Concentration in prayers is a constant struggle. As much as we would like Khushu in our prayer, it is not there. In Surah Al-Muminun, it appears, “Successful indeed are the believers.Those who offer their Salat (prayers) with all solemnity and full submissiveness.” (Al-Muminun 23:1-2)
Attaining humble submission
It can be attained by turning away from the futile and unnecessary (as we read in the verse after). The futile and unnecessary are time wasters. Someone was asked, “Why do you take off your shoes before entering the House of God?” He replied, “My shoes are the Dunya that I am leaving behind. I don’t need it when I am engaged with my Lord.” We need to empty our heads from the unnecessary concerns and gossips before we get on the prayer rug. Getting rid of such thoughts is impossible, unless we cleanse ourselves. Therefore, Zakat was mentioned next.
Zakat as purification
One needs to purify his wealth, as well as, his thoughts. With evil thoughts in our mind, we get on the prayer mat; going through our conversations with other people or plotting our next rebuttals. We need to work on our temper and control our tongues. Let’s not utter words that will haunt us later. May He make us of those who work on their bad qualities. Ameen.
Purpose of giving Zakat
Allah (swt) commands us to give Zakat so as to replace materialism with generosity. This is how we can get rid of the futile.
Don’t even go near fornication
Then we are advised to stay away from adultery and immorality. The Prophet (sa) said: “Whoever guarantees me (the chastity of) what is between his legs (i.e. his private parts), and what is between his jaws (i.e. his tongue), I guarantee him Paradise.” (Bukhari). Whenever a person falters, he should turn to Allah (swt) in sincere repentance. Chastity of the private parts and the tongue is a trust; whoever loses that trust will lose peace from his life.
Your spouse is entrusted upon you
Therefore, the next trait of the successful ones mentioned is, “Those who are faithfully true to their Amanat (all the duties which Allah has ordained, honesty, moral responsibility and trusts etc.) and to their covenants.” (Al-Muminun 23:8). Spouses are a trust to one another. The verses of God-consciousness (Taqwa) are recited in the Nikah sermon. And wherever Quran mentions the rights of husband and wife, it is followed by a reminder of the Hereafter. Let us not break our trusts and promises; whether they be with other people or Allah (swt).
When a person prays only when he wants to pray and neglects it at other times, he cannot be humble in his prayers. Therefore, it is said, “And those who strictly guard their (five compulsory congregational) Salawat (prayers) (at their fixed stated hours).” (Al-Muminun 23:9)
Stories of the successful ones
After describing the qualities required to attain success, Allah (swt) narrates the stories of successful people – the prophets and the messengers. He says, “Then We sent Our Messengers in succession, every time there came to a nation their Messenger, they denied him, so We made them follow one another (to destruction), and We made them as Ahadeeth (the true stories for mankind to learn a lesson from them). So away with a people who believe not.” (Al-Muminun 23:44)
Denial leads to destruction
Whether one openly denies the messenger or shows a hypocritical behaviour; such that we declare that we are the nation of Muhammad (sa), but take his Sunnah as a burden. Then we should know that we are inviting destruction. Allah (swt) loosens the rope up to a certain limit and then pulls it. Let’s return to Him before the rope is pulled.
Pray before you are prayed upon
The doors of repentance are opened until death. When death approaches and then man says, “I now seek forgiveness for my sins!” it would not be accepted from him. Allah (swt) says, “Until, when death comes to one of them (those who join partners with Allah), he says: “My Lord! Send me back,So that I may do good in that which I have left behind!” No! It is but a word that he speaks, and behind them is Barzakh (a barrier) until the Day when they will be resurrected.” (Al-Muminun 23:99-100). There are no second chances. This life is our only chance to build our relationship with Allah (swt) and strengthen it.
Allah (swt) questions man about his purpose of creation, “Did you think that We had created you in play (without any purpose), and that you would not be brought back to Us?” (Al-Muminun 23:115) Allah (swt) did not create man for nothing. We have been informed of our purpose of creation and we will be questioned about our time here. Let’s not waste this chance.
(Adapted from Mufti Ismail Menk’s “Pearls of Peace” series, Cape Town, Ramadan 2013. The lecture can be listened to at this link.)