Khushoo: The Essence of Prayer
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Salah (prayer) is one of the best ways to achieve Allah’s ultimate guidance and mercy. While all Muslims are generally aware that salah is obligatory five times a day, many of us do not submit this divine duty with the required pace of fidelity to Allah.

“And seek help through patience and prayer, indeed, it is difficult except for humbly submissive (to Allah).” Quran 2:45.

Many people, even though well-aware of the importance of khushoo (humility, focus and submissiveness in salah), get distracted by worldly affairs and forget that they are speaking to the King of Kings, the Creator of all His creation, and sometimes even forget the order of rakats (units of prayer) in salah. We spend a great amount of attention to detail when it comes to standing in front of dignitaries and our bosses, we talk to them with reverence and dress up in a respectful and pleasing manner. But we often do not extend the same level of goodness and etiquette when conversing with the Most Supreme, Allah.

Do we really need to develop khushoo in salah? Is our distracted salah sufficient to please Almighty Allah? Before understanding what khushoo is, first let us understand the significance of salah. Khushoo can be truly developed when we understand the significance of salah. For women as well, concentration in prayer is also produced by some unique circumstances, such as pending household duties, demanding children and other concerns.

Don’t be satisfied with salah just by making it valid, or the bare minimum to ‘pass’. Make your prayer feel something for Allah. Let us recall a hadith where Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was once sitting in the masjid with some of his Companions, when a Muslim came and offered salah.Later he came to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and upon greeting, the Prophet said go back and pray because you have not prayed. So the man walked back and prayed again and when he finished he came to the Prophet and greeted with salaam, the Prophet (PBUH) said, go back and pray for you have not prayed. This was repeated three times and the man desperately said ‘Oh Messenger of Allah, teach me to pray. I have not prayed better than this’. The mistake the man was doing was that he was rushing through his salah, and not taking the time to actually think and focus about it.

Are we praying our salah the way this man did? Or are we really focusing on Allah as the Prophet (PBUH) said? Here we have to ponder regarding khushoo in salah.

Khushoo in salah brings peace in salah; peace in salah brings peace in life. Khushoo is an Arabic word that means dedication in everything one does. Khushoo in salah means to pray to Allah from the depth of our hearts, with full attention, while knowing the meaning of what we are reciting. The heart is the main site of khushoo, which in turn stimulates the whole body to perform. The highest level of achievement with Allah is directly related to highest level of khushoo in salah in our daily worship.

Let us discuss how to develop khushoo in salah:

>> Precious gift from Allah: Always remember salah is one of the best gifts received by Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) from Allah in the seventh sky and in turn passed onto us. Feeling the importance of such a precious gift can lead to develop more and more khushoo in salah. Allah ﷻ said: “…establish Prayer for My remembrance” [20:14]. From this statement the Islamic scholar Imam Abu Hamid Ghazali explains its meaning in Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din: that the absent mind is in opposition to the state necessary for remembrance. So then, he asks, how can the Prayer of an inattentive one be qualified as remembrance of Allah?
>>Understand and say: One of the best ways to develop focus in our salah is understanding what you recite. There is great emphasis on not merely memorizing the Quran but also pondering upon its meaning. As Allah says: “Oh you who believe, do not approach prayers while you are intoxicated until you understand what you are saying” (Quran 4:43). Many of us are not intoxicated but yet do not understand what we are saying in salah. Maintain vigilance in your daily prayer and communication with Allah. The focus should be on developing piety, fear and obedience, as well as telling your soul the importance of prayer. A salah performed with the absence of mind is mere physical movement; therein is no attentive humility, no remembrance, nor is there successful communication.
>>Time waits for none: Try to pray your salah as early as possible. Do not delay. If you delay salah the essence decreases and suppresses the quality of khushoo in salah. As soon as you hear the adhan, get ready for salah, with more alacrity than when you hear your phone call and are never late to attend to it. Abdullah ibn Masood said “I asked the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) which deed was best. Allah’s Messenger replied “The prayer offered at its best hour.” (Sahih Bukhari: 505)
>> Rejuvenate: Rejuvenate yourself and seek Allah’s help from shaytaan. Most of our prayers are unsatisfactory because of shaytaan who inputs various thoughts in our mind when we offer salah. Shaytaan is our open enemy as he takes away khushoo and makes our prayers confused and unsatisfactory. Uthman Bin Abi Al-Aas reported to Allah’s Messenger: “O Messenger of Allah, the shaytaan interrupts me when I pray, and I get confused in my recitation.” The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said if you get a sense of Khanzab’s (shaytaan) presence in your salah, seek refuge with Allah from him and spit towards your left thrice. Abu Aas said “I did that and Allah took him away from me.” (Sahih Muslim: 2203)
>> Remembering death: The Prophet (PBUH) said “Remember death in your prayer, for the one who remembers death during his prayer is bound to pray with khushoo and pray as if he will never pray again.” (Sunan Ibn Majah: 4169)
>> Perform Sujood al-Tilawah when required: Narrated by Umar (R.A), “The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) used to recite Quran to us and if he reached an ayah where a sajdah (prostration) was prescribed, he would say takbeer and prostrate and we would do likewise.”(Bukhari 2/33,34). Sujood al-Tilawah in prayer is more important as it increases the essence of salah. It is very essential to maintain the practice of Sujood al-Tilawah, especially because it suppresses shaytaan, thus weakening his hold on the worshipper.
>>Speak to the creator: When you stand in front of Allah, recall that he is Allah, the Creator of the entire universe. Never forget that Allah’s mercy is far greater than his anger. Performing salah in a wrong manner is one of the reasons why he gets angry. When you inculcate these thoughts before letting your prayer start, khushoo can be developed in a better way. Hope (al-raja’) is in addition to the previous elements. Imam Al-Ghazali says: “How many people respect a king and fear his authority but do not hope for anything from him? But it is very necessary for a servant to be hopeful of the reward of Allah ﷻ, the Glorious, [in response to his praise and supplications in salah] as much as he is fearful of His punishment for [the servant’s] faults.” May Allah give all of us the zeal to develop the right attitude in performing our salah in its best way. Ameen.

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