It is indeed a great concern to possess concentration (khushu) and heedfulness during your prayers, for Allah (swt) says in the Holy Quran: “Certainly will the believers have succeeded: They who are during prayer humbly submissive.” (23: 1-2)
We also read from Ibn Ata’Allah al-Sakandari Taj al-Arus, on the authority of Shaykh Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili (d.656/1258): “Measure and weigh yourself by prayer. If it engenders a sense of satisfaction, know that you are fortunate. God, the Exalted says, ‘Verily prayer prevents obscene and reprehensive behaviour.” (29: 45) Otherwise, cry for yourself, as you literally drag your feet to prayer…”
This noble endeavour can be achieved by striving to follow the outward and inward aspect of prayer of our Beloved Prophet and Messenger (pbuh). The outward level with regards to actions, and the inward level pertaining to the embodiment of the Prophetic state during every posture of the Salah.
Spiritual Level of Prayer Preparation
If you are to begin preparing for Salah, your aim is to think and to refresh the belief that “Allah (swt), the Lord the Worlds, is with me, is watching me and is listening to my recitation and Dhikr in every posture of prayer.”
You should employ remembrance; in every posture you should train yourself to remember with the presence of heart and mind (NOT with words, as this will invalidate your Salah) that Allah (swt) is with me, watching me and listening to me. When should you do this? The answer is in every posture of the Salah.
- Standing (Qiyaam & I’tidal)
- Bowing (Ruku)
- Prostrating (Sujood)
- Sitting (Jalsah)
Why is Khushu in Salah important?
Allah (swt) commands khushu and concentration in Salah. He states in the Glorious Quran:
“Woe to those who pray, but who are heedless of their prayer.” (107: 4, 5)
What good is the Salah in which your focus was intended to be your reunion with your greatest ally, your most superior confidante, your most Beloved Creator, Protector and Sustainer, but your focus has in fact become going through the motions in 60 seconds?
So, when one approaches any good deed, Salah being the utmost of them, the Devil, the greatest enemy to mankind, will conjure all of his powers to engage your mind in any subject other than that of Divine Presence. He will take you on journeys and fantasies of food, money, daily routine, family and friends throughout your entire Salah.
To unveil yourself from the tricks of the devil is the first step to overcoming your enemy.
So, what to do now and how to do it?
As a pre-requisite, you should be offering prayer whilst knowing the obligatory (fardh), necessary (wajib), and sunnat and invalidating (mufsid) act of ablution (wudhu), ritual bathing (ghusl) and Salah and acting upon them. Knowing and acting upon this outward aspect of Salah is essential to validating your prayer. It will also offer you the backdrop to knowing what and why you are doing it, so as to avoid doubt and confusion inspired by Satan.
It is always advisable to get yourself into the right frame from mind from the moment that you perform your ablution (wudhu). Remind yourself that you are about to take a wonderful journey to meet your Lord who is eager to listen to your call.
Then, as you walk towards your place of worship on the prayer mat again, constantly keep reminding and reinforcing how fortunate you are to meet and communicate with your Beloved Lord. How many millions will be busied with other insignificant duties and how many trillions of others have lost their opportunity and are in their graves.
One is reminded of the wonderful aphorism of Ibn Ata’ Allah al-Sakandari’s Taj al-Arus in this regard.
“Prayer is an occasion of private communication and a repository of goodwill. During it, the province of one’s inner conscience expands and illumination radiates.”
So then when you finally approach your prayer mat, take a pause. Even if it is just 5 seconds during the Iqamah (final call to prayer) plant into your mind and firmly believe with conviction that Allah (swt) the Lord of the worlds is with you, is watching you and is hearing you as you are about to enter into His presence.
This will help you to empty your mind from any worldly concern and to at least enter your first Rakah with concentration and heedfulness. Then, continue to re-establish and maintain this focus in every posture as outlined above.
Just after you exit your Salah, don’t forget to ask Allah (swt) for forgiveness for all of the shortcomings in your prayer. Even our Beloved Prophet (pbuh) used to follow his Salah by asking God for forgiveness three times.
You may miss the presence of heart in your practices, i.e. saying inwardly with heart and mind that ‘Allah (swt) is with me, is watching me and is hearing me’ in some postures. Do not fret, as perfection is not ours, especially at the beginning of any journey.
This is where most people fail in their journey to meet the Lord of the Worlds. They have unrealistic expectations for themselves and when they find that they cannot meet them within the limited time and training they have given to themselves they decide to abandon the entire journey.
So, be realistic… begin with baby steps and Inshallah with the right training and resilience you will by the Grace of God achieve khushu in Salah. For Allah (swt) has promised us in the Noble Quran that:
“As for those who strive in Us, We surely guide them to Our paths, and lo! Allah is with the good.” (29: 69)
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