By Aziz Khan
Alhamdulillah, achieving a quality salah (prayer) is something we, as productive Muslims, are all striving towards. None of us likes to recite Qur’an during our prayer without having our faith refreshed. We would all like for us to feel that peace from showing our obedience to Allah (Exalted be He).
We’re all leading busy lives and this can affect the time we spend in worship to Allah. Therefore, in the little time we spend worshiping Him, we want to make sure this is done right and in a way that is pleasing to Allah. This will help benefit us in this life and our worldly duties, as well as the hereafter.
Here are a few points which, in sha’ Allah (Allah willing), will help you improve the quality of your prayer in terms of improving the prayer itself and also bearing in mind what can harm it.
1. Focus on Your Technique
This relates to each position you take during salah. For example, you can focus on how your feet are positioned during sujud (prostration) e.g. making sure they do not come off the ground whilst in prostration. Another example can be making sure you’re standing upright after ruku` (bowing) before going into sujud, etc. I don’t want to go into the fine details of each position as prayer is practiced slightly differently amongst people, but according to how you are told to conduct your prayer, try to follow it exactly like that.
A way of achieving this is to slow down in each position. This would be especially important if you’re naturally a quick reader and your salah normally finishes quickly.
Slowing down can mean reciting the Qur’an a bit more slowly or just holding your position i.e. in sujud for a few seconds more than normal after you have finished reciting. This will allow you to relax and get that piece of mind and sakinah (peace and calmness) inside of you that you have completed that position in a way that is pleasing to God as opposed to perhaps rushing the salah.
Additionally, you will find slowing down allows the prayer to run smoothly in a beautiful manner.
2. Understand what You’re Reciting
You don’t have to be a scholar to understand what you’re reciting. We should make the effort to understand at least some of what is read during salah.
For example, Surat Al-Fatihah is something we all read during salah but do we know what Iyyaka na`budu wa iyyaka nasta`een means?
You (alone) do we worship, and You (alone) do we ask for help. (Al-Fatihah 1:5)
This surah (chapter of the Qur’an) is also fairly short and therefore not difficult to remember.
Once we understand what we are reading during prayer even if it’s not all of what is read, then we will find that sweetness you obtain from prayer (with Allah’s grace) through understanding what we are saying. This can only allow us to become closer to Him.
Also, understanding the different chapters and verses we read and their translation during salah e.g. Surat An-Nas, Al-Falaq, Al-`Asr etc., is something that will allow us to achieve a better focused salah. Those mentioned are very short and are about a couple of lines long but are packed with meaning.
You will find that, in the majority of English translations, these surahs mentioned with the translation but also their background – for example, where the Surah was revealed and after which incident in the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) life the verses were revealed.
That is why it is highly recommended to get a copy of the translation of the Qur’an (the more recent translations include backgrounds) so you understand what you’re reading as well as the story behind it. This will increase the enjoyment we receive from our recitation during salah.
3. Know Your Opposition
This is our enemy, shaytan (Satan). We are blessed by Allah that we are in a position to be performing salah but this doesn’t stop shaytan in our prayer who is ever busy trying to distract us from our worship.
It is said in a hadith that shaytan called Khinzab sits on your shoulder in prayer. As soon as you start the prayer, it whispers and does everything to disturb you. That’s why if you find yourself running through your shopping list or what you have to do for the rest of the day then know that this is the Satan working its magic.
“`Uthman ibn Abu Al-`As reported that he came to the Allah’s Messenger and said: ’Allah’s Messenger, the Satan intervenes between me and my prayer and my reciting of the Qur’an and he confounds me‘. Thereupon, the Prophet said: ’That is (the doing of the Satan) who is known as Khinzab and when you perceive its effect, seek refuge with Allah from it and spit three times to your left’.” (Muslim)
If we understand the different tricks of the Satan, we can avoid falling into its traps and letting our minds wander in salah.
4. Get in the Zone
This is a reference to getting ourselves focused. When we are doing something important for example completing an assignment, project for work, college or university, what do we do to make sure we are not distracted?
This may be isolating ourselves and going in a quiet place which can and should be applied to our salah. Anything that allows us to focus, concentrate and block out the world during salah can only benefit us.
Many people find sitting in wait for the prayer, doing dhikr (remembrance of Allah) for a few minutes is very useful. This will allow you to forget about the world and the various things you have to do for a few minutes. Therefore, when the salah begins, you will be fully focused.
5. Increase the Significance/Importance of This Salah
Try to think of the prayer you are about to perform as the one in which Allah will question you about on the Day of Judgment. This should help us to perform the prayer with the devotion, concentration and care we are looking for.
Also, it may help to think of the prayer as something we will be marked on like in an interview. Therefore, questions may arise from the salah such as, ‘Did the person read with care?’ ‘Where was their mind during salah?’
We should try to truthfully answer and evaluate ourselves after the salah.
Additionally, consider that this prayer may be your last. I’m sure if we were told this would be our last prayer, we would perform it with extreme devotion, avoid anything and anyone that distracted us and make it the longest salah possible. This is something to reflect on.
6. Continuously Make Du`aa
This is a vital point to consider for everyone. Du`aa should constantly be made to Allah as without the help of Allah and His willing, we will not be able to perform the salah as required. We should continuously ask Him to send blessings on us and if for example we are struggling with remembering the Qur’an, or concentrating then we should continuously seek help from Allah.
Also, du`aa should be made asking for forgiveness from God for not achieving the standards required of us even if we feel we possess some levels of devotion, care and quality during our prayer.
Finally, du`aa should be made thanking Allah for all His bounties and giving us the blessings to be able to perform prayer and pray to him despite our many faults.
A du`aa that should, therefore, be read constantly after prayer is allahumma a`innee `ala dhikrik wa shukrik wa husn `ibaadatik (O Allah, help me remember You, to be grateful to You, and to worship You in an excellent manner).
I sincerely hope this offers you some use which you can subsequently apply in your salah.