By Fatima Ariadne
“The first thing to be taken away from this (muslim) people will be khushoo, until you will see no one who has khushoo“ (Hadith Tabrani)
Lightening Fast Prayer, Anyone?
I was famous in my family for having a record-breaking lightening-fastest salaah in the world.
My father often humorously (and sarcastically) said that the way I perform my salaah would scare away the angels and made them choose to never record anything at all. “You’ll lose that, little girl!”.
Finally one day I read an Islamic book quoting a Hadith that salaah without tuma’ninah (stop slowly during movements) will not be accepted. So I learned to adopt tuma’ninah. At the first time I was getting impatient and “ugghh this gonna be long” (indeed I’m impatient in nature.)
But only lately I felt my prayers and dhikr (Divine remembrance invocations) became unusually, intensely vivid. It’s not just one of those lucky days where I’m “finally” able to concentrate.
It’s a laser-focused Divine mindfulness.
It was as if the whole world disappears, reality becomes illusion, and there’s only me and God standing face to face in an unknown cosmos. It was crazily intense, blissful experience it’s scary.
That’s when I began noticing pattern between my mindful and unmindful prayers, and what makes them differ each other.
So actually…… It never cross my mind I’ll ever write this article! I seek refuge in Allah from not practicing what I said! But guys, I just want to share the things I know so you can benefit from it too like I did.
First of all, if you are one of the peeps who have a lightening fast prayer, try to remember this severe warning (this is serious, and warning for myself too) :
Rasulullah (peace be upon him) saw a man doing prayer but he didn’t perfect his bowing (rukoo) and he did his prostration like a chicken pecking (i.e. very fast), and Rasulullah (pbuh) stated :
“If this man dies with such prayer condition, he dies not upon the teaching of Muhammad”
(Source : Musnad Abu Ya’la No.7184, also narrated by Tabrani in Kabiir no. 3840, authenticity hasan (fair) according to Al Albani)
Khushoo, What The Heck is That???
Ibn Rajab explained the basic meaning of “khushoo” as the softness of heart, its being gentle, still, humbled, submissive, broken, and yearning. In Qur’an Allah tells us :
“Successful are believers, those who are humble in their prayer” (Qur’an 23 : 1 -2)
“And seek help in patience and salaah (the prayer), and truly it is extremely heavy and hard except for people who are khushoo” (Qur’an 2 : 45)
A brilliant quote from Ibn Qayyim :
“The khushoo of true faith is when the heart feels aware and humble before the greatness and glory of Allah, and is filled with awe, fear and shyness, love and the recognition of the blessings of Allah and its own sins. So no doubt the khushoo of heart is followed by the khushoo of the body”.
Ibn Qayyim also noted how the early Companions of Prophet will seek refuge in Allah from the hypocritical khushoo. It’s when the body appears khushoo, while the heart is not.
Now the question is : How do you know you’ve achieved khushoo in prayer?
That’s pretty easy. If you feel lighter after salaah, as if the burden have been lifted from your shoulders, you’ve got it. Also if you feel an unusual bliss and laser-focused mindfulness during prayer, you’ve got it.
Prayer is a Dating with Divine
Imagine you have a date. Yeah I know there’s no dating in Islam unless you’re married, but just play an anecdotal role you’re having a date with this dream girl or guy.
You agree to date at a fancy restaurant, at 7 o’clock. So you come to that place, filled with hope. You patiently wait.
But this dream girl or guy is coming late (not meant to accuse, but usually it’s guy who would likely do this, LOL, so I’ll make the guy the late one). Not just “late”, but 2 hours late.
And he’s coming with a really smelly body, wearing rags and with innocent smile said….
“Uhh….sorry hun I’m late. What if we just going straight to hotel tonight?”
(C) smathur80 via Wikimedia Commons
Admit it peeps, sometimes we treat Allah just like the guy in this story to his girl.
Allah had ordained us certain times to meet Him. He waits for us patiently until we come to Him. But instead of coming loyally, we’re coming late, or we’re coming on-time but doing it half-heartedly for the sake of “finishing compulsory checklist” and done.
And after all we’ve done, we still have a qualm to hope for Paradise! (Just like the guy who’s out of the blue, “uhh sorry, what if we just straight to hotel tonight?”)
Prayer is a dating with Divine sans candlelight dinner, movie, flowers, and music. And prostration should be that little moment like when you look at your lover right in the depth of her or his eyes, like piercing arrows. You don’t want the very moment to be over soon.
But beyond dating itself, prayer is an INVITATION to Divine. How would you respond your invitation?
If a President invites you to his palace, what would you wear? How would your attitude be? Would it cross your mind to even coming late or half-heartedly?
Next time you think that Salaah is a burden and a chore,
Remember that salaah is nothing but invitation from Allah.
And you being invited to His path, is already an honor.
Would you reply that honor?
Steps to Develop Khushoo
The most realistic baby step to develop khushoo is to build on concentration first.
At least if you can’t have such a piercing mindfulness, I would say, try to develop focus first. It’s like if you want to land on the Mars, remaining on earth daydreaming upon the stars won’t get you anywhere. Get a spaceship and fly to outer space. Whether you’d really reach Mars in the end or not, you’ve reached closer step to there.
And that’s a good beginning.
1) Understand What You’re Reciting
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) stated: “When any one of you stands to pray, he is in conversation with his Lord, so let him pay attention to how he speaks to Him.” (al-Haakim, al-Mustadrak, 1/236; Saheeh al-Jaami?, 1538).
Make sure as you perform your prayer, you understand every single meaning of your recitations. Not just the translation, but the inner reflection behind them.
Don’t recite like you would recite a mantra! Don’t recite as if you’re speaking to alien! You’re having a conversation with the One who created you, provides you, and know you more than you ever know yourself.
2) Be the Child of the Moment
The first realistic step to achieve concentration is to “stop and smell the roses”.
Literally speaking, when you smell the roses, you just allow the fragrant of roses enter your nostrils. You adore the Divine design of rose’s petals, how they’re gently unfolding. You allow the beauty and fragrant of roses possess you and you think of nothing else. You are truly “immersed in the moment”.
Let’s see how you can apply the same with your prayer :
Empty your mind, empty your thoughts from all things outside the prayers. And instead, focus on your recitations, focus on your posture and breath movement.
If your mind is very chatty or suddenly wandering on worldly things, quickly interrupt it and get back on track. Assure yourself they can wait. They’ll have their time, so let them go.
Remember, this is YOUR moment with Divine. Immerse in the NOW faithfully. Come like a lover. After all, by inviting you here, in Islam, in this room, He’s giving His part of love and blessings to you.
Every time your tongue recites, make your heart translates it at the same time. So for example if you recite “Bismillahir rahmaanir rahiim”, make your heart recite the translation, “in the name of Allah, boundlessly compassionate, boundlessly merciful”.
This will help you start focus, insha Allah.
Slow right there. Take your time and perfect your bowing and prostration. You’re not in a race. Nobody gives you a winning medal for breaking a timing record. A hadith even stated that rush is from shaytan. But do you know that……
“When a servant (of Allah) stands and prays, all his sins are brought and placed on his head and shoulders. Every time he bows or prostrates, some of them (his sins) are falling apart from him.” (Hadith Reported by al-Bayhaqi in al-Sunan al-Kubraa, Sahih Jami)
4) Develop Ihsan
Ihsan is to serve Allah as if you see Him, and even when you’re unable to see Him, He always sees you.
Personally, what works on me is to imagine that at the time of this prayer of mine, Allah is “visiting my room” and He is “here”. Not literally, but He is “just here” and being present. He is there, watching me with His compassionate sight. And all I do is greeting the Master, “here I come, my Divine One, Your servant is here! Thank you for Your invitation!”
If all this time you always think of Allah as a distant entity, far and away, you really better cease that thought. Regardless of what you think, Allah is always close to you, more than you’d ever thought possible.
“Indeed We created the human being and We know what his heart whispered, and We are closer to him more than his jugular veins” (Suraa Qaaf : 16)
5) Pray to Prove Your Gratitude
A wise saying from Ali ibn Abi Thalib :
I don’t worship God prompted by my eagerness to enter Paradise because such is the worship of a man who is working for wages.
I don’t worship God out of fear of being thrown to hell because such is the worship of a slave.
I worship God out of my gratitude and love for Him, knowing that He alone worthy of devotion. Such is the worship of a free man.
You have 24 hours a day, and you’d happily spend 2 hours on computer games, shopping, sport, or watching movies. Yet you feel “burdened” for a 15 minute prayer?
Next time you feel really lazy to move your butt for praying in the comfort of your room, remember these guys and think of how many blessings of Allah you’ve taken for granted :
Allah has given us so much in this world we cannot count. And all He asked in return is very simple : to remember and to worship Him.
You believe your life is complete mess and you have “nothing” to be “grateful” for? At least thank Allah that He gives you guidance of Islam.
Or thank Him that oxygen is free.
6) Have a Prayer Role Model
“Pray like Imam Ghazali would, Ariadne!”
That’s one of affirmation I’d told myself when I stand up in prayer lazy. Weird indeed, and I don’t even know how’s Imam Ghazali when he prayed. But it works like a charm. So what the heck.
You can imagine other person you adore the most for his piety, someone you could most relate to. What if you were this person, doing praying?
For example, the role model that resonates you the most is the Companion of Prophet. And you tell yourself : “pray like a Companion”
Now visualize that you’re walking inside the footstep of Companion, or that your alter ego as “Companion” is activated. Pretend that YOU are the Companion yourself. If you become a Companion, how would you act in your prayer? Would you stand up lazy? Slouching? I guess not!
7) Be Mindful of Allah Outside the Prayers
If you want to remember Allah inside the prayer, then remember Allah as much as you can outside the prayer.
A brilliant quote from Rumi :
“After all, the purpose of prayer (salaah) is not standing, bowing (rukoo) and prostrating (sujood) all day. For those moments of spiritual union that possess you in prayer (khushoo) should always be with you.
“Whether asleep or awake, writing or reading, in any moment, you should not be far from the remembrance of Allah. Therefore bring your needs to Him constantly, and never be without His remembrance, for the remembrance of Allah is strength, feathers and wings to a bird of spirit.
“Through remembrance of Allah, little by little the inward heart becomes illuminated and detached from the outward world (dunya). Just as a bird that tries flying to heaven, even though it never reaches that goal, yet every moment it rises farther from the earth and outsoars the other birds.”
8) What if This Your Last Prayer?
Imagine this is your last prayer, or that you’ll die tomorrow. Would you slack off? Would you still have a qualm to be unmindful, if you knew you’ll die tomorrow?
“Remember death in your prayer, for the man who remembers death during his prayer is bound to pray properly, and pray the prayer of a man who does not think that he will pray any other prayer.” (Silsilah Saheeh. Al-Hafiz ibn Hajar classed this hadith as hasan/fair).
“When you stand up to pray, pray a farewell prayer.” (Musnad Ahmad)
I forgot which Salaf said this. But when he was asked “how come you’re so khushoo in prayer”, this is his answer more or less : “I imagine that Allah is in front of me, paradise in my right and hell in my left, then how can I not be khushoo”
9) Make It Comfortable
When I was teenager, it was my father’s habit to burn an aromatherapy candle or incense to make our family’s prayer room scented. Especially during Ramadhan. With the nice sandalwood fragrance filled the room, doing prayers, reciting Qur’an and dhikr for a long time becomes a breeze. But then we’re moving to a new house, we no longer have a secluded prayer room and finally no incense anymore.
Beloved ones, prayer is a moment that should be enjoyed and cherished. Make your surrounding conducive for it!
At least, make sure your prayer mat have a nice smell in it.
Prepare a special clothes that you’d only wear in prayer.
If necessary, buy something to scent the prayer room, like aromatherapy candle and incense. Some people might want to argue that incense is “pagan thing”. But hey, action is only by intention. You’ll only use the incense to make the prayer room smells good. Not to invite the spirits!
If you could make effort for it, do your prayer once in a while in a serene, open natural place. Like in your garden, meadow, near the lake, or forest. You’ll have one heck of experience!
10) Avoid Distractions
Several hadiths noted how Prophet (pbuh) advised us to not doing prayer while we’re very hungry or thirsty, when the food is served, while our bladders scream for bathroom, or in a really hot day until it’s somewhat cooling down. He even get rid of fabrics with images in them, because they distract him from praying.
If possible, you’d want to avoid places where people are talking, music or TV is playing, smelly prayer mat, or anything in the surrounding that would distract you from achieving khushoo in prayer.
11) Do Your Prayer Early, and 12) Avoid Sinning
Hands down I’m still guilty for not doing this regularly. But when I do prayers early in time, like soon after the adhaan, it’s much easier to be khushoo than if I do it near its due time.
And avoid sinning as much as you can! Really, sinning is like a wall that veils and creates a distance between you and Allah. Every time I did my prayer after sinning, I always felt guilty and embarrassed. That really hurts. It’s difficult to be khushoo with the guilt of sins haunting your mind.
The Door of Light
Okay now this little “demo” is sort of like meditation. (But anyway, why not? Isn’t salaah a meditation of muslims? ;)). They might sound woo-woo. But you don’t need to do this if you feel uncomfortable or if this just makes you distracted. For the reason, I put it in the end of the list.
As you do your prayer, empty your heart from all thoughts. With humility, focus your mind toward Allah the Exalted, whom you have conversation with.
Now imagine that right in front of you there’s a door.
As you’re immersed in your recitations, the door is opened wider, from which the light of Divine mercy enters. Illuminating you. Penetrating you to the core. Imagine this light is pure love, cleansing your inner being from filth, rancor, and sins. As the door opening becomes wider, the light is now surrounding everywhere. What you once thought of reality, disappears, becomes illusion.
You are lost. You are nothing but dust, standing before the Infinite.
If your mind is wandering, quickly merge them into the white light. In other words, remind yourself they’re “illusion”, they’re only temporary like dreams, or like a shadow that will fade away on evening. “It will be, on the Resurrection Day they see it, it would be as though they had not lived (in the world) except for an afternoon or a morning thereof” (Qur’an 79 : 46)
This is a silent reminder how your realm would be, when the Hour arrives. Everything you see will be no more. Everything you see here now will disappear. It will be only you and Him, standing face to face in unknown cosmos. Like this moment….
>>> Not finished yet! Check out the continuation of this post : “The Prayer Code : Unveiling the Inner Dimensions of Salaah Movements”by clicking here. Based largely on Ghazali’s work, the post reveals the inner meaning behind each movement of salaah or Islamic prayer.