Khayrul Quroon, the best of generations, crème de la crème, the finest of all people after the prophets, the cream of the crop. They were, and will always be, shining examples for those who come after them. When it comes to Khushu’, few can compare to the respect they had when they stood before Allah. The humility they displayed, the concentration, the awe that encompassed every limb, is beyond what we do today. They are established paradigms, for us to follow suit. So let us learn their stories, perhaps it may encourage and motivate us. Perhaps it may move us to tears. Perhaps we will be reminded.
Let us begin with the one who was closest to the Prophet peace be upon him; Abu Bakr As-Siddeeq. During the prophet’s final illness, when he was too weak to lead the people in prayer, Aishah narrated that the Prophet (ﷺ) said (to her). “Order Abu Bakr to lead the people in prayer.” She replied,” Abu Bakr is a soft-hearted person and when he stands at your place, he will weep (so he will not be able to lead the prayer).” His fear, love and hope in Allah was manifested in his weeping in prayer.
Another great Sahabi, Umar ibn Al-Khattab, who, when Satan saw coming, would cross the street to avoid him! After Umar was stabbed he became unconscious. Accoridng to Al-Miswar bin Makhramah, it was said, ‘Nothing would wake him up except the call to prayer, if he is still alive.’ They said to him, ‘The prayer has finished O Ameeral Mu’mineen!’ (a title given to Umar meaning leader of the Faithful). He woke up and said, ‘The prayer, by Allah! Verily there is no share in Islam for whoever abandons the prayer.’ He performed the prayer while his wound was bleeding. (Sifatas Safwah 2/131, As-Siyar 5/220) Such was his concern for the prayer, he would stand to attention even in his dying moments!
Al Qasim bin Muhammad said, “Whenever I went out in the morning, I used to visit Aisha (his aunt and the wife of the Prophet peace be upon him) and greet her. One day I found her performing Ad-Duha prayer, reciting this Ayah repeatedly, crying and invoking Allah: ‘So Allah has been gracious to us, and has saved us from the torment of the Fire.’ [52: 27] I stood there until I felt bored, so I left and went to the market to do something and said to myself that when I finish what I have to do, I will go back (to`Aisha). When I finished and went back to her, I found her still standing in prayer, reciting the same Ayah, crying and invoking Allah.'” [Al Ihya 4/436]
This is the Khushu’ that the early generation of muslims had. They could stand in prayer for hours, without knowing how long had passed, nor feeling the ache in their legs. No boredom could distract them.
The later generations:
Urwah ibn Az-Zubayr, a scholar from amongst the second generation, after the sahabahs. He developed gangrene in his leg, and it needed to be amputated. The surgeon suggested to him to drink some intoxicant so that he would be able to bear the pain, but he refused. Instead he advised them to remove his leg whilst he prayed.
One night Muhammad b. Ismaa’eel [al-Bukhari] was praying, when a wasp stung him seventeen times. When he completed his prayer, he (didn’t complain but instead) simply said, ‘Look and see what has harmed me during my prayer.’ (Bakr b. Munair)
According to another account of the same incident, Imam Bukhari, having just led other in Dhuhr prayer, got up and performed voluntary units of prayer. Upon the completion of those units, he lifted up one of the sides of his shirt and said to someone who was with him, “Look here. Do you see anything below my shirt?” The man was amazed to see that a wasp had bitten Imam Buhkhari (in sixteen or seventeen places; and as a result, his body had become swollen. (Read on pg 104, Salaahud-Deen ibn ‘Alee ibn ‘Abdul-Maujood, The Biography of Imam Bukhari. Darussalam. Riyadh: 2005.)
Maymun bin Hayyan said, “I never saw
Muslim bin Yasar turning his head while praying, whether the prayer was short
or long. Once, a part of the mosque came down and the noise caused fear to the
people who were in the market, while he was in the mosque, did not fear nor
even turn his head and kept praying.” [Az Zuhd by Imam Ahmad p 359]
“I accompanied `Ata bin Rabah for eighteen yers. When he became old and weak, he used to stand in prayer and read close to two hundred Ayat from Surat al Baqarah while standing in such firmness that no part of him would move.” [As Siyar 5/87, Sifat as Safwah 2/213]
We can be like them:
If we contemplate the following incidents and ponder upon what these great men used to reflect on, we can achieve what they did,
When Ali bin Al Husain used to perform Wudu, his colour would change. His family asked him why this happened to him every time he performed Ablution, he said, “Do you know before Whom I am about to stand (in prayer)?” His fear of his Lord, rendered him pale!
When ‘Aṭā al-Sulaimī finished from making wuḍū he would shake, tremble and weep profusely, so it was mentioned to him about that, to which he replied: ‘Indeed I want to go forth for an important matter, I want to stand before Allāh, the Mighty and Majestic.’
[Book: The Heavenly Dispute by al-Ḥāfiẓ ibn Rajab al-Ḥanbalī (d. 795H), p. 40-41 | Translated from the original Arabic by Dār as-Sunnah Publishers]
Hammad bin Salamah said, “I have never stood up for prayer without imagining that Jahannam is before my eyes.” [Tadhkirat al Huffadh 1/219]
When Hatim al Asamm was asked about his prayer, he said, “When it is near the time of prayer, I perform a perfect Wudu and go to where I am going to pray and sit down there until I become fully attentive to what I am about to do. I then stand up and pray, imagining that the Ka`bah is in front of my eyes, Paradise to my right, Hellfire to my left and the Angel of Death behind me. I imagine that it is the last prayer I am about to perform, stand up in hope (in Allah, His Paradise and rewards) and fear (from Allah’s torment in Hellfire) and recite the Takbir while having full attention. I recite the Qur’an calmly, make Ruku` humbly, go into Sujud with Khushu and then sit on my left leg, with the left food laid on the floor and the right food raised up, all the while praying with sincerity. Afterwards, I do not know (nor feel certain) if that prayer was accepted from me!” [Al Ihya 1/179]
May Allah make us on Khashi’oon, who are submissive and attentive to Him. Colorfu