Before you all ‘X’ your browsers from just reading the title because, I admit, it seems rather ‘standard’ – don’t. I am not going to tell you to do Salah on time or that if you miss Fajr, you’re going to hell (lol); because that’s linear, dull, not holistic and definitely single-minded. Let’s be honest, you could go watch any lecture on Salah if you really wanted to learn about the disciplinary code. Actually, I recommend you do that, and I highly, highly recommend that you read Adabus-salat by Sayyid Khomeini (ra).
The main aim of this entry is to briefly highlight what we can all take away from Salah and immediately identify what is stunting our growth so that we can work on removing it. By growth, I mean a loss in love for the material. By no means is this easy, but it is straightforward in my opinion.
As a per-requisite, I will recommend that at least 10-15 minutes before Salah we disengage ourselves from technology and meaningless activities though, of course, we cannot always do this due to work and other requirements. The reason for this ‘time before’ is so we will then be more able to catch our wild thoughts during prayer, which is essential for spiritual growth in general.
When you next begin Salah try to keep an ‘eye’ on your thoughts and what, exactly, are you thinking about during Salah. For example, I would play Xbox every evening with my cousins and when it came to Maghrib time I found that my mind kept wandering to Xbox and because I had just stopped playing before Maghrib I realised that my mind was not at all in the mode for prayer. This kept happening, even when I didn’t play close to Maghrib time, and I figured out that I had become somewhat overly attached to the Xbox, as childish as that may sound. It would not allow me to reach the concentration, in prayer, that I would thirst for because of the simple fact that I could not stop it entering my mind during Salah.
Now, time is a different topic all together, one which we will touch upon in another post, but time wasting also does not help in the controlling of thoughts. With this time waste also came lack of enthusiasm and concentration in prayer. It deterred my thought process in prayer and I would find it very difficult to regain and control my imagination.
I could give many examples but I wanted to give a seemingly ‘insignificant’ one, though I found it was no small matter to me, for it would keep popping up into my mind whilst I prayed. It’s not like I wanted to think about it, it just ‘appeared’. These simple but degrading thoughts could be anything, such as the good old: “what’s on TV” or “I need to check Instagram”. This, my friends, is the way in which our Salah is interrupted – appearing thoughts. What is the cause for these appearing thoughts? What else but love for the material, but more specifically the very things we were thinking about during Salah.
So whilst in prayer certain thoughts appear into the mind, thus leading us to a reasonable conclusion; the topic of these thoughts must hold some sway over our hearts. Some love must exist for these ‘insignificant’ materials that overrides our love of Salah.
I think we all know the next step, don’t we? Remove them from the heart, one by one, slowly but surely. I don’t mean to say give up these acts but we need to make a time and place for everything in our day so that our minds are always focused and purposeful. This is a life-long process, one that most of us will not succeed in. To remove materialism is also to remove the ego, and we all know that this is the last summit of man.
Imam al-Sadiq (as) has said, “Among the advices that Allah (swt), Blessed and most High, gave to Prophet Isa (as) son of Lady Maryam (sa) was, ‘O Isa, wherever you may be, scrutinize yourself on My behalf’”
Do not be put off because it is always the little things that matter. I stopped playing Xbox for a while, and what do you know? No more ‘random’ Xbox thoughts in prayer. Seemingly, the small amount of attaching ‘love’ I had for it was removed from me.
There is however a catch to all of this. We must be in the mind-set of the striving ones, the acting ones, the faithful ones, and most importantly the sincere ones. There will be some things that you will not want to give up, the ego will wail and scream for you to stop the journey but this is when the real challenge begins. The challenge to literally wage a holy war on your own self is on the horizon, yet we are indifferent? If the Imam (ajf) came now we would all shout “Labayka Ya Mehdi!” on the battlefield, but how many of us shout the same line when we are battling every single day against our worst enemy; our self?
Imam al-Baqir (as) has said, “There is no greater distinction than Jihad, and no Jihad like combating ones self”
I have tried my best to continue this technique and have had some progress although, too be brutally honest, we all already know what lies in our hearts; what materialistic desires we succumb to on a daily basis. This is merely a way for it to be shoved in our faces, so that we cannot be in denial.