Dhikr, or remembrance of Allah, is equivalent to awareness of His Presence. We are commanded in the above-mentioned famous Inadeetln of the Prophet (pbuh) to pray as if we are actually seeing Allah before us: ‘for, though you see Him not, yet He sees you.’ Awareness of Allah’s Presence and of being seen at every moment of our lives is, in fact, a contemplative virtue. Islam requires us to be active as well as contemplative!
The First Pillar of Islam
The importance of the prayer cannot be over-stressed in Islam. In fact, it is the first pillar of Islam that the Prophet (pbuh) mentioned after mentioning the testimony of faith, by which one becomes a Muslim. It was made obligatory on all the prophets and on all the peoples.
Salat is the foremost form of ‘ibaadaln (worship). Allah commands us thus, “Indeed, I am Allah . There is no deity except Me, so worship Me and establish prayer for My remembrance.” (Quran, 20: 14)
The whole purpose of Salah is His remembrance. When we perform the Salah, we involve our whole body — our tongue, our heart, our mind and indeed our whole body. Hence, Salat is the most comprehensive form of dhikr.
It is unfortunate, though, that we do not always take full advantage of this gift. Many of us enter into Salah and come out of it the same person. We miss something; we miss the golden opportunity to achieve something great.
In reality, if the prayer is performed properly, with true remembrance of Allah and turning to His forgiveness, it will have a lasting effect on the person offering it. After he completes the prayer, his heart will be filled with the remembrance of Allah. Such a Salah will warm his soul, illuminate his mind and inflame his faith! After the experience, he will detest or strongly dislike stooping low, from his lofty position, wherein he disobeys Allah.
Hence, the most dreadful hurdle to overcome from the beginning, therefore, is absentmindedness. Absentmindedness destroys the quality of our prayer. But remember that Salah is obligatory. Never give it up. But try to breathe into it the spirit of heedfulness.
The ability to concentrate in prayer may be improved by undertaking adequate mental and physical preparation before the prayer and by using certain techniques while performing the prayer.
- Plan your daily activities in such a way that they revolve around the five daily prayers. Do not plan everything else and then try to fit prayer into your busy schedule.
- Research in-depth the Quranic verses and hadeeth relating to the virtues and obligation of Salat.
- Be punctual with your prayer.
- Always offer the obligatory prayers in congregation in the mosque.
- Keep your mind free of worldly worries and concerns.
- Learn the meanings of whatever verses or supplications you recite in Salat.
- Fulfil all your personal needs before you begin your prayer.
- Always pray in the mosque or in an environment that is free of noises.
- Adorn yourself with nice and clean clothes. Allah says, “O children of Adam, take your adornment at every masjid, and eat and drink, but be not excessive. Indeed, He likes not those who commit excess.” (Quran, 7: 31)
- Give due regard to the performance of each posture.
- Pray as if it is your last prayer.
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) is your guide, so follow him.
Work on Perfecting your Salah
Ask yourself: Is Salah a burden or is it a pleasure for me? Is it something I look forward to doing or something I leave to the last moment because it is a chore? Does my mind wander when I pray? Is my heart aware of the Presence of Allah? Or do I use Salah to balance my unfinished works?
If your Salah is falling short; if you cannot leave concerns of the world long enough to complete a single rakat, then there is work to be done!
Remember that Salat is both a protection as well as a litmus test of faith – a barometer of faith, as it were. When Salah is straight, your life outside Salah will be straight. When your life outside is straight and your priorities are in order, so too your Salah will be perfected. What captures your heart outside Salah will hold your heart inside Salat. Whatever concerns you most outside Salah will concern you most inside Salah. To modify an English saying: Tell me how you pray and I will tell you who you are!