may have in the Fard (obligatory) prayers.

The Prophet (ﷺ) said:

The first thing about which the people will be called to account out of their actions on the Day of Judgment is prayer. Our Lord, the Exalted, will say to the angels - though He knows better: Look into the prayer of My servant and see whether he has offered it perfectly or imperfectly. If it is perfect, that will be recorded perfect.

If it is defective, He will say: See there are some optional prayers offered by My servant. If there are optional prayer to his credit, He will say: Compensate the obligatory prayer by the optional prayer for My servant. Then all the actions will be considered similarly. [Sunan Abu Dawud 864].

On the other hand, Sunnah prayers don't make up for prayers in which you do actions that render the prayer invalid (eg, not reciting Al Fatiha, etc). In that case, Fard prayers must be redone. The above applies to prayers which you meet conditions for it to be valid yet it has imperfections.

One final advice: Try to perfect your prayers.

  • Wudu' or tayamum if it is appropriate in your actual situation. Because wudu' and tayamum have the same level of purity in that case. – Medi1Saif Jan 6 '17 at 11:05

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