Salah (Salat or Namaz) is a specific form of prayer that allows us to connect with Allah and humble ourselves before Him. It demands not just our time but also our attention and devotion. The very objective of Salah – which is to remember Allah and express our devotion to Him – is lost if the worshipper’s mind is constantly wandering or if the prayer is offered hurriedly while jumbling up or mispronouncing the words.
The importance of concentration during Salah is further enhanced by the following saying of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, “A person returns after saying his prayers while what is recorded for him is one-tenth of his prayer, or one-ninth, or one-eighth, or one-seventh, or one-sixth, or one-fifth, or one-third, or a half.” (Abu Dawud) This hadith conveys that the one whose Salah is devoid of concentration risks having a major portion of his or her Salah rejected by Allah.
Here are ten ways to increase your concentration and retain your focus better during Salah.
Perform Wudu Properly
Perform Wudu calmly and correctly, for this too is a form of worship. Remember, you do not have to wash each body part thrice; the Prophet ﷺ also sometimes washed it once or twice, as reported in Bukhari. However, while making Wudu, be mindful of your thoughts and try to concentrate on your actions. Use this time to free your mind from all forms of distractions. Build your focus during Wudu as you can then carry it forward to your Salah.
Pray in a Suitable Environment
When praying at home, make sure your surroundings do not distract you during Salah. Pray in a quiet spot where you are unlikely to be disturbed or easily distracted. Offering Salah in a dimly lit room helps some people concentrate better and feel more connected to Allah. On the other hand, loud chatter in the background is very likely to reduce your focus. It may also help to put your phone on silent mode or turn off internet notifications before starting your Salah.
Make Sure Your Voice is Audible
When praying alone, pronounce the words of Salah a little louder to help you concentrate better. You should at least be able to clearly hear your own voice during Salah. This can be effective in blocking out unnecessary thoughts and any background noise. Allah tells us in the Quran, “And offer your Salah neither aloud nor in a low voice, but follow a way between.” (Quran 17:110) Praying in a voice neither too loud nor low also gives you a sense of being in conversation with Allah.
Be Conscious of Allah’s Presence
During Salah, whenever your mind wanders, immediately remind yourself that Allah is watching you. He is listening to you as you glorify Him, praise Him, seek His help, and ask for His bounty. In fact, the worshipper should go so far as to imagine that Allah is present right in front of him or her. Even if we cannot see Allah, He is closer to us than our “jugular veins” (Quran 50:16) and is always attentive to our words and actions. The Prophet ﷺ described Ihsan – meaning, excellence of faith – as follows: “It is to worship Allah as though you see Him, and though you do not see Him, you know that He sees you.” (Bukhari, Muslim) Try to adopt this level of Ihsan in your Salah.
Sit After the Second Prostration
A Sunnah many people omit during Salah is sitting for a while after the second Sajdah during the odd Rakah. As reported in Bukhari, this was a practice of the Prophet ﷺ: he used to sit for a moment after the second prostration during the first and third Rakah before standing up for the next one. Even if this momentary sitting is not compulsory, it can alleviate the problem of getting your Rakahs mixed up. In this short instance, since you do not recite anything, you get the opportunity to remind yourself what Rakah you are on, and how many more you have to offer. Try this!
Speak Distinctly and Clearly During Salah
Utter each word during Salah distinctly and with clarity. Mixing up words or speaking them in a hurried monotone not only reduces concentration during Salah, but can also seriously distort the meaning of what you say. For example, during Tashahud, we utter, Wa ala ibadillahi salihin, translated as “And [peace be] upon the righteous servants of Allah.” However, changing Wa ala to Wa la renders the meaning as “And not the righteous servants of Allah.” Hence, you may end up cursing the righteous believers instead of praying for them just by omitting a vowel sound! This also conveys why it is important to refer to the written wording of Salah once in a while to ensure you are pronouncing the words correctly.
Concentrate on the Meaning of Your Words
You can never concentrate on anything long enough if you do not understand it. For those Muslims whose native language is not Arabic, it is absolutely essential to memorize the translation of the words routinely uttered during Salah. Is not the objective of praying lost if you do not even know what you are professing to Allah and asking Him for? Hence, spend some time learning the meaning of the Salah by heart, and when you speak those words in your prayer, try to concentrate on what they mean and imply. This is really the most effective way of enhancing your concentration during Salah. It also helps you recite slowly and correctly, thus bringing your Salah closer to perfection.
Introduce variations in Your Salah
We tend to lose concentration in our Salah when it becomes repetitive. Hence, learn more Quranic verses, supplications, and words of glorification that you can recite during Salah. For example, you can learn new Surahs to recite during Qiyam, including complete Surahs from Juz 30 or specific portions of longer Surahs, such as the concluding three verses of Al-Hashr and the concluding two verses of Al-Baqarah. Regarding the supplication recited just before Taslim, the Prophet ﷺ advised, “Select the invocation that you most like to recite.” (Bukhari)
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Similarly, you can memorize the supplications and words of remembrance that the Prophet ﷺ used to say in various postures, including standing (before Al-Fatiha), bowing, and prostrating. Do you always recite Subhana Rabbi Al-Adheem during Ruku, and Subhana Rabbi Al-Aala during Sajdah? There are several alternative phrases you can utter during Ruku and Sajdah following the example of the Prophet ﷺ. Try to vary what you recite in each Rakah as these variations can help you concentrate much better.
Remember that Salah is a Major Duty
We typically lose focus when we inwardly feel that the task on-hand is not important or does not affect us much. Hence, keep reminding yourself that Salah is one of your main responsibilities in life, and never let your subconscious belittle its significance. Salah is among the few regular duties we owe exclusively to Allah, and it is something for which we shall be held accountable in the hereafter.
Treat Every Salah as Your Last One
The Salah you are offering could very well be your last one. You may not get the chance to humble yourself before Allah again. Remind yourself about this fact; it could make you uncomfortable, but we all have to depart from this world, sooner or later. Treating every Salah as your last one should motivate you to pray in a fine manner, reciting in a beautiful tone and performing all actions properly, with complete humility and remembrance of Allah in your heart.