Whenever you think about Salah, you have to consider it in terms of numbers and quality.
On the Day of Judgement, there will be stations or levels. Salah will be the first thing about which people will be questioned. You cannot pass that station unless your Salah is complete and acceptable. If an individual comes with mega achievements, while lacking in Salah, the angels will ask the person: “What about your Salah?” The angels will check the numbers and the quality of your Salah. The quality depends upon Sunnah, Nafil, Qiyam Al-Lail, and of course the amount of Khushu (presence of one’s heart and mind) in one’s prayer. If your Salah is excellent, you will be able to cross that station without any worries.
The question is: what is the quality of our Salah? Most of the times, the only thing we remember from our Salah is the recitation of Allahu Akbar. (May Allah forgive us! Ameen!) No wonder we are commanded to end the Salah with the Tasleem and then recite Astaghfirullah (O Allah, forgive me) for any shortcomings in our Salah.
The importance of Salah can be deduced from the Hadeeth of Umm Salamah (rtaf), who narrated the final few moments in the life of the Prophet (sa) before his death. He advised his Ummah about Salah and its importance.
Consider the Sahabah. They did not have luxury cars. They did not have Masjids conveniently located near their residences. Some of them lived so far from the Masjid, they actually asked the Prophet (sa) if they could shift somewhere nearer. The Prophet (sa) refused, promising them great rewards for their efforts. What about today? We have Masjids in every neighbourhood. We have at our disposal cars and public transport. Most of us are in good health. Yet, some of us are too preoccupied with the worldly things – like cricket or television shows – to pay heed to the Adhan.
Some of us are preoccupied with our meals. It is a Sunnah to eat a quick meal and thereafter, perform Salah with ease. However, we do exactly the other way around. We hurriedly pray Salah and then sit down to enjoy a leisurely meal. The same goes for when some of us have to answer the call of nature. Instead of relieving ourselves and then praying with a fresh ablution, some of us pray hurriedly and then rush to the washroom. Subhan’Allah!
We have to understand that Salah is our Divine connection with Allah (swt). In particular, the Sujood is the position in which we have the closest connection with Him. This is why we have been instructed to pray earnestly, while we are prostrating. Now, when we say it is a connection, we have to consider this: the quality of any connection has to be really, really good, if you want to ensure a swift and efficient response. If the connection is faulty, the response will be less and/or delayed. So what are the different factors that affect this connection and its quality? Consider the following flowchart:
Following this flowchart, you can understand the reason behind the complain of some people that they have been supplicating for years and years, yet their particular Duas have not been heard. You can also comprehend the meaning of the following Hadeeth:
The Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “A person leaves (after having prayed), and nothing is recorded for him except a tenth of his prayer, (or) a ninth of it, (or) an eighth of it, (or) a seventh of it, (or) a sixth of it, (or) a fifth of it, (or) a fourth of it, (or) a third of it, (or) a half of it.” (Abu Dawood)
Salah involves our body and our souls. Our bodies are nourished by food, drink and regular exercise. However, no amount of meals can nourish the soul whose five meals are the five obligatory prayers. The soul is nurtured by heavenly sources, not television watching. Moreover, praying a couple of Salah per day will not fulfil the soul, whose staple diet is of five obligatory Salah and the in-between snacks are the voluntary prayers and Qiyam Al-Lail.
Now, most of you reading this will have a very clear idea about the importance of Salah. The question is: What do you do, if you find your relatives or your friends to be lax with their Salah? How do you broach the subject with them? What pointers do you give them? Here is a brief introduction to the importance of Salah that you can discuss with them:
- It is one of the pillars of Islam.
- It has to be performed regardless of circumstances or how excruciating they are (whether one is ill, travelling or on a battle-field).
- It was obligated during the journey of Miraj. Allah (swt) brought the Prophet (sa) into the heavens and communicated this obligation directly. This was unlike the other pillars, which were obligated through a revelation. Consider also that the original number of prayers were fifty. Allah (swt) brought them down to five upon the request of the Prophet (sa) but promised to reward them for fifty.
- Salah is the only pillar of Islam for which you need to be in a state of ritual purity or Taharah.
- It is the only obligation that is preceded by an official announcement – the Adhan.
We have written quite a bit about Khushu. The question arises: What is Khushu? Having Khushu in Salah basically means to have a protective wall around yourself that protects your Salah. When you are praying, you have to focus upon what you are saying. You have to maintain the high quality of your Divine connection. Scratching, looking at the time, yawning and all such similar acts indicate that your heart is not into Salah. You are only performing the rituals mechanically without any Khushu.
So how can you gain Khushu?
- Don’t pray if you are fatigued or hungry, or need to use the washroom.
- Dress nicely. Designate some clothes and always wear them, while preparing for Salah. This has a profound psychological effect.
- Do a fresh ablution.
- Go to the Masjid early – as soon as possible.
- Pray two units of Tahiyyat Al-Masjid.
- Start with Sunnah prayers.
- Pray as close as possible to the Imam.
- Avoid chattering with people. Focus upon Dhikr.
Note: While praying, your mind plays back the last few tasks you have been doing, and the only time you get into ‘Salah mode’ is when the Imam says the Tasleem. Hence, the advice is to get into the prayer mode by dressing up, doing ablution and praying Sunnah prayers or two units of voluntary prayer. This will help you concentrate, while you are praying the Fard Salah!
- As you say ‘Allahu Akbar’ and start your Salah, remember this: Allah (swt) is Greater than anything that occupies your mind.
- As you fold your hands over your chest, realize your position of humility.
- Reflect upon the Arabic phrases that you understand.
- Aim to make this Salah the one, of which you will be proud on the Day of Judgement.
- Maintain your Divine connection and avoid looking around, while you are praying.
- Say ‘Astaghfirullah’ after your Tasleem. This will avoid making you too proud or too lazy, or too dependent upon that one quality Salah you have just performed.
- Remain seated. Recite a few supplications. Don’t be in a rush to get up and leave.
- Pray Sunnah and Nafil prayers.
We pray to Allah (swt) to grant us Khushu and make our Salah a means of making us enter Jannah. Ameen!
Adapted from a lectureshop organized by “LiveDeen”. Transcribed for “Hiba” by Umm Ibrahim.