Perfecting Your Solāh
By Khurram Murad
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful;
All the praise and thanks are due to Allah, and May Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon His Messenger.
Solāh is the first pillar of Islam, and that the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam) mentioned after mentioning the testimony of faith, by which one becomes a Muslim. Allāh has declared it’s obligatory upon all the believers’ status with majestic circumstances. Allāh spoke directly to Moses, and said:
"And I have chosen you, so listen to that which is inspired to you. Verily, I am Allah! There is none worthy of worship but Me, so worship Me and offer Solāh perfectly for My remembrance."
'Abdullah Ibn Qart related that the Allāh’s Messenger (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam) said “The first act that the slave will be accountable for on the Day of Judgement will be Solāh. If it is good, then the rest of his acts will be good. And if it is evil, then the rest of his acts will be evil.” (Related by at-Tabarāni)
In another narration Abu Hurayrah (radiyallāhu'anhu) reported that the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam) said: “The first deed for which a person will be brought to account on the Day of Resurrection will be his solāh. If it is good then he will have prospered and succeeded, but if it is bad then he will be doomed and have lost. If anything is lacking from his obligatory prayers, the Lord will say, ‘Look and see whether my slave did any voluntary solāh, and make up the shortfall in his obligatory solāh from that.’ Then all his deeds will be dealt with likewise.” (Recorded by an-Nasa`ie, 465; At-Tirmidzi, 413 and others; Classified as sahih)
There are several discipline and manner that enables you to perfect your Solāh:
- Set Paradise the ultimate goal. Allah’s forgiveness and pleasure is closely related to the solah. The Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam) said: "Allāh has obligated five Solāh. Whoever excellently performs their ablutions, prays them in their proper times, completes their bows, prostrations and Kyushu’ has a promise from Allāh that He will forgive him. And whoever does not do that has no promise from Allāh. He may either forgive him or punish him."[Malik, Ahmad, Abu Dawud, al-Nasa`ie and others.]
- Kyushu` in the prayer is where the person’s heart is attuned to the Solāh. This feeling in the heart is then reflected on the body. The person remains still and calm. His gaze is also lowered. Even his voice is affected by this feeling in the heart. For more details on this concept (as well as the difference between it and khudhu’). [See Muhammad al-Shaayi, al-Furūq al-Laughawiyyah wa Atharahā fi Tafīr al-Quran al-Karīm (Riyadh: Maktabah al-Ubaikān, 1993), pp. 249-254.]
- Assess your mental readiness for Solāh before its commencement, during the various postures with its attendant recitations, after each rak’ah (unit of Solāh) and ultimately, at the end. Try to make improvements at each stage.
- Performed Solāh with humility both in your mental state and in your physical manner. Performed the Solāh with hope and awe, asking Allāh Subhanahu wa Ta’ala for His mercy and forgiveness.
- Remind yourself continually that you are talking to the most important 'Being' in your life: your Creator and Sustainer. Allah Almighty is in front of you. You are facing Him and you are involved in a dialogue with Him.
- Commence your Solāh by seeking Allāh's help and protection from the influences of Satan.
- Lower your gaze while praying and do not allow the physical environment to distract you. Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam) said to his Companion, Anas Ibn Malik (radiyallahu`anhu), "My dear son, be sure to avoid being distracted during Solāh, for, to become distracted while praying is a disaster." [At-Tabarani]
- Use a variety of Qur`ānic verses and duā’ in your Solāh to achieve greater concentration and awareness.
- Adopt a whispering technique in your recitation. This will increase your ability to remain focused on what you are saying. As you recite the Qurān, translate it in your mind into your own language so that your attention is held. As you concentrate upon the meaning and implications of the words, all thoughts of worldly ideas will disappear.
- On each occasion that you recite the attributes of Allāh in bowing and prostration, consider how indebted you are and how grateful you should be to Allāh and express your true emotions.
- Utilize the occasion of prostration to make additional dua’ to Allāh. Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) said, “A servant is nearest to his Lord when he is prostrating, so increase your supplication when in prostration." [Muslim]
- Make your Solāh of moderate duration, so that you do not become physically and mentally tired. But be aware that while in Solāh, you must take your time praying.
- Give due regard to the proper performance of all the physical postures.
- Solāh as if it is your last Solāh. Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam) said, “When you stand up to pray, perform your Solāh as if it were your last, do not say anything you will have to make excuses for tomorrow, and resolve to place no hope in what is in the hands of men.” [Ahmad]
- Performing your Solāh in a satisfactory manner should lead to a radical change in the way you lead your daily life. Allāh says in the Quran what means, “Surely, Prayer prevents indecency and evil "[Al-`Ankabut 29:45]
- Your improved and more disciplined life will, in turn, help the quality of your Solāh to increase even more. The two should feed one another and continuously reinforce each other.
- That there is punishment for a Solāh not performed satisfactorily. It will be a witness against you rather than a witness for you on the Day of Judgment.
- However, the reward for a Solāh well performed is immeasurable. Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) said, "If a man performs two units of prayer without the distraction of any worldly thought, all his previous sins will be forgiven." [Al-Bukhari]
- Late Night Prayers, even though it is not obligatory, try to establish late night prayers as part of your nightly activities. Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) said, "The best Solāh after the obligatory Solāh is the night Solāh." [Muslim].
- One of the characteristics of servants of the Most Merciful is that they get up at night and perform late night Prayers. Night vigil is a source of great spiritual energy. Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam) has said, “Keep up your night prayers. It was the way of the virtuous who came before you, it draws you nearer to your Lord, atones for your sins, forbids you from evil and protects the body from sickness.” [At-Tirmidzi].
- The Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam) also said, "When a man wakes up his wife at night and they pray two raka`at (units) together, they are written down among the men and women who remember Allah." [Abu Dawud]
- The Qurān also commends the one, who utilizes the early hours of each day to engage in remembrance of Allāh, “Is one who worships devoutly during the hours of the night prostrating himself or standing [in adoration] and who places his hope in the mercy of His Lord [like one who does not]? Say are those equal: those who know and those who do not know? It is those who are endowed with understanding that receive admonition.” [Az-Zumar 39:9]
Allah Almighty Knows Best
(This article is excerpted from the author's book, entitled ‘In the Early Hours’, first published by Islamic Foundation. Khurram Murad (1932-1996) studied civil engineering at the universities of Karachi, Pakistan and Minnesota, USA, and was actively involved in the Islamic movement and in the training of Islamic workers. Many of his books, both in English and in Urdu, are being published posthumously.)
[Via Islam Online dated Wednesday, 18 March 2009]