For us Muslims, Salah provides a much-needed pause in a world that never stops. It is the ritual that is supposed to re-align us with our ultimate purpose here on earth; to worship our maker. Ideally.
But realistically, for a lot of us Muslims, (myself included) Salah has become yet another box that needs ticking on our mile-long to-do list. And no one is more vested in us being in a constant state of chaos and being disconnected from our purpose, than our ultimate enemy; Shaytan. He works hard and he takes no days off. And so, once he sees us taking the time to worship and connect with our Creator, he floods our minds with random thoughts, ideas, worries and to-do lists. Chaos and noise, all over again.
Although finding and sustaining khushoo (calmness and tranquility) in Salah will be a life-long journey for every Muslim, here are some tips I’ve found that can help make the struggle a little bit easier. Shaytan may work hard, but we work harder and we never give up!
- Tip Number 1 – Actively read-up and learn about Salah: This may sound like a no-brainer, but for a lot of us Muslims (born-Muslims especially) we most likely learnt how to pray Salah by observation and assimilation. We watched our parents, the local imaams or our friends at school. Maybe some of us attended madrasah on the weekends… But how many of us actually picked up a book for the sole purpose of learning how to pray- properly? As Muslims, It is imperative that we know what we are doing, why we are doing it and how to do it properly. Salah is the most important aspect of being Muslim and so we have to be empowered with the right information before we embark on it. Shaykh Al Albanee’s “Sifaat-us-Salaatu Nabiy” is THE best book out there on how to observe Salah properly. You can buy a translated version here
- TIP NUMBER 2- Amplify the Ambience: Your prayer area, your mussallah, your clothes etc, what condition are they in? Ratty clothes that can not be worn even to the corner shop?, smelly clothes? never-washed prayer mat? These things are often neglected, but I can tell you they make a world of difference to your state of mind as you approach Salah. Wash your prayer clothes and your mats regularly and perfume them with the best of the best that you can afford. Beautify your prayer area; have a nice diffuser in there, or have a scented candle or incense burning regularly. I am partial to electric oil diffusers as I find them very relaxing. Try to set aside special garments for your Salah and make your prayer area a sacred space, if you can. Now I know this won’t always be possible for those of us who might be praying in the office or anywhere away from our homes, or those with little children who need monitoring. But you don’t have to do everything on this list to set an ambience of calmness, just the act of spraying perfume on yourself before salah, reminds you that you are about to go to an important meeting with a purpose.
- TIP NUMBER 3 – Practice Meditation and Mindfullness outside of Salah: Our world is loud, fast and manic. There is a lot out there competing for our attention and we are constantly taking stuff in and getting ourselves overloaded with information and entertainment. It is impractical to think that our minds will just shut off automatically the moment we say ‘Allahu Akbar’. We need to cultivate the habit of shutting things down regularly. Mindfulness activities such as breathing exercises and body scanning are really great and I enjoy doing them. These activities remind me that it’s ok to be still, doing nothing other than allowing my mind to take in everything around me. This can help train the mind to stay still and calm during Salah. It might sound a bit coo-coo to some, but if you’d like to try it, here is my favourite mindfulness app. I know we can’t completely ‘log out’ of our lives, but it always does me a lot of good when I regularly log out of things, people and situations that add to the noise in my mind.
- TIP NUMBER 4 – Consciously saying all the ‘Allahu Akbars’ out-loud when praying – No, not at the top of your lungs, of course. This is more for us women. I find that a lot of us (or let me speak for myself) tend to pray Salah completely silently. I read somewhere that if you’re struggling with concentration in Salah, reciting ‘Allahu Akbar’ out loud can act as a ‘call-back’ for the wandering mind. If you’ve been thinking about dinner, or nappies, or grocery lists or work emails the whole time you were reciting Faatihah, the moment you say “Allahu Akbar” as you go into Ruku’, your mind is called back to focus on the task. You are reminded of The One in whose presence you’re standing. And, you consciously affirm that truly, He is Greater, More important and above anything that you might be thinking or worrying about in that moment. This is my most handy tip that I have been using constantly and it is something I believe almost everyone will be able to practice anywhere, anytime. In shaa Allah.
Do you have any other tips? Share them with me in the comments!