Question: What is khushu’ in salat?
Khushu’ means fearing Allahu ta’ala. Hadrat Imam-i Rabbani states:
Perform salats in jama’at in khushu’ and khudu’ because it is only salat performed in khushu’ that will save man from disasters and troubles in both this world and the next.
(Certainly, Believers who perform their salats in khushu’ [with their hearts full of fear of Allah and by observing ta’dil-i arkan] have attained salvation [have won through].) [Al-Mu’minun 1, 2] (Vol. 1, Letter 85)
A salat is perfect only when its fard, wajib, sunnat, and mustahab elements are done. The khushu’ in salat, that is, the humbleness of each limb, is to do these four things. The khudu’ of the heart, that is, fear of Allah, is gained when these four things are done completely, too. The hadith-i sharif“There is no salat if there is no presence of heart” means that the heart should be present and vigilant in the performance of the abovementioned four elements. That is, it means being careful not to be lazy in carrying out any of them. (Vol. 1, Letter 305)
In order for salat to be accepted, one has to abstain from forbidden things, perform salats in khushu’ and taqwa, and abandon malayani. (Miftah-ul-Jannat)
Taqwa means protecting all one’s organs from haram and makruh acts. Abandoning malayani means abandoning a thing that is of no benefit either in this world or in the world to come.
Question: What should we do to keep our minds free of worldly thoughts in salat?
Engagement in worldly thoughts in salat stems from a lack of ikhlas (sincerity; doing everything for the sake of Allahu ta’ala), so you should strive to eliminate the causes that lead to it. Ikhlas is developed if every deed is performed to earn the pleasure of Allah. To that end, you should enter into salat as if you were seeing Allahu ta’ala, so that your salat will be a real salat. If you are in salat physically but not spiritually, that salat will be valid but will not be an acceptable one, so it is useful to say “Laa hawla wa laa quwwata illaa billaahil ‘aliyyil ‘azeem” just before starting salat.
It is written in the book İslam Ahlakı:
When the imam is reciting Surat al-Fatiha in salat, you should contemplate, “Now, Paradise is on my right, and Hell is on my left. Azrael ‘alaihis-salam is on the nape of my neck. The House of Allah is ahead of me. The grave is in front of me and the Sirat Bridge is under my feet. Will my account be taken by an easy reckoning? Will my act of worship be a crown on my head, a friend with me in the hereafter, and a light in my grave? Or will it be unacceptable and be thrown back at my face like an old cloth? (Miftah-ul-Jannat)
Question: What should I do to focus my mind on salat?
The Believer fears Allahu ta’ala but does not despair of His mercy. He/she feels ashamed of his/her misdeeds. If he/she departs from this mindset in salat, it means that his/her thoughts are not properly organized and that he/she is suffering from wasawis (Satanic whispers). Seeing something brings about thinking about it. For this reason, you should remove all distractions around, and it is better, if possible, to perform salat in a dimly lit place. Besides, you should prefer plain prayer mats to embroidered ones. The wall of qibla, too, should be free of decorations, and there should not be any pictures on it. You should fix your eyes on the place of prostration.
Just before starting salat, reflect that you will stand in the presence of Allah and think about the perils of being heedless in His presence and remember the terrifying scenes of the Day of Resurrection. What keeps the heart busy is worldly wishes and desires, so the nafs should be freed from them through punishments. For example, when Hadrat Abu Talha was performing salat in his garden, a bird perched from one branch to another and caused him to get confused in salat. Then he gave that garden to a person in need as compensation for his mistake.
You should strive to collect your thoughts by punishing your nafs in different ways, but failing to achieve full tranquility of heart and mind in salat should not cause you to abandon your struggle against your nafs. Imagine a glass of olive oil. The more you add water to it, the more olive oil will overflow. The reason for this is that olive oil is lighter than water, so it floats on water. They do not mix. The position of love for the world to love for the hereafter is as the position of water to olive oil in a glass. When the glass is filled with water, olive oil goes. Likewise, if the love for the world covers the heart, it is not possible to get rid of wasawis. The less the love for the world, the more your inner peace. In conclusion, in order to succeed in collecting your thoughts, you should not run after useless things of the world. You should try hard to do acts of worship with ikhlas and knowledge, and before salat, you should remove all eye-catching things around you that draw your attention.
Question: One night, we friends gathered to read a religious book. A young friend of ours said, “Let’s drink our tea first and then we can perform salat in a carefree state of mind.” An old man there objected, “What you said is wrong. Let’s perform salat first and then we can drink our tea in a carefree state of mind.” Of these two statements, which one is right?
The old man said so in order to emphasize the importance of salat, but what the young man said is right. If one has something to do that distracts one from salat, one should do it first and then perform salat. For example, tea or the meal may cause mental distraction. For this reason, it is better to eat or drink it first and then to perform salat. One cannot perform salat in a good state of mind if one has something to do before it, so it is better to perform it after carrying out your task.
In fiqh books, fear of missing the food which one longs for is considered an excuse for missing jama’at. That is, when the meal is ready, one should eat it first unless the time for salat is about to end or the time at which it is makruh to perform salat is about to start.
(Do not start salat if the meal is ready.) [Muslim]
(If dinner is ready, eat it first and then perform salat.) [Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi]
Question: Which is better of these two: performing salat in a dimly lit place or performing it in a brightly lit one?
Salat must be offered in khushu’ and with peace of mind, so one should remove all things around that will negatively affect them. Colorful prayer mats or excessive illumination, for instance, may harm one’s khushu’ and peace of mind. Our ancestors did not place big windows in mosques so that salat might be offered with full concentration and tranquility.
We saw that more than a hundred lamps of the chandelier were lit in the mosque where we went for Salat al-Jumu’ah. Lighting such a number of lamps is wastefulness (israf), which is haram.