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. Ṣalāh is the purification of the soul. It cleanses your sins and protects you from all harm. Ṣalāh is one of the greatest acts of worship. It is an act in which the slave shuts off the world around him to converse directly with Allah (ʿazza wa jall), displaying his complete servitude (ʿubūdiyyah) to Him. It is one of the best ways to remember Him, become close to Him, and erase our many sins. Ṣalāh is one of the greatest means to strengthen our īmān.
One of our main Ramaḍān goals should be to perform the five farḍ prayers to the best of our abilities. This includes all the additional sunnah prayers and performing them with full concentration, calmness and tranquillity (i.e. with full khushūʿ). Sometimes, some people may focus on attending the tarāwīḥ prayers in congregation, but neglect to perform ʿishā’ or fajr in congregation. The five daily prayers, however, should be our number one priority.
Khushuʿ: The Essence of Salah
Whilst we often focus on the outer and physical acts of worship, we often neglect the inner dimensions and spiritual elements of these same acts. Ṣalāh consists of external physical actions, but its essence is khushūʿ. Ramaḍān is the perfect time to actively develop khushūʿ in our ṣalāh. Allah (subḥānahū wa taʿālā) says in the Qur’ān,
قَدْ أَفْلَحَ الْمُؤْمِنُوْنَ ، الَّذِيْنَ هُمْ فِْى صَلَاتِهِمْ خَـٰشِعُوْنَ
“Successful indeed are the believers, who are humble and submissive in their ṣalāh” (23:1-2).
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).
Khushūʿ is a state in which the heart stands before Allah (ʿazza wa jall) with complete humility, lowliness and servitude; focusing fully on Him Alone. Then the body also humbles itself and obeys Allah.
Khushūʿ is a state in which you constantly weigh up your weakness, deficiencies and sins against the greatness of Allah, leaving you overwhelmed with humility and a desperate need for Him.
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 will neither accept it nor reward him for it, even if the obligation (of ṣalāh) has been legally fulfilled.”
The night prayer in Ramaḍān is the perfect opportunity to work on our khushūʿ. We should maximise qiyām to lengthen the various postures, praise Allah extensively, and lengthen our duʿā’, as our beloved Messenger ﷺ used to do.
Salah With Khushuʿ: Pure Joy & Comfort
The Prophet ﷺ would gain extreme pleasure and joy in his ṣalāh. This was a result of his perfection in conversing privately with his Lord, being conscious of His Greatness and basking in His Presence. For him, ṣalāh was not a chore. He ﷺ said to Bilāl (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu), “Stand O Bilāl (and announce the call to prayer), and bring us comfort through ṣalāh” (Abū Dāwūd).
Experiencing the ‘sweetness’ (ḥalāwah) of ṣalāh is a game changer. Once you have experienced it, your life will change and you will forever crave its pleasure. Ibn al-Qayyim (raḥimahullāh) explains that when you perform ṣalāh with khushūʿ, fulfilling all of its rights and conditions and you turn your mind and heart to Allah, you will feel light, as though all of your burdens have been washed away. You will be full of energy but also calm and peaceful. Such feelings will make you wish you could remain in that prayer forever. Ṣalāh is the coolness of the eye, the delight of the soul and the paradise of the heart.
“We are in a garden, where our food is khushūʿ, and our drink is the tears that flow.” – Ibn al-Jawzī (raḥimahullāh)
How to Attain Khushuʿ
• Prepare mentally & physically for your standing in front of The Supreme Creator. Strive to pray in the congregation. Always aim to arrive early, before the opening takbīr (takbīrat al-taḥrīm). Be punctual with the sunnah and nafl prayers, as they awaken your heart and prepare you for attaining greater khushūʿ in the farḍ prayers.
• Get rid of distractions. Eat and use the bathroom before praying. Pray in a quiet place and put your phone away to enter a ‘peaceful zone’.
• Stop sinning. Protect yourself from all ḥarām, especially your eyes and your tongue. Don’t expect yourself to have khushūʿ if you have just watched something ḥarām.
• Fight Shayṭān and his whispers. Always be on guard as Shayṭān wants to destroy your ṣalāh. Seek Allah’s protection and force yourself to reflect on what you are saying.
• Understand what you are saying. Learn the translation of everything you are saying in ṣalāh and be fully mindful when saying it. Ibn ʿAbbās (radiy Allāhu ʿanhumā) said, “Only that which you were mindful of in your ṣalāh will be accepted from you.”
• Vary the adhkār and sūrahs. Carve out time in this blessed month to memorise additional adhkār and sūrahs from the Qur’ān to experience the beauty of ṣalāh.
• Remember death and the hereafter during and outside of your ṣalāh. Imagine you are praying your final prayer. Visualise the stages of the hereafter in your ṣalāh.
• Keep in mind that Allah responds to you. In ṣalāh, you are conversing with your Lord. As you talk to Him, He responds to you. Feel privileged to be in direct conversation with the Lord of the worlds.
• Be calm and lengthen your ṣalāh. The journey through ṣalāh is remarkable. Each part is a unique milestone, bringing its own sweetness and joy. Every action and statement have their own form of servitude (ʿubūdiyyah) to Allah. Be calm and do not rush through your ṣalāh just to reach the end.
“Two rakʿahs with contemplation is better than standing for the entire night with an inattentive heart.” – ʿAbdullāh b. ʿAbbās (radiy Allāhu ʿanhumā)
It is important to note that khushūʿ is not exclusive to 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.
The Secret of Salah: Focus Your Heart on Him
The secret of ṣalāh, and what transforms it from being a lifeless body to a real, moving and powerful force is: turning to Allah (ʿazza wa jall) fully and completely with your heart.
When placing your heart before Allah (ʿazza wa jall), do it with utmost humility, as though you are seeing Him. When asked by Jibrīl (ʿalayhis-salām) to define ihṣān, the Prophet ﷺ said, “That you worship Allah as though you are seeing Him; for if you cannot see Him, He truly sees you” (Muslim).
Go to Allah (ʿazza wa jall) with full presence and concentration. Incline to Him completely. Focus on Him Alone. If you turn to Him, He will turn to you. If you turn away from Him, He will turn away from you. Achieve this by removing the world from your heart and purifying your heart from desires and doubts.
Think of a cup which is full. To add to it, you must first throw out some of its contents. Likewise, the treasures of ṣalāh cannot enter a heart that is filled with concerns for the dunyā, is steeped in desires, and is riddled with doubts. These must first be removed.
Similarly, clear your mind from all evil thoughts and ideas. Instead, steer your mind to think about Allah (ʿazza wa jall): His majesty, His beauty, His kindness, His love and His generosity.
Never Give Up!
Making the human lose hope is one of Shayṭān’s most powerful tricks. You might think: “This khushūʿ thing is not for me. I’ve tried it, but I keep getting distracted.” Do not give in to this trick and continue to try. On some days your level of khushūʿ will feel strong, whilst on others, you may not feel it at all. Despite all of this, continue to work on it and do not ever give up.
At the start of your journey to Allah (ʿazza wa jall), Shayṭān will have a greater ‘share’ of your ṣalāh than you. You will then compete with him, going back and forth, until you secure half of it. You must then continue to fight until you can secure all of your ṣalāh. The Prophet ﷺ said, “A man returns from his prayer and only a tenth, ninth, eighth, seventh, sixth, f ifth, fourth, third or half of it, is recorded for him” (Abū Dāwūd).
The process of attaining khushūʿ and enjoying ṣalāh requires time and effort. It won’t happen overnight. Keep coming back to these pointers and work on them in gradual steps.
May Allah al-Wahhāb (The Ever-Giving) bless us with continuous khushūʿ both in and outside of ṣalāh. May He make our ṣalāh a means for us to experience the joy of conversing with Him in this world as though we can see Him, and subsequently see Him in the Abode of Peace.
See the ‘Taste the Sweetness of Ṣalāh’ book by Life With Allah for a detailed guide on how to attain khushūʿ in ṣalāh.