“The similitude of the five (obligatory) prayers is like a river running at the door of one of you in which he takes a bath five times a day.” – Prophet Mohammed (PBUH)
We live busy lives. Always on the move to a meeting, a class, a practice. There is always something that needs to be done 24/7. As hectic as the world gets there is always a place for refuge; salaah. But honestly speaking, salaah does not always fit in our jam packed schedules. Salaah can feel like a burden to many of us. We can easily get into the habit of saying “when I get home” or “I’ll pray duhur and asr together”. This is when our Western culture begins to seep though. We are just too busy and salaah can wait, can’t it? By saying salaah can wait are we not saying Allah can wait? During the adhan does the muezzin not say “come to success”? Are we in turn saying THAT form of success can wait and THIS form of success is important?
Or maybe we do make our salaah on time. Maybe we wake up for fajr (morning prayer) and stand during the night for Tahajjud (late night prayer). We do all this but something is missing. Like eating a five course meal and still feeling hungry afterward. We might not find salaah to be this great spiritual uplift. The truth is that not every salaah will be an earth shattering spiritual event and for good reason! If we were able to have a ground shaking experience every time that may push us to be a bit extreme in our religion. We may stand for salaah too long, which is forbidden. So, how do we find this middle path when it comes to salaah? No matter if you make salaah on time and feel empty. Or if you are one who just does not find time or needs a push to make salaah, I may have some tips.
Wudhu (physical cleaning of the body) is an essential part of salaah, in fact we cannot begin salaah without wudhu. Wudhu as a practice is essential. At times we rush through it, so that we can rush through salaah, so we can continue rushing through life. Let us learn to slow down during wudhu and really think about what we are doing, When you turn on the water just pause for a second and think, “all the water humans needed was on earth before humans”. Allah knew we would need water and put it here before us so we may not struggle. As you wash you hands and your forearms watch the water drip off your forearms. Watch how the droplets of water rejoin the flow of water coming from the faucet leading to the drain. That is how we want to be, droplets of water trying to join with Allah. As you continue wudhu just take your time. Embrace the feeling of the water in your mouth, nose and hair. When you get to your feet slowly wash them. If you are in a position where you wash your feet over your socks, be sure you were in complete wudhu when you put the socks on the first time. Now, you may not have time to do a slow and thoughtful wudhu all the time but when you can, do so.
After you have cleansed your body it is time to clean your soul with salaah. Let us say you are at home and you are moving at the most part at your own pace. Be sure that you have a clean and organized place to make salaah. Before anything stretch quickly. Nothing too intense, a good stretch as if you were just waking up will get the blood flowing. If you make salaah in your bedroom, make sure your bedroom is free of clutter. Everything is neat and clean as if you were in a masjid. Your bed is made, nothing is on the floor, phone is turned off or on silent. Lighting a candle instead of using a lamp is preferred. Candle light gives the room a more natural feeling. Some people like to spray their prayer mat with some sort of scent, this will come in handy later on in the process.
Before you step on your prayer mat and say the iqama, pause. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and pay attention to your lungs expanding. Do this maybe two or three times. Feel your chest expanding and deflating and remember one day that the action of respiration will no longer be there(you can do this exercise anytime not just before salaah). After you have explored your breathing it is time to ask yourself a few questions. The first question I ask myself is, why am I standing here? What is the purpose of me going through the motions of salaah? Everyone will have different answers and truth be told some will have no answers.
After you have completed the breathing exercise step on the prayer mat and firmly plant your feet on the mat. Feel the fabric of the mat on your feet; pay attention to your feet. Put all your mental focus on your feet, then knees, then your chest. Then begin your salaah. Now this is where many of us get stuck, salaah gets mundane. We recite the same surahs and the same tasbih. To break this chain learn new surahs. If you need help with Arabic find someone who has that knowledge. Have a Qur’an study session with some friends. It is up to us to break our own tiresome chainwe find ourselves in. It is also permissible to change the tasbih in rooku and sujud. Prophet Mohammed(PBUH) used several different tasbih during salaah, constantly switching. While in rooku after tisbah is complete hold the position and simply count to three and continue. In sujod do the same thing, pay attention to the smell you sprayed on the rug. Let the scent sit in your nose while you recite your tisbah.
After you are done with salaah, just sit there. Sit and just go back over what you just did. And after you have gone through that mental process ask yourself, “How do I feel?” Purifying the heart was a priority for The Prophet and as such it should for every Muslim.