Every time you finish praying, have you ever wondered, “What score did I get?”
If that seems like an odd question, did you know that the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, once said, “A person may offer a prayer and nothing of it is recorded for them except one-tenth of it, one-ninth of it, one-eighth of it, one-seventh of it, one-sixth of it, one-fifth of it, one-quarter of it, one-third of it, or half of it.”
From this, we learn one simple thing: quality matters!
Making it to pray on time is step one. But step two is being fully present, mindful, attentive and engaged. It’s not just about counting the prayers, but also making the prayers count.
Nowadays, everyone seems to have much shorter attention spans, and concentrating during prayer can be a real challenge.
But don’t give up! As we approach the blessed month of Ramadan, here are five tips to help you improve both the regularity and quality of Salah, the most important action of your life:
1. Change your perspective
Here’s how NOT to think about your prayer: a ritual, a burden, a chore, a tick-box exercise, a habit, just an obligation and nothing more.
Instead, think of it as a personal, interactive meeting with Allah. Five times a day, it’s time to catch up with your best friend, your protector, your source of peace and tranquillity.
The Lord of the universe has invited YOU to meet up with Him. Lucky you!
When you look at Salah in this way, and you think about the countless blessings you enjoy, it just feels totally wrong ever to miss the opportunity. And it makes for a much more positive and meaningful interaction in the prayer itself.
2. Wudhu is the key
Remember what it was like gathering with friends or attending celebrations with family members before the pandemic?
Wasn’t it the case that before any outing or special occasion, you would take the time to get yourself ready, dressed up, looking on top form?
Well, that’s exactly what Wudhu is in relation to Salah!
The act of Wudhu washes our sins away and purifies our inner selves. Our friends and family might only see our outer appearances, but Allah sees right through us!
So try not to see Wudhu as a hassle or a technicality, but see it as a way of making your inner self presentable before your Lord. After all, Salah is the key to Paradise, but Wudhu is the key to Salah.
And remember, don’t waste water!
3. Introduce a Golden Minute
How much time passes between the time that you stand ready to begin the prayer and the time that you raise your hands and actually begin?
For most people, it’s a matter of a few seconds, even split-seconds! Sadly, rushing into the prayer like this can badly affect the quality of the entire experience.
Instead, try to introduce what I call the Golden Minute.
Once you arrive at the place you’re going to pray, stand with your hands by your side then breathe, relax and reflect for a minute before you begin. You’ll actually feel your body loosening up while you get yourself into the zone.
Then enter into a short reflection. You can remind yourself of the importance of the upcoming meeting with Allah, imagine that it might be the last time you have the chance to pray, visualise the Ka’bah or scenes from the hereafter, feel deeply grateful for your blessings, and know that only Allah can remove your difficulties and your stress.
There’s no one thing you have to think about, as long as you’re creating a buffer between whatever was occupying you before your Salah and the Salah itself. Then, when you’re ready, raise your hands slowly and declare Allah’s greatness: Allahu-Akbar!
Adopt this practice just before you begin and it really can make all the difference throughout the prayer.
4. Say what you mean, mean what you say
One of the biggest reasons why so many of us struggle to focus during our prayers is because we don’t know the meanings of the words we say.
But think about it, isn’t that really strange?
There’s no other time when any of us would say things we don’t understand and think that it was meaningful. Well with Salah, it’s no different!
Allah wants us to express ourselves to Him from our hearts and we can only do this when we spend some time to learn the meanings of the Arabic words we say.
This way, when we praise Allah in Salah, we’re really praising Him.
When we ask Him for guidance, we’re really asking Him.
When we’re declaring His perfection, we really mean it.
Yes it involves a bit of work but there aren’t actually too many words to learn. And this Ramadan is a perfect time to fill any gaps. Again, it’s another helpful way to increase the focus and tranquility that you experience in your prayers.
5. Watch your pace
Did you know that rushing your movements in prayer can mean that it’s not accepted by Allah at all?
That might sound harsh, but think about it. If this is a meeting with Allah Himself, an opportunity to remember, praise and thank Him, then rushing is actually a little rude!
Rushing indicates that you’d rather be somewhere else or that you’ve forgotten who you’re in front of in the first place. Neither is ideal to say the least.
The good news is that the first four tips should really help you move more slowly throughout the prayer.
But watch out especially for the standing position after the bowing (ruku’) and the sitting position in between the two prostrations (sujud). It’s especially important to be still and calm in these positions before moving to the next stage.
This doesn’t mean that your prayer has to be much longer. It might only be a minute or two longer in fact, but this can be the difference between a poor prayer and a great one.
That’s it! These are the five top tips to help you with your Salah.
Of course, there’s so much more to explore about this amazing topic. And it’s a lifelong effort to keep up our prayers and make them into something beautiful.
But always remember, nothing deserves more of your attention than getting this right. It really is the most important action of your life and can be your source of confidence, peace, tranquillity and happiness in this life and the next.
Take your Salat to the next level this Ramadan with transformmyprayer