It was said to one of them that: ‘We find ourselves distracted in our Salaah (prayer)’
He said: ‘Is it the Jannah (Paradise) you are thinking about, or are they the Hur al-Ayn (women of Paradise) [that have taken your minds away], or is it the Day of Judgement [that is causing you to be distracted]?’
They replied: ‘Rather it is [affairs of] this worldly life [that] is distracting us.’
He said: ‘It is more beloved to me that you go between spearheads than that which you just mentioned.’
“You stand in your prayers with your body, directing your face to the Qiblah, while your heart is directed to a different territory?! Woe to you! That prayer [of yours] is not worthy of being a Mahr (dowry) for Paradise, how then can it be befitting for [attaining] the Love [of Allah]!”
[Source: Badaee al-Fawaaid 3/753 by Ibnul-Qayyim]
How many isles did you browse in your last prayer? How many items did you tick off you to-do list, as you stood in Qiyaam? How many recipes did you conjure up as you bowed before Allah? How many bank accounts did you tally as you sat in tashahud?
My dear friends, it may seem funny now that it’s written down in front of you, but I assure you it is not far from our reality. The number of chores we get done in our prayers is more that we do anywhere else.
Our state of prayer is embarrassing. We lack the connection. Yes, in today’s world we ensure we are connected; as soon as we visit a friend we ask, “what’s the wi-fi password?” We go out for a shopping trip, we turn on our mobile data; we head to a restaurant, we ask if they have wifi…we are connected to everyone, and everywhere, yet with our Creator we are disconnected. When was the last time you tried to ensure a secure connection with a strong signal?
‘Ammaar ibn Yaasir said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) say: A person may offer a prayer and nothing of it is recorded for him except one tenth of it, one ninth of it, one eighth of it, one seventh of it, one sixth of it, one fifth of it, one quarter of it, one third of it, or half of it.” (Ahmad, Hasan by Sh Al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Jaami‘)
Before the Prayer:
Whilst it is not from the sunnah to pronounce the intention, for the seat of intention is in the heart, sometimes it is helpful to review why you’re praying. Think about it; prayer has many purposes; to bring you closer to Allah, to attain His pleasure, to earn His reward, and to fulfil the obligation set by Allah and more. Thus, when the muslim stands to pray he or she should make their intention solely for Allah, and they should sincerely strive for this. They should be wary of showing off, or any other unworthy intentions. Consciously thinking and purifying one’s intentions will help one prepare for prayer, and will by the permission of Allah help one attain khushu’ throughout their prayer.
During the prayer:
The first thing one should do, before beginning recitation is to seek refuge in Allah from Satan. Being distracted in prayer is one of the way’s Satan steals from a person’s prayer, thus it is essential to seek Allah’s protection.
One’s focus throughout the prayer should be Allah. He should be the primary occupant of one’s thoughts in prayer, for when praying one attends a meeting with Allah. One should consider the Might, Majesty and Greatness of the King before whom He stands. In the hadith of Mu’awiyah ibn Al-Hakam, who spoke in the prayer, the Prophet said, “”It is not permissible to talk during Salat because it consists of glorifying Allah, declaring His Greatness as well as recitation of the Qur’an,” or he said words to that effect.” (Muslim)
One should remember that Allah is watching Him. We know Allah sees us at all times; yet this thought should be held on to during the prayer for it will breed taqwa, and one will be conscious of every action of prayer they perform.
It is permissible for one to contemplate death during prayer. For remembering the hereafter and its nearness will urge one to do good.
Abu Ayyub Al-Ansari reported: A man came to the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and he said, “O Messenger of Allah, teach me something, but make it concise.” The Prophet said, “When you stand for your prayer, then pray as if you are saying farewell. Do not say anything for which you must apologize, and abandon any desire to acquire what other people have.” (Ibn Majah, Sahih by Sh Al-Albaani)
In another narration he said, Ad-Daylami narrated in Musnad al-Firdaws from Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet said: “Remember death when you pray, for if a man remembers death when he prays, he will strive to make his prayer good. Pray the prayer of a man who does not think that he will ever pray another prayer, and beware of any matter that may require you to offer an apology.” (Hasan by Al-Haafiz as it says in al-Maqaasid al-Hasanah (p. 226); Hasan by Sh Al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Jaami‘)
Thus, the one who stands to pray should remember the hereafter for it softens the heart and will help him attain khushu in his prayer.
When ‘Ata’ al-Sulaymi was asked: “What is this grief?” he said: “Woe to you! Death is close at hand, the grave is my house, on the Day of Resurrection I will stand and my path is over a bridge across Hell, and I do not know what will become of me.” (Taken from https://islamqa.info/en/46911)
One should also ponder upon the verses he recites, and the athkaar he repeats throughout the prayer. Allah says (the translation of which is),
“And those who, when reminded of the verses of their Lord, do not fall upon them deaf and blind.” (Al-Furqan 25:73)
If one does not understand Arabic, one should at least learn the meanings/translation of the relevant phrases. This way the words may affect the heart, and one will focus because he understands what he is saying, and why he is saying such things. If one wishes, one may further look into the tafseer and explanation of the scholars for what is said during the prayer.
How many times have you prayed behind an imam who wept, and only wished you could do the same? Reflection upon the Quran, helps one to feel tranquil in the prayer, it touches the heart, and one may be moved to tears. It is imperative to our khushu that we understand the words of the salah.
Moreover, when one understands what he recites he may choose to repeat certain verses in order for him to be awed, and moved. This was done by the prophet himself and many of the pious predecessors,
The Prophet (ﷺ) stayed up all night repeating one verse. The verse was: ‘If You punish them, they are Your slaves, and if You forgive them, verily, You, only You, are the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.'” (An-Nisa’i, Hasan)
Sh ibn Baz said regarding repeating certain verses, “it encourages the people to ponder and focus and benefit.” (https://islamqa.info/en/106529)
Similarly, when one understands what he recites he can invoke Allah appropriately, such that when he comes a verse of punishment, he seeks refuge in Allah, and when he recites a verse of mercy, He seeks Allah’s mercy, and when comes to verse about paradise, He asks for paradise, and so on and so forth. This practice has been narrated from the Prophet peace be upon him;
Narrated Awf ibn Malik al-Ashja’I, I stood up to pray along with the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ); he got up and recited Surat al-Baqarah (Surah 2). When he came to a verse which spoke of mercy, he stopped and made supplication, and when he came to verse which spoke of punishment, he stopped and sought refuge in Allah, then he bowed and paused as long as he stood (reciting Surah al-Baqarah), and said while bowing, “Glory be to the Possessor of greatness, the Kingdom, grandeur and majesty.”
:Then he prostrated himself and paused as long as he stood up and recited Surat Aal Imran (Surah 3) and then recited many surahs one after another. (Abu Dawud, Sahih by Sh Al-Albaani)
And in a hadith from Hudayfah, “And when he recited the verses which referred to the Glory of Allah, he glorified (by saying Subhan Allah-Glory to my Lord the Great), and when he recited the verses which tell (how the Lord) is to be begged, he (the Holy Prophet) would then beg (from Him), and when he recited the verses dealing with protection from the Lord, he sought (His) protection…” (Muslim)
By doing so, one’s concentration is on the Qur’an.
One should also prostrate when he arrives at verse of prostration. Sajdah is the epitome of submission for one lowers his most prized asset, i.e. face, on to the floor. This act is reserved for Allah alone. Hence one who prays should prostrate for submission to Allah is part and parcel of Khushu’. Furthermore, Allah described those whom He favoured and upon who He showered His blessings as follows,
“Those were they unto whom Allah bestowed His grace from among the Prophets, of the offspring of Adam, and of those whom We carried (in the ship) with Nuh, and of the offspring of Ibrahim and Israel, and from among those whom We guided and chose. When the Verses of the Most Gracious (Allah) were recited unto them, they fell down prostrate and weeping,” (Surah Maryam 19:58)
Let us strive to be like them, let us concentrate in our prayer by reflecting on those things relevant to prayer and our connection to Allah. Let us forget our worldly affairs. For just as one leaves behind his wealth, family and friends to stand before Allah on the Day of judgement, he should do the same when he stands for prayer.
Last but not least, let us ponder upon those great men and women who came before us, who were beacons of light. Let us learn from their lives, and their examples. The sahabah were the best of generations, and the Prophet peace be upon him was the peak of perfection. It is only natural that we learn from the best. Do we not search out the best universities, colleges and schools when we want to learn? So the same goes for our prayer, let us take from the cream of the crop, and learn about their prayer.