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Khushoo` and Beautification of the Prayer
  Ibn Qudaamah al-Maqdisee and His Comments Regarding the Prayer
Author: Ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisee
Source: Mukhtasir Minhaaj al-Qaasideen (Eng. Trans. by Abu `Iyad as-Salafi)
Article ID : IBD060002  [23251]  
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He - rahimahullaah - said:

And know that the prayer has actions which are pillars, actions which are obligatory and actions which are sunnah. The spirit of prayer is in the niyyah (intention), ikhlaas (sincerity), khushoo’ (awe coupled with humility and submissiveness) and the presence of the heart. The prayer also contains remembrances, private conversations (with Allaah) and physical actions. When the heart is not present the desired goal is not obtained by the remembrances and private conversations with Allaah the Exalted, because speech, when it does not express the innermost feelings or what is in the heart, is (nothing but) absent-mindedness and folly.

Likewise the desired goal (from the prayer) is not obtained from the (mere performance of) actions. The purpose of the standing in prayer is service (to Allaah) and the purpose of the rukoo’ and sujood is magnification of Allaah and humility to Him. If the heart is not present, the desired goal will not be reached. When an action is devoid of the purpose and intent behind it nothing remains except a picture or an impression which has no value to it. Allaah the Exalted said:

It is not the meat or blood (of the sacrifice) which reaches Allaah but it is the taqwaa (which is in your hearts) that reaches Him.

The meaning here is that what reaches Allaah is the quality which has overtaken and is predominant in the heart so that this same feeling is present when the requested acts of worship are performed. It is vital that the heart is present. Allaah has, however, overlooked the unmindfulness which occurs unexpectedly in the prayer because the judgement for maintaining the presence of the heart at the beginning of the prayer is the same for the remaining part of it.

The meanings by which the life of the prayer is perfected are many:

The First: The presence of the heart as we have just mentioned. It’s meaning is that the heart is empty and devoid of what is otherwise mixed with it. The cause of that is ambition and aspiration. When a matter is on your mind and concerns you the heart will by necessity become engaged with it. There is nothing to cure this except to turn all your concerns towards the prayer (alone). A persons concerns in the prayer intensify and weaken in accordance with the strength of ones eemaan in the Hereafter and the extent to which one holds the world in contempt. If you find that your heart is not present during the prayer then know that the reason for it is weak eemaan, so you must strive to strengthen it.

The Second: Understanding the meaning of the words and this is the matter which lies behind the presence of the heart. It may be that the heart is present with the pronunciation of the words but not with the meanings behind them. So it is desirable that the mind is turned towards perceiving their meanings by repelling the other distracting thoughts and cutting off their roots because when the roots are not cut off the thoughts do not stop arising from them.

The root can be either external, such as what occupies the hearing and sight, or internal and this is stronger, like the one whose concerns for the world have multiplied and diversified. His thoughts are not restricted to one matter and even lowering his gaze does not protect him from this because whatever occurs in his heart is enough to keep him occupied.

If the root is external the cure for it is to cut off what occupies the hearing and the seeing and this includes being close to the qiblah (i.e. sutrah), looking at the place of prostration, being careful of and avoiding places which are colourful or attractive and not leaving anything besides oneself which would occupy his perceptions and feelings. The Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) when he prayed in a shirt which had marks upon it took it off and said: "It has just diverted me from my prayer."

If the root is internal, the way to treat it is to compel the soul to become occupied with what one is reciting in the prayer. He should prepare for that before entering the prayer by freeing himself from (thinking about all) other occupations, striving to empty his heart (from everything but the prayer), to renew the remembrance of the hereafter in his soul, realise the seriousness of standing in front of Allaah Azzawajall and the terror of being examined. If these are not the thoughts present (in the prayer) then a person should know that (his heart) is reflecting about those things which produce aspirations and desires in him. Let him therefore leave those desires and cut off those attachments.

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