Have you ever started praying and then found yourself suddenly remembering an item you thought you’d lost or a message you’d forgotten to reply to?
The Prophet ﷺ stated that these recollections during ṣalāh are the work of Shayṭān. Shayṭān is always busy trying to preoccupy you with thoughts of everything other than Allah (ʿazza wa jall). He ﷺ said, “When the call to prayer is announced, Shayṭān takes to his heels and passes wind loudly so that he does not hear the adhān. When the adhān finishes, he comes back. When the iqāmah is proclaimed, he takes to his heel (again). When the iqāmah finishes, he comes back so that he can obstruct the person’s heart with his whispers, saying ‘Remember such and such, remember such and such,’ things which he did not remember before, to the extent that the person no longer knows how much he has prayed” (Bukhārī).
Ṣalāh is a link (ṣilah) to your Lord which your archenemy, Shayṭān, strives to break by any means. Therefore, he comes to you with all kinds of whispers and doubts.
Shaytan: The Biggest Thief
Shayṭan is like a relentless highway robber. The harder the slave tries to turn to Allah, the harder Shayṭān tries to rob him and divert him from this noble path. It is for this reason that when one of the predecessors (raḥimahullāh) was asked, “Indeed the Jews and Christians say that they do not experience these whispers (in their acts of worship),” he remarked, “They are telling the truth. What will Shayṭān do with a demolished house?”
Anyone who turns to Allah (ʿazza wa jall) will be assaulted with these kinds of whispers, particularly during the beginning of your journey where Shayṭān will try his best to divert you. 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, fifth, fourth, third or half of it, is recorded for him” (Abū Dāwūd).
The initial stages of ṣalāh are the period when Shayṭān will try to convince you that this is a lost battle and there is no hope. Do not give up. Remain steadfast and continue to work on your khushūʿ in ṣalāh.
Shayṭan will not go near the person whose heart has khushūʿ.” – Sahl al-Tustarī (raḥimahullāh)
The Deep Concern of the Sahabah
ʿUthmān b. Abī al-ʿĀṣ (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) came to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ and said, “O Messenger of Allah, indeed Shayṭān comes in between me and my ṣalāh and my recitation of the Qur’ān and causes me to doubt.” The Messenger of Allah ﷺ told him, “That is a shayṭān known as Khinzab. When you feel his presence, seek Allah’s protection from him and spit lightly to your left three times.” He says, “I did that and then Allah made him go away from me” (Muslim).
The aforementioned ḥadīth indicates the importance the Companions (radiy Allāhu ʿanhum) gave to ṣalāh and the matter of khushūʿ. It also highlights the existence of a specific shayṭān who is assigned just for this task, showing us the severity of this matter.
Mentally prepare yourself before ṣalāh, and remember you are in a fight with Khinzab. Always be on guard and remember that your enemy is lurking, ready to ambush.
How To Fight Whispers
1. Say: أَعُوْذُ بِاللّٰهِ مِنَ الشَّيْطٰانِ الرَّجِيْمِ and spit lightly to your left three times as mentioned in the above ḥadīth. Continue to do this whenever you feel his presence, and not just once in a while. (Avoid spitting during the congregational prayers).
2. Ignore the whispers and carry on praying. Fight back the whispers and do not let them drag you down.
3. Try hard not to yawn during prayer, and if this is not possible, then cover your mouth. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “If one of you yawns during ṣalāh, let him suppress it as much as he can as Shayṭān enters (the mouth)” (Muslim).
4. Force yourself to think of what you are saying.
5. Work hard on the other ways of attaining khushūʿ. They will all aid you in combatting the whispers during your ṣalāh.
Some people mentioned to ʿĀmir b. ʿAbdillāh b. Qays (raḥimahullāh) that sometimes they lose concentration during ṣalāh. He went on to ask them, “Do you experience this?” They replied, “Yes.” He replied, “By Allah, I would rather be struck with spears in my stomach than for this to happen to me in my ṣalāh.”
“If you are in ṣalāh and Shayṭān says to you ‘You are showing off!’ then make your ṣalāh longer.” – Ḥarīth b. Qays (raḥimahullāh)