Dear brothers and sisters, the Salah is the first thing we will be asked about on the day of Judgement. The Prophet SAWS has said the most important reality is Islam, and its spine is Salah.
The prayer itself is a worship of Allah SWT and its benefits in this life also are many as is mentioned by Allah SWT in the Glorious Quran.
The imam mentioned Sura An Nisa, ayat 103 which says:
And when you have completed the prayer, remember Allah standing, sitting, or [lying] on your sides. But when you become secure, re-establish [regular] prayer. Indeed, prayer has been decreed upon the believers a decree of specified times.
Dear brothers and sisters, this ayat is telling us that Salah is the absolute bare minmimum task you commit to in the day. We can abstain from food, drink, relations, interactions with others, work, school etc but prayer is something we cannot miss out.
The Imam also spoke of the following hadith in which the Prophet SAWS is reported to have said:
“The first thing for which the Muslim will be brought to account on the Day of Resurrection will be the prescribed prayers. If they are complete, all well and good, otherwise it will be said: ‘Look and see whether he has any voluntary prayers.’ If he has any voluntary prayers, his prescribed prayers will be completed from his voluntary prayers. Then the same will be done with regard to all his obligatory deeds.”
Dear brothers and sisters, we live in a time and a place where it is becoming increasingly difficult to carry out Salat. The temptations are ever present and they tempt us to spend our time away from this important act. How many of us say to one another that there simply isn’t enough hours in the day. And yet, it is a question of priority and this is to be placed at the top.
We ought to remind one anther that the first step to rehabilitation from the temptations of this life comes from returning to the Salah. This is the SOS that our souls are giving out being answered, it is the mechanism that our Creator has given us to keep steadfast on the right path and to both avoid evil and leave evil if we have fallen foul to it.
Dear brothers and sisters, the prayer is vital to our success and happiness in this life and the next.
However, there is another part of salah that needs to be addressed in this reminder as it is something that people, especially those born in the west, are part of and that is the quality of prayer.
For a lot of people who pray the act of prayer is a tick in the box and it is a cardio exercise but it lacks a secret ingredient and that is the “khushoo” in Arabic which is humbleness in prayer.
And for those unsure whether they have khushoo or not in prayer, it’s one of those things that if you don’t have it, when you are in salat, your mind does not switch off and your worldly thoughts still continue as you pray. This causes us to lack focus in our prayer and thus risking it’s validity.
This reminder concludes with 4 practical tips we can all take away to help us gain focus in prayer.
Preparation. Give yourself 60-90 seconds before the start of each prayer to flush all your thoughts out of your head. Whether this is about work, wife, kids or something else, your brain is one of those things which betrays you in prayer so get into the habit of leaving no thought outstanding before prayer begins.
Visualisation. Always try to remind yourself that you are standing in front of Allah SWT. Another way to look at this is, if you are standing in front of your boss or your teacher then you don’t fidget, yawn or mindlessly think of anything else but the meeting you are having. You give that person the respect because they are a position of authority over you. The same applies here. You are stood in front of your Creator, the Creator of everything you know and He can see you at that very moment and is aware of your Salah. Use that knowledge to maintain etiquette and focus as you recite in front of Him.
Persistence. During the salat, you are in a constant battle with your mind to remain focused on what you are doing. It is the role of Shaitaan to distract you away from this focus so counteract this by doing things that keep your focus. One example is staring on the ground in the same square inch roughly where your head touches when you are in sujood. Don’t close the eyes or let them wander onto what coloured socks the brother next to you is wearing. Another is learning the word-for-word meaning of Sura Fatihah and at a minimum the couple of ayats you read after Sura Fatihah so that when you read each and every word, you can hear it’s meaning in your head and again visualise what you are saying to your Lord.
And lastly, you should pace your recitation, it’s not a race to the finish and by the way the difference between the fastest recitation of salat and the normal-paced, pleasant and focused recitation is only a minute or two, surely your time isn’t that precious outside of your meeting with Allah SWT that you can’t spare that extra minute to recite with a good pace and focus? The imam mentioned a hadith in reference to this which is translated to say:
A man entered the mosque and started praying while Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) was sitting somewhere in the mosque. Then (after finishing the prayer) the man came to the Prophet (ﷺ) and greeted him. The Prophet (ﷺ) said to him, “Go back and pray, for you have not prayed. The man went back, and having prayed, he came and greeted the Prophet. The Prophet (ﷺ) after returning his greetings said, “Go back and pray, for you did not pray.” On the third time the man said, “(O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)!) teach me (how to pray).” The Prophet said, “When you get up for the prayer, perform the ablution properly and then face the Qibla and say Takbir (Allahu Akbar), and then recite of what you know of the Qur’an, and then bow, and remain in this state till you feel at rest in bowing, and then raise your head and stand straight; and then prostrate till you feel at rest in prostration, and then sit up till you feel at rest while sitting; and then prostrate again till you feel at rest in prostration; and then get up and stand straight, and do all this in all your prayers.”
Dear brothers and sisters, Salah is the mechanism through which we connect with connect to Allah SWT. By perfecting this correctly we can impact the rest of our lives and be a testimony to the call to prayer which testifies “come to prayer” and “come to success” insh’Allah.