“The motions of prayer are the physical manifestation of your words and state, each in perfect congruence with the other”
– Shaykh Asim Yusuf
The words of my teacher struck deep; prayer is not driven by your thoughts, but by your state. Each motion is a perfect reflection of the state your heart should be in at that moment. When you raise your hands, you toss the world behind you and enter the presence of God, declaring “Allah is greater“. You use the comparative to signal that at that moment, He is greater that everything else you are thinking of. This and each of the other actions are the physical affirmation of the state you should be in at that moment.
How empty have my prayers been? How many times have I prayed in my life, and it is only now that I realise something so instrumental? Where had my heart been all these years, absent of the Lord it stands before 5 times a day?
The realisation weighs heavy. How ungrateful could I be that my Lord offers us the opportunity to stand before His presence 5 times a day, yet not once do I even notice whom I stand before.
But the Lord is merciful, and remorse is the beginning of redemption. Prayer is a process of continuous refinement perfected through its practice. Through a moment’s sincerity, Allah will open up the doors which bring you to Him. But the journey also requires a guide to teach you its perfection. Learning from one who has already trodden the path will make the journey infinitely easier, learning through their knowledge and guardianship. Through them, your connection to the Teacher of teachers ﷺ is established, the whom God Himself taught and perfected how it is we worship our Lord.
So today, I make the intention to begin the path of reform. As my teacher advised, begin with the aim of attaining just a moments presence in the prayer consistently, then work upwards from there.
Below is some of the wisdoms Shaykh Asim Yusuf shared on his facebook page from his prayer intensive course. The course is available online for those who wish to watch it – contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The call to prayer
“When you hear the call to prayer prepare yourself inwardly to respond promptly. Those that are quick to answer this call are the ones that will be summoned gently on the Day of Resurrection. So, review your heart now! If you find it full of joy and happiness, eager to respond immediately, then you can expect the summons to bring you good news and salvation on the Day of Judgement. That is why the Prophet ﷺ used to say “Comfort us O Bilal,” for Bilal was the Muadhin, and the prayer was the joy and comfort of the Prophet ﷺ.
Facing the Qibla
Do you suppose that you are not also required to turn your heart away from everything else directing it towards God, Great and Glorious be He? What an absurd notion, since this is the whole object of the exercise. The Prophet ﷺ said “when a man stands up to pray directing his desire, face and heart towards God, Great and Glorious be He, he will come out of the prayer as on the day his mother gave him birth.”
For the takbir, your heart must not call lie to the words of your tongue. If you feel in your heart that there is something greater than God, Glorified is He, through your words are true, God will attest you are a liar.
In bowing, you renew your submissiveness and humility, striving to refine your inner feeling through a fresh awareness of your own impotence and insignificance before the might and grandeur of your Lord. To confirm this you seek the aid of your tongue, glorifying your Lord and testifying repeatedly to his supreme majesty both inwardly and outwardly. “God hears those who give thanks to Him”, acknowledging the need to express gratitude you immediately add “O our Lord, all praise is for You, much good and blessed praise, such as will fill the Heavens and will fill the Earth, and whatever else You will”.
With the intention of concluding your prayer, address your salutation to the angels and to the others present, feel a sense of gratitude to God, Glorified is He, having enabled you to complete this act of worship. Imagine that you are saying farewell to this act of yours and you may not live to see another like it.