إِنَّ أَوَّلَ مَا يُحَاسَبُ بِهِ الْعَبْدُ الْمُسْلِمُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ الصَّلَاةُ الْمَكْتُوبَةُ فَإِنْ أَتَمَّهَا وَإِلَّا قِيلَ انْظُرُوا هَلْ لَهُ مِنْ تَطَوُّعٍ فَإِنْ كَانَ لَهُ تَطَوُّعٌ أُكْمِلَتْ الْفَرِيضَةُ مِنْ تَطَوُّعِهِ ثُمَّ يُفْعَلُ بِسَائِرِ الْأَعْمَالِ الْمَفْرُوضَةِ مِثْلُ ذَلِكَ
"The first matter that the Muslim servant will be questioned about on the Day of Judgment is the obligatory prayers, whether he had performed them properly or not. If not, then it will be said "Look if he has performed any voluntary prayers." If he has, then the deficits in his obligatory prayers will be filled by the voluntary ones and the same will be done with the other obligatory acts."(1)
Prophet (salla Allaahu 'alayhy wa sallam) quoted Allaah (subhaanahu wa ta'aalaa), as reported in a Qudsee Hadeeth, saying:
وَمَا تَقَرَّبَ إِلَيَّ عَبْدِي بِشَيْءٍ أَحَبَّ إِلَيَّ مِمَّا افْتَرَضْتُ عَلَيْهِ
"My servant does not come closer to Me by anything more pleasing to Me than fulfilling what I have obliged on him."(2)
We cannot overestimate the importance of the prayer; it is the act that distinguishes us from disbelievers(3). We should give the obligatory acts the priority and attention they deserve. They are what is required of us, and they are the basic requirements for entering heaven, by the Will of Allaah.
A man came to the Prophet (salla Allaahu 'alayhy wa sallam) and said to him:
أَرَأَيْتَ إِذَا صَلَّيْتُ الصَّلَوَاتِ الْمَكْتُوبَاتِ وَصُمْتُ رَمَضَانَ وَأَحْلَلْتُ الْحَلَالَ وَحَرَّمْتُ الْحَرَامَ وَلَمْ أَزِدْ عَلَى ذَلِكَ شَيْئًا أَأَدْخُلُ الْجَنَّةَ قَالَ نَعَمْ
"O Messenger of Allaah! If I perform the obligatory prayers, fast the month of Ramadaan, accept what is lawful, and keep away from what is forbidden, and don't add anything to that, will I enter Paradise? The Prophet (salla Allaahu 'alayhy wa sallam) answered: "Yes."(4)
We are, however, encouraged to do as many voluntary deeds as we can to fill the holes in our obligatory ones and to seek the rewards of Allaah (subhaanahu wa ta'aalaa). The point is, put the obligatory acts before the voluntary ones.
(1) Sunan Ibn Maajah (1415) and graded Saheeh by al-Albaanee in Saheeh wa Da'eef Sunan Ibn Maajah (1425). The Hadeeth also has many Shawaahid (witnesses) from other reports.
(2) Reported by al-Bukhaaree in his Saheeh (6021).
(3) Imaam Muslim narrated in his Saheeh (116 and 117) from Jaabir that he heard the Prophet (salla Allaahu 'alayhy wa sallam) saying:
إِنَّ بَيْنَ الرَّجُلِ وَبَيْنَ الشِّرْكِ وَالْكُفْرِ تَرْكَ الصَّلَاةِ
(4) Reported by Muslim in his Saheeh (17 and 18).
"What is between a man and Shirk and disbelief is abandoning the prayer."