Suggested Methods Of Achieving Attention In Prayer

Suggested Methods Of Achieving Attention In Prayer

Imam 'Ali ('a) is reported to have said: "Beware that every deed of yours is performed according to your prayer." This means that there is a real link between our prayers and the deeds we perform. This tradition informs us that the deeds of the human being are shaped according to his prayer. If the prayer infuses the spirit of monotheism in the heart and mind of the worshipper (musalli) and orients him accordingly, the deeds that would follow would sparkle with the light of monotheism and the human being would undergo spiritual progress.
Realization Of The Importance Of Prayers:
Praying in the state of indifference and laxity should not be considered as an astonishing phenomenon in the life of one who has not realized the importance of prayer and its vital role in a believer's life. This contention needs no intellectual evidence, as it is crystal clear to every impartial observer.
The emphasis Islam lays on prayer is enough to drive one to appreciate its fundamental role in a person's life and character. Imam 'Ali (`a) is reported to have said:
"Beware that every deed of yours is performed According to your prayer." [1]
This means that there is a real link between our prayers and the deeds we perform. This tradition informs us that the deeds of the human being are shaped according to his prayer. If the prayer infuses the spirit of monotheism in the heart and mind of the worshipper (musalli) and orients him accordingly, the deeds that would follow would sparkle with the light of monotheism and the human being would undergo spiritual progress. However, if it lays a negative effect, the actions that would follow would assume the color of polytheism and remoteness from Divine proximity. Consequently our good deeds would carry no weight at all. Almighty Allah informs us about a people who conjecture that they have done good and are on the straight path, but in reality they have nothing but loss:
Say [O Our Apostle Muhammad] Shall we tell you who will be the greatest losers in their works? Those whose striving goes astray in the present life, while they think that they are working good deeds. [2]
One who always verbally declares that all praises belong to Allah (al-Hamdu lilLah), whether in his qira'a or elsewhere in prayer, but is oblivious of the true meaning of what he utters may, for example, give away a lot of wealth as alms (sadaqa), but always experience a sense of self-esteem (`ujb), thinking that he has done a favor on Allah.
This is while the core of praise restricts it for the real doer of good or possessor of an attribute of perfection, which in the language of Qur'an is none other than Allah. The Holy Qur'an says:
All praises belong to Allah. [3]
Whenever anyone does any good 'the doer and the deed' both are the creation of Allah, since their existence as well as subsistence entirely depends on His power. And since He is the sole Creator and whatever He creates is beautiful, every beautiful deed is His:
'One who made beautiful all that He created' [4]
Furthermore, since He is the sole possessor of all perfect & beautiful attributes, all praises belong to Him:
Allah, excepting Him, there is no God; His are the beautiful Names. [5]
Therefore how can one ever think highly of himself for having given something that he really and ontologically does not possess? How can one ever extol himself for a good deed that the Almighty enabled him to perform? One, however, who understands and always pays attention to the fact that all praises solely belong to Allah and appreciates its true meaning would always thank Allah for the blessing of enabling him to give his wealth for His sake. To express takbir in prayers and be ignorant of its meaning or inattentive of the same, would not make one God-wary in many of his acts. Allahu Akbar means that Allah is greater than whatever is described of Him. In simpler words, He transcends the bounds of finitude and is free from every kind of shortcoming or imperfection. He is Infinite and present everywhere:
' ... Whithersoever you turn, there is the face of Allah ...' [6]
One, therefore, who does not inculcate this truth in his mind and heart in prayer would always blemish his soul with the taints of 'sin'. Sin, which is disobedience to the Creator, is a practical expression of polytheism, whereas the worshipper declares the Non-­composite and Infinite reality of His Creator which is equal to the impossibility of even the assumption of a second.
In simpler terms: The Holy Quran informs us of a people who worship their vain desires and consider them as their God:
Have you seen him who has taken his vain desire to be his God? [7]
Therefore "obeying" one's vain desires is to worship them, which is tantamount to polytheism. In other words whosoever prefers his vain desires to some of the commands of Allah is practically declaring polytheism.
If the musulli were to understand the above, and realized the meaning of takbir, and mold the heart accordingly, he would always be deterred from sin. Small wonder it is that the Holy Qur'an says:
...And keep up prayer; Surely prayer restrains one from indecency and the forbidden... [8]
Finding Unoccupied Time And Unoccupied Heart
A very important method of attaining huduru'l qalb suggested by some scholars of ethics is to apportion a specific time for prayer, a time in which you have no preoccupations to busy your mind and heart with. Habituating oneself in praying with a free mind would really help the novice in the path of Allah to attain concentration and maintain the same throughout his worship. It is only by means of proper discipline and organization that such a practice can be achieved. It is impossible for the contemplative who has realized the close link between his prayer and his deeds to be slothful and give less importance to prayer.
The Effect of Maintaining Attention In Prayer
If his disposition has not been eclipsed by his misdeeds, the desire to attain perfection never ceases, and the wayfarer continues on his journey towards his Beloved. Almighty Allah molded the human being in a manner that he yearns and is able to soar forever and achieve the higher levels of perfection... His aim is the Infinite. Examples of such a drive is manifested in the human being's craving for infinite knowledge, power, and beauty... The beauty here lies in how the Creator designed the human being: although man has nothing of his own, not even existence to own his finite perfection, the Infinitely Perfect continually welcomes him to Himself: "To Allah is the homecoming"
O Man! You are striving Unto your Lord Laboriously, And you shall encounter Him. [9]
The Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have said:
Verily prayer is A means for the believer to attain God's proximity. [10]
One of the most sublime effects of observing attention in prayer, as indicated in the above narration, is Allah's nearness and proximity. The abovementioned verse of the Holy Qur'an also tells us that man is a traveler in thus world and that his destination is the neighborhood of his Beloved Creator. Again, in chapter 35, verse no. 18, we read:
And whosoever purifies himself, purifies himself only for his own soul's good. To Allah is the homecoming (destination) [11]
Almighty Allah prescribed a set of devotional acts for man to enable him to soar to His Proximity and attain knowledge of His Exalted Presence. It is this sacred aspiration wherein lies the true happiness of the human being. To understand this reality does not require one to search for intellectual proofs. The innate nature (fitra) of the human being itself is a proof of this reality: the human being innately aspires to attain infinite perfection, which exists in none other than his Creator.
If his innate nature has not been eclipsed by his misdeeds, the desire to attain perfection never ceases, and the wayfarer continues on his journey towards his Beloved. Almighty Allah molded the human being in a manner that he yearns and is able to soar forever and achieve the higher levels of perfection. He naturally does not aspire for limited perfection. His aim is the Infinite. Manifestations of such a drive are the human being's craving for infinite knowledge, power, and beauty.
Independent Infinite perfection, however, solely belongs to God, since He alone is the Necessary Existent. His near servants, however can enjoy His proximity and perpetually soar and progress, since the journey is endless. The beauty here lies in how the Creator designed the human being: although man has nothing of his own, not even existence to own his finite perfection, the Infinitely Perfect continually welcomes him to Himself:
And Allah continually Invites To the abode of peace And continually Guides whosoever He wants To the straight path [12]
To Allah is the homecoming. [13]
The process of getting closer to God should not mislead us to believe that God is at a higher physical plane and we would reach him if we observe attention in our prayers. Rather, the distance is not physical but metaphysical and spiritual.
The human being through a continual process of inculcation of truth in his prayer, undergoes a spiritual transformation: the prayer teaches and orients him. It ignites his heart to repent and wake up. It forces him to seek forgiveness of the sins that he has committed; it teaches him to be an obedient servant of God; it perpetually transforms him and transports him towards true monotheism.
Therefore if concentration is always maintained therein, the true aspirant of perfection can purify his inner self and obey all whatever Allah has commanded him. It is the sense of indifference in man that creates doubt in the possibility of attaining the higher levels of human perfection that the gnostics (awliya') speak about. If one were to painstakingly contemplate and understand even the overt and outer meaning of what he expresses in prayer, he can surely undergo spiritual change.
How can the musalli always have the audacity to declare the immaculate nature of God, when he manifests in his practical life actions that are incongruous with his declaration? To rely on people's wealth, for example, is an extension (misdaq) of such incongruity: how can one pin his hopes on a human being like himself who (in reality) neither possesses anything of his own, nor has knowledge of his next moment? How can one show respect to another due to the wealth and affluence of the latter, while he always declares that all praises belong to God, which finally means that every entity is His property? If one were to carefully ponder over what he expresses in prayer and understand the essence of their meaning, his actions would shine with the spirit of monotheism and transport him to the hometown which his heart naturally aspires.
Notes:
[1] Imam 'Ali (`a), Nahju'l Balagha, letter no. 27
[2] Holy Qur'an, 18:103-104
[3] Ibid, 1:2
[4] Ibid, 32:7
[5] Ibid, 20:8
[6] Ibid, 2:115
[7] Ibid, 25:43
[8] Ibid, 29:43
[9] Holy Qur'an, 84:6
[10] al-Hindi, Kanzu'l Ummal, tr. 18907
[11] 'Masir' in the verse has a meaning worthy of consideration. Its verbal noun (masdar) is 'sayrurah' (the process of becoming). Raghib, the well-known lexicographer, in his Mufradat says:
'Sara is to transfer from one state to another.' (al-Mufradat, p. 149). The human being by means of devotional practices undergoes a perpetual process of change of state, which according to the Holy Qur'an is endless, since the path to Allah, Whose reality is Absolute & Infinite Perfection is endless. We say this because whatever distance the human being would be enabled to cover, he would never attain Absolute Perfection­ something that is perceivable only for the Necessary Being. Even if he were to attain unimaginably exalted heights through devotional practices his perfection would still be limited.
[12] Holy Qur'an, 10:25
[13] Holy Qur'an, 35:18

Reference: ImamReza.net

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