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Khushu' (Concentration) in Salaah


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What is Khushu?

 

Khushūʿ is one of the actions of the heart. Linguistically, khushūʿ means to sink, to be low, to be subservient and to be still. Technically, it refers to the heart that stands with complete humility, lowliness and full concentration towards Allah. Khushūʿ resides within the heart and is manifested through the limbs and organs.

With khushūʿ your heart softens, becomes still, and humbles itself to its Lord. Your heart submits and focuses on Allah to such a degree that everything else retreats into insignificance. Your limbs and organs then follow the heart and they too are humbled. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “There is a lump of flesh in the body: if it is sound, the whole body will be sound but if it is corrupt, the whole body will be corrupt. Truly, it is the heart” (Bukhārī).

A humble heart results in the humbling of the ears, eyes, head and face. This is why the Prophet ﷺ would say in his rukūʿ, “My hearing, sight, mind, bones, and nerves are humbled to You” (Muslim). Your hearing submits to Allah and you only listen to what He has permitted. Your eyes do not glance at the ḥarām. Every interior and exterior part of your body humbles itself and obeys its Creator.

Khushūʿ extinguishes the ‘fires’ of lust and desire, and illuminates your heart with the ‘light’ of Allah’s greatness. You become fully aware that Allah is looking at you, and this fills your heart with His reverence.

Khushu: In and Outside Your Salah

Although the focus of this series is khushūʿ within ṣalāh, it is important to note that you should also strive to experience khushūʿ outside of ṣalāh. Imām al-Ghazālī (raḥimahullāh) described khushūʿ as the fruit of īmān and the result of a firm conviction in the greatness of Allah. If you are blessed with this, you will enjoy khushūʿ in and outside of ṣalāh – even when alone and away from others. Continuously remembering that Allah sees you, being in awe of His greatness, and recognising your own deficiencies will lead to a constant state of khushūʿ.

Khushūʿ is a state in which you constantly weigh up your sins against the greatness of Allah, leaving you overwhelmed with humility and a desperate need for Him.

Khushūʿ magnifies and multiplies the rewards of good deeds. Ibn Taymiyyah (raḥimahullāh) explains that even though there is a great reward in reciting Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ (as it equates to one third of the Qur’ān), if one was to read any other āyah with khushūʿ, the reward of it would be greater.

The Quickest Route to Allah’s Pleasure

Khushūʿ is one of the easiest and quickest routes to attaining the pleasure of Allah. One of the pious predecessors said, “I have tried coming closer to Allah by entering all the doors of worship. But every time I came close to a door, I found that it was crowded with people; thus, I was unable to enter until I approached the door of humility and desperate need for Him. I found that it was in fact the nearest and widest of all doors to Allāh; there were not any crowds at it nor were there any barriers. As soon as I placed my foot inside, He took my hand and admitted me inside.”

“Khushūʿ is the humility of the heart and the subservience of the limbs and organs.”

[ʿAṭā’ al-Khurāsānī (raḥimahullāh)]

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The Importance of Khushu in Salah

 

Allah (subḥānahū wa taʿālā) says:

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ ، الَّذِينَ هُمْ فِى صَلَاتِهِمْ خَـٰشِعُونَ

“Successful indeed are the believers, who are humble in their ṣalāh…” (23:1-2).

The above āyāt mark the beginning of Sūrah al-Mu’minūn. In these āyāt, Allah describes the qualities of the successful believers. The passage starts off by mentioning those ‘who are humble in their ṣalah’, and ends with the ninth āyah mentioning those ‘who consistently maintain their prayers’. Thus, ṣalāḥ features in both the beginning and the end of the list, demonstrating its great significance.

Ibn Kathīr (raḥimahullāh) explained this āyah: “Khushūʿ (humility) in ṣalāh is only attained by the one who has completely emptied his heart for it, who fully occupies himself for it and does not pay attention to anything else besides it, and who prioritises it over everything else. At that point it becomes a source of comfort and intense joy.”

Establishing Salah

Similarly, Allah says,

وَيُقِيمُونَ الصَّلَوٰةَ

“…and they establish ṣalāh” (2:3).

The use of the word iqāmah (to ‘establish’ the prayer) is significant. The words ‘do’ or ‘perform’ ṣalāh have not been used here since it is not sufficient to complete just the outward motions. However, when you ‘establish’ ṣalāh, you complete both the inner and outer aspects of this noble worship. The outer aspects involve carrying out its pillars, obligatory acts and prerequisites; whilst the inner aspects refer to attaining the essence of ṣalāh, namely, khushūʿ. These acts should be conducted in tandem with pondering on the meaning of the utterances and actions during ṣalāh. (Adapted from Tafsīr al-Saʿdī)

Khushu: The First Loss of the Ummah

The Prophet ﷺ stated, “The first thing to be lifted from this ummah will be khushūʿ, until you will not find anyone with khushūʿ” (Ṭabarānī).

Ḥudhayfah (raḍiy Allāhu ‘anhu) said, “The first thing you will lose of your religion will be khushūʿ and the last thing you will lose of your religion will be ṣalāh. There may be a person praying yet there is no goodness in him. Soon a time will come when you will enter a large Masjid and not see a single person with khushūʿ in it.”

The Prophet ﷺ said, “Indeed a person may pray for sixty years, yet not a single ṣalāh of his will be accepted. Perhaps he perfected the rukūʿ but not the sujūd, or he perfected the sujūd but not the rukūʿ” (Ibn Abī Shaybah).

“Two rakʿahs with contemplation are better than standing up for the entire night with an inattentive heart.” – ʿAbdullāh b. ʿAbbās (radiy Allāhu ʿanhumā)

Ibn al-Qayyim (raḥimahullāh) compared khushūʿ in ṣalāh to the soul in the body. When the soul leaves the body, the body dies. Similarly, without khushūʿ the ṣalāh lacks its soul, spirit and essence. Likewise, praying ṣalāh without khushūʿ is like gifting a dead servant to a king. He then writes, “Allah (subḥānahū wa taʿālā) will neither accept it nor reward him for it, even if the obligation (of ṣalāh) has been legally fulfilled.”

Once Imām al-Bukhārī (raḥimahullāh) was praying and a wasp stung him 17 times. On completing his ṣalāh, he said, “Look at what troubled me during my ṣalāh.” They looked and found that the wasp had stung him in 17 parts of his body. Despite this, he carried on praying. It has been said that this was a voluntary prayer after Ẓuhr. After he finished praying, it was said to him, “Why did you not stop your ṣalāh when it started stinging you?” He replied, “I was reciting a sūrah and I wanted to complete it.”

Is It Not Enough That I Pray Five Times A Day?

“At least I’m praying.”
“I’m happy with where I am. I’m praying 5 times a day. I pray on time and I’m content with that.”

You should certainly feel happy and grateful that Allah (ʿazza wa jall) has granted you the gift of praying your farḍ prayers, particularly if you have previously been unable to do so.

However, this should not be enough. Even if the obligation of ṣalāh has legally been fulfilled, praying ṣalāh without khushūʿ will lead you to missing out on the essence of ṣalāh.

Imām al-Ghazālī (raḥimahullāh) wrote: “The goal of reciting the Qur’ān and the adhkār (in salāh) is praise, exaltation, asking and humility: and the One being addressed is Allah. However, whoever’s heart is covered by heedlessness is veiled from Him; thus, he does not see or experience consciousness of Him. He is heedless of the One to whom he is speaking with, and his tongue simply moves out of habit. How far is this from the purpose of prayer, which was ordained to purify the heart, renew the remembrance of Allah, and firmly tie the rope of īmān.”

In Sūrah al-Wāqiʿah, Allah (ʿazza wa jall) describes three groups of people: the people of the left (destined for Hell-fire), the people of the right (destined for Paradise), and finally the elite of Paradise (destined for the super-luxurious premium Paradise). It is this latter group who will be the closest to Allah, blessed to see Him most often, and have the Prophets and the Companions as their neighbours. They are the ‘Sābiqūn’ (the forerunners).

Your goal and duʿā’ in life should be that Allah (ʿazza wa jall) resurrects you amongst the Sābiqūn. If you wish to enjoy this premium Paradise in the hereafter, then your ṣalāh (and other acts of worship) should be of premium quality. An average or mediocre ṣalāh is not enough.

A believer always aims for the best. Thus, the Prophet ﷺ explained that when making duʿā’, ask Allah for al-Firdaws, because it is the highest Jannah (Bukhārī). He ﷺ also stated, “Indeed Allah loves that when one of you does something, he perfects it” (Ṭabarānī).

Do not become satisfied with the quantity and quality of your worship. Do not placate your inner self (nafs) with weak excuses! Do not believe that the ʿibādah you are doing is sufficient. Rather, reflect on your shortcomings, battle your nafs and ask Allah to make your ṣalāh like the ṣalāh of the Messenger ﷺ.

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The Virtues of Khushu in Salah

 

1. Achieving success in this world and the hereafter

In Sūrah al-M’uminūn, Allah mentions that the first trait of the successful is khushūʿ in ṣalāh. Allah says, “Successful indeed are the believers, who are humble in their ṣalāh” (23:1-2).

Thus, if you want true success, firstly, you must have īmān and secondly, you should perform ṣalāh with khushūʿ.

2. Becoming sin-free like a newborn

Amr b. ʿAbasah (raḍiy Allāhu ‘anhu) narrated a long ḥadīth in which he described the virtues of wuḍū’. He reported the Prophet ﷺ saying, “And if he stands to pray and praises Allah, extols Him and glorifies Him with what He is most deserving of; and shows wholehearted devotion to Allah, he will revert to being sinfree (as pure) as he was on the day his mother gave birth to him.”

ʿAmr b. ʿAbasah (raḍiy Allāhu ‘anhu) states that he heard this from the Prophet ﷺ more than seven times (Muslim).

3. Having previous sins forgiven

ʿUthmān (raḍiy Allāhu ‘anhu) performed wuḍū’ and then said, “I saw the Messenger of Allah ﷺ perform wuḍū’ like this and he then said, ‘Whoever performs wuḍū’ like this wuḍū’ of mine, then performs two rakʿah of prayer during which he does not let his thoughts wander, Allah will forgive all of his previous sins’” (Bukhārī).

4. Earning a guarantee of Paradise

ʿUqbah b. ʿĀmir (raḍiy Allāhu ‘anhu) heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ 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).

When ʿAbdullāh b. al-Zubayr (raḍiy Allāhu ‘anhu) stood up to pray, he was described as being ‘like a stick (i.e. motionless) with khushūʿ’. Once, during the siege of the Kaʿbah, whilst he was prostrating, a catapult struck him and tore part of his garment, but he did not even raise his head!

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The Benefits of Khushuʿ in Salah

The benefits of khushūʿ are many. Along with transforming your ṣalāh, it will also transform your life.

1. Khushūʿ ensures ṣalāh is easy and beloved for the one praying

Allah says, “And seek help through patience and ṣalāḥ, and indeed, it is difficult except for those who have khushūʿ; those who are certain that they will meet their Lord and that they will return to Him” (Q2:45-6).

If your ṣalāh feels like a chore, it is because there is an absence of khushūʿ in your ṣalāh. Once you experience khushūʿ, your ṣalāh will transform into a source of comfort and joy. It will become something you continuously seek recourse in and cannot live without.

2. Khushūʿ in ṣalāh averts evil and prevents immorality

Allah says, “Recite (O Prophet) what is revealed to you of the Book, and establish ṣalāh. Surely ṣalāh restrains one from shameful and evil acts. Truly, the remembrance of Allah is the greatest of all things. Allah knows what you do” (29:45).

If you pray ṣalāh as it is ought to be prayed, fulfilling its conditions and with complete concentration and humility, your heart will become purified. Eventually your heart will become illuminated. Your īmān will increase. You will incline more to goodness and abhor evil.

Being able to restrain yourself from sins and shameful behaviour is not only one of the greatest fruits of ṣalāh, but is in fact one of its primary purposes.

If you have ever wondered why performing our five daily prayers does not stop us from evil sins, the answer lies in the quality of our ṣalāh: our ṣalāh is rushed, distracted and aimless, and so it does not purify us nor stop us from sinning.

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?

3. Khushūʿ leads to crying out of the fear of Allah

Having complete khushūʿ will undoubtedly lead you to cry out of the fear of Allah. Crying in this manner is a great deed which can save you from the Hell-fire and admit you into Paradise.

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “A man who wept out of the fear of Allah shall not enter the Fire until the milk returns to the udder [an impossibility]” (Tirmidhī)

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Thābit al-Bunānī (raḥimahullāh) experienced pain in his eyes. The doctor said to him, “If you promise me one thing, you will get better.” Thābit asked him, “What is that?” The doctor said, “Don’t cry.” Thābit (raḥimahullāh) remarked, “What good is there in an eye if it does not cry?”

Like other acts of worship, crying privately is superior to crying publicly. Of the seven individuals who will be provided shade on the Day of Judgement – the day where there will be no shade except His shade – will be the person who remembered Allah in private, and then shed tears (Bukhārī).

4. Khushūʿ enhances your understanding of the essence of ṣalāh

Praying with khushūʿ leads you to realising and appreciating the true meaning of ṣalāh, namely the turning of the heart and the body towards Allah, and attaining closeness to Him by it.

5. Khushūʿ is the key to attaining closeness to Allah

Khushūʿ in ṣalāh gives you the pleasure of conversing with Allah. It increases your faith, softens your heart, distances you from the world, and makes you long for Allah and His closeness in the hereafter.

6. Khushūʿ in ṣalāh will ease the standing in front of Allah on the Day of Judgement

Ibn al-Qayyim (raḥimahullāh) wrote, “The slave of Allah 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.”

7. Khushūʿ in ṣalāh solves your problems and removes anxiety

Allah says, “And seek help through patience and prayer, and indeed, it is difficult except for those who have khushūʿ; those who are certain that they will meet their Lord and that they will return to Him” (2:45-6).

Similarly, Ḥudhayfah (raḍiy Allāhu ‘anhu) narrated, “Whenever anything distressed the Prophet ﷺ, he would pray” (Abū Dāwūd). Turning to prayer at times of difficulty was also the practice of the previous Prophets (Aḥmad).

“Shayṭan will not go near the person whose heart has khushūʿ.” – Sahl al-Tustarī (raḥimahullāh)

As cases of depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses rise, let us return to the prophetic remedy of resorting to ṣalāh. In addition to other forms of precautions and remedies, we should not underestimate the strength and healing power of ṣalāh.

8. Khushūʿ is the source of strength in your daily activities

Praying ṣalāh with khushūʿ will give you strength, enthusiasm and barakah (blessings) in your other daily activities. (See Q2:45 above). It will be your inspiration and the fuel in your journey to serve Allah and His religion.

“Let not your concern be the quantity of your actions. Rather, worry about perfecting them and doing them well; for a slave may be praying, but he is disobeying Allah in his ṣalāh.” – Wuhayb b. al-Ward (raḥimahullāh)

 
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Why Do We Lack Khushuʿ?

 

Numerous reasons exist for our lack of khushūʿ; generally, as a defect in our heart, and specifically, in our ṣalāh. These include:

1) Weak Īmān

Our īmān in Allah (ʿazza wa jall) is extremely weak. We claim to love Allah, yet we hardly know Him. We disobey Him day and night. We call ourselves ‘His slaves’, yet we choose to submit to the dunyā and our lowly desires. We turn to everything and everyone but Him.

Just as our īmān in Allah (ʿazza wa jall) is weak, our īmān in the hereafter is also weak. Though we believe in ‘death’, we delude ourselves into thinking that we have a long time left. We are ignorant of the hereafter. We are quick to describe Paradise and all its glory, but are uncomfortable discussing the perils of the Hell-fire, the terrors of the Day of Judgement or the punishment of the grave.

Al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī (raḥimahullāh) described the Companions (radiy Allāhu ʿanhum) as follows, “By Allah, looking at them was like looking at people who could see Paradise and Hell-fire right in front of their own eyes. By Allah, they were not people of argumentation or falsehood, nor did they find comfort in anything except the book of Allah, nor would they show that which was not in their hearts (they were genuine and not hypocritical).”

For the Companions (radiy Allāhu ʿanhum), Jannah was real. Jahannam was real.

2) Far from Allah (ʿazza wa jall) and Close to Sin

Although modernity has brought about its fair share of ease and benefits, it has also produced unprecedented challenges.

Firstly, we have become disconnected from the creation of Allah (ʿazza wa jall) and, by extension, from Him. By and large, we do not feel the need for God or a higher power. If something inside our home breaks down, we call a worker. If we feel hungry, a hot takeaway meal just requires a few swipes on our devices. Nearly every type of fruit or vegetable can be bought from the supermarket throughout the year. Our fast-paced life dictates that we no longer stop to witness and contemplate the greatness of Allah (ʿazza wa jall) and the manifestations of His power in our surroundings.

Secondly, we live in a world where immorality and sin have become widespread and glamourised. Actions that were socially unacceptable a mere half a century ago, even amongst non-Muslims, have now become commonplace for both non-Muslims and Muslims alike. A stark difference between today and the past is the ever-increasing number of ‘Muslims’ who try to ‘justify’ or make ‘ḥalāl’ what Allah (ʿazza wa jall) has clearly made ḥarām.

Thirdly, the advent of the internet, especially social media, has transformed society. Sins are no longer considered matters that one should be ashamed of; something which must be kept between oneself and Allah (ʿazza wa jall). Many of us brazenly expose our sins not just in public, but through online platforms seen and read by tens of thousands of users. Likewise, it has made certain sins very easy to access.

Millions of dollars have been spent on designing social media platforms to ensure that we become addicted to them. These platforms distract us from worship, hinder us from our social and familial responsibilities, and reduce our ability to focus. We feel pressured by social media to ‘share’ everything, including our good deeds. This leads us to doing good deeds for others instead of Allah (riyā’), self-admiration (ʿujb) and pride (kibr). All of the aforementioned diseases of the heart are completely at odds with humility, which is the essence of khushūʿ.

Social media has been designed to amplify the importance of one’s inner self (nafs). Conversely, khushūʿ and true servitude (ʿubudiyyah) require us to diminish our self-importance and venerate Allah (ʿazza wa jall). We must think the highest of Allah and be in awe of His greatness, while thinking of ourselves as insignificant. The less importance we attach to ourselves, the greater our awe and reverence (taʿẓīm) of Allah will be.

3) Love of the World

The love of the world (dunyā) is one of the major reasons for the weakness of our īmān. Success in today’s materialistic society is defined by how ‘rich’ or ‘famous’ you are. Despite our beautiful dīn having laid down the yardstick for success, we still buy into the corrupt dominant narrative. We strive hard to accumulate the riches of the dunyā, be it clothes or cars, luxury homes or the latest gadgets.

Enjoying such luxuries is not wrong nor is it a sin, however, it can develop into a wrong if it becomes our purpose in life. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Every ummah has a fitnah (trial), and the fitnah of my ummah is wealth” (Tirmidhī).

Imām al-Ghazālī (raḥimahullāh) calls the love of the world “the root of every shortcoming and the source of all corruption”. He states that when the love of the world enters the heart of the person to such an extent that he no longer takes provisions from it for the hereafter, he can no longer hope to experience the pure bliss of conversing with Allah (ʿazza wa jall) in ṣalāh.

This is because the person who experiences his joy in this world will not experience the joy of conversing with Allah. A man aspires to that which gives him joy and, if his joy is rooted in this world, then he will certainly aspire and work hard to attain that.

4) We Couldn’t Care Less: Hedonism and Apathy

We have lost sight of our purpose in life. No longer is our focus and goal in life to please and worship Allah (ʿazza wa jall). Along with rampant materialism, our lives are plagued with hedonism (where pleasure and satisfying one’s desires is the sole aim of human life) and apathy. Statements like YOLO (You Only Live Once), encourage us to ‘have as much fun as possible’. Endless entertainment is making us apathetic to the condition of our souls and the plight and suffering of humanity. One reason why we have lost khushūʿ in our lives is because ‘we couldn’t care less’. It doesn’t bother us. Allah (ʿazza wa jall) reminds us in Sūrah al-Ḥadīd:

“Has the time not come for those who have believed that their hearts should become humbly submissive at the remembrance of Allah and what has come down of the truth” (57:16)?

Let us be like the great Companion ʿAbdullāh b. ʿUmar (radiy Allāhu ʿanhumā). He would cry upon hearing this āyah and respond by stating:

Certainly, my Lord! Certainly, My Lord!

Regret your past and make a firm resolve!

From this point onwards, regret your past sins. Regret your absence of khushūʿ. Cry over your distance from the One who has created you and is the Source of all your blessings. Resolve to turn a new leaf, both in how you conduct your life and in your ṣalāh. From today onwards, resolve to pray with khushūʿ through the tawfīq (divine accord) of Allah.

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How to Attain Khushuʿ 1:
Appreciate The Importance Of Salah

 

The first step to developing khushūʿ is to understand and appreciate the importance of ṣalāh itself.

After the obligation of attesting to the Oneness of Allah (tawḥīd), there is no greater commandment in Islam than ṣalāh.

Ṣalāh is the second pillar of Islam and the prime connection between a slave and his Master. It is the first act which he will be held accountable for on the Day of Judgement: if it is good, he will be saved and will succeed; if it is not good, he will be doomed and be amongst the losers.

Ṣalāh is the crucial factor that distinguishes the believers from the disbelievers. By preserving your ṣalāh, you are preserving your dīn. Maintaining your ṣalāh will give you a special light (nūr) in your heart, face and in your grave. On the Day of Judgement, your ṣalāh will come to your rescue and will be your special ‘light’. However, those who do not pray will find themselves with Firʿawn, Qārūn, Hāmān and Ubayy b. Khalaf: the worst of mankind.

Ṣalāh is the purification of the soul. It cleanses your sins and protects you from all harm. Ṣalāh is your oxygen, without which you will die. If you do not perform your ṣalāh, although you may be ‘alive’ in the physical sense, you are spiritually ‘dead’.

Ṣalāh is unique because it was made compulsory upon the Prophet ﷺ and his ummah during the Night Journey and Ascension (laylat al-isrā’ wal-miʿrāj). He personally received this commandment without any intermediaries from above the seven heavens.

Even on his deathbed, despite being weak and in agony, the Prophet ﷺ never forgot his ummah. He exhorted, “Ṣalāh, ṣalāh and your slaves.” These were his parting words and his final waṣiyyah (last will) to us.

ʿAbdullāh b. ʿAbbās (radiy Allāhu ʿanhumā) relates that when ʿUmar (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) – the second Caliph of Islam – was stabbed, he carried him to his house along with a group of Anṣārī men. Umar (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) remained unconscious until the morning. A man said, “You won’t be able to wake him up except through ṣalāh.” So they said to him, “Ṣalāh, O Leader of the Believers!” Upon hearing this, ʿUmar (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) opened his eyes and asked, “Have the people prayed?” When they answered in the affirmative, he said, “Indeed there is no share in Islām for the one who abandons ṣalāh.” He then performed ṣalāh whilst his wound was bleeding. (Muṣannaf ʿAbd al-Razzāq)

Why Do We Perform Salah?

  1. To fulfil the purpose of our life i.e. to worship Allah
  2. To uphold the command of Allah
  3. To remember Allah (subḥānahū wa taʿālā) and become closer to Him
  4. To humble ourselves & express our need to Him
  5. To appreciate and show gratitude to Allah
  6. To converse privately with the Lord of the worlds
  7. To separate ourselves from those in kufr (disbelief)
  8. To safeguard ourselves from sins and evil deeds
  9. To purify our souls
  10. To earn magnificent rewards in this world & the hereafter
  11. To have our sins forgiven
  12. To renew our pledge with Allah and affirm our commitment to Him
  13. To prevent our hearts from hardening
  14. To acquire Allah’s happiness and love
  15. To be given the opportunity to see Allah (subḥānahū wa taʿālā) in Jannah
  16. To fill our lives with peace and comfort, and to help us when we are stressed, worried or feeling down

“When the slave rectifies two of his qualities, everything else will be rectified: (1) his ṣalāh and (2) his tongue.” – Yunus b. ʿUbayd (raḥimahullāh)

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How to Attain Khushuʿ 2:
Attain the Maʿrifah of Allah

 

One of the greatest means of attaining khushūʿ in ṣalāh is the maʿrifah of Allah (subḥānahū wa taʿālā).

Maʿrifah refers to a deep awareness and knowledge of Allah (subḥānahū wa taʿālā). The greater your knowledge of Allah, the greater the level of khushūʿ you will develop.

Knowledge of Allah is a prerequisite for worshipping Him. Allah (subḥānahū wa taʿālā) states, “I only created jinn and men so that they worship Me” (51:56). Worshipping Allah means submitting yourself to Him, humbling yourself to Him and loving Him. However, how can we love Him if we do not know Him?

“What does one know if one does not know Allah (ʿazza wa jall) and His Messenger (ṣall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam)? What truth has he recognised if this truth has eluded him? What knowledge has one gained and what action has one obtained if one has failed to know Allah, failed to act for His pleasure, failed to know the path to Him and failed to know what is in store for him once he reaches Him?” – Ibn al-Qayyim (raḥimahullāh)

What should the maʿrifah of Allah lead to?

A deep awareness and knowledge of Allah (subḥānahū wa taʿālā) will make you shy of Allah, increase your love for Him and attach your heart to Him. You will be left in awe of Him and will always long to meet Him. You will repeatedly turn to Him broken in repentance. You will hastily run away from the creation to enjoy seclusion with Him.

Striving to attain these qualities is a continuous effort, and not a single struggle. It is a lifelong journey that will only end when we meet Him and He is pleased with us, inshāAllah.

“There is no life and no peace for the hearts unless they become deeply aware of their Creator, Lord and God through His Names, Attributes and Actions; and through this process (of getting to know Him), He becomes more beloved to them than everything else.” – Ibn Abī al-ʿIzz al-Ḥanafī (raḥimahullāh)

How can you attain the maʿrifah of Allah?

1) Through tadabbur:

Tadabbur is to reflect and ponder on the ‘āyāt’ (verses) of the Noble Qur’ān.

2) Through tafakkur:

Tafakkur is to reflect on the numerous ‘āyāt’ (signs) of Allah that surround us. Allah says, “We will show them Our signs in the horizons and within themselves until it becomes clear to them that it is the truth” (41:53).

The Qur’ānic verses (āyāt) continuously remind us of the many signs (āyāt). These include the sun, moon, stars, sky, rain, animals, mountains and the human being himself.

3) Through His Beautiful Names.

This is only possible through a deep understanding of Allah’s Excellent Names, their Majesty and their Perfection; and realising that He is the Only One to whom these Names belong.

Ibn al-Qayyim (raḥimahullāh) wrote, “The key to the daʿwah of the Messengers and the essence of their Message, is knowing Allah through His Names, His Attributes, and His Actions. This is the foundation which the rest of the Message, from beginning to end, is based upon.”

Allah said, “To Allah Alone belong the most Beautiful Names, so call on Him by them.” (7:180) The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Indeed Allah has 99 Names; whoever preserves them will enter Paradise” (Muslim).

Ibn al-Qayyim (raḥimahullāh) wrote, “There is no greater need of the soul than its need to know its Creator and Originator. And there is no way to achieve this except through knowing His Attributes and Names. The more a slave knows them, the more he will know Allah (ʿazza wa jall), the more he will seek Him and the closer he will be to Him.

Similarly, the more ignorant the slave is of His Names and Attributes, the more ignorant, disliked and further away from Him he will be. The status which the slave enjoys in the eyes of Allah is dependent on the status the slave himself accords Allah in his heart. Thus, journeying to Allah through the path of His Names and Attributes is truly an amazing matter. The doors it opens are astounding.”

Throughout your ṣalāh, bring the rich meanings of Allah’s Names to the forefront of your mind. Doing this will help you feel that you are directly conversing with Him, and thereby it will increase your closeness to Him.

“Whoever attains the recognition of Allah through His Names, Attributes and Actions, will undoubtedly love Him.” – Ibn al-Qayyim (raḥimahullāh)

4) By worshipping Him as much as possible.

Maʿrifah itself is one of the greatest forms of worship. Other acts of worship – including dhikr, duʿā’, reciting the Qur’ān and ṣalāh – will increase your maʿrifah. It’s a cycle: the more you know Allah (subḥānahū wa taʿālā), the more you will worship Him. And the more you worship Him, the more you will know Him.

Performing ṣalāh with khushūʿ, is one of the greatest means of attaining His maʿrifah.

In summary, increasing your knowledge of Allah is one of the best ways to achieve khushūʿ. Once you get to know Him – through His signs, through His Names, through His Book and through worshipping Him – your awe, veneration and love of Him will increase. Your own self-importance will meanwhile decrease. Both of these will help your body and heart to humble themselves to Allah and allow you to taste the sweetness of khushūʿ.

“The perfection of the slave of Allah is in his knowing Allah and then loving Him (in the world); and (his perfection) in the hereafter is experiencing the joy of seeing Him.” – Ibn Taymiyyah (raḥimahullāh)

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How to Attain Khushuʿ 3:
Attain the Maʿrifah of Allah

 

To attain khushūʿ, you have to push yourself to stop sinning by protecting your organs; in particular your eyes, tongue, and heart. Safeguard your eyes against looking at ḥarām, whether online or offline. Stop your tongue from backbiting, slandering, swearing, obscene language and saying hurtful things. Keep good company who will help you to protect yourself. Protect yourself from eating ḥarām food, including that which is earned from unlawful means.

The īmān in your heart has a special nūr (light). The more nūr the heart has, the greater the nūr of your actions and words will be. Ibn al-Qayyim (raḥimahullāh) explains that there are some believers whose actions ascend up to Allah (subḥānahū wa taʿālā), and the nūr of their deeds is like the light of the sun. It shines brightly with the nūr from their hearts. The nūr will keep them steady on the ṣirāṭ (bridge over Hell-fire) and will guide them to Paradise. Of the various deeds, ṣalāh in particular is a ‘nūr’ as stated by the Prophet ﷺ (Muslim).

Ṣalāh brings nūr in your heart; nūr in your face; nūr in your grave and nūr in the hereafter. Observe those who pray with complete khushū. You will notice that these people have abundant nūr on their faces. This is the same nūr which illuminates the heart and opens the doors of maʿrifah (knowledge) of Allah al- Nūr (The Ultimate Light). It is this nūr that also helps you to enjoy the sweetness of worship.

Rust on Hearts

This ‘nūr’ of the heart is extinguished through sins, especially the sins of the eyes. The sins block goodness and nūr from penetrating into the heart. This is why the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Verily, when the slave commits a sin, a black dot appears on his heart. When he desists, seeks forgiveness and repents, his heart is polished clean. But if he sins again, it increases until it covers his heart. And that is the rān (rust) which Allah mentioned: ‘No indeed! Rather what they have been doing has rusted their hearts (83:14)’” (Tirmidhī).

Ibn Rajab (raḥimahullāh) explains that the accumulation of rust on their hearts veils them from His maʿrifah (knowledge and deep awareness of Him), thereby, preventing them from becoming acquainted with Him. It hinders them from having vigilance (murāqabah) of Him (subḥānahū wa taʿālā), being mindful of Him and being aware of His presence in this world. The consequence of their hearts being veiled in this world is that they will be ‘veiled’ and blocked from seeing Him in the next. Hence why Allah says in the next āyah, “No indeed! They will surely be veiled on that Day from their Lord” (83:15).

“Do not be of those who curse Shayṭān in public, and obey him in private.” – ʿUmar b. ʿAbdul-ʿAzīz (raḥimahullāh)

Sin after sin turns the heart into a sieve, preventing it from holding goodness. Unless you seek forgiveness and make sincere repentance, your heart will die. In this manner, praying ṣalāh with khushūʿ will become impossible, because a ‘dead’ heart cannot humble itself nor submit to its Master (ʿazza wa jall).

Fighting your nafs and subjugating it is essential to attaining khushūʿ in ṣalāh. Ibn al-Qayyim (raḥimahullāh) explains that for a servant to remain present in his ṣalāh and to be occupied with his Lord, he must overcome his lust and desires. He asks, ‘How can a heart – which is overcome by lust, captivated by desires, and is a stronghold of shayṭān – be saved from whispers and distractions?’

Lowering the Gaze

We should lower our gazes and stay away from looking at anything which incites lust, especially when we are browsing the internet. This includes being very selective of who we follow on social media. Likewise, we should lower our gazes when we are outside the home, walking in the streets and in the workplace.

Al-Rabīʿ b. Khuthaym (raḥimahullāh) was so strict in keeping his gaze lowered that some people thought he was blind. For twenty years, he was a regular visitor to the house of ʿAbdullāh b. Masʿūd (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu). Whenever the maidservant would see him, she would remark to Ibn Masʿūd, “Your blind friend has come,” and Ibn Masʿūd (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) would laugh at her remark. When Rabīʿ would knock on the door, the maidservant would go out and see him, head down and with his gaze lowered. When Ibn Masʿūd (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) would see Rabīʿ, he would say, quoting the Qur’ān, “‘And give good news to the humble.’ (22:34). If Muḥammad ﷺ had seen you, he would have loved you.”

Three Benefits of Lowering the Gaze

Ibn al-Qayyim (raḥimahullāh) explains the benefits of lowering the gaze:

1. Tasting the sweetness and joy of īmān. This sweetness is far greater than the sweetness of what you averted your gaze from, because when you give up something for the sake of Allah (subḥānahū wa taʿālā), He replaces it with something far better.

2. The heart becomes illuminated, thereby increasing your insight (firāsah) as you are able to see through the light (nūr) of your heart what others cannot see.

3. It strengthens the heart, makes it steadfast, and makes one courageous.

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How to Attain Khushuʿ 4:

Soften Your Heart

 

A sick, heedless and hard heart is one of the greatest reasons for the lack of khushūʿ in ṣalāh. When the heart is rectified, the actions are also rectified as the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “There is a lump of flesh in the body: when it is sound, the whole body is sound and when it is corrupt, the whole body is corrupt. Truly, it is the heart” (Bukhārī).

Those with hardened hearts are condemned by Allah (‘azza wa jall): “So is one whose heart Allah has opened up for Islam and he is upon a light from his Lord (like one whose heart rejects it)? Then woe to those whose hearts are too hard to remember Allah. They have clearly lost their way” (39:22).

In another āyah, Allah (‘azza wa jall) warns His believers of the hardening of the heart: “Has the time not come for those who have believed that their hearts should become humbly submissive at the remembrance of Allah and what has come down of the truth” (57:16)?

And in the next āyah, Allah (‘azza wa jall) says, “Know that Allah gives life to the earth after its lifelessness. We have made clear to you the signs so that perhaps you will understand” (57:17).

Ibn Kathīr (raḥimahullāh) explains how this āyah indicates that Allah (‘azza wa jall) softens hardened hearts, guides those who are confused after they were astray, and alleviates hardships after they have become unbearable. Just as Allah brings the dead dry earth back to life by sending down abundant rain, He also guides the hardened hearts with the proofs and evidences of the Qur’ān. By inserting the light of īmān into these hearts, these hearts are softened after previously being blocked.

Therefore, do not give up. Even if you have struggled your entire life with khushūʿ, have hope and beg Allah (‘azza wa jall) to soften your heart and make it receptive to īmān, the Qur’ān and every form of good.

How to Soften a Hard Heart

a) Frequently remember Allah with your tongue & heart

Allah (‘azza wa jall) says, “Truly it is in the remembrance of Allah that hearts find peace” (13:28). Dhikr is one of the greatest means of protecting a heart from hardening. This is because excessive talking about other than Allah is one of its leading causes. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Do not talk too much without the remembrance of Allah. Truly, excessive talking without the remembrance of Allah hardens the heart; and the furthest of people from Allah is the hard-hearted person” (Tirmidhī).

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “For everything there is a polish, and the polish of the heart is the remembrance of Allah” (Bayhaqī).

Ibn al-Qayyim (raḥimahullāh) explains that the heart rusts like copper and silver. Moreover, just as the heart can rust, it can also be polished through dhikr, to the extent that it can shine like a crystal mirror. Thus, when one neglects dhikr, the heart rusts, and when one remembers Allah, it shines. There are two things which cause a heart to rust: heedlessness (ghaflah) and sin. Conversely, the heart can be polished by two things: dhikr and istighfār (seeking forgiveness).

b) Avoid laughing excessively

Excessive laughing hardens the heart. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Do not laugh excessively as excessive laughter deadens the heart” (Tirmidhī).

c) Remember death frequently

The heart of one who is heedless of death and has excessive hope is dead. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Frequently remember the destroyer of pleasures,” i.e. death (Tirmidhī).

ʿAbdullāh b. ʿUmar (radiy Allāhū ‘anhumā) said, “I was with the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. A man from among the Anṣār came to him and greeted the Prophet. Then he said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, which of the believers is best?’ He ﷺ said, ‘He who has the best character amongst them.’ He said, ‘Which of them is the smartest?’ He ﷺ said, ‘The one who remembers death the most and is best in preparing for it. Those are the smartest’” (Ibn Mājah).

d) Visit the graveyards and reflect on the situation of its residents

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “I used to forbid you from visiting the graves but (now) visit them, for it truly reminds you of the hereafter” (Tirmidhī).

When ʿUthmān (raḍiy Allāhu ‘anhu) would stop at a grave, he would cry until his beard was soaked (in tears). It was said to him, “Paradise and Hell-fire are mentioned, and you do not cry, yet you cry because of this?” So he said, “Indeed the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: ‘Indeed the grave is the first stage of the hereafter. So, whoever is saved from it, then what comes after it is easier than it. And whoever is not saved from it, then what comes after it is worse than it.’” He said, “And the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, ‘I have not seen any sight except that the grave is more horrible than it’” (Ibn Mājah).

e) Recite the Qur’ān

Allah (‘azza wa jall) says, “We send down in the Qur’ān that which is a cure and mercy for the believers…” (17:82).

Ibrāhīm al-Khawwāṣ (raḥimahullāh) said, “Five things cure the heart: reciting the Qur’ān with tadabbur (reflection), an empty stomach, the night prayer, humbly supplicating to Allah (‘azza wa jall) before dawn, and keeping the company of the righteous.”

f) Feed the poor and stroke the head of the orphan

A man once complained to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ about the hardness of his heart so the Messenger ﷺ said to him, “If you want to soften your heart then feed the poor and stroke the head of the orphan” (Aḥmad).

Abū Bakr (raḍiy Allāhu ‘anhu) was known for his excessive weeping. In Makkah, he built a masjid in his courtyard in which he would perform ṣalāh and recite Qur’ān. As he was a very soft-hearted person, he would not be able to control himself when he was reciting the Qur’ān and he would cry extensively. The women and children of the polytheists would gather to listen to his moving recitation, to the extent that it frightened the chiefs of the Quraysh.

 

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How to Attain Khushuʿ 5:

Increase Your Time in Private Worship

 

Another means of attaining khushūʿ in ṣalāh is to engage in ʿibādah, especially in private. Just you and Allah (‘azza wa jall). No one else.

You may perform many acts of ʿibādah, but still not experience their sweetness. Rectify this by increasing your private worship. Private worship is one of the best ways to attain sincerity and protect yourself from hypocrisy. Once your heart is purified, you will taste the sweetness of īmān and worship.

Imām Mālik (raḥimahullāh) said, “Whoever would like to have peace in his heart, and be saved from the agonies of death and the terrors of the Day of Judgement, then let his private deeds be greater than his public ones.”

The Nafs Loves Praise

Our inner self (nafs) rages inside of us. It loves praise and hates criticism. Sometimes it insidiously manifests itself when we mention our private worship in casual conversation with someone. We must, however, fight this. We should avoid mentioning our private acts of worship and maintain it as a special ‘secret’ between us and Allah (‘azza wa jall). Sufyān al-Thawrī (raḥimahullāh) said, “When the servant performs a deed in private, Shayṭān keeps at him until he mentions it. It then moves from the records of private deeds to the record of public deeds.”

However, this does not mean that every deed should be done only in private. On the contrary, numerous deeds have to be performed communally and, therefore, in public. Nevertheless, we should strive to have a collection of ‘secret deeds,’ deeds that no one has knowledge of but Allah (‘azza wa jall).

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Whoever amongst you is able to have hidden good deeds, then let him do so” (Muṣannaf b. Abī Shaybah).

Be careful of ʿujb

Conducting deeds in private may seem like an act that is free from risks. It is not, and you should be careful of your nafs. Just like you ought to be wary of riyā’ (showing off) when you worship Allah in public, you should be wary of ʿujb (self-admiration) when you worship Allah in private.

ʿUjb is to be impressed with yourself and your feats. ʿUjb can lead to pride (kibr). This pride can lead to you comparing your actions to others, and start regarding your deeds to be better than theirs. You may, as a result, start looking down on them. Consequently, instead of purifying the soul, your private deeds lead to the destruction of the soul.

 

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