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Effective Prayer: Inside-Out Approach

Perfecting our prayersSatan is constantly hard at work. When we offer our Salat, we are so preoccupied with the tasks we need to plan for the remaining part of the day, urgent emails we need to send right after the Salat and our personal problems with friends or family. We then ask for all the worldly things from Allah, believing ourselves to be most deserving of them. Yet during Salat, when did we remember to thank Allah for His bounties or ask Him for forgiveness?

Perfecting our prayers

We always hear and talk about our concentration during Salat (prayer), and how difficult it is to praise Allah and thank Him with complete devotion. In conversations with friends of other faiths, we are asked why it is necessary to pray five times a day, and told that it is the internal prayer of the heart and soul which brings a person closer to God. What our friends are not aware of is the beauty of our prayer, which embodies not only the physical movements but the purification of the soul and heart as well. As Muslims, it is not enough that we learn to recite Salat; we must understand and be able to explain to our friends its purpose and meaning.

Satan is constantly hard at work. When we offer our Salat, we are so preoccupied with the tasks we need to plan for the remaining part of the day, urgent emails we need to send right after the Salat and our personal problems with friends or family. We then ask for all the worldly things from Allah, believing ourselves to be most deserving of them. Yet during Salat, when did we remember to thank Allah for His bounties or ask Him for forgiveness?

To overcome Satan’s lures and be able to properly concentrate, we should understand the meaning of what we recite during Salat. Not only will we remain more focused, but we will find ourselves able to directly connect with the essence of the Almighty and thus elevate our spiritual state. Let us cleanse our soul by learning the beautiful meaning of our daily Salat and how it affects us.

We start our Salat by saying: A’udhu billahi minash-Shaitanir-Rajim (I seek Allah’s protection from Satan, the accursed), because we would not want any disturbances from Satan during our Salat. We are aware that Allah is the Most Powerful and we commonly feel safe with someone who is more powerful than us. Is this not enough of a reason to seek refuge in Allah? Then we say: Bismillah hir Rahman nir Raheem (In the name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful). Indeed, we begin with the feel of His compassion and hope for His mercy.

We then do our Niyyat (intention) by uttering or thinking for example: “I pray two Rakats of Fajr prayer qurbatan ila’Allah”, which means seeking nearness to Allah, in obedience to Him. We are the servants of Allah, and we thus want to submit to Him and perform whatever He orders us to do.

We next announce: Allahu Akbar (God is the Greatest). Whenever we announce our pledge for a community, an organization or a country, we announce our allegiance to it. What then prevents us from reflecting and understanding the importance of announcing the biggest truth, that God is the Greatest?


Thereafter we begin our Salat by reciting Surah Al-Hamd of the Holy Qur’an, as follows:

Alhamdu lillahi Rabbil ‘alamin – Praise be to the Lord Who is the Lord of creation,
Ar-rahmanir Rahim – The Compassionate, The Merciful,
Maliki yaw middin – Master of the Day of Judgment,
Iyyaka na’budu wa iyyaka nasta’in – You alone we worship, and to You alone we pray for help,
Ihdinas siraatal mustaqeem – Guide us to the Straight Path,
Sirataal ladhina an’amta ‘alayhim – The path of those whom You have favored,
Ghayril maghdhoobi ‘alayhim waladh-dhuallin – Not of those who have incurred Your wrath, nor of those who have gone astray.

Following Surah Al-Hamd, we recite Surah Kawthar or another Surah of the Holy Quran. The translation of Surah Kawthar is as follows:

Inna a’taynaka al-kawthar – Verily, We have granted you abundance,
Fasalli li rabbika wa-inhar – Therefore, turn in prayer to your Lord and sacrifice to Him only,
Inna shani-aka huwa al-abtar – Surely, your enemy will be cut off from posterity.

In the second rakat, we typically recite the miraculous Surah about the uniqueness of Allah, Surah Al-Ikhlas:

Qul huwallahu Ahad – Allah is One, the Eternal Being,
Allahus Samad – He is absolute (Allah is He Who is independent of all beings),
Lam yalid walam yulad – He begot none, nor was He begotten,
Walam yakullahu kufuwan ahad – And none in the creation is equal to Him.

Ruku and Sajdah

After reciting the Surahs, the next act is Ruku (bowing down) in which we recite: Subhana Rabbiyal ‘Adhimi wa bi hamdih (Glory be to my Lord, the Great One, and Him I praise). After that, we perform Sajdah by reciting: Subhana Rabbi yal A’la wa bihamdih (Glory be to my Lord, the Most High, and Him I praise). Sajdah is the act during which we are closest to Allah; we should feel such a high sacred numbness that causes us to forget everything else except Allah and His Glory.

Other Important Acts

Before we go down for Sajdah, we recite: Sami’ Allahu liman hamidah (Allah hears the one who praises Him).

Between the two Sajdahs, we recite: Astaghfirullaha Rabbi wa atubu ilayh (I seek forgiveness from Allah, my Lord, and I turn to Him). The significance of this is that we ask for forgiveness for all the sins we have committed and also would never repeat, by turning permanently to the Forgiver of sins and Acceptor of repentance.

While we stand up for the next rak’at, we recite: Bay Hawlillahay wa Qoowateyhee Aqoomo wa Aqud (Due to the vigor given by Allah and because of the vitality from Him, I rise and stand). Do we ever sense this beautiful Dhikr (remembrance of God) when we stand by using our hands to rise against the gravity? We should continuously remember to be humble and modest in front of Allah because He is the Provider for all the strength, intellect and emotions present within us.

Tashahhud and Salam

Finally, we recite tashahhud peacefully by saying: Ash hadu an la ilaha illal lahu wahdahu la sharika lah, wa ash hadu anna Muhammadan ‘Abduhu wa Rasuluh Alla humma salli ‘ala Muhammadin wa Aale Muhammad (I testify that there is none worth worshipping except the Almighty Allah, Who is One and has no partner, and I testify that Muhammad is His servant and messenger. O Allah! Send Your blessings on Muhammad and his progeny).

The Salam is recited as: Assalamu ‘alayka ayyuhan Nabiyyu wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh, Assalamu ‘alayna wa ‘ala ‘ibaadil laahis s’alihin, Assalamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh (O Prophet! Allah’s peace, blessings and grace be upon you. Allah’s peace be on us, and upon all pious servants of Allah. Allah’s peace, blessings and grace be on you.)

Our Imams have also emphasized the importance of concentration during Salat.

Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) narrates, “It is written in the Torah: ‘O son of Man, if you empty yourself (i.e. disengage yourself from all other preoccupations to make yourself available) for My worship, I will fill your heart with richness and I will not abandon you to what you seek and long for. And it will be upon Me to close the door of poverty upon you and to fill your heart with awe for Me. And if you don’t empty yourself for My worship, I will fill your heart with preoccupation with the world and I will not close upon you the door of poverty and will abandon you to what you seek.” (Usul al-Kafi)

Imam Ali (peace be upon him) has said, “None of you should ever stand for Salat in a lazy or drowsy state, nor should you let (random) thoughts pass through your mind (in the state of Salat). For in that state, you stand before your Glorious and Almighty Lord. Verily, the reward a devotee derives from prayer is equal to the extent of it that he offers with an attentive heart.” (Al-Khisal)

It is therefore obligatory upon us to remain humble and remember Allah during each and every act we perform in the Salat. We should indoctrinate the meaning of Salat in our heart such that our concentration can never be hindered by Satan, helping us to achieve higher spiritual levels. Our body is essentially a simple servant of our heart and soul, performing what has been instilled within. By learning the meaning of Salat, this greatest act of worship will certainly change from being a mere routine to the best salvation!

About Jafar Hasan

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  • Sameen

    Thanks , 🙂 we generally don’t make the effort to know the meaning.

  • Ali Reza

    Salaam Alaikhom
    beautiful description, i have tried this work or yours and it works
    it works magic and i feel there is nothing worth and better than praying with sincere heart and humbleness in front of the mighty Lord
    thanks loads