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It is the impending destiny of each person to stand before Allah and answer for the actions of his life. This is our fundamental belief as Muslims. You will stand. I will stand. It is inescapable1There are a select number who will be so worthy as to go to Janna directly without questioning. To know more about them, check this out. This judgement will determine the eternal happiness of each of us. The logical extension then, is to prepare diligently for it.
But worldly life is very distracting. Simply eating, sleeping, working, caretaking, the whole lot of our daily activities, can take over. Actually for most people, these really do take over: life becomes about optimizing material experiences. The Muslim though, must stay focused. We need to keep the end goal in mind and continue preparing for the big moment when we will face Allah with the contents of our whole lives displayed before us.
There is a hadith of Prophet ﷺ where he tells us that the first thing we will be asked about on the day of judgement is our prayer. If a believer’s salah is found to be in order, the remainder of his judgement will pass smoothly, but if not, then the questioning will be taxing2Hadith in Sunan a-Tirmidhi, find it here. The hadith is usually used to explain the importance of prayer and how fundamental it should be to the believer. Thinking about prayers missed or skipped, prayers with incomplete wudu, prayers made mindlessly, and the fact that these can make or break your eternal peace is daunting. And while all of this is true and scary, there is something more profound to consider.
Allah gave us the prayer as a daily practice for the big moment when we will meet Him. As you reflect on many components of the prayer, you can connect them to the experiences of the hereafter. Salah is literally you standing in front of Allah speaking to him, just like you will be on the Day of Judgement3Hadith in Bukhari and Muslim, find it here. Your sins are piled on top of you as you stand there before Allah4Hadith authenticated by Al-Albani, find it here. You recite Quran; on the Day of Judgement too, you will need to recite to realize your rank in Janna5For more on how the recitation of Quran effects status in Janna check this link. You are ordered to bow on the Day of Judgement and only those who practiced bowing in this life will be able to6For more on bowing in the hereafter, look here. Each component of the prayer is like a preparation for the Big Day. Making sure to complete these components soundly and with mindfulness can help you refocus on the afterlife and consider how ready you are to meet Allah.
But, there is an even deeper way to think about salah and the Last Day which you may be missing. Again, salah is you standing before Allah and speaking with Him; salah is you being present with Allah. Right now as you are engaged in this worldly life, there is a barrier between you and Him, Most High. On Judgement Day though, there is no barrier 7Hadith in Bukhari, can be found here. When you stand before Allah to pray now, there is something that keeps you from reaching Him fully, but on that day there will be nothing that keeps you from Allah. If you have been praying your whole Muslim life; praying with focus, praying with emotion, praying with humility: praying with your whole self, then you have spent a lifetime, preparing to stand in front of Allah directly.
When you go to meet Him on judgement day, you will have been in anticipation of His meeting. You will have cleansed yourself often to meet Him.You will have presented your deeds to Him daily. You will have conversed with Him and pleaded to Him. You will feel that to be in front of Allah is an experience you have yearned for hundreds of thousands of times over the course of your life. This is not to say it will not be scary or daunting. Actually, the gravity of what is to come will only build for you because each salah will impress upon you the intensity of standing before Allah without a barrier. You will spend a lifetime cultivating the experience of that coming event. If your prayer is sound, your entire judgement process will be easy due to the effort you put into practicing.
Take the inverse of this. If you have been praying daily while daydreaming, or skipping prayers, or speeding through the motions, have you really been preparing for the ultimate meeting with Allah? For each individual component you would have missed the chance to practice for so many different trials you’ll go through on The Day. Furthermore, you won’t really have developed your relationship with Allah. Imagine how your judgement will go. Imagine standing in front of a powerful king you had the chance to get to know throughout your life but didn’t take that opportunity , or worse, belittled his importance. And now, the big moment has arrived, and you are before him, having to answer for that, plus every other transgression against his rule you’ve made. Of course we’re not talking about just any king, and we aren’t talking about a simple meeting. This is Allah, the owner of the entire universe, and the meeting is about your ultimate reckoning. If you really have a strong belief in the coming of Judgement Day, and the inevitability of standing before Allah, you would take these practice sessions more seriously.
If salah is a practice session for the Day of Judgement, use that to enhance your focus while praying. Think about all the different details you have heard about the Day of Judgement and bring them to mind when you pray8Looking for a good refresher on some descriptions of the last day? Check this article out. There was a companion of the Prophet ﷺ who said that he felt his faith to be greatest when he could visualize heaven and hell before him; use his technique!
- Imagine yourself standing in front of Allah
- Imagine heaven and hell beside you.
- Think of all the sins you’ve committed and answering for them.
- Bring to mind the names of Allah that show His grandeur and might: The Majestic, the Great, the King9For descriptions of Allah’s names look here
Imagine as many aspects of that day as you can and then start your salah. And every time you find yourself zoning out, remind yourself that right now you you’re standing in front of Allah just like you will on that Day. This is your chance to practice, don’t waste it.