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Today: consumption kills eco-systems; fraud, greed, grand larceny and theft bring down world's finances; deceit, infidelity and instant gratification destroy families; murders and wars have left us without peace or stability. On top we have droughts, earthquakes, floods, storms, tsunamis … has the world gone mad! Submit now to Allah before it is too late - to the One and Only God, the Creator, Lord and Sustainer of the universe, Unique in His Person and Actions, without any blemish, weakness or relatives. Follow the Sunnah of Muhammad (the last Messenger and Prophet - upon whom be the peace and blessings of Allah), and join those who will be the really successful ones.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Achieving Success Through Salah

Achieving Success Through Salah;action=display;num=1098125113;start=0#0

By: Imam Magid Bin Hammad Hagmagid with Sam Ross from Islamic Horizons

“Allah promises to take ten steps toward us if we take just one step to Him, so let us try to improve the quality of just one aspect of our worship in every prayer.

In our previous article we introduced the famous Qur’anic verse: “Verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.” (2:152) In this article, we hope to realize its fruits by exploring a potential wellspring of remembrance in our lives: salaat. Allah (subhanahu wa Ta’ala) commands in the Qur’an: “Establish prayer for My remembrance.” (20:14) Yet, unfortunately for many of us, our salaat is not as refreshing as we would like.

What can we do to improve the quality of our worship? A good place to being is with a short self-diagnostic. Take a moment to answer the questions below, reflecting on your own relationship with salat.

To what extent do you value your salaat? Is it one of the most important activities in your day? Is it one activity among many? Or, is it a burden, that you perform as time permits?

In Surah Al-Ankabut, Allah declares: “Prayer restrains from shameful and evil deeds.” To what extent does your prayer protect you from disobedience?

If you found your answers less than ideal to any of the questions above know that it is always possible to improve and that we have encouragement from Allah to this end. Allah states: “Those… who are steadfast in prayer…they are on true guidance from their Lord and it is they who will prosper.” (2:3-5)

In the remainder of this article we hope to explore some mental and physical aspects of prayer and discuss some ways we many improve them.

One reason many of us may fail to enjoy our prayer is that we are not sufficiently conscious of what it actually means. That is, we fail to internalize the reality of whom we stand before when we pray -- Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate, the Creator, the Provider, and the Judge.

Consider the following scenario. Suppose a letter arrived in the mail addressed to you from a great dignitary. He or she could be a statesman, an author, a star athlete, etc. Upon opening it you discover that he or she has personally invited you to be a guest of honor at his or her banquet. What would you do by way of preparation? Most of us would fuss about, donning our best wardrobe, anointing ourselves with oils and scents, all the while monitoring the hour, lest we be late. Yet when given the opportunity to stand before the greatest Dignitary of them all, Allah, many of us fail to exert a comparable effort, let alone one becoming unto Him! To fully appreciate prayer, we must endeavor to prepare ourselves for prayer by first recalling and responding to His attributes; humbling ourselves before His exalted stature; elating ourselves with His love and beneficence; and criticizing ourselves before His impending judgment. If we do this, we can enable our prayer from mere physical action to an interaction between the Divine and mankind.

In wudu, we should similarly try to become mindful of Allah. It is said that the face of Ali (Radhiallahu anhu) would change color when he performed wudu. When asked why, he explained that it was because he had become aware of before whom he stood. Does our disposition change when we perform wudu? One way we can seek to perform dhikr in wudu is to remember that our blessed Messenger (salla Allah alayhi wa sallam) said that when a person performs wudu he or she is purified of a sin. When we rinse our hands, let us watch as the sins we committed rinse off our hands and disappear down the drain. When we wash our mouths, let us feel the foul words we may have uttered flushed away; our eyes, the haram things we may have seen; our ears, the haram things we may seen; our ears, the haram things we heard; our heads, the thing we thought; our feet, the places we traveled - all the while making repentance to Allah. In this manner, we can complete our wudu feeling not only refreshed but also freed from the burdens of our disobedience.

Within prayer there are, also, several things we can do both physically and mentally to increase our success. Prior to praying, we must select a location free from distractions such as television, radio, telephone or computer.

Next, as we utter the takbir, let us absorb its words into our very marrow so that we may not only utter them verbally but also feel them physically. Some scholars have stated that it can even be an act of hypocrisy to say “Allahu Akbar” without conviction, for if Allah were truly the greatest we could not be distracted with other matters! Then, while standing, let us remember the future day upon which we shall again stand before Allah -- the Day of Judgment -- and harness this awareness in order to keep us focused. During the recitation of Surah Al-Fatiha, we should reflect upon its verses. Prophet Muhammad stated the we only receive reward for the portion of our prayers for which we are conscious. In prostration let us savor the moment of maximum humility during which we connect with all of creation, for “to Allah (also) prostrates whatever is in heavens and earth.” (13:15)

For those of us out of the practice of praying, we should reflect upon our intentions towards prayer. “Why don’t I pray?” “Did not Allah bring me life?” “Did He not create me, provide for me, and will He not judge me?” Allah warns in Surah Al-Qalam, that on the Day of Judgment those who did not pray in this life will try in vain to do so; “They shall be called upon to make prostration, but they shall not be able, their eyes will be cast down, ignominy will cover them; seeing that they had been summoned before to bow in adoration, while they were whole, (and had refused).” (68:42-43)

Islam is a way of life. Our frailties must not discourage us. Allah promises to take ten steps toward us if we take just one step to Him. Let us try to improve the quality of just one aspect of our worship in every prayer. In the box below you will find a checklist of aspects to work upon. If shaytan prevents us from improving in the first rakat, then try again in the second. If he succeeds in the second, then try again in the third. When we have mastered it, move on to another aspect. Eventually we can, insha’Allah, be among those praised in the Qur’an: “They prostrate themselves in adoration…they are in the ranks of the righteous.” (3:113)

Below is a checklist to help you improve the quality of your prayer:

Did I concentrate on washing away my sins during wudu?

Did I select a peaceful praying environment, free from distraction s (i.e. TV/radio/telephone/computer)?

Did I strive to become conscious of Allah’s majesty and beneficence prior to praying?

Did I feel the power of the words Allahu Akbar?

Did the quality of my prayer improve with each rakat?

Do I remember which verses I recited?

Do I feel better about myself after salaat than before?

What can I improve upon for next time?