Connection through Prayer

Tag: Practice

Ramadan 1443 Workshop: Intentions from the Heart

Ramadan is once again just around the corner and this year, unlike years past, we wanted to narrowly focus our Ramadan workshop on one thing: Intentions. The goal is lofty so we got this workshop out early and we recommend that you get started right away so you are already on a roll in Ramadan. 

One of the most famous – if not the most famous – sayings of the Prophet ﷺ is the hadith of Omar:

عَنْ عُمَرَ، أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏ “‏ الأَعْمَالُ بِالنِّيَّةِ، وَلِكُلِّ امْرِئٍ مَا نَوَى، فَمَنْ كَانَتْ هِجْرَتُهُ إِلَى اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ، فَهِجْرَتُهُ إِلَى اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ، وَمَنْ كَانَتْ هِجْرَتُهُ لِدُنْيَا يُصِيبُهَا، أَوِ امْرَأَةٍ يَتَزَوَّجُهَا، فَهِجْرَتُهُ إِلَى مَا هَاجَرَ إِلَيْهِ ‏”‏‏.‏‏

‘Umar bin Al-Khattab r Narrated: Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said, “The reward of deeds depends upon the intention and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended. So whoever emigrated for Allah and His Apostle, then his emigration was for Allah and His Apostle. And whoever emigrated for worldly benefits or for a woman to marry, his emigration was for what he emigrated for.”

Sahih al-Bukhari 54

The translation used above uses the term ‘reward’ but in the original Arabic, what the Prophet ﷺ says is closer to “and every person shall have what he intended”. He ﷺ is saying, your actions may all be the same, but your experience and your results will manifest based on the intentions you came into the action with. What it would indicate is that everyone will face the consequences of his intentions.  

As muslims, we are often taught the importance of intentions. Some of the most famously pious Muslims obsessed about intentions. It is said that Umar bin Abdalaziz, Caliph of the Muslims, would not put one foot in front of the other without intending it first. The saying of the Prophet ﷺ on intentions cited above is at the start of most books on Prophetic tradition. A simple search on youtube of Islamic lectures on intention yields at least a hundred videos of both famous and ‘regular’ Muslim takes on the topic.  Even non-religious personal development gurus talk about how important intentions are and how most people do not intend enough. 

But what is an intention really, and what do we gain from intending? Is intention deciding to do an action?  A lot of the time when we are taught about intentions that’s what it seems like. Especially as they relate to our worship, we are told we must intend the action – i.e. resolve to do the action specifically and for the sake of Allah – for the action to be valid as worship. From this we easily grasp the importance of deciding to do an action and that we can’t just do things because ‘everyone is doing it’. Beyond this though, a lot of us fail to properly make use of the intentions for our actions. Especially for things that are routine, intentions fall into the background. Of course, I’m doing what I’m doing – how could I not be. But, the power of intentions happens not when we intend our actions but rather when we intend the results of our actions. When we intend what we want this action to give us, that’s when intentions suddenly transform into something truly valuable. When we intend the results of our action this allows us to clarify our goals, align our actions with our values, and manifest the experience in life we wish to draw us closer to Allah. 

Stand Tall (with your Salah)

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.  

Salah Tips for New Muslims

Here at Sillah we hope to be able to meet the personal development needs of all people who are seeking salah. That’s why we reached out to Hoda Elsharkawi for her advice on how you, a new Muslim, can handle some of the pitfalls that can happen when trying to build a prayer routine. Hoda has been teaching people about the basics of Islam for over 20 years through a weekly New Muslims class in the Boston, MA area and has seen many converts go through the experience of beginning to pray. Below are some of her tips on successfully navigating starting a prayer practice. – Admin

Commitment

Muslims start learning and practicing the prayers at the age 7 per the Prophet’s  ﷺ advice. It takes commitment and  discipline to be able to perform all the prayers every day whether one feels energetic or not. As a new Muslim, this can be a challenge but it should be the highest priority once a person converts. All prayers are mandatory and it is considered a major sin to miss any, especially the fajr (dawn) and asr (afternoon) prayers. Whatever you do, don’t miss those. It eventually becomes easier to pray all your prayers regularly and you may even start to feel lost or disoriented if you miss a prayer. 

Procrastination

This is a problem some Muslims fall into. You tell yourself: “I will start tomorrow”. This usually happens when you have the intention and desire to pray but you haven’t started. The days go by and you keep telling yourself “tomorrow, I will start tomorrow”. My advice is that whenever you want to start, start right away. If it is thuhr (noon) time, get up and perform your thuhr prayer, this way, you break the cycle of procrastination.

Have You Been Practicing?

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. 

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