Umar radi Allahu anhu once stood on the pulpit and addressed the community with a loud powerful voice saying, “A man may grow old in Islam and never have completed for Allah a single salah!” They said, “How is this?” He said, “He does not perfect his concentration, nor his humbleness, nor his focus on Allah ‘azza wa jall.”
Some practical guidelines to help us attain concentration and humbleness in salah:
1. Come early for salah and prepare yourself to concentrate.
Repeat the adhan to yourself with the mu’adhdhin and after the adhan, say the prescribed supplication. Between the adhan and iqamah make du’a. Do wudu properly, cleansing your mouth, and wear your finest clothes.
2. Aim to get the entire reward of your salah.
Abu Bakr ibn ‘Iyaash said, “I saw Habeeb ibn Thabit in sujood. If you saw him you would think he was dead (by how long he held his sujood).”
3. Contemplate the aayaat and adhkaar being recited during the prayer.
Think about the meanings of the verses that you are reciting. Isn’t is disheartening that someone may perform salah for decades, day after day, and he still does not know what he is saying? The Qur’an was revealed to be pondered over! Allah revealed:
(This is) a Book (the Qur’an), which We have sent down to you, full of blessings that they may ponder over its verses, and that men of understanding may remember (As-Saad 38/29).
4. Pray in congregation. Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala commands:
And perform salah, give zakah, and bow with those that bow (Al-Baqarah 2/43).
5. Never miss your Nafl (supererogatory) Prayers, especially those that the Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam used to pray constantly, like Witr and the Sunnah of Fajr.
6. Do not rush your salah.
Take your time and do not allow your salah to become the most invaluable action of your day. Ibn Wahb said, “I saw Ath-Thowree at the Ka’bah. After Maghrib, he got up to pray and then prostrated. He did not come out of that prostration until the adhan for Isha’ was given.”
7. Know that Allah responds to your prayer. The Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam said:
“Allah, the Blessed and Exalted has said: ‘I have divided the prayer between Myself and My slave, into two halves, and My slave shall have what he has asked for.’ When the slave says, ‘Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds,’ Allah says, ‘My slave has praised Me.’ When the slave says, ‘The Most Merciful, the Bestower of Mercy,’ Allah says, ‘My slave has extolled me.’ When the slave says, ‘Master of the Day of Judgment,’ Allah says, ‘My slave has glorified me.’ When the slave says, ‘It is You alone we worship and it is You alone we ask for help,’ Allah says, ‘This is between Me and My slave, and My slave shall have what he asked for.’ When the slave says, ‘Guide us to the straight path, the path of those whom You have favoured, not the path of those who receive Your anger, nor of those who go astray,’ Allah says, ‘All these are for My slave, and My slave shall have what he asked for’” (Muslim).
8. Pray with a barrier (sutrah) in front of you and pray close to it.
Another thing that will help you to have khushoo’ (concentration) is paying attention to the matter of having a sutrah and praying close to it. Having a sutrah will restrict your field of vision, protect you from the Shaytaan, and keep people from passing in front of you, which causes distraction and reduces the reward of the prayer. The Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam said:
“When any one of you prays, let him pray facing a sutrah, and let him get close to it” (Abu Dawood).
9. Seek refuge in Allah from the Shaytaan.
The Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam taught us how to combat the whispers of Shaytaan. Abu’l-‘Aas radi Allahu anhu reported that he said, “O Messenger of Allaah, the Shaytaan interrupts me when I pray, and I get confused in my recitation.” The Messenger of Allah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam said, “That is a shaytaan whose name is Khanzab. If you sense his presence, seek refuge with Allah from him, and spit towards your left three times.” Abu’l-‘Aas rahi Allahu anhu said, “I did that and Allah took him away from me” (Muslim).
10. Pray as if you were told that after salah you would be going back to Allah. Abu Bakr Al-Muzanee said, “If you want your salah to benefit you, then say, ‘I shall die after this Salah!’”