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Ibn Katheer, may Allaah have mercy on him, said: “This – and Allaah knows best – was because of the intensity of the tribulation that they were facing from Pharaoh and his people. They were commanded to pray much, as Allaah Says (what means): "O you who believe! Seek help with patience and prayer…" [QUR'AAN 2:153], and as it was reported in the Hadeeth that the Messenger of Allaah, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, when he was distressed by something, would pray.”
This explains the importance of worshipping at home, especially at times when the Muslims are in a position of weakness, as happens in some places where the Muslims cannot pray openly in front of the non-believers. In this context we may think of the Mihraab (prayer niche) of Maryam, may Allaah exalt her mention, which was her place of worship, as Allaah Says (what means): "… Every time Zakariya entered the mihraab to visit her, he found her supplied with sustenance…" [QUR'AAN 3:37]
The Companions, may Allaah be pleased with them, used to be keen to pray at home – apart from the Fardh or obligatory prayers (which they prayed in congregation in the mosque) – and there is a moving story concerning this. Mahmood ibn al-Rabee’ al-Ansaari reported that ‘Utbaan ibn Maalik, may Allaah be pleased with him – who was one of the Companions of the Messenger, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, and was one of the Ansaar who had been present at Badr – came to the Messenger of Allaah , sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, and said: “I am losing my sight, and I lead my people in prayer. When it rains, the valley between me and them gets flooded and I cannot get to their mosque to lead them in prayer. O Messenger of Allaah, I would like you to come to come and pray in my house so that I can take it as a place for prayer.” The Messenger of Allaah, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, said: “I will do that, in shaa' Allaah.” ‘Utbaan, may Allaah be pleased with him, said: “The next day the Messenger of Allaah, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, and Abu Bakr came in the morning. The Messenger of Allaah, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, asked for permission to enter, and I gave him permission. He did not sit down until he entered the house, then he said: ‘Where would you like me to pray in your house?’ I showed him a corner of the house, then the Messenger of Allaah (SWT) , sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, stood up, said Takbeer, and we stood in a row behind him, and he prayed two Rak’ahs and gave the salaam at the end of the prayer.” (Reported by Al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, 1/519)
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