“Allaahu Akbar”. You’ve begun Dhuhur prayer, right hand over left, and eyes fixed on the ground. Just as you’re about to begin reciting suratul Fatiha you realize you left your lipstick on the floor, and now lipstick is on the wall.
You’re praying Maghrib, and as you’re getting ready to recite the next surah you accidentally yell, “Get down from that table”, forgetting for a moment that you are in prayer.
It’s fajr, and you’re tired as it is, you prolong your prostration making du’a for nothing else except that the crying baby would just go back to sleep.
Either kids have some type of radar that alerts them to be mischievous as soon as mom enters salah, or shaitan provokes them in order to steal from our prayers. I like to blame the latter, after all he is the real mischievous enemy. If it’s not the kids he’s provoking, then he sure likes to remind us of the 120 things we have to do once we finish praying. The fact of the matter is moms are always busy and kids are always active, and Salah with khushoo’ (humility and devotion) is obligatory. Salah is a special time for you to step out of all the hecticness and meet with Allaah, your Creator, Sustainer, Helper!
Here are some things you can do to help you attain and maintain khushoo’ in your prayer.
When we are so busy we tend to delay the prayer, and then quickly squeeze it in before the next prayer approaches. When end up treating salah as a chore with the focus of ‘just getting it done. Try praying right when the time for that particular salah begins. Use an athan clock or software to remind you 10 mins before that the salah is approaching. Build the anticipation by getting ready and sitting at the place of prayer until the athan finishes. Take some time to make dua since the dua made between the athan and iqama is never rejected.
2. Dress to impress
Salah is an appointed meeting with Allaah, the King of the Universe. During Salah you are standing in front of Allaah and conversing with Him. Come correct! Fix your posture, your attitude, and dress properly. Don’t come to salah with soup and puke stains. Invest in a nice and comfortable prayer dress that’s easy to slip on. These prayer dresses are great because they cover you very well. The last thing you want to be worrying about during your prayer is a headcover that won’t stay in place, or a garment that reveals your arms or doesn’t cover you properly.
3. Switch off your mommy mind
If you want salah to be your escape and the coolness of your eyes you’ll have to learn to switch from mommy mode at the first takbeer (saying Allahu Akbar). Unless there’s a fire or someone’s choking, then nothing else is worthy of occupying your mind. Spilt juice can be cleaned later. And any punishments can be crafted after salah!
4. Prayer proof your surroundings
We pray 5 times a day, so you can’t really wait for a time when the kids are quiet or sleeping. If possible, pray in a secluded room. If the kids are too small to be left unattended try putting them in a playpen or strapping them to a highchair while giving them things to explore and play with. Close all other doors of rooms you don’t want the child going in or set up a child barrier. Keep all dangerous and “fun”objects like make up, creams, markers, baby wipes etc. out of reach.
5. Plan the surah you intend to read
Know the surah you plan to read so that you can review and read its meaning before hand. This way you won’t be stuck thinking of what to read before you eventually succumb to the same surah you read in the last 4 prayers.
6. Know what you are saying
When you’re in salah you want to interact with and ponder over the verses. Also learn the meanings and explanations of the different supplications read in prayer. Pay attention to the magnitude of the statements you utter. They’re not mere Arabic words, but rather selected divine invocations of faith, praise, and glorification chosen by Allaah and taught by His Messenger .
7. Spice up your salah by varying what you recite
If you’re still reciting the same two surahs you learned when you were young, it’s time you start memorizing some more Quran. Recite different surahs for each salah. That way you have something different to contemplate over each time and you avoid boredom. Also for every position in salah there are various supplications one can read for the same position. Try to learn at least two for each position.
8. Watch out for Shaitan
Shaytan is very active when you start your prayer. His goal is to distract and confuse you by whispering thoughts to you. Haven’t you noticed that you always seem to remember where lost items are when you’re in prayer? He makes you remember things about your life, but will make you forget which raka’a you are on. But the good news is, “Ever feeble indeed is the plot of Shaitan” [An-nisaa:76]. He can’t keep up with you if you stand strong and remember to say ‘Authobillahi min ash-shaitan ar-rajeem (I seek refuge with Allaah from the accursed Satan) at the beginning of the prayer and anytime you suspect his whisperings.
9. Eat then pray
The Messenger of Allaah said, “Do not pray when the meal is ready“. In another hadith the prophet explained that one shouldn’t leave their food to go pray, and they should not rush to finish it even if the iqama is being called. That’s because, if you leave the food, knowing that it’s there waiting for you, you’ll have a hard time maintaining khushoo’, as you’ll be thinking about the meal. Likewise, if you know the kids are hungry then feed them first. You don’t want to rush through the prayer or be distracted by their whines.
10. Use the loo then pray
You’re about to pray and you need to use the bathroom, but you don’t want to because, although it’s a 3min task, you have to worry about doing it in peace and without child #1 spilling the potpourii, child #2 climbing you on the loo, and child #3 throwing books in the sink as you make wudu, and if there’s a child #4 you’re hoping he’s not in the living room practicing his painting skills on your new sofa set. So you think it’s easier to just pray now, and worry about using the bathroom after. For khushoo’ purposes, it’s better you answer the call of nature first. And in some cases it is obligatory as “the Prophet forbade praying when one is suppressing the urge to urinate or defecate “.
11. Don’t talk to your kids with your face!
Talking during salah is not allowed, and this also includes excessive facial expressions. You know the “go do what I told you” gesture, or the “don’t do that” head shake, or the “just wait and see what happens when I finish” look. This is all taking away from your khushoo’. Keep your eyes focussed on your place of prostration, or somewhere that will help you concentrate. The only things facial should be expressions of amazement or tear drops from what you’re reciting!
12. Take your time
Your purpose of living is to worship Allaah, so if you can’t take time worshiping, then you’re living for the wrong reason. 5 times a day, you get to meet with Allaah, the one you claim to love most and the only One who can truly fix your problems. Why rush the meeting? Take your time. Recite and ponder over the verses while stopping after each verse. Spend time in each position. Fix your posture and transition humbly at a measured pace. The Prophet said, “The worst kind of thief is one who steals from his prayer.” The companions said, “O Prophet of Allah how can someone steal from their prayers?” He (saw) said, “He does not fulfill the ruku of the prayer nor its sujood.” [Ahmad]
13. Take the right short-cuts
There are short-cuts you can take without compromising humility and devotion in prayer. For example, you can skip the opening dua since it’s a sunnah, or you can say a short one. You can recite a short surah while contemplating over it, instead of reciting a long surah quickly without thought. For ruku and sujood you can say the dua once instead of three times, since anything more than once is a sunnah. These short-cuts give you room to pray calmly and properly but still finish quickly. Although the reward potential may be less, the obligation of khushoo’ is fulfilled.Sahih Muslim
Sunan Ibn Maajah, hadith no.617; Saheeh al-Jaami’ no.6832