Humility and Attentiveness in Prayer
The nearest a servant can be to his Lord is when he prostrates himself in prayer. .
Humility and attentiveness (khushoo‛) constitute the essence of the prayer and involve deep concentration and total humility before Almighty Allah, trying one’s best to concentrate and understand the Qur’anic verses and supplications recited in the prayer.
Being one of the most meritorious acts of worship, Allah ﷻ considers it to be one of the characteristics of the believers: “Successful indeed are the believers; they are those who humble themselves in their prayer.” (Al-Mu’minoon, 23:1-2)
Those who observe khushoo‛ in their prayer taste the sweetness of worship and faith, hence the Prophet’s saying, “The prayer is the source of my greatest joy.” (Sunan An-Nasaa’ee: 3940)
Means of Observing Khushoo‛ in Prayer
There are a number of means which help develop this state of humility and attentiveness in prayer including the following:
- Making the Necessary Preparations for the Prayer
This can be done by going early to the mosque (for men), observing the recommended acts that precede it, wearing appropriate and fine clothes and walking to the mosque humbly and in a dignified manner.
- Keeping Distractions away
One must not engage in prayer while there are some distractions that are bound to affect his concentration, such as pictures, loud noises, the need to answer the call of nature and hunger and thirst after food has been served. By keeping such distractions away, one develops a serene mind that paves the way for better concentration in this great act of worship one is about to offer.
Tuma’neenah has no equivalent in English, and it generally means avoiding haste and not moving from one posture to another until it has lasted at leastthe time that it took for the bones to settle.The prophet ﷺ never offered his prayer hurriedly. He would perform all the prayer postures and movements perfectly and would not move from one posture to another until it lasted at least the time that it took for the bones to settle. He would also order those of his companions who rushed their prayers to take their time in all the prayer postures and movements and to complete them properly. He did not like them to rush it and compared the act of hurriedly offering the prayer to that of the pecking of crows.
He once said to his companions, “The worst kind of thief is one who steals from his prayer.” They asked him, “How can someone steal from this prayer?” He replied, “By not completing its bowing and prostrate postures properly.” (Musnad Ahmad: 22642)
Those who rush their prayer cannot possibly offer it withdeep concentration and total humility before Almighty Allah, for haste undoubtedly affects attentiveness and humility in prayer, reducing one’s rewards.
- Contemplating Allah’s Greatness
We must contemplate the greatness of the Creator, recognising His perfection and acknowledging one’s own weaknessesand defects. Those who contemplate the greatness of Allah cannot help but notice that they are rather worthless by comparison. This increases their reverence of Allah and makes them invoke Allah and humbly and earnestly ask Him for anything. We must also remember the eternal bliss Allah ﷻ has prepared for the obedient believers and the severe punishment He has prepared for the unbelievers. We also must think about the day when we will stand before Allah for the final judgement. Allah ﷻ mentions in the Qur’an that those who do so are indeed those who are certain they will meet Him: “Seek Allah’s help with patient perseverance and prayer; and truly it is a very hard thing except for the humble, those who know that they will have to meet their Lord, and that to Him they are returning.” (Soorat Al-Baqarah, 2:45-6) The more conscious awareness we have that Allah can hear us, give us and respond to our prayers, the more humbleness we develop and the more we will contemplate Allah’s greatness.
- Meditating on the Qur’anic Verses and Other Prayer Utterances and Responding to Them
The Qur’an was revealed to be reflected on, as the Qur’an states, “It is a Book We have sent down to you, full of blessing, so let people of intelligence ponder its signs and take heed.” (Soorat Saad, 38:29) This cannot be possibly achieved without understanding the meaning of the invocations, supplications and Qur’anic verses recited in prayer. Meditation on the meaning of what one recites as well as on one’s own condition is bound to increase one’s concentration and humility in prayer and even move one to tears and ecstasy. Such emotional effect becomes evident with every verse to which they listen, as the Qur’an states, “Those who, when they are reminded of the verses of their Lord, they do not turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to them.” (Soorat Al-Furqaan,25:73)