Praying behind an imam who recites like he means it; he understands the verses he recites, pauses when required, and gets emotional at the reminders contained in it, makes the prayer all the more enjoyable. It catches your heart, and you could stand there for ages absorbing the floating tunes of the heart-melting recitation.

How can one mimic this recitation on their journey to improved Khushu’ to maintain concentration? Let’s have a look at several ways to do so:

  • Dividing the verses into sections: This practice of dividing the verses is from the Sunnah,

Umm Salamah mentioned that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) used to recite: ‘In the name of Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds; Most Gracious, Most Merciful; Master of the Day of Judgement,’ dividing its recitation into verses, one after another. (Abu Dawud, Saheeh by Sh Al-Albaani) The Prophet would pause at the end of each verse, without joining one to the other.

  • Pre-choosing/selecting verses: Have you ever finished Surah Al-Fatiha and fumbled for another Surah or group of verses, wishing to prolong your recitation, only to find yourself unable to think and reverting back to the same Surah in every prayer? Before you begin praying, know which Surahs you are going to recite, and pre-select them, this way you will be able to utilise the various portions of the Quran that you have memorised, which is helpful to Khushu’.
  • Learn what Surahs and ayaat the Prophet used to recite in which prayers: Not only would this help one to follow the Sunnah, but also encourages one to concentrate.

A full list can be found in the book Sifatu Salatin-Nabi, downloadable here.

  • Slow/measured tones: Reciting slowly will give you time to reflect upon what you are reading, and help you to perfect your recitation. Moreover, Allah said, “recite the Qur’an with measured recitation.” (Al-Muzammil 73:04) our recitation should not be rushed, such that we make mistakes or give ourselves little time to absorb what we are saying.

Hafsah said, “the Prophet used to recite a Surah in such a slow measured tone (that duration of its recital) exceeded one longer than this.” (Muslim)

  • Beautifying your voice: it is permissible and encouraged to beautify one’s voice when reciting the Qur’an

The Prophet peace be upon him said, “Adorn the Qur’an with your voices.” (An-Nisa’i, Abu Dawood, Saheeh by Sh Al-Albaani) 

Narrated Abu Musa al-Ash‘ari (may Allah be pleased with him) who said: The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) listened to my recitation at night. The next morning he said: O Abu Musa, I listened to your recitation last night; you have been given a beautiful voice like the beautiful voice of Dawood.” I said: “O Messenger of Allah, if I had known you were there, I would have made it more beautiful.” (An-Nisa’i, Ibn Hibban and Al-Bayhaqi, Saheeh by Sh Al-Albaani)

It was narrated that ‘Aishah the wife of the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “One night at the time of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) I was late returning from the ‘Isha’, then I came and he said: ‘Where were you?’ I said: ‘I was listening to the recitation of a man among your Companions, for I have never heard a recitation or a voice like his from anyone.’ He got up and I got up with him, to go and listen to him. Then he turned to me and said: ‘This is Salim, the freed slave of Abu Hudhaifah. Praise is to Allah Who has created such men among my Ummah.’” (Ibn Majah, Saheeh)

The Prophet defined what was meant by one with a good voice saying, “Indeed the one who has one of the finest voices among the people for reciting the Qur’an is the one whom you think fears Allah when you hear him recite.” (Transmitted by Ibn Al-Mubarak in Az-Zuhd, taken from Sifatu-Salatin Nabi)

Nonetheless, when one recites he should ensure that he follows the rules without distorting the letters or words. One should also be cautious of showing off, for it can render the prayer null and void. (You can find out more about the severity of Showing off here)

  • Reflecting upon the verses: one should ponder upon the verse he recites in his prayer. If one does not understand he should seek out means to help him to understand, such as learning the Arabic language, reading the translations, and books of tafseer.
  • Reciting Audibly: When one is alone, their prayer should not be mute, rather they should recite in a way by which they can hear themselves. If they happen to pray in a congregation they should be wary of distracting others and confusing others.

Narrated Abu Hurayrah, “Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “Allah does not listen to a prophet as He listens to a prophet who recites the Qur’an in a pleasant tone.” The companion of the sub-narrator (Abu Salama) said, “It means, reciting it aloud.” (Bukhari)

Narrated Abu Qatadah: The Prophet (ﷺ) went out at night and found Abu Bakr praying in a low voice, and he passed Umar ibn al-Khattab who was raising his voice while praying. When they both met the Prophet (ﷺ) together, the Prophet (ﷺ) said: I passed by you, Abu Bakr, when you were praying in a low voice. He replied: I made Him hear with Whom I was holding intimate converse, Messenger of Allah. He (the Prophet) said to Umar: I passed by you when you were praying in a loud voice. He replied: Messenger of Allah, I was awakening the drowsy and driving away the Devil. Al-Hasan added in his version: The Prophet (ﷺ) said: Raise your voice a little, Abu Bakr, and he said to Umar: Lower your voice a little. (Abu Dawud, Saheeh by Sh Al-Albaani)

  • Knowing the virtues and rewards for what he recites: By knowing the great rewards for what one recites will encourage a person to hold their focus during their prayer, for is not everyone hungry for rewards?!

Ibn Mas’ud (May Allah be pleased with him) reported, the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Whoever recites a letter from the Book of Allah, he will be credited with a good deed, and a good deed gets a ten-fold reward. I do not say that Alif-Lam-Mim is one letter, but Alif is a letter, Lam is a letter and Mim is a letter.” (Tirmidhi)

In a Hadith Qudsi, the Prophet said, Allah the Exalted had said” I have divided the prayer into two halves between Me and My servant, and My servant will receive what he asks. When the servant says: Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the universe, Allah the Most High says: My servant has praised Me. And when he (the servant) says: The Most Compassionate, the Merciful, Allah the Most High says: My servant has lauded Me. And when he (the servant) says: Master of the Day of judgement, He remarks: My servant has glorified Me. and sometimes He would say: My servant entrusted (his affairs) to Me. And when he (the worshipper) says: Thee do we worship and of Thee do we ask help, He (Allah) says: This is between Me and My servant, and My servant will receive what he asks for. Then, when he (the worshipper) says: Guide us to the straight path, the path of those to whom Thou hast been Gracious not of those who have incurred Thy displeasure, nor of those who have gone astray, He (Allah) says: This is for My servant, and My servant will receive what he asks for.” (Muslim)

To conclude, the Quran has been sent down as a means of guidance and a reminder for the believers. It was sent for us to reflect upon and take heed. We should also enjoy reciting the Qur’an, and it should be the spring of our hearts and the light of our chests. Prayer combines both the recitation of the Quran and the honourable act of salah which was revealed in the highest heavens. It should therefore, strike a chord in our hearts and render us into submission to our Lord Most High.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Indeed, a person addresses his Lord (with an attentive, humble heart through which the mercy of Allah is embraced) when in the prayer, therefore he should address Him in a courteous manner; and none should raise his voice over others while reciting Qur’an.” (Malik and Bukhari in Af’al Al ‘Ibad, taken from Sifatu-Salatin-Nabi)

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