Topic initiated on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 3:55 PM
|HOW TO CONCENTRATE IN SALAH
Most of us get distracted and bring lots of worldly thoughts and problems into our mind when performing salah. When performing salah, why not try imagining the things below:
In a Hadith Qudsi, Allah says that hell will have seven levels with fires, which eat each other! In each level, there are valleys of fire, cities of fire, castles of fire, houses of fire, rooms of fire, wells of fire, serpents of fire, oceans of black poison containing thousands of scorpions of fire, each one in turn having seventy thousand tails of fire. In reality, hellish fire is much hotter than earthly fire, and hell is unimaginably much worse this description.
In Hadith Qudsi, Allah says that heaven will have eight gates with thousands of gardens, thousands of cities of pearls, thousands of palaces of Ruby, thousands of rooms of gold, thousands of tables and of plates of jewels, thousands of kinds of food, thousands of thrones of red gold around each of which thousands of rivers will flow with life water and pure honey. On top of each palace, there will be thousands of gifts from the Merciful, which have not been seen by any eye, heard by any ear and are beyond our imagination.
It has been said that in spite of all this pleasure, if the residents of heaven were shown the punishment of someone who did wrong for just one hour on earth, they would scream out with fear. And in spite of all their discomfort, if the residents of hell were shown the reward of someone who did good for only one hour on earth, they would forget they are in hell!
Now imagine this hell beneath you and the open doors of heaven in front of you whilst you are praying. How then can you be distracted?
Imagine the angel of death behind you, the angel that appears as a beautiful person at the deathbed of one who is favoured by Allah and as fierce creature that pulls the soul out as if it were a cloth being dragged amongst sharp thorns for one who is disfavoured. Imagine this angel just at your back whilst praying. How then can you be distracted if you are not even sure that this might be your last prayer?
And finally imagine the Creator of all that has been mentioned in the previous paragraphs, one who has created an almost infinite universe of which earth is only a very tiny insignificant bit, and more insignificant are we who live in it. How then can you be distracted if the Lord of existence is watching above you whilst you are offering prayers to Him? Imagine! It has been said that the Holy Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) has said that whilst you are praying: Imagine that all the prophets are on your right side, all the angels on your left, heaven in front of you, hell below you, the angel of death at your back and Allah (subhanahu wa Ta'ala) watching over you.
Imagine how revered a prophet is, that an entire chapter of the Holy Qur'an may be dedicated to him, imagine their position in heaven right now.
Imagine 124,000 of them all lined up on your right side whilst you are praying. How then can you be distracted?
Imagine the sacredness of an angel. Every human being has been allocated two of them for accounting of his deeds. Every cloud moves because Allah (subhanahu wa Ta'ala) has ordered an angel to that function.
Imagine the light from which each one of them was created, and all of them (much more than 6 billion) assembled on your left side listening to you praying. How then can you be distracted? View High Resolution
Posted - Friday, July 27, 2007 - 6:37 AM
|Etiquette of the Prayer
The prayer is worshipping God and earnestly presenting one's supplications before Him. So where the Qur'an directed Muslims to safeguard the prayer, it has said: (٢: ٢٣٨) وَ قُوْمُوا لِِلّهِِ قَانِتِيْنْ (And stand before the Almighty with great respect), (2:238).
Following are the directives of the Prophet (sws) that explain this verse of the Qur'an:
1. Conversation should be avoided during the prayer. He has said: "The prayer is only glorifying the Almighty and declaring His sovereignty and reciting the Qur'an and no one is allowed to converse in any way during it."76 Zayd Ibn Arqam says: "Previously we used to converse with one another during the prayer, but after the revelation of وَ قُوْمُوا لِلهِ قَانِتِيْنْ , we were stopped from it and we were told to pray in silence."77 Ibn Mas'ud (rta) narrates: "When we used to say the salam to the Prophet (sws) in the prayer, he would reply; however, once he returned from Negus he did not reply to our salam. We inquired: "O Prophet of God! You used to respond to the salam." He replied: "One can only have a single involvement in the prayer."78
2. One should not look here and there in the prayer. 'A'ishah (rta), the mother of the believers, says: "When I asked the Prophet (sws) about it, he replied: 'This is like Satan snatching the prayer away from a person.'"79 Similarly, the Prophet (sws) severely admonished people for looking towards the sky. He has reported to have said: "What is the matter with people that they raise their eyes during the prayer towards the sky; they should refrain from this, otherwise there is a possibility that their eyesight shall be snatched away."80
3. The prayer should be offered with complete calmness and serenity. The Prophet (sws) is reported to have said: "What is it that I see you raising your hands the way the tails of unruly horses are raised; remain calm during the prayer."81
4. During the prayer, hair and clothes should not be tampered with. The Prophet (sws) is reported to have said: "I have been directed to prostrate myself on seven limbs and to not tuck my clothes and hair during the prayer."82
5. There should not be anything in front of the prayer place which can become a source of distraction. Anas (rta) narrates that 'A'ishah (rta) had hung a curtain in the house. When the Prophet saw it, he asked her to remove it because the pictures [imprinted on it] kept coming before him during the prayer.83
6. If food is at hand, then one should eat it and then calmly offer the prayer so that one is not thinking of food during the prayer and is in fact thinking of prayer during food. The same directive was given by the Prophet (sws) if a person felt a call of nature. He is reported to have said: "If food is in front of you or one feels like urinating or defecating, one should not offer the prayer."84
7. If a person is compelled to do something during the prayer, then one should not prolong it. It has been narrated that a person was levelling the mud at the place of prostration. When the Prophet (sws) saw him, he said: "If you had to do it, you should have done it once only."85
8. While standing in prayer, a person should not place his hands on his hips, and while sitting he should not take support. The Prophet (sws) has stopped us from this.86
9. Yawning should be refrained from during the prayer. The Prophet (sws) is reported to have said: "If anyone of you feels like yawning during the prayer, he should try to control it as far as possible; otherwise, he should place a hand on his mouth."87
10. A person should be decently and appropriately dressed while praying. The Prophet (sws) is reported to have said that if there is only one cloth, it should not be worn in a manner that some of its portion is not on the shoulder".88 He has similarly said that Allah does not accept the prayer of mature women who do not wear a cloak during the prayer.89
The above mentioned etiquette relates to the external form of the prayer. There are some inner etiquette too under وَ قُوْمُوا لِلهِ قَانِتِيْنْ , which every Muslim should observe. They are:
1. One should not be lazy and sluggish during the prayer. This is a very common form of negligence in prayer and a person who is guilty of it is neither able to be punctual in his prayer nor vigilant in offering the prayer in congregation. Similarly, a person also is not able to focus his attention towards the Almighty during the prayer. Its apparent reasons can be many. For example, sleep can be one of its causes. Likewise, pre-occupation and worldly involvements can cause laziness. However, if one reflects deeply, its real reason is found within the heart of a person and every Muslim should try his best to remove it. In the words of Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi, the measures which can be adopted for this, are:
The first thing is that one should fully understand the importance which the prayer has in Islam. The prayer is the first manifestation of faith. The first thing that originates from faith is the prayer, and then it is from the prayer that the rest of Islam originates. The foremost pillar among the pillars on which the edifice of Islam rests is the prayer. So, if anyone razes this pillar to ground, it is as if he has razed to ground the whole structure of Islam. The Companions (rta) of the Prophet (sws) considered the prayer to be the distinction between belief and disbelief. The Caliph 'Umar (rta) had directed his administrators and representatives that their greatest responsibility is showing vigilance to the prayer; a person who is negligent to the prayer will be even more negligent to the rest of the directives of Islam. Since the source and fountainhead of Islam is the prayer, hence if one has to adhere to religion he must foremost adhere to the prayer. By adhering to the prayer he actually is able to adhere to the rest of religion. If he shows laziness in prayer or is indifferent to it, he breaks all bounds set by religion and hands over his reins to base desires. About the People of the Book, the Qur'an says that their negligence to the prayer led them to lewdness and vulgarity.
It must also be kept in consideration that each part of religion has a status which the Almighty Himself has ascertained. Something which has been regarded as a pillar of religion is nevertheless a pillar. Unless it is erected the edifice of religion will not be erected. If a person does not adhere to the prayer and is involved in welfare work, all his efforts are in vain as regards adopting religion is concerned because he is constructing a building that has no foundation. Just as nothing can replace the foundations of a building, similarly nothing can replace the role of the prayer in religion. It is to make people comprehend this reality that it is narrated in a Hadith that the optional prayers of a person will not be accepted until he offers the obligatory ones.
The second thing which is necessary to curb laziness is that a person should try to become vigilant in remembering God. This means that as soon as a person hears the adhan, he should leave everything aside and start preparing for the prayer and get ready to go to the mosque. Slackness should not be displayed in this preparation; in fact, it should bear the mark of vigour and liveliness. Just as a dutiful servant is always ready to receive the directive of his master and as soon as he hears his voice he rushes to his presence leaving aside everything, in the same manner a person should attend to the prayer as soon as he hears the adhan. It should be kept in mind that at the time of the prayer, the most important and foremost obligation in the eyes of God is to offer it. Except for compelling circumstances in which a person might have a reason, in no other circumstances can some task be given any preference, even if it concerns religion. If for some period, a person makes it a point to attend to the prayer as soon as he hears the adhan, there is all the probability that the Almighty help him by making this a habit for him and he is able to get rid of this laziness regarding the prayer.
The Prophet (sws) has suggested an excellent remedy to do away with the laziness caused by sleep ... No doubt it is really a difficult thing to overcome as long as a person dallies around while lying in bed. However, as soon as he shows resolve and gets up from the bed, remembers the Almighty, does the wudu and offers the prayer, his laziness and lethargy gradually turn into vigor and vitality until he reaches a stage that he no longer has any desire to sleep. In fact, the desire which does remain in him is that why was not he able to acquire this bliss of remaining awake earlier on. It should be remembered that a person will never regret sacrificing his sleep for the prayer. After a small period of this struggle against sleep, the remembrance of the bliss of remaining awake becomes so dominant in a person that it wakes him up from the deepest of slumbers.90
2. The prayer should be protected from latent thoughts and suggestions that keep bombarding a person. Everyone knows that it is not easy to remain shielded from them. The reason for this is that Satan is the enemy of the prayer to the same extent as the Almighty is pleased with it. Thus he launches his onslaught on the heart and mind of a person as soon as a person begins the prayer. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi, while delineating the various measures to counter the onslaught of Satan, writes:
A general remedy for this is that as soon as a person witnesses such a situation, he should seek refuge with Allah and should resolve to complete and show vigilance in the prayer much like the person who has been informed of an imminent enemy attack but he has made up his mind to complete his prayer come what may and will become indifferent to such latent suggestions. Sometimes, it is this resolve and enthusiasm which destroys the spell caste by Satan.
The second thing which becomes effective in this matter is that he should say the words of the prayer in an audible manner and is able to give attention to their meanings. However, it is essential that one must not say them so loudly that others who may be offering the prayer nearby get disturbed. This becomes very helpful in combating such latent murmurs of Satan. When a person's mind is focused on meanings of the prayer he is greatly protected from such onslaughts.
The third thing which becomes very effective in this regard is that in general life also one should try to keep one's thoughts very pure. One should try to always think about things which are beneficial to him and to others in both worldly and religious affairs. One should keep in mind that the handmill of one's mind keeps churning. If he inputs pure raw material in it, it will keep crushing it and produce high quality flour. On the other hand, there are the evil suggestions of Satan. As soon as he gets the opportunity, he throws a handful of stones and pebbles in it and the handmill starts grinding them and this really hampers its working. If this mishap occurs frequently, the handmill starts to malfunction and is unable to churn out pure flour. The best of grains will produce substandard flour.
A person who has endeavoured hard to generally keep his thoughts clean will encounter less evil whisperings from Satan because he will find the spiritual fodder in the prayer which he is generally used to and if certain thoughts do disturb him they are not as improper so that they contradict the objective. Sometimes, a person as near to God as 'Umar (rta) would find his prayer being invaded with distractive thoughts. At times, during the prayer, he would think of arranging his armies busy fighting in Iran and Syria. A person can object that even such pre-occupation distracts a person during the prayer. No doubt, this is a distraction but there is tremendous difference between getting distracted by evil thoughts and by thoughts which are primarily pure and needed.91
3. A person should fully understand and pay full attention to whatever he says in the prayer. The utterances of the prayer delineated earlier consist of celebrating the praises of the Lord, expressing His sovereignty, beseeching Him and to top these all reciting Surah Fatihah and some portion of the Qur'an. The relationship between Surah Fatihah and the Qur'an is that of a supplication and its response and the order in which these utterances occur in a prayer show that they remind us that the very first thing which should be asked from the Almighty in this world is His guidance and it is only the Qur'an which provides guidance now till the Day of Judgement. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:
This [Surah Fatihah] is the greatest supplication that a person can think of in this world. This supplication has been taught to us by the Almighty Himself. A better way of asking from the Almighty than what is expressed in this surah cannot even be imagined and nothing better than what he asks in this prayer can be imagined either. The Almighty Himself has taught us the right way to ask from Him and has also informed us of what to ask from Him. When the prelude to what is being asked is also correct and what is being asked is also befitting and is something which can be asked only from Whom it is being asked and the bestower is the Most gracious of all, then what doubt remains that it will not be granted.92
After this, he has written about the recital of the Qur'an in the following words:
It is the inimitability of the Qur'an that whichever of its portion one reads, featured in it is the basic message of this divine book. Mentioned everyone now and then is the true comprehension of the Almighty, the way one should lead one's life, the Hereafter and the reward and punishment which will take place in it. The only thing is that the style and manner would be different. At one place, something is set in legal style; at another, one will find the Qur'an earnestly urging the believers to adopt something; at some instances tales and anecdotes would be narrated to drive the point home while in some verses one would find effective parables to convey the meaning. Similarly, at some places, people would be asked in a polite and gentle way and at others they would be threatened because of their misdeeds. However, this much is certain that whatever portion is read, even if it constitutes three verses, one would find that it contains a very powerful and effective reminder of what is really required to keep oneself on the right path.93
It is apparent from the above discussion that it is essential that one must understand what he utters during the prayer. The Prophet (sws) is reported to have said: "A person who prays, whispers to His Lord; thus he should know what he is whispering."94 Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:
One should not think that there is no need to reflect on the surahs and supplications everyday when they are read repeatedly in every prayer and that understanding them once is enough. Those who hold this view are not aware of the essence of the prayer and its supplications. The prayer is not offered to increase one's knowledge: it is offered to renew one's pledge with the Almighty and to seek help, guidance and mercy from Him. How can this purpose be achieved by offering it without knowing what one is uttering unless a person is not attentive.95
4. One should take care that the prayer does not become a pretentious display. This is the most common and most dangerous affliction of the prayer. In the words of Islahi, the reason that this is the most common affliction is that there are so many variations in being showy of the prayer that even the most careful of persons is unable to ward off its attacks from his prayer; similarly, in his opinion, it is the most dangerous because sincerity is a pre-requisite of the prayer and showing off is opposite to sincerity. In his opinion, two things are required for its remedy. He writes:
One of them is that a person should be well aware of the various forms of pomposity and showing off. Books such as Ghazzali's Ahya al-'Ulum are very useful in making a person aware of these forms. It is only after knowing something thoroughly that one is able to check it and get rid of it if he wants to. Whereas this awareness is required by the common man, it is required much more by scholars of Islam and the pious. The reason is that pomposity seldom manifests itself through worldly affairs; it often comes in the guise of religiosity and such are its alluring forms and types that the greatest of scholars and religious pundits end up being its targets, and, at times, lose their religiosity and piety they attained in their life.
The second thing that is an effective remedy for this affliction is the tahajjud prayer. This prayer is offered alone at night and it is very taxing for one's self; it has been emphasized that one should keep it a secret; thus those who only pray to brag and show off they never find the strength to offer the tahajjud prayer; only those people are able to find the strength to offer it who are either miles away from pomposity or are fully aware of its evils and in order to save themselves from these evils have found refuge in this prayer. The tahajjud prayer is the most effective remedy of this affliction as long as a person is able to maintain its secrecy. There are people who even brag and show off their tahajjud prayer. Either they start advertising this in the guise of various insinuating statements, or their students and disciples do this job for them. In such circumstances, not only is this prayer of no use as a remedy, it helps a person even more in his tendency of showing off.96
If the prayer is offered while giving due consideration to these etiquette, then in the words of Islahi, it is characterized by the following:
When a person stands in prayer he is an embodiment of humility. With hands tied, eyes lowered, neck bending downwards, feet placed adjacent, he stands while being cut off totally from his surroundings; dignity and honour seem personified in him, he is a portrait of silence and seriosity. At times, he kneels before his Lord, and, at others, places his forehead and nose on the ground and some times spreads his hands in prayer. In short, whatever forms of humility that can be adopted, are with dignity and honour adopted by a person who stands to pray. The picture which thus emerges of this person bears clear evidence that he is observing his Lord and if this is not the case, he knows for sure that the Lord is observing him. It is this prayer which can be termed as a pinnacle among prayers. This prayer is entirely different from the prayer offered with a juristic mind. It is this prayer which is in fact required for the purification of the soul. The prayer is a reflection of a person's inner self. In this prayer is reflected the humility and meekness for the Almighty present within his heart. Not only is his back bent in the prayer, his heart is also bent before the Almighty. Not only does his forehead touches the ground, his soul also prostrates before the Lord of the worlds.97
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