The Prophet (peace be upon him) once said:
“The worst thief is one who steals during the Prayer.”
The companions therefore asked “O the Messenger of Allah !! How does he steal in Prayer?”
He answered “He does not prostrate or bow correctly.” (Ahmad & Tabarani)
Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi says about this hadith:
“The reason that such a person is the worst type of thief is because stealing usually involves taking something from another however, this person IS STEALING FROM HIMSELF [from his reward] and from something he has no right to take: the life of his/her prayer. Namely, it’s concentration, reverence, and tranquility. And without these things prayer loses its meaning and relevance.
Allah says, “[It is] Guaranteed [that], the believers were successful. Those who in their prayers are khashi’oon (observe reverence).” (Al-Mu’minun, 23, 1-2)
“Satan desires only to excite enmity and hatred between you with intoxicants and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah, and from Salah (prayers). So will you then not abstain (from these evils)?” (Al-Ma’idah, 6:91)
Prayer is the first pillar mentioned right after the testimony of belief. It defines us. Its quality shapes us. We know the first item that will be opened and examined on the Day of Judgment will be our book of prayers. Allah (SWT) mentioned in the Quran, “And perform Salah. Verily, Salah prevents from lewdness and evils.” (Al-Ankabut, 29:45) If we can keep our prayers good, everything else will be good.
This is exactly why Satan tries to attack our prayers, and why we have to rid the habit of not concentrating from our selves, especially before the month of Ramadan comes in, when we normally increase in the amount of prayers we do.
1. The first thing to keep in mind is: Salah is very enjoyable. It is Satan who makes us feel like it’s a burden, and those who accept his definitions become heedless and lazy:
“So woe to those who pray. But who are heedless of their payer.” (Al-Ma'oun, 107: 4-5)
“Verily, the hypocrites seek to deceive Allah, but it is He who deceives them; When they stand up for Salah, they stand with laziness, only to be seen by men; and they do not remember Allah but a little.” (Al-Nisaa’ 4:142)
If we feel that Salah is a burden that we drag ourselves to, then we must remove that waswasa (whisper) from our hearts. How can speaking to Allah be burdensome? Conversing with Him in Al-Fatiha while he responds to us? How can taking a break from all the worries of this life to connect to the One who is the Master of this life and the Hereafter, be seen as a burden?
Prayer is the greatest act of remembrance and Allah (SWT) says,
“Verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.” (Al-Ra’d, 13:28)
So have we allowed a lying enemy to make us thieves of our own prayers? Thieves of our own enjoyment, rest, and sweetness we would find in the remembrance of Allah? Thieves of our reward with Him, and our closeness to Him?
How could we be duped into transgressing against our own selves in such a way?
It’s time to take it back. It’s time to purify ourselves from lies placed into the heart, and put the truth there instead. There is enjoyment and sweetness to be sought in every prayer.
2. Out of everything I have come across regarding increasing one’s khushu’ or concentration and reverence in prayer, the advice I found most consistently beneficial in my own life was something Imam Nawawi mentioned in his commentary of his own 40 Hadith, specifically on the first one. This is the second action item:
“Al-Marzubani said — may God the Exalted have mercy on him: “The worshipper needs four qualities for his prayer to be carried up:
a) presence of heart (hudur al-qalb);
b) full witnessing of the mind (shuhud al-`aql);
c) complete submission to the integrals of the prayer (khudu` al-arkan);
d) humility in the members of his body (khushu` al-jawarih).”
In other words,
1. Allow your heart to be present by feeling that Allah is watching you and you are worshiping Him. Feel His presence, and you will feel your heart’s presence.
2. Know what you are saying in Prayer, know the meaning of the words and feel them as you say them.
3. Give every position of prayer its right. Don’t rush, don’t be fidgety but rather be still and feel submission before Him in every position and rukn of the prayer. Spend some time in sujud (prostration) as it’s the point where the human being is closest to their Creator. Don’t forget to make dua in this beloved position.
4. Let humility be expressed in every muscle of your body, every limb in His presence as you worship Him.
If we can go to our prayers looking forward to enjoying them, and try to achieve these four elements, our prayers will have a refreshed flavor and sweetness insha Allah.
May Allah protect us from robbing ourselves of one the best enjoyments this life can offer, our prayers. Ameen.