Today we will continue our series on Khushu. In our previous article, we looked at the conditions to be fulfilled before praying, without which the prayer would not be valid. We will now address the preparation for Salah from a different angle, which will hopefully help clear one’s mind before praying.
- Removing Distractions:
One should aim to remove distractions before praying so as to ease his path to khushu’
-Wearing plain garments which have no patterns: It was narrated from Aisha that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) prayed in a khamisah (square shirt) that had markings, then he said, “These markings distracted me. Take it to Abu Jahm and bring me his Anbijani (a woollen garment with no markings).”
Today, not only are our clothes elaborately decorated, but so are our mosques and prayer mats. How many times have you traced a pattern from your prayer mat whilst praying? Or wondered at the beauty of the mosque in which you stood? We should do our best to remove these distractions as much as possible. A woman should seek a corner of her house removed from distractions to pray in. And a man should attend the congregation in the mosque, for there is strength and unity in numbers.
- Removing pictures and other items which may distract a person’s attention from the prayer:
Narrated Anas, ‘Aisha had a Qiram (a thin marked woollen curtain) with which she had screened one side of her home. The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Take away this Qiram of yours, as its pictures are still displayed in front of me during my prayer (i.e. they divert my attention from the prayer).’”
- Children are blessing, however sometimes their games can be a distraction to parents, or if in the mosque to other worshippers, or they may even endanger themselves whilst their parents pray, which will distract one’s attention. Thus, it is upon parents to teach their children, to settle them down, and to instruct them in good manners and etiquettes (especially in the House of Allah).
- Taking A Sutrah:
Abu Sa’id al-Khudri reported the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) as saying, “When one of you prays, he should pray facing the sutrah (screen or covering) and he should keep himself close to it.” (Abu Dawud, Hasan Sahih by Sh Al-Albaani)
The purpose of a sutrah is to prevent others crossing your prayer, as well as preventing the one praying from looking beyond his prayer place. This will aid concentration as one’s eyes cannot wander and follow the activities of others in the room.
In another hadith, Narrated Sahl ibn Abu Hathmah, the Prophet (ﷺ) said: When one of you prays facing a sutrah he should keep close to it, and not let the devil interrupt his prayer. (Abu Dawud, Sahih by Sh Al-Albaani) The devils work hard to distract one who is praying in various ways for they do not like to see obeying Allah. Indeed, there is a specific devil appointed to distract one in prayer,
Uthman b. Abu al-‘As reported that he came to Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) and said, “Allah’s Messenger, the Satan intervenes between me and my prayer and my reciting of the Qur’an and he confounds me.” Thereupon Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “that is (the doing of a) Satan (devil) who is known as Khinzab, and when you perceive its effect, seek refuge with Allah from it and spit three times to your left. I did that and Allah dispelled that from me.” (Muslim)
Hence one should take a sutrah, for it prevents Satan from disrupting the prayer.
In yet another narration, we find another purpose for the Sutrah, Abu Sa’id al-Khudri reported the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) as saying, “When one of you prays, he should not let anyone pass in front of him; he should turn him away as far as possible; but if he refuses (to go), he should fight him, for he is only a devil.” (Abu Dawud, Sahih, Sh Al-Albaani)
Thus, the sutrah acts as barrier and prevents people from passing directly in front you. It also makes known to the people that you are praying.
Imam An-Nawawi summed up the purpose of the sutrah as follows, “the wisdom behind the sutrah is to lower one’s gaze, prevent people from passing before one and prevent Satan from passing and ruining one’s salaah.” (Sharh Sahih Muslim)
- Levelling the Ground: one should prepare their place for prayer ensuring it is clean, as mentioned in our previous article. Similarly one should also ensure it suitable/ ready for them to use so that it does not distract them in their prayer.
Narrated Mu’aiqib, ‘the Prophet (ﷺ) talked about a man leveling the earth on prostrating, and said, “If you have to do so, then do it once.”’ (Bukhari)
- Food: When food is served, or ready and the pangs of hunger are pinching, the mouth waters, and the mind will be distracted by thoughts of food, such that it will cause one to lose focus, it may be better to eat first and then to pray once one is satiated.
Aishah (May Allah be pleased with her) said, ‘I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) saying, “No Salat (prayer) should be performed when the food has been served, nor should it be performed when a person is in need of relieving himself.”’ (Riyad-us-Saliheen, Muslim)
However, one should not make it a habit, to prepare food at the same time as prayer is due.
- Call of Nature: As mentioned in the hadith above, one should answer the call of nature. Naturally needing to answer the call of nature will deduct from one’s concentration, as the person is uncomfortable, and it most likely will preoccupy his thoughts.
Shaykh Ibn Uthaymeen was asked: If a person needs to urinate but he fears that he will miss the prayer in congregation if he relieves himself, should he pray whilst he is holding it in, so as to be sure of praying with the congregation, or should he relieve himself even if that means missing the congregational prayer?
He replied: “He should relieve himself and do wudhu, even if he misses the prayer in congregation, because this is a valid excuse. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “There is no prayer when food is ready or when one is trying to stop oneself doing either of the two things that break wudhu (i.e., urination and defecation).” Fataawa al-Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, 13, question, 589
- Sleepiness: if one is overtaken by slumber, one should delay the prayer until he is refreshed,
Narrated Anas, ‘The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “If anyone of you feels drowsy while praying, he should sleep till he understands what he is saying (reciting).”’ (Bukhari)
There are two opinions regarding the interpretation of this hadith. Firstly, that it refers to the night prayers only as they are long, and night is the time of sleep. The second opinion of the majority, that it refers to both the night prayers and the obligatory ones, provided one does not delay the obligatory prayer until its time is over.
Narrated Aisha, ‘Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “If anyone of you feels drowsy while praying he should go to bed (sleep) till his slumber is over because in praying while drowsy one does not know whether one is asking for forgiveness or for a bad thing for oneself.”’ (Bukhari)
Thus, this hadith and the aforementioned one refers to one whose drowsiness overcomes him to such an extent that he cannot make out what he is saying. As for one who is merely being lazy, then it does not apply to him.
It necessary that one is able to recite the various athkaar of the salah correctly when praying in order to gain Khushu, thus he should not be overtaken by sleep by which he dozes off in Sujud or recites Surah Al-Fatihah jumbled up.
I hope you have benefited from this article on means of attaining Khushu. May Allah accept our efforts and allow us to experience the sweetness of prayer.