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Allah asks us to connect with Him in prayer five times a day and to leave the world behind. Salah is our personal connection with Allah that we should feel honored to partake in. When we start salah with, “Allahu Akbar,” and raise our hands to our ears, it is as if we are leaving the world behind us at that moment and focusing on Allah alone.
Furthermore, saying, “Allahu Akbar,” means that God is Greater. It is usually translated as, “God is Great,” but a more literal translation is, “God is Greater.” God is greater is not a full sentence. Allah is inviting us to fill in the blank. Whatever we put after that statement, God is greater than it. God is greater than our worries. God is greater than our stress and our anxieties. God is greater than this whole universe and everything that is in it. In this state, we enter salah.
Once we are in salah we are invited to a council with Allah. Similar to how a baby feels the most comfort in the arms of its mother, simply being in Allah’s council is a source of comfort for us. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) used to say, “Relieve us with it, Oh Belal.” He used to ask Belal (RA) to make the call to prayer so that he could feel comfort from it. Surely the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was under a lot of stress, yet he used to find comfort in salah.
Studies have shown that meditation is healing for the mind and spirit. While salah is similar to meditation, it is so much more. As we enter into a state of tranquility, as people who meditate are supposed to do, we then connect to the power and peace that comes with worshiping Our Creator. Imagine how much we are benefiting our minds, bodies, and spirits by engaging in salah.
However, in order to let its healing power take full effect on us, we have to learn to be in a state of khushoo, which is giving the salah our full attention and sincerity. While praying, we should focus on the meaning of what we are saying. We should not rush, as salah should place us in a state of tranquility. While there are many ways to help us focus, we should always keep in mind that our salah is a work in progress and our level of concentration and focus can wax and wane. The important thing is to never let go of our obligatory prayers. Just show up to salah and give it your best, whatever your best may be.
A method that works particularly well for me is simply reminding myself to slow down, take more pauses, and give each step its due right. So, when I raise my hands to say “Allahu Akbar,” I wait until my hands are fully settled on my chest before starting. When I go down to ruku I try not to think about the next step. When I am in ruku, I settle into my ruku before I start saying, “Subhana raabi al-azeem”. I remind myself that I am not a rubber band that once pulled into a position is ready to recoil to the next. This, without fail, works for me. The hard part is to remember to use it! The best way to implement this method is to not leave salah until the last minute. Give yourself enough time to be able to slow down.
The position in which we are closest to Allah is in Sujud. It is at this point that we need to try our hardest to connect with Allah. This is the position in which our brain is lower than our heart. This is where we have to stop letting our thoughts control us. This is where we put our foreheads to the ground. If you ask anyone to point to the part of the body that is them, they will point to their face, specifically somewhere right behind their eyes, right between the forehead and the nose. Any part of the body would be referred to as, “my arm” or, “my leg” but the face and specifically this area is, “me.” We are putting ourselves on the ground, letting go of this ego that binds us down.
When we make sujud we are surrendering to our Lord. We are coming to Him as we are, with all of our weaknesses and limitations. We are surrendering to The One who has no limits, no bounds, and best of all, The One who loves to see us succeed. As the caller to prayer says, “Come to prayer, come to success.”
Let us be like the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who said, “My delight has been made in prayer” (Narrated by al-Nasaa’i 3940). Let us run towards Allah and surrender ourselves to Him so that we will find delight and relief. There is a fine line between productive thoughts about the future and debilitating anxiety. Let salah be a means to clarify this line. Let it be a moment to get away from life’s stressors no matter what we are doing so that we can refocus and recharge our energies. Let it serve as a reminder for what is really important in life.
This is an excerpt taken from the book Stand Tall written by Noor Jamal Hammoud. The book explores ideas around anxiety, growth, and resiliency from an Islamic perspective. Noor has graciously allowed us to feature her chapter on salah here. May Allah Bless this for her and for us.