Recharging Our (Spiritual) Batteries
Prayer. As-Salaah. Five times a day, every day, we purify our bodies and prepare our souls with wudhu, the ritual ablution, that we may stand before Allah (subhaanahu wa ta’aala) and worship Him as He deserves to be worshipped, as He has commanded us to worship Him.
Yet… even as we perform the physical motions – raising our hands and entering the inviolable state of prayer; reciting the beautiful words of the Qur’an; bowing and praising Him; lowering ourselves in that most humble of positions, as-sujood (the prostration), wherein we are closer to Allah than anyone could ever be – even as we are doing all that with our bodies, our minds are somewhere else. On the latest joke we heard, perhaps; or the piles of homework that await us; or some other minor and trivial thing. Thus has the best of actions, the most blessed of moments, been reduced to a series of empty rituals.
Needless to say, that’s not the way it should be. We spend far too much time concentrating on the minute details of outward actions, and little – if any – time actually focusing inwardly and concentrating on the spiritual aspect of things. In my opinion, this is part of the reason for why our lives feel so empty: because even our prayers have become empty.
Now – how do we change this? What, exactly, is this missing ingredient, without which our prayer is lacklustre and incomplete? It is called khushoo’.
Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) defined khushoo’ as the following: “The khushoo’ of true faith is when the heart feels aware and humble before the greatness and glory of Allaah, and is filled with awe, fear and shyness, so that the heart is utterly humbled before Allaah and broken, as it were, with fear, shyness, love and the recognition of the blessings of Allaah and its own sins.”
Heavy duty stuff, eh? Let’s take a moment to digest this and see if we can summon such a feeling within ourselves.
“But that’s so HARD!” you cry (as do I – may Allah forgive us all). Yes, well, nobody said it’d be easy. But just keep in mind – it can be done… and insha’Allah the harder and more constantly we strive to attain this blessed state, the more ajr we’ll get from Allah for it.
So: how do we go about trying to become one of al-khaashi’een and al-khaashi’aat? Al-Hamdulillaah, there’s a lot that we can do to join the ranks of those people – a lot more than I can mention in this article! We shall, however, attempt to scratch the surface of this very deep subject, and insha’Allah we able to derive at least some benefit from it. Let’s try to look at the salaah and what comes before and after, step by step, and how we can increase our khushoo’.
Before salaah: Usually before every salaah, we make our wudhu. This is the perfect moment to start focusing our energy on attaining khushoo’. Think about why you’re making wudhu, what the virtues of wudhu are and how they benefit us. Here are some ahadith to keep in mind, which can help us out in this area:
Narrated Abu Hurairah, who heard the Prophet (SAWS) saying: “My followers will come with bright faces, hands and feet on the Day of Judgement because of performing the Wudhu. So, those who want to lengthen their brightness, should take care of their Wudhu“. (Bukhari and Muslim).
Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet (SAWS) said: “When a Muslim makes Wudu and washes his face, then the sins of everything he looked at with his eyes come away with water, or with the last drop of water. When he washes his/her hands, then the sins of everything he stretched his hands to, come away with water, or with the last drop of water. When he washes his feet, every sin which his walked towards come away with water or with the last drop of water. In this way he is left clean and pure of sins after the completion of Wudhu“. (Muslim)
Right there are two great ways to prep us for wudhu: thinking about our sins, repenting of them, hoping that they’re being washed away; and hoping that by taking care to perform wudhu according to the manner of the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam), we are amongst those who emerge on the Day of Judgement with bright faces, hands, and feet. May Allah make us amongst those people, ameen!
All right, so that’s wudhu. Now let’s imagine ourselves standing for salaah. Here’s a snippet from a Hadith that should help us realize the enormity of salaah:
“Ihsan is that you worship Allah as if you are seeing Him; and if not (if you can’t achieve that level of concentration), He is certainly seeing you.” (Al-Bukhari)
This can be somewhat hard to get, so let’s try to put it into perspective. How would you feel if you were standing in front of, say, the Queen of England? Your favourite actor/actress? Your ultimate role model? Take that feeling of ecstatic joy, and the paralyzing fear of making a fool of yourself, and multiply it by about a kazillion. That’s how you should be feeling. You’re standing in front of Allah, the Creator and Lord of absolutely everything in existence! We are mere particles, specks of dust in this vast universe, our every action and thought and word being watched and known and heard – and yet we have the audacity to behave the way we do, as though we’ll never be held accountable!
Step Two: Learn the meanings of the various adhkaar and surahs that you’re reciting during your salaah. Hopefully all of us know what “Allahu akbar” means! After that, find out the meaning of the opening du’aa (either subhaanak Allahumma wa bihamdika, or Allahumma baa’id baynee…) – and don’t just memorize the meaning, THINK about it! Know what you’re asking of Allah, what you’re saying to Him!
For surah al-Faatiha, we have something extremely helpful to help us out here – a Hadith Qudsi that tells us just how we’re actually having an entire conversation with Allah as we recite this surah!
On the authority of Abu Hurairah (radhi’Allahu ‘anhu), the Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu ‘alahi wa sallam) said:
Indeed, Allah has said: I have divided prayer between Myself and My servant into two halves, and My servant shall have what he has asked for.
Bismillaah ir-Rahmaan ir-Raheem
In the name of God, Most Beneficient, Most Merciful
Alhamdulillahi Rabil ‘alameen
All Praises are due to God, Lord of the worlds – Allah responds ‘My slave has praised Me’
The Beneficient, Most Merciful – Allah says ‘My slave has extolled Me’
King of the Day of Judgement– ‘My slave has proclaimed My Greatness’
Iyyaaka na’budu wa iyyaaka nasta’een
You alone do we worship, and to You alone do we turn to for help – “This is between Me and My slave and I grant to My slave what he has asked.”
Ihdinaa siraat al-mustaqeen
Guide us to the Straight Path – ‘All this is there for My slave. He shall be given what he prays for.’ (The remaining ayaat have the same response)
Siraat al-latheena in’amata ‘alaihim
The path of those whom You have graced
Ghair il-maghdoubi ‘alayhim wa lad-daaleen
Not of those who have deserved Your Anger, nor those who have gone astray
(Narrated by Muslim, also by Malik, at-Tirmidhi, Abu-Dawud, an-Nasa’i and Ibn Majah)
That, right there, is something that fill us with at least the beginnings of full-fledged khushoo’. May Allah make us all amongst the rightly-guided, ameen!
I don’t have the space to continue in this vein for the rest of the words we perform during salaah, but let me mention various handy tips on how we can increase our khushoo’ during salaah.
The Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: “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.” (al-Silsilat al-Saheehah by al-Albaani, 1421. It was reported from al-Suyooti that al-Haafiz ibn Hajar classed this hadeeth as hasan).
You know how people sometimes ask you, “What would you do if you knew that you’d die tomorrow?” Well, think about salaah that way – we could die at any moment, so let’s make our salaah count! Pray for yourself, and for your loved ones, as though you and they were going to drop dead at any moment.
Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “… and recite the Qur’aan (aloud) in a slow, (pleasant tone and) style.” [al-Muzzammil 73:4]
Too often we rush through our recitation, impatient to get our salaah over and done with. We need to stop that. Rather, we should be trying our best to slow down, recite beautifully, and think about the ayaat we’re reciting. For those of us who don’t speak or know Arabic, it’s more difficult – but it can still be done. Take the time to learn the meanings of at least some of the shorter surahs, and work from there!
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, “The closest that the slave can be to his Lord is when he is prostrating, so increase your du’aa’ [at that time].” (Reported by Muslim, Kitaab al-Salaah, Baab maa yuqaalu fi’l-rukoo’ wa’l-sujood. No. 215)
This is one of those awesome moments that none of us can afford to let pass by us without seizing the opportunity! You’ll find that some people go through sujood the way a bird pecks at the ground – and we should NOT be like those people. Instead, we should take as long as want in sujood to ask Allah of anything we want (that’s halaal for us, of course!).
Insha’Allah, these things will all help us in bettering our manner of prayer and attaining khushoo’, so that we can really feel the salaah the way we’re supposed to, and take the maximum benefit out of it. As the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: “A slave may pray and have nothing recorded for it except a tenth of it, or a ninth, or an eighth, or a seventh, or a sixth, or a fifth, or a quarter, or a third, or a half.” (Reported by Imaam Ahmad; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 1626).
Let’s try and become amongst those whose ENTIRE prayer is recorded and rewarded!
‘Successful indeed are the believers, those who offer their salaah (prayers) with all solemnity and full submissiveness… These are indeed the inheritors, who shall inherit the Firdaws (Paradise). They shall dwell therein forever.’ [al-Mu’minoon 23:1-2, 10-11]