Assalamu alaikum warahmathullahi wabarakathahu
May Allah open your heart and mine to His light, to the truth and to the ultimate reality. We seek refuge in Allah from a heart that does not tremble in fear of Him, from knowledge that does not benefit, from an eye that does not shed tears for His sake, from a dua (prayer/supplication) that will never be answered and from a self that will never be satisfied.
In the previous blog post we discussed the six qualities of a believer from Surah Mu’minoon as decreed by Allah subhanahu wa’athala (swt). The first of the six qualities is khushoo in salah. So I thought I’d spend some time today trying to come up with some strategies to increase the khushoo in my salat and hopefully yours too insha’Allah.
The word khushoo can’t really be translated into English as it is difficult to capture all that this word means within one English word. But a glimpse of what it means is ‘humility’ and/or ‘submissiveness’. In the context of salah (prayer/worship), it is to be in complete focus and complete awareness that you stand before your Rabb (Lord). To feel His presence, to really experience the words you utter and to increase your sincerity in your physical actions of standing, bowing and prostrating.
Among the reasons why khushoo in salah is important, one of the greatest is that it protects you from al-fahsha. Fahsha, in layman’s terms means ‘shamelessness’. It also means indecency, lewdness, obscenity etc. Anything that leads toward zina (notice how I didn’t say the act of zina itself, but the road that leads to zina) is filled with al-fahsha. I don’t have to explain to you, dear reader, about how shameless today’s society is. There is Ijma (consensus) amongst ourselves that we live in shameless times. From the TV programmes to the movies, to sporting events to adverts/billboards, Facebook statuses, websites, music videos, newspapers, magazines, stand up comedians, mobile devices and what you see, what you hear, from what is in front of you, from what is behind you, from your right and from your left.
Wallahi these times are tough. Especially if you are among the youth and you are trying to hold on to your imaan. Whether you are a man or woman, a Mu’allim (teacher/scholar) or a thaalib (student), the fitnah is really great and I fear for myself, my family, my friends, my children and grand children who aren’t even born yet, our Ulama (the scholars) and for you my dear reader. Protecting our deen and Imaan is like trying to protect the light from a candle on an extremely windy day.
In today’s world, Wallahi! You are attacked with fahsha, from all directions, but this shouldn’t be something that the believer is surprised by. Because our Rabb (Lord) has already informed us of what Iblees said:
“(Iblees said) Because you (O Allah!) have sent me astray, I will sit in ambush for them (humans) on the Sirathal Musthaqeem (Your straight path)”.
In other words even the ones on the straight path (let alone those who are already astray), I will get them, I know how to get them, I will wait for them, I am patient, I have all the time in the world to wait for the right moment, I will wait till they slip, till they put their guard down. In that very moment of weakness, I will ambush/attack them.
“And then I (Iblees) will come at them from the front, from behind them, from their right and from their left. And you will not find most of them thankful and obedient to you”.
In other words, they will be on the straight path, but I will stand in front of them without letting them pass. When they are walking towards You on the sirathal musthaqeem, I will be pulling them from behind not letting them make progress. I will be there with him even if he is with people on the right (such as righteous people or good company) and even if he is with people on the left (bad company/ignorant people/bad influence) I will be with him misleading him constantly. And I can guarantee You O Allah! that these creatures You created, that you commanded me to bow down to, they will not be obedient to You and they will not be grateful to you and I have made my life’s mission in proving that to You.
But Allah the Azeez (the almighty in power) the Hakeem (the source of all wisdom) has taught us how to protect ourselves from Shaythan’s onslaught. Allah says:
“Recite what has been revealed to you from the book (the Qur’an) and establish Salah (Iqamat-as-Salat). Verily/indeed/surely Salah prevents you/preserves you/restrains you/keeps you away from Al-fahsha (shamelessness, indecency, lewdness, anything that leads toward zina) and Al Munkar (disbelief, shirk, injustice, and every other evil deed). And the remembrance (and praising) of Allah is greater without a doubt! And Allah knows all that you do”.
Allahu Akbar! What an Ayah (verse)!
Allah guarantees the one who offers salat protection from al-fahsha and every kind of evil deed (munkar). Dear reader, what is astonishing here is that the word “munkar” encompasses all evil deeds. Munkar includes al-fahsha. But Allah decided to separate the sin of Fahsha and placed it ahead of Munkar. There is a reason. The one who is shameless, the one who is shameless enough to look at something he/she shouldn’t be looking at without lowering their gaze, the one who enjoys spending time on the phone with a person of the opposite sex who is non-mahram to them, the one who in secret, who browses through filthy websites and then whose heart is so corrupt that they look at people as nothing more than animals, they only feed their own nafs and begin to only concern themselves of fulfilling their desires and lusts. A person in such a state finds it almost impossible to wake up for fajr. Such a person’s heart becomes so hard that when the message of Allah is conveyed to them, it doesn’t move them. They can go through an entire month of Ramadaan and their lives are not changed. When the recitation of the Qur’an is heard in the car, they ask you to turn it down or switch it off. A person who is lewd and shameless becomes easy pray for Shaythaan to lead man towards munkar – shirk, murder, injustice, and all forms of bad deeds. It all starts with removing our shame and that is Shaithan’s ultimate goal. To take away our shame from us. That’s how he got to our Father and Mother (Adam alaihissalam and Hawwa salamun alaihima). So we must be vigilant, we must stay on guard at all times. Wallahi, protecting yourself from al-fahsha is a jihad you have to fight constantly.
And the only way to protect yourself from shaythan’s constant ambush is to protect your salah. Not just offering the five daily prayers, but really holding on to it tight and really experiencing the prayer. This type of salah is the salat with khushoo and this is what Allah refers to above.
This will also answer the question of a person who asks, “I know a person who prays five times a day but he deals with interest” or “I know a person who prays five times a day but he lies and cheats”, “I know a person who prays five times a day but he can’t stop watching porn” etc. etc. the only answer I can give, is that that person thinks he is praying. Allah guarantees, notice how Allah (swt) says, verily, indeed, surely the salah protects from al fahsha and Allah’s promise is true. So if he is still engaged in those deeds, then he isn’t really praying. This is not meant to discourage you my dear reader, but it is a reminder for myself first and foremost that my salat is my fort, it is my protection from all evil. So I need to take care of it and take it very seriously and give it it’s due attention.
So insha’Allah with that very long preamble, let’s look at some practical strategies in instilling khushoo in our salat. The following strategies are not fard. This is not a fatwa that you must abide by, but it is a lifestyle that I am trying to implement into my life and I hope that this naseeha aimed at myself will be of benefit to you too insha’Allah.
For the sake of ease in explaining, let’s focus on perfecting the salathul fajr and making it more sweeter insha’Allah. In order to gain khushoo for salathul fajr here is a list of steps to follow:
Kushoo in Fajr starts the night before
The most obvious yet most ignored advise is if you want to wake up for fajr, then you will have to sleep early the night before. In order to obtain khushhoo, you need to be at your psychological and physical best. It is difficult to do this when you feel drowsy or half asleep. I am someone who requires between 7-8 hours of sleep everyday. Therefore, if I have to wake up at 4:30am or 5am I must sleep at 9.00pm-9:30pm. This is so that not only will I feel refreshed, I am also ready to start my day insha’Allah.
Also let’s make an effort to have dinner early. 7pm is ideal as it gives us about 2 hours to digest our food before sleeping. Also make sure that the food is easily digestible, and make sure that it is food that does not require the body to exert additional energy to digest. This is not only easy on the stomach, this will help you wake up for Fajr a lot more easily. Foods to avoid for dinner will be oily food (anything that is fried), foods that have high amounts of starch, basically don’t overeat is what I’m trying to say; so ensure dinner is light.
When going to bed early, fight the urge to watch TV, stare at the computer screen or scroll down your Fcaebook newsfeed on your mobile devices. These activities make your brain tired and they actually prevent you from falling asleep. Also I have noticed waking up becomes so much harder after a good session of browsing the internet before sleep. So avoid these at all cost!
Going to bed
Before sleeping ensure that you are in wudu, supplicate ‘Subhanallah 33 times, Alhamdulillah 33 times and Allahu Akbar 34 times”. This was advice given by our nabi-e-kareem sallallahu alaihiwasallam to his most beloved daughter Fathima rabhiallahu anha. I am not going into detail about the context of the hadith, but know that this zikr is meant to rejuvenate your body the following morning. Then recite Ayathul Kursi for this ensures an angel is appointed for you to ward of shayatheen who will disturb you in your sleep. Then recite surah ikhlas, Falaq and Nas 3 times. Then make dua to Allah asking Him to wake you up for fajr the following morning and make intention that you will wake up to pray fajr in imam jama’a at the masjid.
Set the alarm
My preparation before salat takes about half an hour. So if adhan is at 5am, then I set my alarm to 4:30am. If you sleep in a room which has an en suite bathroom a great tactic will be to place your alarm in the bathroom. This way you will have to go straight to the bathroom to switch it off and since you’re in the bathroom and out of your bed, you can ensure that you don’t go back to bed for a quick snooze (which is always dangerous!).
Once you are up, make sure you go to the toilet and relieve yourself well. I know this is funny, but this is really important because if you haven’t gone to the toilet in the morning first thing, you are going to fight your stomach from trying not to pass wind. This in turn spoils the sweetness of your salat. Make sure you don’t offer your salat until your bowels are fully cleared. This is also another reason to ensure your food is rich in fibre, so you are able to relieve yourself easily. So eat vegetables, fruits and other food high in fibre.
Brush your teeth before prayer
This is especially important for men who go to the masjid to offer salat (it’s still important for the sisters!). Please ensure you go to the masjid having brushed your teeth. Not brushing your teeth can not only offend the other musalli’s who have to bear the stench of your mouth, but it will also drive away the malaaika (angels) whom Allah has sent to make dua for you. So please do yourself and the other musallis a favour and brush your teeth before going for prayer it really only takes 5 minutes! It also makes your mouth feel fresh and you really feel as though you are fully awake.
Dress for success
When the adhaan is called, we are told to come toward success:
If you are to go toward success, then maybe you should dress for success too!
O Children of Adam! We have bestowed clothing upon you to conceal your shame (private parts) and to beautify yourselves. But the clothing of ‘at-Taqwa’ (righteousness or God-consciousness) is best. Such are the signs of Allah that they may leave falsehood and follow truth (i.e. receive admonition).
This ayah teaches us that clothing is a gift from Allah. Contrary to anthorpology class, clothing isn’t something we learnt along the way as evolving monkeys and apes. Instead clothing was a gift from Allah so that we may cover our shame and to beautify ourselves. So unlike Iblees’s waswasa, where he promises us that you need to take your clothes off to look beautiful, or you need to wear tighter clothes to look beautiful, Allah says We sent down clothing for you to look beautiful. So when you stand before your Lord beautify yourself and adorn yourself with nice clothes.
Which also means taking care of your clothes and dressing nicely is an act of worship. Rasulullah sallallahu alaihiwasallam used to name each of his clothes. That’s the reverence and respect that he (sallallahu alaihiwasallam) used to give his clothes. So ensure you are dressed nicely before you go in front of your Rabb and take care of your clothes that you own. This means that you can’t go praying fajr in your pyjamas. Or in t-shirts so short that when you go into sujood the musalli behind you can see what branded underwear you wear. The litmus test to use is “would I go in front of my CEO in this clothing?” and if you work for an agency like me where the dress code is a little more relaxed, I’d ask “would I go in front of the CEO of my biggest client?” the CEO of the company that pays us 10 million dollars or 20 million dollars or whatever a year. If the answer is no then how dare I stand before my Allah, Rabbul A’alameen (Lord of all the worlds), the Jabbar and Malik, (the king of kings) so if you were to dress up to see the president of your country, to go to a job interview, to go to your US green card interview or your British citizenship interview (you get the point?) then it is only fair that you dress up nicely to stand before Him. The clothes don’t need to be expensive. You don’t need to wear a suit and tie to go in front of Allah, but make sure the clothes are clean, ironed, neat and simple. If it isn’t too much hassle, I would recommend allocating separate salat clothes like a shalwar kameez or a kandura (thobe, jubbah whatever you call it). I would also recommend the men to wear an imamah or a tholapa (basically the turban) to the masjid. This is a sunnah and it is said even the angels wear an imamah. Trust me, by the process of ironing your clothes and putting on your imamah for Allah’s sake, you get in to the psychology of actually preparing to meet your Lord. Also make sure you are in wudu before you leave the house.
On your way to the masjid
Ensure that you do zikr (it’s good practice to recite the 3rd and 4th kalima) also make sure your gaze is lowered, and don’t let your eyes wander. Constantly seek refuge in Allah up until you get to the masjid. Also know that Allah says that the one who walks to the masjid is witnessed. The funny thing is “witnessed by whom?” The whole world is asleep except a few. So who is Allah referring to when He says that the one going to the masjid is witnessed? Well firstly, obviously Allah Rabbul Izzath is the ultimate witness, but He is also referring to the Angels who will be accompanying you all along your way to the masjid. They will be constantly making dua for you and that my dear reader is a gift a ni’ama of Allah for us. Alhamdulillah. Also every step that you take to the masjid, Allah raises your rank in His sight! SubhanAllah!
The following is a fantastic dua to learn and memorise and say on your way to the masjid:
‘O Allaah, place within my heart light, and upon my tongue light, and within my ears light, and within my eyes light, and place behind me light and in front of me light and above me light and beneath me light. O Allaah, bestow upon me light.’
Now, let us finally come to the actual Salah
Before saying the thakbeer, make sure you turn off all distractions. This means you turn off your mobile phone. It still baffles me how people pray while their phones are switched on. I have also noticed that everyone has this one friend who always happens to call you exactly at the time of salah. I don’t know how he does it, but I have experienced this myself and I know others have too. So please ensure that your mobile phones are either left at home or if you brought it with you please turn it off. Also make sure your heels are in a straight line and you stand shoulder to shoulder with the musalli next to you. Never ever leave spaces between you for shaithan comes between you. There are people who leave such a big gap that you can actually fit another person next to you. Also if a musalli next to you tries to touch your toe with his toe don’t be so arrogant and rude that you move your foot away from him. What’s wrong with his toe touching yours? The important thing is to ensure that you do not let shaithan do waswasa (whisper) to your ears while in salah (why does he have to touch my toe, why is he shaking his finger, why does he not do qunoot, why does he not raise his hands when rising from ruku, why doesn’t the imam recite dua out loud after salah, why are they leaving after 8 rakaths during tharaweeh etc. etc.) Do not let shaithan deceive you with his whispers. Focus on yourself and don’t concern yourself with things that aren’t relevant to you. Wallahi the Salah is your moment to connect with your Lord so do not let shaithan deceive you in to thinking you’re so great that the musallli praying next to you is wrong. Have the attitude of Imam Shafi (rahimahumAllah) who said I believe I am right but concede the possibility that it may turn out to be incorrect. I believe that the those who have a view different from mine is incorrect, but concede the possibility that it may turn out to be correct. SubhanAllah! Those who came before us have shown us the way, so let’s not disunite over petty things especially in the masjid and especially during the salat. There is no khushoo if you get distracted by these petty things. So be vigilant of Shaithan’s waswasa!
When you are attacked by shaithan’s waswasa during salat, immediately seek refuge in Allah. Allah says:
“And if an evil whisper from Shaitan (Satan) tries to distract you (from doing good, etc.), then seek refuge in Allah. Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower”.
“Verily, those who are Al-Muttaqun (the pious, the ones who fear Allah), when an evil thought comes to them from Shaitan (Satan), they remember (Allah), and (indeed) they then see (aright)”.
And this is why we seek refuge in Allah when we begin the prayer. Ibn Al Qayyim said that it is narrated that when we commence the prayer, Allah orders for the barrier between us to be lifted and we are directly facing our Rabb (Lord), yet if we turn away (i.e. get distracted) the barrier is brought back down. And it is in these moments of heedlessness that the shaitan tries to make one thought lead to another but when the barrier is removed, shaitan does not dare to distract us.
Thus, let us seek refuge in Allah from the shaitan, truly think over the meaning of that supplication, and guard ourselves from shaitan throughout the prayer.
Before the salah, say your niyyah and immediately imagine that you are standing in front of Allah subhanahu wa’athala’s Arsh and feel how worthless and helpless you are in His presence. If you can’t imagine Allah in front of you imagine that Allah tha’ala al Baseer (the all seer) al sami’er (the all hearer) sees you. Humble yourself in front of Allah’s power and might. The salat is where you cut all your duniya activities and give Allah your complete attention. Imagine that although you are praying in jama’a you have a private audience with Allah rabbul izzath. The salat is between you and Him most high. The barrier is removed, and while in salat, talk to Him with the speech He has taught us through his messenger sallallahu alaihiwasallam. Make sure your eyes do not wander during your salat. Make sure your eyes are fixed on where you forehead would touch the ground and don’t raise your gaze for any reason.
Next I would highly recommend learning the translations and the tafsir on the surahs that you recite during salah. Knowing what you say has a massive impact in improving the quality of your salat. Please see below two really good tafsirs of Surah Fathiha:
One is a long video by Mufti Ismail Menk while the other is short and concise. But I urge you to listen to both insha’Allah:
Also try to learn all the meanings and tafsir of all the short surahs that you regularly recite during salat. Here are some tafsir on some short surahs which I believe are really powerful and will help you in your salat the next time you recite them. Please take a moment to go through them all insha’Allah:
During Ruku, bow down to Allah as if you see yourself bowing down to Allah the Lord of all the worlds.
In sajdah, imagine you being one of the few humans who will be blessed to go down in sajdah to Allah on the day of Qiyamah along with our nabi sallallahu alaihiwasallam. The ones who didn’t offer their salat in this world will not be able to do sajdah on the day of Qiyamah so picture that. Imagine the scene of Qiyamah, imagine how close and near you are to Allah in your sajdah and be thankful to Allah that you are blessed enough to do Sajdah to Him.
Once you have finished your salat, ensure that you do all your zikr after the prayer. Make sure you ponder over every glorification of Allah that you make. Don’t be like the bani israyeel who made their religion into pure rituals and stopped pondering over the signs and power of the words they were uttering. So know what you are saying. There are many aleems in our masjids, if you don’t know go to them, sit by their feet (massage their feet if you want) but ask them to teach you what the ayah’s mean if you don’t understand. Wallahi the whole process of learning beneficial knowledge such as this will increase your rank in Allah’s sight. Don’t be lazy, don’t just Google for answers or get all your deeni knowledge through FB. Sit and listen to an Ustadh or an Alim and you will benefit immensely. If this isn’t practical, then I would strongly recommend subscribing to Ustadh Nouman Ali khan’s online tafsir classes. It is only $11 a month so give up going out for coffee with friends and invest that money in learning Qur’an. Wallahi it will be the best investment you could ever make for yourself. If for whatever reason you may not be able to afford the subscription but you are keen on following the lessons please get in touch with me and I will happily sponsor you inshaAllah.
Make lots of dua.
Finally make sure you make dua in your own language. I find making dua in my own language (silently) makes me obtain khushoo and it helps me feel connected to Allah rabbul izzath. When making dua, make sure you praise Allah first, then send salawath upon our messenger sallallahu alaihiwasallam then call out to Allah with His most beautiful names. If you want forgiveness call out to Gaffar (the one who forgives), Gafoor (the one who hides your sins from others and removes your sins from your record), Afoow (the one who loves to forgive sins), Thawwab (the only One who can accept repentance), if you want Allah’s mercy call out to ArRahman, ArRaheem, If you want something call out to al Kareem (the most generous), if you have hit a dead end and you see no way out of your troubles or problems call out to al Fatthah the one who opens doors that you think can never be opened. If you want increased Rizq, call out to arRazzaq (the provider), if you want gifts or children, call out to al Wahhab the one who constantly gives gifts. If you are suffering from a broken heart, or you lost someone due to death or separation and you feel your heart is wounded call out to al Jabbar (the one who restores all things, and the one who fixes that which is broken). If you want a friend call out to Wali the bestest ever friend you can ever ask for, If you want someone to protect you call out to mawla the protector, if you are desperate that your Lord answers your dua or even hears your dua call out to Mujeeb the one who responds to anyone who calls out to Him.. I can go on and on.. What is it that you need? Peace? Call out to As-salam the source of all peace, you want light illuminating your heart? Call out to Allahu-noorassamawathi wal ardh (Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth) the source of all light. Whatever you need know that our Allah can give you and it is easy for Him! He is nearer to you than your jugular vein. He is always near!
Call out to your Lord and seek forgiveness for all your sins past and present, known and unknown, both open and secret and major and minor. Then ask Allah for whatever you want, then make dua for your parents, your family, brothers and sisters, immediate family, friends, colleagues, fellow musallis at the masjid, the scholars of our deen, the muslims in your country, ask Allah to grant guidance to all the people in your country, to all the muslims who are suffering and striving all across the globe, to all those who came before us and who are now spending time in the grave. End by praising Allah once again and send peace and blessings upon our nabi sallallahu alaihiwasallam.
Other activities to help increase khushoo in salat
- Read lots of Qur’an: try to read at least one aiyn before leaving the house to work in the morning and read Qur’an whenever you get an opportunity, during lunch break, when travelling on the bus etc.
- Try to memorise all the short surahs in the last juz (the 30th juz). Wallahi the memorisation is such a blessing every single time you utter the same ayahs over and over again you get rewarded. Simply by trying to memorise a short surah you earn yourself so many more sawab. Also this helps you to recite more Qur’an when you are out on the street.
- Reduce the amount of sins you commit. Wallahi everyone sins. From the alim to the layman, from the king to the commoner, young and old and both men and women. But make a conscious effort to reduce your sins. It could be, “I am going to cut down the time I spend on social networks”, or “I will cut down my need for posting selfies on facebook”, “I will reduce the time spent watching TV series”, “I will ensure my gaze is always lowered when walking the streets”… I don’t know, you know yourself best and you know what your greatest weaknesses are. So start by making a conscious effort to give up sin. Wallahi, by giving up sin and by reading more Qur’an you open up doors for Allah’s baraqah to descend upon you. Take my word for it and try it. Just try it for a month insha’Allah. Make a conscious effort to minimise your sins and wallahi you will find the sweetness in your salat and in all aspects of your life.
May this be a reminder to myself first and foremost and may it be of some benefit to you too. I ask Allah that He protect us from the onslaught of al-Fahsha. May He protect us from all shameful deeds that earn His wrath and displeasure. I ask Allah that He grants us the courage to do jihad against our own nafs, our own desires, our bodies and against Shaythaan. May Allah grant us baraqah in our lives, May Allah guide us to the straight path and may He forgive us when we forget or falter. May Allah bless you and myself in this world and the next and may He protect us from the torment of the fire.
May He grant us the gift of Khushoo in our salat and may He accept all our salat. May He grant us the courage and the strength to fight our inner battles with our nafs and shayatheen. And may He reward us with Noorun-ala-Noor. Light upon light. Ameen!
Rabbana thaqabbal minna innaka anthas samee-ul-aleem..