Assalamu Alaykhum Warahmatulahi Wabarakatuhu, Sincerity is the next step after purifying our intentions, in beautifying our worship
In Surah al-Maidah, verse 119 Allah says, “This is the Day the sincere ones will profit by their sincerity (Literally: their sincerity will benefit the sincere “ones”). For them are Gardens from beneath which Rivers run, eternally (abiding) therein forever. Allah is satisfied with them, and they are satisfied with Him. That is the magnificent triumph.” SubhanAllah. I always love it when Allah tells us about Jannah and how easy He has made it for us to get there.
Of course, we’re all leading busy lives, uni work, A levels...and this can affect the time we spend in worship to Allah. So inshAllah we should all aim to increase our sincerity and God consciousness in the moments we spend in prayer, so we can inshAllah earn Allah’s satisfaction. This will help benefit us in this life and our worldly duties, as well as the hereafter.
I know that when a lot of us go and pray. We start our salah and then immediately the internal monologue starts. There is a great story I once heard, where a man went up to his imam and said “ Oh Imam, I love my salah. I really love my salah.”
The imam said that ‘MashAllah that’s amazing. What is it that you love so much about your prayer?” The man responded “It solves all of my problems… I pray and I suddenly remember where I left my keys, and the shopping I forgot to get and work I need to do…”
So inshAllah this is some advice to myself first and for most, about how to increase sincerity in salah and inshAllah not just pray to remember what homework we have to do.
Focus on your intention
A scholar, Abu Hilal Al-Askari said that “there are no rituals (‘Ibadah, no worship) except through knowing the Divine,” meaning rituals lack spirit or substance without an emotional connection and an imagination of the Divine. So every prayer should seek to create and awaken a spiritual connection.
Sometimes focussing on the rituals in salah can also help. When Muslim jurists differed over a particular form or physical pose in the Salah (daily prayer), in the absence of explicit scripture, they would typically rely on whichever pose was seen as denoting greater humility towards the Divine.
In effect, our Salah is the language of the body just as our Tasbeeh is the language of our tongue. When we fall prostrate in Sujud we are verbalizing with our bodies Allah’s power and our sincerity to Him, just as we verbalize it on our tongues with the Shahadah.
A key feature of rituals seems to be their recurring nature, for instance we pray at least 5 times a day, But does repetition diminish significance or meaningfulness. These actions, when performed with mindfulness and reflection, strengthen our spirituality and allow us to ascend to higher levels of love and conviction.
A way of achieving this is to slow down in each position. This would be especially important if you’re naturally a quick reader and your salah normally finishes quickly. Slowing down can mean reciting the Quran a bit more slowly or just holding your position for a few seconds more than normal after you have finished reciting.
I find slowing down allows the salah to run smoothly. It is important to also remember that even when our worship may fall short of experiencing that heartful presence, it still retains merit with God because we are doing our best to strive to reach that level.
Know who you are going to speak to
In Salah we are calling on Allah, the most merciful, the all-seeing and the all aware. When we finish Al-Fatiha we say Ameen – we are asking Allah to hear us calling on him, we want him to accept our efforts – (also minor opinion is could be from a name of Allah so you are really calling on Allah).
The thing that we can forget about Salah is that every moment we spend in prayer is the closest we will get to Allah in this dunya. We will never meet someone more powerful or more loving.
No one will have more patience with us, or protect us from so much harm as Allah. So if ever we get distracted by the internal chatter about things that aren’t really that important, just remember that we are dedicating this moment back to Allah, and bring your thoughts back to Him.
‘Get in the zone’
This is a reference to getting ourselves focused. When we are doing something important for example completing a project or homework we try and make sure we aren’t distracted by things. This may be isolating ourselves and going in a quiet place which can and should be applied to our salah. Anything that allows us to focus, concentrate and block out the world during salah can only benefit us.
Many people find sitting in wait for the salah, doing zikr (remembrance) for a few minutes is very useful. This way, when the salah begins, we will be fully focused.
Increase the significance of this salah
Know that this salah will be one that Allah will question you about on the Day of Judgement.
We have to remember that none of us know how long Allah has given us. This salah you are performing could be your last. So we should make sure that we show serious devotion in all of our prayers, because no one wants the last salah that they perform in this world, to be the one that is rushed, where our brains are thinking about the group chat where someone said such and such a thing to someone else.
Continuously make duaa
This is a vital point. We should constantly make dua to Allah; as without the help of Allah, we will not be able to perform the salah in the first place, or show sincerity in it. We should continuously ask Him to send blessings on us. We should make Dua asking for forgiveness from Allah for not reaching the standards of Salah He deserves. Even if we feel we possess some levels of devotion, care and quality during our salah we should still ask Allah for forgiveness for not achieving all of the criteria all of the time.
Finally a duaa that we should, try to learn and read after our salah is, ‘Allahumma innee ala zikrika wa shukrika wa husni ibaadatik’ (O’Allah, help me remember You, to be grateful to You, and to worship You in an excellent manner).
The best summary of this advice for sincerity in prayer that I have seen is from “Beginning of guidance” by Imam Al Ghazzali, he says ‘Make your heart present and empty yourself of other thoughts. Consider before whom you are standing and upon whom you are calling.’