Khushoo’: The Main Ingredient of Salah

Praise be to Allaah, Lord of the Worlds, Who has said in His book (interpretation of the meaning), “…and stand before Allaah with obedience” [al-Baqarah 2:238] and has said concerning the prayer (interpretation of the meaning): “… and truly it is extremely heavy and hard except for al-khaashi’oon…’ [al-Baqarah 2:45].

And peace and blessings be upon the leader of the pious, the chief of al-khaashi’oon, Muhammad the Messenger of Allaah, and on all his family and companions.

Salaah is the greatest of the practical pillars of Islam, and khushoo’ in prayer is required by sharee’ah.

Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “Successful indeed are the believers, those who offer their salaah (prayers) with all solemnity and full submissiveness.” [al-Mu’minoon 23:1-2] – i.e., fearing Allaah and in a calm manner.

Khushoo’ means calmness, serenity, tranquillity, dignity and humility. What makes a person have this khushoo’ is fear of Allaah and the sense that He is always watching. (Tafseer Ibn Katheer, Daar al-Sha’b edn., 6/414). Khushoo’ means that the heart stands before the Lord in humility and submission. (al-Madaarij, 1/520).

It was reported that Mujaahid said: “’…and stand before Allaah with obedience” [al-Baqarah 2:238 – interpretation of the meaning]’ – part of obedience is to bow, to be solemn and submissive, to lower one’s gaze and to humble oneself out of fear of Allaah, may He be glorified.” (Ta’zeem Qadr al-Salaah, 1/188).

The site of khushoo’ is the heart, and its effects are manifested in the physical body. The various faculties follow the heart: if the heart is corrupted by negligence or insinuating whispers from Shaytaan, the worship of the body’s faculties will also be corrupt. The heart is like a king and the faculties are like his troops who follow his orders and go where they are commanded. If the king is deposed, his followers are lost, which is like what happens when the heart does not worship properly.

When Iblees, the enemy of Allaah, vowed to mislead and tempt the sons of Adam and said“Then I will come to them from before them and behind them, from their right and from their left…” [al-A’raaf 7:17, interpretation of the meaning], one of his most significant plots became to divert people from salaah by all possible means and to whisper to them during their prayer so as to deprive them of the joy of this worship and cause them to lose the reward for it.

As khushoo’ will be the first thing to disappear from the earth, and we are living in the last times, the words of Hudhayfah (may Allaah be pleased with him) are particularly pertinent to us: “The first thing of your religion that you will lose is khushoo’, and the last thing that you will lose of your religion is salaah. There may be a person praying who has no goodness in him, and soon you will enter the mosque and not find anyone who has khushoo’.” (al-Madaarij, 1/521).

Only the parts of your prayer where you focused and concentrated properly will be of any avail to you. It was reported that Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “You will only have from your prayer that which you focused on.”

Increase your Khushoo’ by knowing that Allaah responds to prayers

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Allaah, the Blessed and Exalted has said: ‘I have divided the prayer between Myself and My slave, into two halves, and My slave shall have what he has asked for.” When the slave says ‘Praise be to Allaah, Lord of the Worlds,’ Allaah says, ‘My slave has praised Me.’ When the slave says, ‘The Most Merciful, the Bestower of Mercy,’ Allaah says, ‘My slave has extolled me.’ When the slave says, ‘Master of the Day of Judgement,’ Allaah says, ‘My slave has glorified me.’ When the slave says, ‘It is You alone we worship and it is You alone we ask for help,’ Allaah says, ‘This is between Me and My slave, and My slave shall have what he asked for.’ When the slave says, ‘Guide us to the Straight Path, the path of those whom You have favoured, not the path of those who receive Your anger, nor of those who go astray,’ Allaah says, ‘All these are for My slave, and My slave shall have what he asked for.’” (Saheeh Muslim, Kitaab al-Salaah, Baab wujoob qiraa’at al-Faatihah fi kulli rak’ah). [Words in italics are the translation of the meaning of Soorat al-Faatihah – Translator].

This is a great and important hadeeth. If everyone kept it in mind when he prays, he would attain immense khushoo’ and al-Faatihah would have a great impact on him. How could it be otherwise, when he feels that his Lord is addressing him and giving him what he is asking for?

This “conversation” with Allaah must be respected and accorded its proper value. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “When any one of you stands to pray, he is conversing with his Lord, so let him pay attention to how he speaks to Him.” (al-Haakim, al-Mustadrak, 1/236; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 1538).

Increase Your Khushoo’ by placing the right hand on the left hand on your chest.

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), when he stood up to pray, used to place his right hand on his left hand(Muslim, no. 401), and place them on his chest (Abu Dawood, no. 759; see also Irwa’ al-Ghaleel, 2/71). The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, “We Prophets were commanded… to place our right hands on our left hands in prayer.”(Reported by al-Tabaraani in al-Mu’jam al-Kabeer, no. 11485. Al-Haythami said: Al-Tabaraani reported it in al-Awsat and its men are the men of saheeh. Al-Majma’, 3/155).

Imaam Ahmad (may Allaah have mercy on him) was asked about the meaning of placing one hand on top of the other when standing in prayer. He said: “It is humility before the Almighty.” (Al-Khushoo’ fi’l-Salaah by Ibn Rajab, p. 21).

Ibn Hajar (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “The ‘ulamaa’ said: the meaning of this posture is that it is the attitude of the humble petitioner, it is more likely to prevent fidgeting, and it is more conducive to khushoo’.” (Fath al-Baari, 2/224).

Increase your khushoo’ by thinking of how the previous generations were when they prayed

This will increase one’s khushoo’ and motivate one to follow their example.

“If you were to see one of the pious people from the early generations when he stood up to pray and started reciting the words of his Master, it would cross his mind that he was standing before the Lord of the Worlds, so he would be filled with overwhelming awe.” (Al-Khushoo’ fi’l-Salaah by Ibn Rajab, p. 22).

Mujaahid (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “When one of them stood in prayer, he would be too fearful of his Lord to allow his eyes to be drawn to anything, or to turn aside or to fidget by playing with pebbles or anything else or to think of any worldly matter, unless he forgot, during prayer.” (Ta’zeem Qadr al-Salaah, 1/188)

Muslimah ibn Bashshaar was praying in the mosque when part of it collapsed, and the people got up [and fled], but he was praying and did not even notice. We have heard that one of them was like a garment thrown on the floor; one of them would end his prayer with the color of his complexion changed because he had been standing before Allaah.

One of them would not know who was standing to his right or left when he prayed. One of them would go pale when he did wudoo’ for prayer, and it was said to him, “We see that when you do wudoo’ a change comes over you.” He said, “I know before Whom I am going to stand.”

When the time for prayer came, ‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib would be visibly shaken, and the colour of his face would change. It was said to him, “What is the matter with you?’ He said, “By Allaah, there has come the time of the amaanah (trust) which Allaah offered to the heavens and the earth, and the mountains, but they declined to bear it and were afraid of it, but I bore it [cf. Al-Ahzaab 33:72].”

When Sa’eed al-Tanookhi prayed, there would be tears rolling down his cheeks onto his beard. We heard that one of the Taabi’een, when he stood up to pray, his colour would change, and he would say, “Do you know before Whom I am going to stand and with Whom I am going to talk?” Who among you has fear and respect like this? (Silaah al-Yaqazaan li Tard al-Shaytaan, ‘Abd al-‘Azeez Sultaan, p. 209)

Haatim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “I carry out what I am commanded; I walk with fear of Allaah in my heart; I start with the [correct] intention; I magnify and glorify Allaah; I recite at a slow and measured pace, thinking about the meaning; I bow with khushoo’; I prostrate with humility; I sit and recite the complete tashahhud; I say salaam with the [correct] intention; I finish with sincerity towards Allaah; and I come back fearing lest [my prayer] has not been accepted from me, so I continue to strive until I die.” (Al-Khushoo’ fi’l-Salaah, 27-28).

Muhammad ibn Ya’qoob al-Akhram said: “I have never seen any prayer better than that of Muhammad ibn Nasr. Flies used to land on his ears, and he did not shoo them away. We used to marvel at how good his prayer and khushoo’ were. His fear [of Allaah] in prayer was so great that he would put his chin on his chest as if he were a piece of wood standing up.” (Ta’zeem Qadr al-Salaah, 1/58).

Compare this with what some of us do nowadays, looking at our watches, adjusting our clothes, fiddling with our noses, thinking of deals and counting our money whilst praying, or tracing the patterns of decorations on carpets and ceilings, or trying to see who is beside us. Think of how anyone would behave before some great leader of this world – would he dare to behave in such a manner then?!

Khushoo’ is a serious, major issue, which is impossible to achieve without the help of Allaah. Being deprived of khushoo’ is nothing short of a calamity. Hence the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to say in his du’aa’: “Allaahumma innee a’oodhu bika min qalbin laa yakhsha’… (O Allaah, I seek refuge with You from a heart that has no khushoo’…).” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, 5/485, no. 3482; Saheeh Sunan al-Tirmidhi, 2769).

Source: excerpted from “33 Ways of developing Khushoo’ in Salaah” by Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid