By Saad Omar
Like every aspect of worship in Islam there is an external and internal dimension; prayer is no exception. The external dimension of prayer is very often what is emphasized in Sunday schools, Muslim homes, conferences, etc. while the inner dimension is to a large part ignored. This leaves us with a well defined skeleton, lacking a soul.
1. A Bold New Perspective of Wudu (Ablution): This step includes coming into terms with the fact that the wudu itself has an external and internal element. The internal element involves developing the mindset that as you are purifying the external limbs of your body, you are simultaneously purifying from your body the internal sins that can from those respective limbs. You should imagine your sins dripping from those limb.
2. The Five Minute Rule: This is the Golden Rule in concentrating in prayer, whatever you think about 5 minutes before you pray, you will inevitably think about during the prayer, so we should spend this time thinking of Allah (SWT) (SWT) and not watching television, chatting with friends, joking, etc.
3. Raising hands (takbir): When you raise your hands and say “Allahu Akbar,” imagine yourself pushing the world behind.
4. “Allahu Akbar”: Not only, ‘God is the Greatest’ but also, ‘God is Greater,’: Meaning, whatever we are thinking about during that moment in the prayer, God is greater than that.
5. Surah Fatiha: It is imperative that we learn the Tafsir (explanation) of Surah Fatiha in detail. There are many websites and books to help us along these lines (here’s one I put together: http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=ddw5kp4k_63dp4kfsgp
. At the very least, we should learn the translation of Surah Fatiha and every other Surah (chapter) that we recite in prayer.
6. Ruku (Bowing): Imagine the story of Abu Bakr (R) when he added “wa bi hamdihi) (and All Praise is to Him) to his Ruku and Allah (SWT) (SWT) sent down the Angel Jibrail to tell the Prophet (S) to say “sameeya ALlahu Liman Hamida” (Allah (SWT) heard who praised Him), instead of “Allahu Akbar” and Abu Bakr (R), in shock, responded “Rabina Walakal Hamd” (All praise is due to our Lord). This is how this step was added to our prayer.
7. Sujud (Prostrating): Imagine what Shaykh Hamza said: Standing up is like Islam (Mind over heart), Bending is like Imaan (Heart and Mind are balanced), and bowing down is like Ihsaan (Heart is over the mind). As we bow down, we say “Subhana Rabi al A’la (Glory be to the Lord most High), a beautiful and symbolic gesture with non-symbolic connotations.
8. The Taheeyat: As you make the Taheeyat, while sitting down, imagine the story of the Prophet (S) when he ascended to the Heaven (Me’raj) where he (S) and Allah (SWT) (SWT) exchanged back and forth these lines that we now repeat as we embark on our own Ascension to Allah (SWT) (SWT) during this part of the prayer. (At-Taheeyat…”-The Prophet (S) greeting to Allah (SWT) (SWT), “As-Salamu Alayka…”-Allah (SWT) (SWT’t Response, “As-Salamu Alayna…”-The Prophet’s reponse to Allah (SWT) (SWT). “Ashadu…”-The Angel exclamation after this beautiful conversation.
9. Ending the Prayer: As you say “Salam”: Imagine the angels on your right and left and what they record of you good and bad deeds. Then turn to Allah (SWT) in forgiveness for your shortcomings.
10. After the Prayer: Don’t run off after the prayer, give yourself time to be by yourself, even if it for 30 seconds, and reflect on the momentous event that you have just experienced.
A final point: Lastly, don’t be afraid to use your IMAGINATION! A pious man said that before he would pray her would: Imagine the Kaaba in front of him, he would imagine himself standing on the Sirat (The bridge as thin as paper and as sharp as a sword that suspends over the Hell fire), on his right is Paradise, and on his left is hell, behind him is his grave, and above him is the Angel of Death. He was also imagine that after his second “salam,” the Angel of Death will swoop over him, throw him in his grave, and he would fall into the paradise or hell, depending on the quality of that prayer. Thus, we can also use our imaginations to concentrate and get move from just praying to actually feeling the prayer.