Following are a
number of tips that will be useful for those who are interested in improving
their daily prayers. It should be emphasized that these are all based on
practical experiences and are not derived from the Qur’ān, Sunnah or Hadīth,
although many of them are supported by these sources Nevertheless, to the best
of my understanding none of the following is opposed to or in conflict with the
Qur’ān or Sunnah.
1. There is a
vast difference between a prayer which is offered on time and one that is
delayed. No matter how effective the postponed prayer is, we can be assured that
it could be many times more effective if we offered it on time. Part of
improving and purifying our soul is to allow the prayer to interrupt our daily
affairs rather than allow our daily affairs to interrupt our prayer times.
2. We should
let our life (e.g. daily affairs) be oriented around our prayer. Instead of
thinking that life is spending 24 hours a day during which we offer 5 prayers,
we should consider that life is 5 prayers a day in the middle of which we are
3. We should
not mind our daily work to be interrupted by prayers; rather we should be keen
on interrupting it with prayers (of course when this can be done with no
undesired consequences for yourself or others). What is one of the most
enjoyable things that we do not like to be interrupted from? Watching a movie?
Being with friends? Playing games? Studying Islam? Debating with others? We
should improve our spiritual position and make our selves less relying on
worldly affairs by willingly interrupting these affairs with an on-time prayer.
We need to recite the prayer with its normal speed and with full concentration
on these occasions. On the other hand, when there is really an important task
that is needed to be done promptly, if possible, we should still offer the
prayer on time but make it as short as possible. We will gradually get used to
offering prayers even if they fall in the middle of our tasks without losing our
concentration when we come back to them. We will find that this can also bring
some blessings in the task we are engaged in.
prayers (nafal) have many effects on one’s soul. Two of these effects are:
a. They can be
seen as a practice and a rehearsal for the obligatory prayer much like the
practice we do for our exam or for a sports match.
compensate for obligatory prayers which are not offered in a proper manner.
It has been
practically proved that offering a routine amount of optional prayers every day
eventually has a significant effect in improving our daily obligatory prayers.
(The emphasis is on “routine amount” not “extensive amount”)
5. Although it
is not obligatory, but in order to improve our prayer, it is always better to
refresh our ablution even if it is still valid from our last prayer.
6. Ablution is
primarily for physical cleansing. I think it is also a symbol of our spiritual
cleansing. Try to feel this. For example when washing our face we may also
intend to purify our face (including eyes, mouth) from any sinful and useless
act. The same can be said for the hands and feet. When wiping our head we may
also intend to purify our self from any sinful or useless thoughts.
7. When we make
your ablution, it is like brushing our teeth. We won’t eat chocolate immediately
after brushing teeth. So we should not engage our selves in worldly affairs
(good or bad) after making ablution. We should go directly to offer our prayer.
8. There are a
number of milestones in our prayer that can take us from a spiritual state to an
improved spiritual state. It is helpful to be aware of the ascending
transmission of our spiritual condition throughout these points in our prayer:
prayer with takbīr
This is a stage
in which we are saying a temporary good bye to the outside world and is the
point from which direct communication with our Creator will begin. It is like
shutting down the door to any disruptions and disturbance in the way of our
communication with our lord. It is interesting that the movement of hands at
this stage (from ears down) is very much inline with this intention.
Arriving at the
words: iyyāka na‘budu wa iyyaka nasta‘īn
Fātihah, we start our prayer by addressing God in the third person. The first
place we address God as the second person is when we say the above words. We
should consider this as the point where we reach the climax of what we want to
achieve by reciting Sūrah Fātihah in our prayers. We need to make this phrase
the warning and awakening signal in the prayer so that when you we them we feel
compelled to focus more. If we feel like it, we can repeat the phrase till we
are satisfied (there is no problem in doing so from the point of view of
Kneeling is a
sign of doing away with our selfishness after appreciating the presence of a
superior and glorious Being. Idealistically going to the kneeling position
should be regarded as a natural reaction to a stronger feeling of humility in
front of our Creator. In other words, one should reach a stage in which one
finds no other choice but to kneel in front of the superior and glorious Being
in front of him. Of course, not everyone can reach this level of prayer.
However, even being aware of this will help to work towards that level.
a higher degree of humility before Allah. Here, even kneeling is not enough to
show the humble feelings of a Muslim. Falling on the ground in the state of
prostration is the only way to express this level of humility. All that was said
above about kneeling applies here but on a much greater scale.
We should not
take the last part of our prayer lightly. Tashahhud is in fact the concluding
part of the prayer. After a divinely guided spiritual journey, we are now
renewing our allegiance to Allah and His messenger. This (if done correctly) can
have a tremendous effect on reinforcing our faith. Once we do this and finish
our prayer, potentially we can start our life afresh as a better person.
9. Prayer is
talking to Allah. We normally dress decently when speaking to another person.
So we must do our best when we want to talk with Allah. Our attire should be
decent and clean. Our hair should be combed. It is preferable that we brush our
teeth and moderately perfume ourselves. All this will help us believe and
appreciate that we are going to enter into a dialogue rather than talking alone
to our own selves.
10. The entire
earth has been made a worshipping ground for Muslims. When the prayer time comes
and we are not at a convenient or private place, it may be wise to wait till we
get to a comfortable place to pray. However, to work on our faith and strengthen
it, it is also good to carry on with our prayers in the first possible place
(being in a park, a corner of a street or a shop, a peaceful area at the work
place - if there are no prayer rooms). Of course this is with the condition that
(if applicable) the owner of the place does not mind our praying at his/her
place and also that our prayer in public does not cause any inconvenience or
annoyance to the people present. In any case, if we wait to reach a more
appropriate place, this should only be for the sake of having a better prayer
and not because of being shy or lazy.
11. Like an
airplane that needs to speed down the runway before taking off, our spirits too
need preparation for reaching their maximum capacity in getting closer to Allah.
Saying iqāmah with concentration and doing istigfār before the prayer can be
considered as part of this preparation.
12. While in
the standing position of the prayer, we should not take away our eyes from the
place of prostration. In the sitting position, we must not take away our eyes
from our knees or the pointed finger (of course unless we are saying salām).
This will help us focus and help bring more respect and humility within the
13. We should
always try to avoid making excessive movements during the prayer. If we need to
move our hands (for instance to scratch the face), we should do so with humility
and respect in order not to disturb the very formal atmosphere that is
established. This might further help us find ourselves in the presence of God.
14. One of the
things that prevents us from making the most out of our prayer is that the
prayer become a ritual habit for us. To avoid this, we need to bring some
variation in the prayer every now and then, like reading another version of
tashahhud or reading a new sūrah after Fātihah or shortening or lengthening one
of the rukū‘ and/or prostration.
15. In general
and as a routine, we should make the prayer a little bit longer than what we
would consider a comfortable length of prayer. However, we need to keep in mind
the previous point regarding shorter prayers. It is sometimes very helpful (for
an improved prayer experience) to temporarily change the routine and to offer
the prayer faster (or much faster) than usual.
16. The rather
short pause after rukū‘ before going to prostration and the one between the two
prostrations are very important. These can help us appreciate the different
stages of the prayer that we are going through (refer to point 8). It is
narrated that the Prophet (sws) used to stay for a while in these postures.
17. In the
prayer, we enter into a dialogue with God. Like any dialogue, our focus should
be on the other side of the dialogue (God) and not the means of dialogue (words
uttered). We must not concentrate on the words, we must concentrate on the one
for whom these words are uttered for then the concentration on words will
naturally follow. When we are talking with a person, we automatically say speak
without too much attention to the words we utter. It is the appreciation that
the person is listening to us that makes us use appropriate words and not the
other way round. The same analogy can be found in prayers. The best focus in the
prayer is one where we are focusing on the fact that God is present and is
hearing what we are saying. If, instead of this, we only try to focus on the
words we utter, we will end up finishing the prayer without really feeling that
we actually talked with someone.
from the previous point, we should not worry about a few gaps in our
concentration and should stick to the main focal point. We need to make sure
that we are not focusing on concentration, but that we are focusing on God.
19. Relevant to
the above, and in particular if we do not understand the Arabic, we need to know
the meaning of the words we are saying. However, it should be noted that the
prayer is not the place for practicing the meanings of the words. This should be
done when we are not praying.
20. The prayer
is not an opportunity to read the Qur’ān beautifully. We should avoid giving
even minor attention to this aspect. Humility is the main point in offering the
prayer which is not necessarily the same as reading the Qur’ān beautifully. Of
course, there is nothing wrong with reading beautifully; it is in fact highly
recommended. The point, however, is that it is not the aim of offering the
prayer and it should not be the main point of attention in the prayer.
Interestingly enough, the most beautiful recitations are those that come
naturally when one feels humility during the prayer.
21. Unless we
are in congregational prayer, we need to avoid being in a disruptive place.
22. The Qur’ān
says that the prayer restrains people from shameful (fahshā) and unjust (munkar)
deeds. Two lessons can be learnt from this:
a. If we can
offer the prayers with a clear conscience while being in a state of sin, then
our prayer is not a satisfactory prayer.
b. We must
avoid shameful and unjust deeds to be able to have better prayers.
relationship between hypocrisy and the prayer is like the relation between fire
and water. One of the signs of hypocrisy could be that we feel that our prayers
in the presence of others are better than those offered alone. The real amount
of our progress in prayers is what we can feel when praying alone and not what
we feel when praying in the presence of others.
24. It is
highly recommended that the obligatory prayers should be offered in
congregation. Some of the above points might be irrelevant to a prayer that is
offered in congregation. Nevertheless all the above equally apply to the