When I stand up for a prayer I usually get a lot of thoughts and I heard this wasn’t allowed. How do I fix this?
Assalamu Alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh
Thank you for your question.
The perfection of prayer comes from following the Sunnah of the Beloved Prophet, God bless him and give him peace. Outwardly, this means following the Prophetic teachings [with regards to actions]. Inwardly, this means embodying the Prophetic state: having presence with, and remembrance of, Allah Most High.
This has 3 aspects:
1) During prayer.
This is achieved by focusing on what we are saying and what we are doing.
One should know the meaning of what is said, and one should bring to mind why they are praying to begin with.
2) When you begin.
Focus. Gather your thoughts before you step into prayer. Pay attention to your intention. The significant action is not that you are praying, it is that you are praying to ALLAH.
3) Outside of prayer.
Have presence of heart with Allah outside of prayer, and you will have presence within it. Strive to keep your tongue moist with the remembrance of Allah in all that you do.
It is a given fact that our worship is not perfect. This is among the wisdoms of the prophetic practice of saying Astaghfirullah (‘I seek the forgiveness of Allah’) three times right after completing the prayer: one realizes one’s shortcomings in fulfilling the rights of Allah.
At the same time, Allah has informed us that, “Allah does not burden a soul with more than it can bear.” [2:286]
Among the things scholars mention about presence of heart in prayer are:
The way of attaining presence of heart during prayer is to realize that having presence of heart with Allah is something sought during every moment in one’s life, and that the means to it is doing as much dhikr as one can. This is not to churn up the reward alone, but in order to be thankful of Allah, to express one’s love of Allah, to attain unto closeness with Allah, and in order to strive to fulfill the duties of slavehood to Allah Most High. Keep a small prayer bead with you and keep making dhikr, such as “La Ilaha Illa Allah” or “Allahumma Salli `ala Sayyidina Muhammadin wa Aalihi wa Sallim…”
This, coupled with avoiding the haram, outwardly and inwardly, are keys to presence of heart with Allah.
Also, don’t just “jump” into prayer. Rather, take out a moment to focus your heart on Allah before starting, and then start. Before starting, make a quick heart-felt dua that Allah grant you love, thankfulness, sincerity…
Allah has promised us in the Qur’an:
“As for those who strive in Us, We surely guide them to Our paths, and lo! Allah is with the good. [29:69]
Muhtar Holland’s translation of Imam Ghazali’s Inner Dimensions of Islamic Worship is excellent.
Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Executive Director, SeekersGuidance & SeekersHub Toronto
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