Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Messenger (SAW) said, “Whoever observes fasts during the month of Ramadan out of sincere faith, and hoping to attain Allah’s rewards, then all his past sins will be forgiven.” [Bukhari, 38]. The first of these qualities is iman but what is this true belief? It is explained in the 23rd surah of the Qur’an dedicated to the true Believers – Surah al Mu’minoon.
“Most certainly those Believers have attained true success”
The opening word Qad means that you have you already become extremely successful in life now if you have truly have attained Iman, not just in the Hereafter.
The Prophet (SAW) said: ‘Ten Aayaat were revealed to me, whoever abides by them shall enter Paradise (and they are): ‘Successful indeed are the believers…’ until the completion of ten Ayat (23:1-10).” Jami` at-Tirmidhi Vol. 5, Book 44, Hadith 3173
Yazid ibn Yabnus (RA) said,“We went to ‘A’isha (RA) and said, ‘Umm al-Mu’minin, what was the character of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, like?’ She replied, ‘His character was the Qur’an. Can you recite the surah entitled “The Believers”?’ She said, ‘Recite: “It is the believers who are successful: those who are humble in their prayer; those who turn away from worthless talk; those who actively pay zakat; those who guard their private parts.” (23:1-5)’ She said, ‘That was the character of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.’” [Sunan Ibn Majah Vol. 1, Book 5, Hadith 820]
Who perform their Salat with humility
Abdullah Ibn ‘Abbas (RA) said “Two rakaat with contemplation are better than standing up for the entire night with an inattentive heart”
ʿUqbah b. ʿĀmir (RA) heard the Messenger of Allah (SAW) say, “If any Muslim performs wuḍū’, and does so properly, then stands and performs two rakʿah of prayer in which he focuses with his heart as well as his face [i.e. is not physically distracted], Paradise is guaranteed for him” (Muslim).
ʿAmr b. ʿAbasah (RA) narrated a long ḥadīth in which he described the virtues of wuḍū’. He reported the Prophet (SAW) saying, “And if he stands to pray and praises Allah b, extols Him and glorifies Him with what He is most deserving of; and shows wholehearted devotion to Allah, he will revert to being sin free (as pure) as he was on the day his mother gave birth to him.” ʿAmr b.ʿAbasah (RA) states that he heard this from the Prophet (SAW) more than seven times (Muslim)
If you have ever wondered why performing our five daily prayers does not stop us from evil sins, despite Allah(SWT) stating salah restrains one from shameful and evil acts (al Ankabut 29:45) the answer lies in the quality of our ṣalāh: our ṣalāh is rushed, distracted and aimless, without khushu, and so it does not purify us nor stop us from sinning.
Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “If there was a river at your door and he took a bath in it five times a day, would you notice any dirt on him?” They said, “Not a trace of dirt would be left.” The Prophet said, “That is the parable of the five prayers by which Allah removes sins.” [Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 505, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 667]
Ṣalāh may be compared to bathing five times a day. If after such frequent bathing, our bodies remained dirty, we would question the usefulness of such bathing. Likewise, if our morals and actions remain corrupt despite praying five times a day, we have to question the usefulness of our ṣalāh. We have to ask ourselves: Is our ṣalāh changing us? Are we gaining from ṣalāh what we are supposed to be gaining?
Ibn al-Qayyim (rh) wrote, “The slave of Allah (SWT) stands in front of his Lord on two occasions: the first is when he stands in his ṣalāh and the second is when he will meet Him on the Day of Judgment. Whoever fulfils the rights of the first standing, the second standing will be made easy for him. And whoever belittles, neglects and does not fulfil the rights of the first standing (i.e. ṣalāh), the second standing will be made very difficult for him.”
Ibn Taymiyyah (rh) once said, “If you don’t find sweetness and joy in the deed you perform, then doubt its sincerity, for Allah (SWT) is Shakūr (Most Appreciative and Rewarding).”
Ibn al-Qayyim (rh) described ṣalāh as the scale by which you can measure yourself. The levels of the one praying are:
- Mu’aaqib punishable: negligent in wudu, the prescribed times and essential pillars of salaah
- Muhaasib accountable: safeguards the outward pillars and wudu, but is distracted by the devils’ whispers
- Mukaffir ‘anhu forgiven: He upholds essential pillars and is in a constant battle with the devils in salaah, trying to ward off their whispers.
- Muthaab rewarded: His heart is engrossed in safeguarding its limits and rules. His focus remains fully on performing the prayer as it ought to be, completely and perfectly.
- Muqarrab ‘inda rabbihi close to his Lord: he places his heart before his Lord. In this state, he beholds his Lord – ever vigilant before Him, filled with His love and glory – as if, seeing Him, he is physically present before Him.
Abdullah Ibn ‘Abbas (RA) said: (Khashi’un) means those with fear and with tranquillity.” Awe and fear which overwhelms you until your muscles become paralysed, incapacitated in complete submission.
The three elements of khushu’ are:
- Constantly remembering that Allah(SWT) sees you
- Being in awe of His Greatness and Magnificence
- Recognising your sins, weakness and desperate need for Allah(SWT)
Al-Hasan Al-Basri said, “Their Khushu’ was in their hearts.” So they lowered their gaze and were humble towards others. Khushu’ in prayer is only attained by the one who has emptied his heart totally, who does not pay attention to anything else besides it, and who prefers it above all else. Though khushu is actually a condition of the heart, as stated by the above tradition, it is manifested by the body as a matter of course. It has been reported that when the Prophet (peace be upon him) once saw a person offering his Prayer as well as playing with his beard, he remarked: If he had khushu in his heart, his body would have manifested it. According to this etiquette, one should neither turn to the right or left, nor raise his head to look up, One may, however, look around from the corner of the eye, but as far as possible, he must fix the gaze on the place where the forehead would rest in prostration.
When the time for prayer came, ‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib would be visibly shaken, and the colour of his face would change. It was said to him, “What is the matter with you?’ He said, “By Allaah, there has come the time of the amaanah (trust) which Allaah offered to the heavens and the earth, and the mountains, but they declined to bear it and were afraid of it, but I bore it [cf. Al-Ahzaab 33:72].”
It has also not been approved that one should offer the Prayer in a hurry. The injunction is that each article of the Prayer should be performed in perfect peace and tranquility, and unless one article has been completely performed, the next should not be begun.
Along with this etiquette of the body, it is also important that one should avoid thinking irrelevant things during the Prayer. If thoughts come to the mind without one’s intention, it is a natural human weakness, but one should try his utmost that the mind and heart are wholly turned towards Allah, and the mind is in full harmony and tune with the tongue, and as soon as one becomes conscious of irrelevant thoughts, he should immediately turn the attention to the Prayer. Only the parts of your prayer where you focused and concentrated properly will be of any avail to you. It was reported that Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “You will only have from your prayer that which you focused on.”
Ibn al-Qayyim (rh) wrote, “There is nothing more beneficial for the heart than reading the Qur’ān with contemplation and reflection. This is what inspires love and longing for Allah b. It generates fear of Him and hope in Him. It makes one turn in repentance to Him and rely on Him. It causes one to fully submit to him, leave matters in His Hands and be pleased with His Decree. It inspires patience and gratitude and is a means of acquiring all of the characteristics which give life to and perfect the heart.
“Those before you saw the Qur’ān as a correspondence from their Lord; they would ponder upon it at night and review it in the day.” – al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī (rh)
As one of the righteous people of the past said: Pray as if Jannah is on your right side, Hellfire is on your left side, the siraat (bridge over Hellfire) is under you, the angel of death is behind you (waiting to take your soul any minute), your sins are above you (waiting to crush and destroy you), and this is the last deed, the one that decides if you go to Jannah or Jahannam forever.
There is a da’eef narration from Marwazi that the Prophet (SAW) led the people aloud in a salaah and afterwards asked “Did I forget anything of this chapter?” And they replied “We dont know” until Ubay (RA) replied “Yes, you did and it was this verse” The Prophet(SAW) said what is the matter with people. The book of Allah is recited yet they dont know what was recited and what wasnt. This is how the greatness of Allah left the hearts of the Children of Israel: their bodies were present but their hearts were absent. Allah does not accept the actio of a servant unless his heart is present with his body. To achieve this, every one of us should understand the meaning of what they are reciting.
Leave off sins: Protect the routes to your heart : your eyes, tongue, stomach and limbs “Do not be of those who curse Shayṭān in public, and obey him in private.” – ʿUmar b. ʿAbdul-ʿAzīz (rh)
Persist in it even when you don’t feel the buzz: “I struggled with ṣalāh for 20 years, and then I enjoyed it for the next 20 years.” – Thābit al-Bunānī (rh)
Put yourself in the right environment: Dress and smell well, go early to the masjid, respond to the adhan, make dua before the iqaama, prepare with the Sunnah etc. Our elders would dislike that one even roll up their trousers or wear pyjamas as we would be ashamed to that before other people.
Eliminate distractions: The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said, “Ṣalāh should not be performed when the food has been presented, nor when one is fighting the urge to go to the bathroom” (Abū Dāwūd). Once a fire broke out in the house of ʿAlī b. al-Ḥusayn (rh), whilst he was prostrating. People around him began to say, “O son of the Messenger of Allah (SAW)! Fire! Fire!” However, he did not raise his head until the fire was extinguished. When this was mentioned to him, he remarked, “The other Fire (i.e. Hell-fire) distracted me from it.”
Fight the whispers of Shaytan: Shayṭān is always busy trying to preoccupy you with thoughts of everything other than Allah b. He (SAW) said, “When the call to prayer is announced, Shayṭān takes to his heels and passes wind loudly so that he does not hear the adhān. When the adhān finishes, he comes back. When the iqāmah is proclaimed, he takes to his heel (again). When the iqāmah finishes, he comes back so that he can obstruct the person’s heart with his whispers, saying ‘Remember such and such, remember such and such,’ things which he did not remember before, to the extent that the person no longer knows how much he has prayed” (Bukhārī)
“If you are in ṣalāh and Shayṭān says to you ‘You are showing off!’ then make your ṣalāh longer.”- Ḥarīth b. Qays
Remain between fear and hope: In a ḥadīth qudsī, Allah b says, “By My Glory, I will not combine two fears nor two assurances for My slave: if he feared Me in the world, I will grant him safety on the Day of Judgement. And if he felt safe from Me in the world, I will make him fear Me on the Day of Judgement.” (Ibn Ḥibbān)
Have hope – remember that Allah b wants to forgive you. Allah does not want to ‘catch you out.’ Rather He ‘catches’ you when you fall, so long as you turn to Him. Allah b wants to forgive you, shower you with His mercy and guide you to Paradise. Believe this from the bottom of your heart.
The fear of Allah is coupled with love, respect and awe, just like you have for your parents. When Muʿādh b. Jabal (RA) was in his final moments, he turned to Allah b and said, “O Allah, indeed I used to fear you, but now I have hope in You. O Allah, indeed, you know that I did not love the world nor want to remain in it for long to dig wells or plant trees. Rather it was to experience thirst in the midday heat during the long fasts; to struggle through standing for hours at night in prayer; and to kneel in the company of scholars in the gatherings of dhikr.
Make dua for khushoo’: Allaahumma innee a’oodhu bika min qalbin laa yakhsha, (O Allaah, I seek refuge with You from a heart that has no khushoo’…)
Once khushoo is achieveed, salaj becomes a delight and a joy for eyes, as in the Hadith recorded by Imam Ahmad and An-Nasa’i from Anas “Fragrance and women have been made dear to me, and Salah was made the joy of my eye.)”
In Surah al-A’raf Allah(SWT) tells us “When We raised the mountain over them as though it were a canopy, and they thought it was falling upon them, (We said,) “Adhere firmly to what We have given you and remember what is therein, so that you may become God-fearing.” [7:171] Can you imagine the awe and focus you would have:
The believers described in this surah are those who experience this constantly, for every one of their prayers, not just on occasion, hence the use of the ism form of khashi’oon.
Hudhayfah (may Allaah be pleased with him) are particularly pertinent to us: “The first thing of your religion that you will lose is khushoo’, and the last thing that you will lose of your religion is salaah. There may be a person praying who has no goodness in him, and soon you will enter the mosque and not find anyone who has khushoo’.” (al-Madaarij, 1/521).
Imam Dhahabi records in Siyar A’lam Al-Nubala; that there was a group of people a group of people who were traveling at night they came to this valley in which there were some woods and they had settled to get some sleep. As they were almost asleep, a lion entered the precinct and as they heard the noise and realised what was going on, they jumped up into the trees taking shelter. However, one of them had begun praying qiyaam ul layl – the night prayer. Amazingly, the lion circled him a few times and then left. The others eventually came down and approached him after his prayers and said you’re crazy, why didn’t you climb like us. He said I felt shy that I’m standing before Allah(SWT) and I fear something else, from His creation.
Every act of the salaah helps with khushoo: When the believer raises his hands, he throws the dunya behind him. Every time he says Allah is Greater, he removes other things from his mind. The closest a servant is to His Lord is when he is prostrating.
When reciting al Fatihah Allah(SWT) personally responds: Ibn al-Qayyim r said, “How extreme is the delight and happiness of the slave when his Lord says ‘My slave’ three times. By Allah, if the hearts were not clouded by the smoke of desires and lusts, they would erupt from joy and delight when their Lord, Creator and God says, ‘My servant has praised Me, My servant has extolled me, My servant has glorified Me.’”
Ibn al-Qayyim (rh) wrote, “By Allah, if you could hear the sound of the pens of the angels writing your name amongst those who remember Allah, you would die out of joy.”