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By Muhammad Al-Shareef, LL.B. Shari’ah
In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful
During the night, Abu Lu’lu’ Al Majoosi hid in the shadows in preparation for the Fajr Salah where he would execute his satanic mission: to Murder the Ameer of the Believers: Umar ibn Al-Khattab – Radi Allahu Anhu. Umar would lead the Fajr with a long surah, giving time for the community to join the congregation. As he led that Salah, Abu Lu’lu advanced from a dim pillar, a poisoned dagger hidden in his sleeve. He jumped in front of Umar Radi Allahu Anhu and tore open his stomach with the dagger. Abu Lu’lu’ then attempted an escape through the congregation, slashing left and right, murdering in his path many others. One Companion threw a cloth over and – realizing that he was caught – Abu Lu’lu’ killed himself. Umar completed the Fajr Salah and passed away later in his bed Radi Allahu Anhu.
The importance of the prayer in Islam cannot be understated. It is the first pillar of Islam that the Prophet (peace be upon him) mentioned after mentioning the testimony of faith, by which one becomes a Muslim. It was made obligatory upon all the prophets and for all peoples. Allah declared its obligatory status under majestic circumstances. For example, when Allah spoke directly to Moses, He said,
“And I have chosen you, so listen to that which is inspired to you. Verily, I am Allah! There is none worthy of worship but I, so worship Me and offer prayer perfectly for My remembrance.” [Taha 13-14]
Similarly, the prayers were made obligatory upon the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) during his ascension to heaven. Furthermore, when Allah praises the believers, such as in the beginning of surah al-Muminoon, one of the first descriptions He states is their adherence to the prayers. [Successful are the believers, those that offer their Salah with all earnestness and full obedience] – Al Mu’minoon 23/1-2
The importance of prayer is demonstrated in many of the Prophet’s statements. For example, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said,
“The first matter that the slave will be brought to account for on the Day of Judgment is the prayer. If it is sound, then the rest of his deeds will be sound. And if it is bad, then the rest of his deeds will be bad.” [Recorded by al-Tabarani. According to al-Albani, it is sahih. Al-Albani, Sahih al-Jami, vol.1, p. 503.
In reality, when the prayer is performed properly – with true remembrance of Allah and turning to Him for forgiveness – it will have a lasting effect on the person. After he finishes the prayer, his heart will be filled with the remembrance of Allah. He will be fearful as well as hopeful of Allah. After that experience, he will not want to move from that lofty position to one wherein he disobeys Allah. Allah mentioned this aspect of the prayer,
“Verily, the prayer keeps one from the great sins and evil deeds” (al-Ankaboot 45).
However amongst our community of Musalleen (those who perform Salah) we find some hazy actions that need to be brought back into focus.
· Some do not concentrate on what they are saying.
· Some speed when they pray
· Some wander with their gaze during Salah,
· The number of raka’aat performed is constantly forgotten.
· For some, the Dunya hugs their hearts during Salah and clouds their minds.
· Sometimes, before the Imam says Allahu Akbar, some in the congregation are already in the next prostration.
Compare this to those that came before us: People used to think that ar-Rabee’ bin Khaitham, due to his constant lowering of his gaze and keeping his head low (in Salah), was blind. He used to live behind the house of Abdullaah ibn Mas’ood for twenty years and when his servant girl used to see him she would say: Your blind friend is coming, and Abdullaah used to laugh at her speech.
In Bukhari and Muslim, from Abu Hurayrah – Radi Allahu Anhu, a man entered the Masjid and the Messenger of Allah – Sal Allaahu alayhi wa Sallam – was sitting. The man prayed (2 raka’) and then came to the Prophet – Sal Allaahu alayhi wa Sallam – and said salam. The Prophet – Sal Allaahu alayhi wa Sallam – replied the salam and then said, “Go back and pray for you have not prayed.” So the man went back, prayed (2 raka’) like he did the first time and then came back and repeated the salam. The Prophet – Sal Allaahu alayhi wa Sallam – replied the salam and then said, “Go back and pray for you have not prayed.” So the man went back, prayed (2 raka’) like he did the first time and then came back and repeated the salam. The Prophet – Sal Allaahu alayhi wa Sallam – replied the salam and then said, “Go back and pray for you have not prayed.” He said it three times until – on the third time the man said, “By He who sent you with the truth O Messenger of Allah, I do not know any better than this. Teach me.” The Prophet – Sal Allaahu alayhi wa Sallam – then said, “If you stand up for Salah say ‘Allahu Akbar.’ Then read what comes easy for you from the Quran. Then bow until you are comfortable in your ruku’. Then stand up until you are standing up straight. Then prostrate until you are comfortable in your Sujood. Then sit until you are comfortable in your Juloos. Then prostrate until you are comfortable in your Sujood. And do this in your entire Salah.”
Let’s go back and do our Salah again. This is our topic for today.
· Why do we come to the Masjid, why do we perform Salah? We do it in application of the command of our Creater Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala. Why should we then lose the blessing and reward because of a wandering heart and an itchy hand? Concentration is the soul of our Salah. Concentration is the fruit of our Eeman. Yet regardless of this understanding, people still leave their Salah and only a small protion of it is written for them because of their imperfection of it.
The Prophet – Sal Allaahu alayhi wa Sallam – said, “Verily, a man will leave from (his Salah) and only a tenth of his Salah is written for him, a ninth, an eighth, a seventh, a sixth, a fifth, a forth, a third, half.” – Abu Dawood and Tirmidhi.
Uthman ibn Abi Dahshah said, “I have never prayed a Salah that I have not asked Allah Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala to forgive for my shortcomings in that Salah.”
· Someone who short changes his Salah is a thief. The Prophet – Sal Allaahu alayhi wa Sallam – said, “The evilest thief is he who steals from his Salah.” They asked, “O Messenger of Allah, how does he steal from his Salah?” He – Sal Allaahu alayhi wa Sallam – said, “He does not perfect it’s ruku’ and Sujood.” – authentic
· Because of the speed some apply to their Salah, it is as if they are pecking up and down like a bird. Narrated Ahmad, Abu Dawood and others, the Prophet – Sal Allaahu alayhi wa Sallam – forbade that someone should peck (in Salah) like a crow…”
Umar – Radi Allahu Anhu – once stood on the pulpit and addressed the community with a loud powerful voice, “A man may grow old in Islam and never have completed to Allah a single Salah!” They said, “How is this?” He said, “He does not perfect his concentration, nor his humbleness, nor his focus on Allah – Azza wa Jall.”
Once, Ma’roof Al-Karkhee – Rahimahu AllahimahUllah – stood amongst some of his students and one said to the other, “Please lead the Isha Salah.” The first student accepted but said, “I shall lead the Isha’ Salah on condition that you lead the Fajr Salah and not me.” Ma’roof Al-Karkhe was shocked at what he said and commented, “By Allah, if you think that you’ll be alive at Fajr then – by Allah – you have not yet perfected your Salah.”
Part II How to Concentrate in Salah
Al Qaasim ibn Muhammad – Rahimahu Allah – said, “I went out one day, and whenever I would go out I would always pass by Aisha – Radi Allahu Anha – and give her my Salam. That day I went out and when I found Aisha she was praying Salat al-Duha, reciting over and over the verse of Allah
[Saying: ‘Aforetime we were afraid with our families (from the Punishment of Allah). But Allah was gracious on us and saved us from the torment of the Fire.”]
– At Toor 52/26-27
She was crying and invoking Allah – Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala – and repeating the verse. I stood there waiting until I got tired, she remained as I found her. When I saw this I said to myself, ‘let me go to the market, do what I have to do and come back.’ So, after I had finished what I needed to do at the market, I returned to Aisha – Radi Allahu Anha. She was as I left her, repeating the verse, invoking Allah, and crying.
How do we concentrate in Salah? From the Sunnah, the Prophet – Sal Allahu Alayhi wa sallam – taught the following:
1. Come early for Salah and prepare yourself to concentrate. Repeat the Adhan to yourself with the Mu’adhdhin, and – after the adhan – say the prescribed supplication. Between the Adhan and Iqamah make dua’. Do Wudu properly, cleanse your mouth, and wear your finest clothes.
2. Aim to get the entire reward of your Salah.
Abu Bakr ibn ‘Iyaash said, “I saw Habeeb ibn Thabit in Sujood. If you saw him you would think he was dead (by how long he held his Sujood).”
3. Contemplate the aayaat and adhkaar being recited during the prayer.
Think about the meanings of the verses that you are reciting. Isn’t is disheartening that someone may perform Salah for decades, day after day, and he/she still does not know what they are saying?
The Qur’aan was revealed to be pondered over! Allaah revealed: “(This is) a Book (the Qur’aan) which We have sent down to you, full of blessings that they may ponder over its Verses, and that men of understanding may remember.” [Saad 38:29].
4. Pray in congregation. Allah Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala commands
[And perform Salah, give Zakah, and bow with those that bow.] 2/43
5. Never miss your Nafl Salah, especially those that the Prophet – Sal Allaahu alayhi wa Sallam – used to pray constantly, especially Witr and the sunnah of Fajr
6. Do not speed up your Salah. Take your time and do not allow your Salah to become the most invaluable action of your day.
Ibn Wahb said, “I saw Ath-Thowree at the Ka’bah. After Maghrib, he got up to pray and then prostrated. He did not come out of that prostration until the Adhan for Isha’ was given.”
7. Know that Allaah responds to your prayer
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Allaah, the Blessed and Exalted has said: ‘I have divided the prayer between Myself and My slave, into two halves, and My slave shall have what he has asked for.” When the slave says ‘Praise be to Allaah, Lord of the Worlds,’ Allaah says, ‘My slave has praised Me.’ When the slave says, ‘The Most Merciful, the Bestower of Mercy,’ Allaah says, ‘My slave has extolled me.’ When the slave says, ‘Master of the Day of Judgement,’ Allaah says, ‘My slave has glorified me.’ When the slave says, ‘It is You alone we worship and it is You alone we ask for help,’ Allaah says, ‘This is between Me and My slave, and My slave shall have what he asked for.’ When the slave says, ‘Guide us to the Straight Path, the path of those whom You have favoured, not the path of those who receive Your anger, nor of those who go astray,’ Allaah says, ‘All these are for My slave, and My slave shall have what he asked for.’” (Saheeh Muslim, Kitaab al-Salaah, Baab wujoob qiraa’at al-Faatihah fi kulli rak’ah). [Words in italics are the translation of the meaning of Soorat al-Faatihah – Translator].
8. Pray with a barrier (sutrah) in front of you and pray close to it
Another thing that will help one to have khushoo’ is paying attention to the matter of having a sutrah and praying close to it, because this will restrict your field of vision, protect you from the Shaytaan and keep people from passing in front of you, which causes a distraction and reduces the reward of the prayer.
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “When any one of you prays, let him pray facing a sutrah, and let him get close to it.” (Reported by Abu Dawood, no. 695, 1/446; Saheeh al-Jaami’, no. 651).
9. Seeking Refuge in Allah from the Shaytaan.
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) taught us the following methods of combatting the whispers of Shaytaan.
Abu’l-‘Aas (may Allaah be pleased with him) reported that he said, “O Messenger of Allaah, the Shaytaan interrupts me when I pray, and I get confused in my recitation.” The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, “That is a shaytaan whose name is Khanzab. If you sense his presence, seek refuge with Allaah from him, and spit [dry spitting] towards your left three times.” [Abu’l-‘Aas] said: “I did that and Allaah took him away from me.” (Reported by Muslim, no. 2203)
10. Pray as if you were told that after Salah you would be going back to Allah.
Abu Bakr Al-Muzanee said, “If you want your Salah to benefit you, then say, ‘I shall die after this Salah!’”
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