We are writing this to improve and remind ourselves of this. We are not singling out anyone but ourselves and we are not accusing anyone but ourselves.
Where are we when we are praying? Off in the distance somewhere? Thinking about lunch or about what I am going to do tomorrow? Where are you? Are you even pondering over what you have recited?
The prayer is something that is obligatory upon every Muslim five times. This cannot be missed and the only action that replaces a fard prayer is another fard prayer like it. One of the tips to attain khushu (being spiritually aware in the prayer) in prayer which is by being aware that you speaking to Allah (the Exalted) by using his words in the prayer. Also be aware that you being watched in the prayer.
Entering the moment
We come to the prayer in a state of distraction not realising the gravity of what we are doing. When we are praying we are distracted by the distractions of the world, unable to focus. We move slowly and are tired after the first unit but it’s the only prayer we perform in the Masjid in the day, week or even year. There are some of us who are less fortunate than that we do not even think about praying , we are far, far away from prayer. Lost in our passions as we dissolve on a sofa set in front an endless barrage of commercials and television programs. Giving the endless set of message: what you are is no good be like us, what you have is no good buy from us, what we are is all good agree with us. Our docile, brainwashed mind cannot disagree and we keep sleeping. As they justify their terms as they massacre of innocent civilians so they can strip them of their natural resources, we turn over and watch a dull sit-com; trying to laugh but we want to cry.
Lost in a world that money talks and everyone is cheap. Their lives are cheap that’s why they can get away with murder and they make you think about justice, yes we can perform justice.
Or we are lost in the world of addictions trying to go one step higher, every time. Trying to outdo the last time, trying to push the boundaries of our existence with only a step away from flat lining. The drunk go to pubs and night clubs like scavengers seeking some prey that they can devour.
Yet, once you realise that all this is false and all of it is there to misguide what do you do now? You come back to religion of your birth because you are tying to find some meaning to your life. The only thing that has meaning is Allah (the Exalted) and he has given you Islam to save you from yourself.
It’s time to come to the prayer, remember the things you were taught as a child. Or it's time for you to learn how to pray, properly not cultural style.
Set things right
Use the prayer as the means to set your affairs right. Use the prayer as the foundational pillar that grounds you. Slowly change your ways, leave the lies and speak the truth.
Prayer disconnects one from the world and its trappings; it connects you to your creator. Are you able to wake up and use this connection well? All day you used to notice gaps in the day, should you be doing something then? Now, you realise that you should’ve been praying but you never knew!
You are awake now, you have taken the television off and rejected the nightly programming/brainwashing. You have opened the Quran now, taken it out of its cloth, dusted it down and began to read it. That’s the whole point of having the Quran to read it!
The word Salah meant supplication, in its original meaning, but now it means prayer. At the same time prayer means one thing in English, either supplicating or making the physical movements of prayer.
In Arabic there is a difference between supplicating/Du’a and praying Salah, this may need to be explained to non-Muslims. The Arabic word starts with a strong letter Saad and ends with a weak letter Alif Maqsura; that how we should all end our prayer in a state of weakness to our Lord, achieving a state or realisation of our weakness.
Being negligent of the prayer time is one of our greatest sins. When the time comes in get ready and get it done because if you do not you may find obstacles in your way which are preventing you from doing your work but once you pray then these are all out of the way.
Be avid about finding out about the ablution and all its rulings. Look for teachers who can teach you around your locality first, then beyond. Once you find a teacher make sure you ask all the questions because if you are not bothered about purification then you can forget about your prayer because you do not have one without purification.
There are three obligatory places that need to washed and one needs to be wiped in the Hanafi school. The face, ear to ear and hairline to chin, the arms, from fingers to elbows, the feet to prodding bone, and finally the head needs to be wiped, one quarter. Everything else is Sunna to wash but should not be left out. Only when you do not wash or wipe the obligatory places mentioned is your ablution not valid.
Is your heart and body being purified? It is if you remember Allah (the Exalted) before performing ablution. This is by saying bismillah or other additions to this statement. If you are in privy then say it in your heart and not out aloud as it is not permissible to pronounce the blessed name of Allah (the Exalted) in the privy!
The washing of the limbs also signifies the removal of the sins committed by them. The face with the sins of our sight, the mouth with the sins of our words, the hands with the sins of our actions. All this falls from us and the water that we made ablution with is not longer valid for anyone else to use, now that it is polluted with our sins.
Beginning the prayer
The initial magnification or Takbir Tahrimah is the starting place of your prayer. Literally translated Takbir Tahrimah means magnification of prohibition, as once we enter the prayer everything is prohibited for us to do, except the prayer itself. We are putting everything to one side and focusing on Allah (the Exalted).
Also notice the position of the hands as they are up in the air, in a similar way in which people surrender to the police or the way in which one soldier surrenders to another. When we surrender we show that there is nothing in our hands. What we are saying in the prayer is that we have nothing in our hands that has busied us from you O Allah. We have left the world behind and are submitting to the commands of our Lord, we are surrendering, we are submitting to the Lord of all creation.
Looking at our hands for the moment, whatever we use our limbs we use, invariably, our hands. So when we raise them to the level of our ears we are raising them showing Allah (the Exalted) that there is nothing that is keeping us busy from Him.
What should you thinking about in the prayer? Remember Allah (the Exalted)! He is watching you and you should remember Him in the prayer! This is the whole point of the prayer! Without it your prayer reduces in reward.
We stand in a way that displays our humbleness, head down trying to realise the act of prayer is not as simple as movements. What is your heart doing? Is it submitting? In terms of Jurisprudence standing is that position in which you cannot touch your knees. This is the position were the Quran is recited so recite it the best manner with the letters correctly pronounced. Do not be shy in going back to basics and learning the recitation properly.
Bowing is when the hands touch the knees, keeping the back straight is Sunna. This is your first display of humbleness that everyone can see. As the bowing the head can be for anything but this is unmistakable. Bowing is a sign of respect if done to a king what about bowing to the One whose power encompasses all created beings.
This is when you hands, feet, head, knees are touching the floor. There should be at least one toe facing forward, the Sunna is to have all the toes facing forward. What are you doing in this position? Are you staying for a while or are pecking like chickens do? Staying that position and maybe one day you’ll taste the sweetness of prostration. As there is a sweetness in prostration but may only find it in some places. When on our faces are on the floor we affirm the loftiness of Allah (the Exalted) with the words Subhanullah Al-'Ala/ glory be to Allah, the Most High. At our lowest point facing the floor we affirm Allah's majesty.
When you have finished the prayer you greet the angels on both your shoulders and those present on your right and your left. The prayer is the ascension of the believer and as this ascension finishes the soul returns to its place. You greet those who you have left.
How are you after the prayer? Have you changed? Do you feel the difference? Are you the same? If you are the same then take a look at yourself and try to see if there is anything you need to rectify. The first breath after you have finished praying should be a breath of relief and joy. Then supplicate and make it heartfelt. Really mean what you say and if you wish to learn more about supplication then please read what we have written on that subject.
Now that you have finished your prayer are you waiting in anticipation for the next prayer? Are you preparing yourself for it?
Take the opportunities that you have been given before they are taken. If you are a person who does not pray but wants to pray then start with one prayer a day, maintain it then add another and another until you are praying five times a day. Use these building blocks as a basis for growth.
It can be difficult for one to change their patterns of life but if you are consistent then you shall see your whole live change for the better. Prayer is something that will change you for the better if you are doing it well, even if you are making mistakes, don’t worry keep trying!
The prayer is one of the first things that you will be asked about on the Day of Judgement and if that is good then you have succeeded, if that has failed then the rest is looking shaky.
The words that the blessed Prophet (may Allah bestow upon him peace and blessings) said before he left us was, “The prayer! The prayer!” When someone is dying they mention what is the most dear things to them but here he did not mention something about himself rather he mentioned something that will remind others.
Displaying his altruistic nature the Prophet (may Allah bestow upon him peace and blessings) was always thinking of others, he put others first even in this critical situation. He was in so much pain but despite that he was thinking of others. Reminding us of one of the most important pillars of our practise.
The prayer! The prayer!
Imam Ghazali states in the Etiquette of the religion/Adab fi Al-Din gave the following advice about the Etiquette of prayer
"Refrain from excessive movement, display submissiveness, manifest humiliation, presence of heart, repel whisperings, refrain from outward or inward movement, limbs at ease, bow ones head, place his ring hand over his left, contemplate when reciting, increase in awe, bowing with acquiescence, prostrate with humility, magnify with greatness, testify by witnessing, greet with fear, move with dread and seek contentment."
Prayer is one of our most important barometers of our religiosity and neglect of it means neglect of everything. So build upon this and move forward in your life. Seek excellence/Ihsan.