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Ramadan is fast approaching and many of us are starting to focus our attention on what we want to get out of it. Given the worldwide pandemic and quarantine protocols, this Ramadan will probably be like no other. We have a truly unique opportunity to zero in on the practices that may have eluded us for many years. We likely won’t be distracted by social events and gatherings and we will also be forced to contend with our spiritual practice and stamina without much outside support. This Ramadan you may get to know just how strong and developed your spirituality is. All that in consideration, this will be an excellent time to revisit the routines we take for granted, and always on the top of our list here at Sillah, is your salah.
Salah is the ultimate routine of the Muslim. Day in and day out, you are praying and no matter the strains, you have to make it work. This design of salah is meant to facilitate constant connection with Allah. For many though, the routine of salah has become just that, a mindless nuisance to fit in somewhere and move on. It’s really meant to be more than that; it’s meant to be a ritual. That’s why this year we have decided to spotlight the routineness of salah and some ideas on how we can push it to become an uplifting ritual. We hope that if you spend thirty days of Ramadan working on reshaping your prayer routine, you will walk out with a renewed salah experience.
Specifically, we’ve suggested practices with regards to three aspects of your routine with salah: building or creating a routine, shaking up or varying your routine, and deepening or extending your routine. Below is a list of different options with regards to these three areas. Additionally, we’ve tried to include practices that can be useful to people of all levels. Even if you haven’t been able to commit to praying consistently, check out the options below! Whether you’re someone who doesn’t pray or someone who consistently prays extra, we hope the suggestions below can grow your connectedness to your Lord.
Are You Taking Your Salah Seriously Yet??
Before you go rushing off to fill your Ramadan planner with salah goals, we wanted to invite you to take a moment to renew your intention. Salah, the nourishment of your soul, is your connection to Allah. It is what you need to survive the physical distance between yourself and your Lord. Consider the areas of your salah practice that you’re lacking in and why it’s so important for you to work on them. We’ve provided some links to inspirational material that can help get you in the zone for improving your prayer. Pick what works for your time frame, jot some key points that speak to you, and come back to it if you feel yourself losing steam throughout Ramadan.
Video Very inspirational talk given specifically in preparation for Ramadan. It’s a bit long though (a little over an hour), so consider saving it for your next laundry folding session.
Short Read A quick thought provoking article especially for those struggling to commit to prayer. Would definitely recommend to help refocus your priorities.
Medium Read Another inspirational piece written motivationally. A bit longer than the one before but still pretty quick and can have implications outside of your salah practice.
Tracking Your Progress:
Many people enjoy the process of picking goals and organizing them in artistic ways. While this is fine and can be motivating, don’t get lost in the process. The most important thing is the doing day in and day out. This is why the topic of routines is so vital. Routines are what make up our days, and small consistent effort is much more consequential in your ability to change than a big show one day only. The Prophet ﷺ taught us that it’s better to do fewer good deeds regularly than many/large good deeds sporadically1As indicted by the hadith narrated by Ibn Majah. Use whatever tracking means you find least distracting to actually doing the work to make your goal a reality. Pen and paper are an oldie but a goodie. More importantly, try to never miss a day.
Here is where we get to work. As described above, the focus on routines is broken up into three components: Building, Shake Up, and Deepen. Each component has 3 options that range in practice level from least experienced to most. The first option is designed for people who never pray and are working on starting, who used to pray but left the practice, or who pray occasionally. The second option is targeted at people who pray regularly but may struggle with things like timeliness or focus. The third option is tailored to people who have a strong practice of salah but are looking to grow it. You may find that depending on the component, some levels better suit you than others. Pick the options that speak to you best. We recommend choosing only 1 or 2 options and at most 3. The goal is to create sustainable practices that become part of your habits. Once you’ve established them, feel free to revisit this article and add another.
Some of us have been praying for years while others are just beginning their journey of connecting to Allah. Regardless of where you are, there is always a chance to add new ways of enjoying salah to your life. Consider building a new salah routine this Ramadan!
1. Add Time Slots in Your Schedule for Prayer (Even if You Don’t Pray)
An amazing goal that many have is to build their daily schedule around prayer. Fajr, then workout, duhur, then lunch, isha, then sleep, and so on. Tying your physical habits to your spiritual practice is great. If however, that isn’t working for you, another (and potentially more effective) method is to literally schedule time slots in your day for salah.
At the start of the month check the time windows for each of the 5 prayers. Compare that against what your daily work and life schedules look like. Set an alarm (maybe the ringer can be the athan 😉 …) to ring at certain times that fall within each window, are convenient for you, and commit to praying at that time no matter what. Plan for about two minutes per raka of prayer plus a little more time to make wudu. If you’re not praying yet, set the alarms anyway and just commit to sitting and remembering Allah during that time. This practice can help shape up your timeliness with regards to prayer and/or it can help you figure out how to actually fit it into your schedule.
2. Add a Forgotten Sunnah Prayer to Your Repertoire
You might be praying all your salawat and even a few nafl, or extra, prayers regularly. Did you know however, that there are some prayers that the Prophet ﷺ used to do that are not common practice? Consider reviving a sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ this Ramadan and onward. For a list of some of the different extra prayers the Prophet ﷺ would do check this list. Even if you’re not ready to take on a forgotten practice of the Prophet ﷺ per se, commit to a more common nafl prayer that you are spotty in completing. These extra prayers help to make up for any gaps in your required prayers – gaps like being inattentive, praying late in the window, messing up your supplications, and so on – and lend you more practice time. The more opportunities you take to meet with your Lord, the more opportunity you have to build your relationship with Him.
3. Establish Night Prayers in Your Personal and Family Practice
For many, Ramadan is marked by the collective practice of nafl prayer together at the mosque. Taraweeh is what makes Ramadan for so many. Taraweeh though, is simply a collective practice of something that the Prophet ﷺ used to do individually. The Prophet ﷺ would regularly pray extra prayers throughout the night, throughout the year. Instead of relying on the local imam to do all the heavy lifting this Ramadan, begin a practice of standing and praying after Isha for yourself. If you’re wondering how to go about establishing taraweeh at home, check this great resource with lots of answers to your taraweeh questions. Keep in mind too, you don’t have to commit to doing a full twenty rakas. Adding just two more rakas to your practice regularly is better than spending all of Ramadan praying taraweeh with nothing to show for it the rest of the year. Furthermore if you’re able, invite your family to join you and recite the Quran loudly. Gather your family around connection to Allah.
Shake Up Routines
Salah isn’t supposed to be just a routine; it’s a ritual. It’s a ritual that brings depth and life to the mundane activities of every day. To prevent your salah practice from becoming stale, it’s important to inject it with some variety. The Prophet ﷺ did this through methods such as changing the supplications he made, changing the postures he stood in, and of course varying the types of prayers he performed outside of the mandated practice. Following in his footsteps, we too can gain a lot from shaking up our salah routines.
1. Make Wudu Before Bed
Though it may be difficult to add one more thing to your nighttime checklist, making wudu before going to sleep is worth it. It was the Prophet’s ﷺ practice to go to sleep while in a state of ritual purity and he encouraged us to do the same2As indicated by the hadith found here. Furthermore, the Prophet ﷺ told us that when we sleep with wudu, angels ask Allah for our forgiveness. Sometimes, the process of making wudu can be a barrier to getting yourself up to pray. Adding this practice right before bed gives you the opportunity to build your spiritual stamina when it comes to wudu (given that doing something before bed requires extra discipline because your willpower has depleted by the end of the day). If you find that you procrastinate prayer because you don’t want to go make wudu, consider shaking things up with wudu before bed and, by Allah’s Will, this will help you better commit during the day.
2. Try Some New Supplications in Your Prayers
Despite the fact that you most likely constantly repeat the same athkar for the different postures of prayer that you always do, there are many different ones that the Prophet ﷺ used to recite. (Check these links for some athkar for starting prayer, ruku, rising from ruku, and sujood). This Ramadan, consider memorizing a handful of new remembrances utilized by the Prophet ﷺ during his prayers and adding them to your own salah. Don’t switch out one constant supplication for another. Rather, make an effort to vary the athkar you are reciting for a given posture of prayer by rotating through the new and old ones you know. Also, vary how often you repeat the supplication while maintaining a minimum of three repetitions. Continue to repeat the supplication until you start to feel its meaning; dont cut yourself off just because you’ve done the minimum requirement. Take the time to really get into your salah.
3. Do a Continuous Recitation of All the Quran You Know Throughout Your Prayers
This Ramadan, you are probably planning to do some sort of recitation of the Quran. More likely, you are planning to read through the Quran entirely at least once. What about also doing a complete review of all the Quran you have memorized? Every Ramadan the Prophet ﷺ would review all the Quran that had been revealed to him with Angel Jibreel3This is mentioned briefly here in an answer on whether it’s encouraged to complete a reading of the Quran in Ramadan. For many years throughout the life of the Prophet ﷺ though, this did not include an entire reading of the Quran. Rather, it was a review of what had been revealed only. This allowed the Quran to further cement into the heart of Almustafa ﷺ. What about us? We need that review much more than the Prophet ﷺ did. Make it a point to fully rotate all of the Quran you have memorized in your salawat this Ramadan. Practically speaking, this will involve some concentrated time and effort. You may need to decrease the number of Quran readings you are doing to devote extra time to reviewing verses you may have forgotten. It would be well worth it though, since this will allow you to carry these verses with you throughout the year and build on them.
Just as routines allow you to build habits over time, if you put in the work, they also allow you to create deeper meaning for your habits. The purpose of salah is to reconnect with Allah ﷻ. Constantly going through the motions of salah without taking the time to reflect and feel won’t allow for connection. Doing the work of salah doesn’t just mean rearranging schedules and learning new athkar. The work of salah must be internal as well. Take time to deepen your experience of salah this Ramadan so it can translate out to all the prayers you do throughout the year.
1. Make Duaa for Prayer (or Better Prayer)
The Prophet ﷺ told us that duaa is the essence of worship4As narrated by AlTirmithi here. During taraweeh prayers, most congregants’ prayers activate when the imam pleas out to Allah. They can feel themselves connecting to their Maker. Bring this practice into your life. Making duaa to Allah, speaking your worries to Him, can deepen your relationship immensely. More specific to salah, include a request for your prayers when you call out to Allah. If you aren’t praying, ask Allah ﷻ to help you find Him through salah. If you are, ask Him to give you the sweetness of connecting to Him during salah. Show Allah that you value the gift of salah He entrusted you with by asking Him for help in fulfilling it in the way that pleases Him.
2. Add Pauses to Your Fatiha in Anticipation of Allah’s Response to You
Your recitation of the opening chapter, Alfatiha is arguably the most important connection building part of your prayer. It is when you are in direct conversation with Allah. Unfortunately though, it’s probably the part of your prayer you rush the most. The Prophet ﷺ informed us that when we pray, and recite Alfatiha, Allah responds to each verse we have recited. (Check here for a detailed description of the dialogue between you and Allah you’ve been missing!) This Ramadan, give more time to reciting The Opening chapter. Pause after every verse and anticipate the response of your Lord. He doesn’t need your pauses to answer you, but you need them to feel His response. A little more time reciting Alfatiha can mean a little more feeling and a lot more gain.
3. Give Up a Bad Habit for Better Prayer
Maybe, by most standards, you are a prayer pro. You pray on time, you pray at the mosque (when usually possible), and you make sure to add nawafil to your daily practice. Maybe not. Regardless, everyone’s salah can improve. Allah ﷻ can grant you greater depth and serenity in your salah than you are experiencing currently. He can grant you better timeliness and concentration. Whatever area you find yourself struggling in, He can help you with it. So, show Allah how much you really want connection with Him; how much you want salah. Resolve to choose one sin or bad habit you do and give it up for the purpose of improving your salah. The Prophet ﷺ told us that when a slave gives up something for the sake of his Lord, Allah replaces it with something better5As narrated by Imam Ahmad here. Direct your sacrifice towards salah. Ask Allah to replace the pleasure of your folly with the sweetness of prayer. You will surely find His response.
We hope these suggestions inspire you to build, vary, and extend your salah this Ramadan! Commit to 1 or 2 practices, and work on implementing them daily. Choose options that you feel best meet your salah needs. This means they should not be too difficult to follow through on but will have a good impact on your practice. Once you feel confidently that you’ve cemented these routines, consider revisiting this article and choosing new options. Ramadan is just the launching pad …
Keep Us Updated
We hope that these ideas help you work towards better salah. By the end of Ramadan, by the Will of Allah ﷻ, and after that, if you are diligent not to miss a day, your routines can be transformed into daily rituals. If you’re finding the practices easy or hard, or you notice any patterns in your implementation process, please share with us on the Ramadan 1441 thread on the Question and Answer page. We’d love to hear your feedback and this way everyone can gain from your experience as well. May Allah bless our efforts and bless our Ramadan. May Allah grant us connection to Him in every salah. Ameen