Perfecting Prayer 1/2: A Guide to Improving Our Worship

Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Rahim. Alhamdulillah Rabb Al-Alameen. Wa assalaat wa assalam 'ala ashraf al-anbiya'i wa al-mursaleen, habibi ilahil 'alameen, abi al-Qasim al-Mustafa Muhammad [Allahumma salli 'ala Muhammad wa 'aali Muhammad]. Wa a'laa Ahli Bayti at-tayyibin, at-tahireen. Qaala Allahu Ta'ala fi kitaabihi al-kareem. Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Rahim "A'laa bi dhikri Allah tatma'inna al-qulub"(13:28).

Scholars have noted that the human being is in need of worshiping Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala, just like the human is in need of other desires. We have many needs in our lives. We have the need to rest, the need to eat, the need to reproduce, and there is also a need, a spiritual requirement that our soul yearns for. Something that our body and our fitra and our soul pushes us to attain and that is spiritual satisfaction.

For someone who says I am not in need of spiritual satisfaction, then this person needs to do some soul searching. This person has not truly discovered themselves. Because every single one of us is in need of worshiping Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala because Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala is our creator and He knows what is best for us. And Allah says in the Qur'an, "wama khalaqtul jinna wal ins illa li ya'budun" (51:56). I created the Jinn and the humans so that they worship Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala.

Now, someone might say, how does worshiping Allah fulfil my duty as a person, as an individual? How am I created to worship Allah? I don't sense that I have a need to worship Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala. However, if we look closely into our souls and into our lives, we will see that we are in need of worshiping of Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala. Our soul goes through obstacles and challenges on a daily basis, and the only way that we will be able to get through these obstacles and challenges is through a relationship with a higher being, through a relationship with someone who is able to answer us, someone who is able to help us.

Sometimes in times of need we go to people. But are people always able to help us? Have people promised, the closest people to me, have they promised to always be there for me? No. Are they always able to help me? No. Can they always be there for me and listen to me when I'm in when I am in need? No. Who is the one that is always there for me when I'm in need? Who was the one that has promised to listen to me when I'm in need? Who is the one that has promised to answer me and help me when I am in need? That is Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala. It is only Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala who has promised to answer me. You know, sometimes some of the closest people to us, the closest people to me, sometimes my family, my parents, they have not promised to always be there for me. They have not promised to always listen to me when I'm in need.

But Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala says: "wa idha sa'alaka Ibadi anni fa inni qareeb. Ujeebu da'watad da'i idha da'aa" (2:186). When the servant asks about me, tell them I'm close, Ujeebu da'watad da'i, I answer whoever calls upon me. Whoever calls upon me anytime during the day, during the night, in the oceans and the airplane, wherever it is Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala is there. He listens.

One day, Prophet Musa Alayhi assalam, he asked Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala: Ilahi a'anta ba'idun fa unadeek am qareebun fa unajeek. Oh Allah are you far so I have to raise my voice when I speak to you? When I do dua, do I have to raise my voice? Or are you close so that I whisper? Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala replied to Musa, he tells him Ya Musa ana jaleesun man dhakarani. Oh Musa I am the partner. I am sitting in the heart of whoever remembers me. Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala, He is the only one that has answered, that has promised to answer me to be there for me, to listen to me.

And Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala has set a lifestyle, a life plan for us to get closer to Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala, and that is through the prayers, that is through the supplication, that is the point of contact with Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala, that is the connection with Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala. You know, sometimes if the Internet is not working in our homes or on our phones, what do we do? Some of us will go crazy because we are disconnected from the world, we're just by ourselves, we have no one to talk to, no one to connect with, no one to hear news from, no one to listen to.

We go crazy if the Internet is not working for a few minutes. But we have a connection with a Higher Being. We have a connection with someone who is the most powerful of kings, the most powerful. And the only Creator and that is Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala. He has given me a way to speak to Him and that is through the prayer. Allah says in the Qur'an: "inna as-salaata tanha ani al-fahsha wa al-munkar" (29:45). Prayer, it's not only a connection with Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala, it's not only a dialogue with Allah, but rather it's a form of purification for us, "inna as-salaata tanha ani al-fahsha wa al-munkar" (29:45).

Prayer, it's supposed to remove the fahsha and the munkar from our lives. It is supposed to remove the evil and the sins from our lives. Now, today, the discussion is how can we perfect our prayer? How can we make our prayer be a prayer that truly connects me with Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala? How can I make my prayer be a prayer that removes the fahsha and the munkar from my life?

Some of us, we've been praying our whole lives. We've been praying for 20, 30 years, but we see that there are still fahsha and munkar in our lives. We see that there's still backbiting, there's still sinning, there's still disobedience to Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala in our lives. What's the problem? Why do we continue sinning while we have been praying our whole lives? For the ones who don't pray, the answer is clear. You have to pray in order to remove the fahsha and the munkar from your lives.

But today I want to talk about the mu'mineen. We, the ones who pray but we still fall into the traps of Shaytan. We still fall in the sins and the shackles of the sins. The problem is that our prayer is not a complete prayer. The problem is that our prayer is not a prayer that is full and brings us closer to Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala. There are there is a problem with the connection, you know, sometimes when you're trying to call someone, you hear the phone, it keeps going off, it keeps disconnecting. The same way with our prayer.

There are some, their prayer immediately goes to Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala and there are others they have, I don't know if some of the younger ones probably don't remember, but there was a time when there was dial up Internet. You have to wait to connect to make sounds until it connects you to the Internet. And then in the middle of a process, you see that it disconnects. Some of us, our prayers are worse than that. They don't connect with Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala. They don't get us closer to Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala.

Therefore, in order to have my, the fahsha and the munkar and the sin removed from my life. I need to perfect my prayer. I need to make sure that my prayer is good in this life before I leave. Because that day that I leave this life and my prayer was not a good prayer, a solid prayer that connects me with Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala and removes the sin from my life, that is the day of regret.

That is the day where every single one of us will be regretful. Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala describes the Day of Judgment. It has many names. One of the names of the Day of Judgment is Yawm ul-Hasra. "Wa an dhirhum yawm al-hasra idh qudhiyya al-amr" (19:39). Warn them of the Day of Regret when everything has been written. There's no going back. Therefore, we have an opportunity to turn to Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala, before we have to stand in front of Allah on that day.

We have an opportunity in this life to stand in front of Allah during our prayers. But where is our mind when we are standing in front of Allah while we are praying? When there will be a day where we will have to stand in front of Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala and we will see our prayers in a physical form. Scholars say that there's something called tajassud al-'amaal, meaning that we will be able to see our actions, our deeds with a physical form. Allah says in the Qur'an: "yawma tajdu kullu nafsin ma a'milat min khayrin muhdhara wa ma 'amilat min su'in tawaddu law anna baynaha wa baynahu amadan ba'ida"(3:30). The Day of Judgment, every soul, they will see their actions. The good that you did, you will see it and the negative and the bad that we did in our lives, we will also see it. Allah says that: tawaddu law anna baynaha wa baynahu amadan ba'ida. When I see my bad actions, when I see my negative actions, I will wish to remove myself and push them away from me.

And there is also a physical form for the prayer that we pray. According to the narrations of the Ahlul Bayt, they say that the prayer of a mu'min, the prayer of a believer, it will be one of the things that will guide the person. It will take you by your hand and it will take you to paradise. One of the things that is a Shafi', that intercedes is the Qur'an. One of them is Rasul Allah, one of them is the prayer. And then there's also a negative form for the one who did not pray with carefulness, the one who did not pray with attention. They will see that their prayer comes to them in an ugly form and the prayer will say dhayya' tani dhayya akallah. You did not care for me, therefore, I will not be able to save you. I will not be able to help you.

So my dear brothers and sisters, if when it comes to religion, we don't take it very seriously. There are many things that we are not serious with. If there is one thing that you choose to be serious with when it comes to your faith, let that be your prayer. Let that be the salah because the salah, according to the Hadith, it is 'amud ud-deen. In qubilat qubila ma suwaha, wa'in ruddat, rudda ma suwaha. So if your prayers accepted because the prayers, the pillar of the faith, just like this column here, you see it is holding the structure.

Faith without prayer does not have a structure because it's saying, I believe in Allah, I have faith in Allah and I don't want to have a dialogue with Allah. I don't want to speak with Allah. I don't want to be connected with Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala. Of course, there are types of prayers. Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala describes the mu'minoon, the believers. Allah says in the Qur'an: "qad aflahal mu'minoon, alladheena hum fi salaatihim ghashi'un" (23:1-2). The believers, they are the successful ones, who are they? The ones who in their prayer, they pray with khushu. Khushu, it means someone who prays with humility, with humbleness, with connection with Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala. The only prayer that will connect me with Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala. The only prayer that has a fast connection that is able to connect me with Allah is the prayer with khushu. A prayer without khushu is just movements of the body, going up and down, bowing and and prostrating without any connection.

And this is how many of our prayers, we pray five times a day but we see that our prayer doesn't do anything for us. We keep going back to our same lifestyle. We keep going back to the sins. We keep going back to the negative habits that are holding us down. But a prayer that has khushu is a prayer that will transform your life a hundred and eighty degrees. It's a prayer that removes the shaytan from your life and removes the sins and anything negative from your life.

It is the prayer that belongs to Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala; "Qul inna salati wa nusuki wa mahyaya wa mamati lillahi rabb il-aalamin" (6:162) [Say, "Indeed, my prayer, my rites of sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allah, Lord of the worlds]. When I give everything for Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala, that is when I will be able to have a clear relationship with Allah, a transparent relationship with Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala where nothing comes in between. But the problem with us, is that our relationship with Allah has many connections, it has many obstacles. It's not a transparent connection with Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala. If it was transparent, we will see that our lives would be drastically different.

We will see that our dua will be accepted immediately. Some of us ask, why isn't my dua accepted as soon as I ask Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala? Doesn't Allah say in the Qur'an 'Ask me and I will answer you.' 'Ad'uni astajiblakum" (40:60). Why is it that my dua is not answered? The problem is that the connection with Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala, there's no transparency in our relationship with Allah. Go and look at the prayers of the Awliyaa, look at the prayers of Rasul Allah sallalahu wa alihi.

Individuals who used to yearn for the moment of prayer. Rasul Allah sallalahu wa alihi, he used to sit in the masjid waiting for prayer time. We, when prayer time is almost going to finish, that's when we go and we pray. But there are individuals that wait for prayer time, they go in the masjid, it's mustahab to sit in the masjid and wait for the time of prayer, wait for the adhaan. And then as soon as it is adhaan time, Rasul Allah would tell Bilal 'Arihna Ya Bilal,' - 'Comfort us Oh Bilal.' Call for the wudhu, call for the connection to speak to Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala. I've been yearning. I've been anticipating this appointment that Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala has given me five times a day. Where do you find a leader, a king, a president that gives his servants, gives the people under him appointment five times to speak to them a day. You only find that with Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala.

When we pray, we have to pray with khushu. Praying with khushu means that our heart is connected with Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala. The heart must be there when we are praying, when we are talking to Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala. The hadith says Ma laka min salaatik illah ma akbalta alayka bi qalbik. Your prayer is what your heart tells you your prayer was. After you finished your prayer, ask your heart and the heart does not lie. The heart is very honest.

Ask your heart, how sincere was my prayer with Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala? Was it a prayer? Did I feel that prayer? Did I feel? Or did my heart go somewhere else in the middle of the prayer? If we pray a prayer with sincerity, it is a prayer that our heart is there and when your heart is there, that means you are listening to Allah, you are speaking to Allah and you know who your Lord is. It is narrated that Imam Al-Hasan, alayhi assalam and the other Imams, when they were doing wudhu, Imam al-Hasan, his companions, they see him performing wudhu. They see that his face, the colour of his face changes and he begins shivering and shaking.

Ya tamalmal tamalmul as-saleem. Like the one that has been, this is one of the sifaat, one of the qualities of Ameer ul-Mu'minin Ali Ibn Abu Talib. As if someone has been struck by poison, by a snake. Ya tamalmal tamalmul as-saleem. Why? They ask him why, what's wrong with you? You seem in shock, you seem so nervous. He tells his companions, he tells his friends that are so surprised, he tells them, do you know who I'm going to be standing in front of?

Ureedu ul-wuquf bayna yaday jabbar as-samaawati wa al-ardh. I want to stand in front of the one who created the universe. You expect me not to be shaking? You expect me not to be shivering? This is how the awliya would turn to Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala. And of course, there's others who Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala describes the qualities of the munafiqeen, the hypocrites - wa idha qaamu ila as-salaat qaamu khusaalaa. When they stand for prayer, they stand dragging themselves to the prayer, dragging themselves because it's so difficult to stand and pray.

But if you tell this person there is a football game, there's a basketball game at three a.m, at five a.m, sometimes this happens, you know, and there is a World Cup or there's the Olympics, there's different time zones. You see some people, they'll stay up or they'll wake up. They'll put an alarm clock to wake up in the middle of the night just so that they could watch a show or that they could watch a game.

But when it comes to having a dialogue with Allah, many of us are very far from that. So we have to strengthen our hearts. This is one and second, we need to strengthen our minds, we need to understand who we are speaking to. We need to understand the movements of our prayer. What does my standing in front of Allah symbolize? What does rukuh symbolize? What does my sujood symbolize? It all has meanings. When I stand in front of Allah, I should remember that there is a day that I will have to stand in front of Allah. A day that Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala describes a day as long as fifty thousand years, the Day of Judgment.

That's the day that we will have to stand and no one will be able to move an inch without the permission of Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala. When I stand, let me imagine myself standing in front of Allah. In a time where we cannot move, we cannot do anything. My dear brothers and sisters, because of the short time that we have, I will leave parts of this lecture for another night. But I want to conclude with a story, a beautiful story that teaches us the importance of connecting with Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala.

In order to be able to pray and in order to have my prayer have khushu, we need to have strong faith and Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala. Many times people say, I see that my dua is not answered. I see that I do not have that connection with Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala. We can have that connection with Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala. We can have that strong relationship with Allah. All it takes is some dedication.

All it takes is the will-power to decide on turning to Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala and the Beauty of Allah and the Mercy of Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala is that He accepts everyone. "Qul ya Ibaadiyal ladheena asrafu a'la anfusihim la taqnatu min rahmatillah. Inna Allaha yaghfiruhu dhunuba jami'a"(39:53). Tell my Ibaad, the ones who have oppressed themselves 'Do not give up hope in the Mercy of Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala.' Allah accepts everyone. Allah accepts every single one of us.

It is mentioned by Imam Ja'far Al-Sadiq, alayhi assalam in Kitab al-Kafi. He says that there was a man who was an 'abid, a man who was a servant, a worshiper probably during the time of Bani-Israel. This man, everything that he does in his life, it doesn't work out. You know there are some people that go, they start a business, it doesn't work out. They go, they start another business. It doesn't work. Everything that they do, it doesn't work out. This is a way of Allah testing some people. Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala does not want to punish a mu'min. Allah tests the believers and sometimes we are tested through financial difficulties, other times through health, other times through children. And there are many ways that Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala tests people.

This man, Allah tested his family with poverty. He kept going. He tries to do something to lift himself from the poverty, but he sees that he's not able to. When life gave up on him, he did not give up on Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala. He kept praying, he kept worshiping, he kept praying and worshiping Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala. One day his wife came to him and she tells him, we have no food in the house. We don't have anything in the house.

She tells him, I did a ghazal, meaning that she knitted something. She tells him, go and take this, take it to the market and see if you could sell it and bring back food. So he leaves his prayer mat. He takes whatever his wife has made, he goes to the market. He sees that the market is closed. There's no one in the market and there wasn't a 24 hour Walmart where you go and you buy food at that time, you know, there are times where the market is closed.

If you've lived in the Middle East, it's probably at noontime. There's no one waiting. No one has a shop open at that time. So he says, I decided he decided to go to the fish market, to the ocean. There are fishermen there. There they probably have fish. So he says he went to the ocean and he saw one last fisherman waiting who has a very old rotten fish, the fish, you know, fish. If it's not if it's not sold immediately, if it's not fresh, it's going to rot.

He saw a very old fish. But his children are hungry. His wife is waiting for him to go back and take something, he gives the fisherman whatever his wife has made the ghazal and he takes that fish and he says, I'll go home. He goes home, his wife, she sees that he came with a fish that does not look edible. She tells him this is what you brought back? It tells her this is all that was left. He tells her see what you could do with it. So she goes, she cuts it open and she finds two pearls, two pearls inside the stomach of the fish. So she comes to him, she tells him, look what we found, we found two pearls inside the stomach. Go to the market, sell it and see what you could make with it. So he goes back and this, my dear brothers and sisters, this is, Allah mentions this is in the Qur'an.

"Wa man yattakillah yaj allahu makhrajah wa yarzukh hum min haythu la yah tasib" (65:2-3). He who has taqwa in Allah, Allah will create an exit from every problem, wa yar zukh hum min haythu la yah tahsib and the rizq of Allah, the sustenance will come from a way that I did not imagine. You know, we make calculations in our life. I say if I do this, I will make this much. If I do this, I will make this much. If I work this many hours, this is how much I will make.

But the one who has taqwa Allah says wa yar zukh hum min haythu la yah tahsib, in a way that he did not imagine the rizq will come and the rizq came to this person. But there's also one very important element to keeping that sustenance from Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala, and that is what do I do with this rizq? Many of us, Allah gave us rizq, but how do I thank Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala? So this man, he takes these two pearls, he goes to the market, he sells each one for twenty thousand dirhams. He comes back home with two bags, each one has twenty thousand dirhams.

He goes, they've just become very rich. He sits, he's resting, someone knocks on the door. The knocker knocks on the door, he goes and he opens, he sees a poor person. The poor person tells him, give me from what Allah has given you, I'm a poor person. This is where Allah tests some of us. This is where our prayer becomes transformed into action. When I pray in the mehraab, that is one thing, but in order to transform it into action, I do that when I'm not in the mehraab. I do that when I'm not praying. That's where I will be able to tell if my prayer did have a meaning, did have an impact on my life. So this man, he tells the beggar he tells him you see those two bags, go and take one. He gives him one of the bags and the man, the poor man takes 20 thousand dirhams and he leaves.

His wife comes to him, she tells him you gave away half of what we owned. You gave away half of what we had. The man, he tells his wife the One who gave us this is still around. Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala, He is the one who brought this for us, don't worry. If you have faith in Allah, Allah will give you. Then a few moments later, the door is knocked again. Of course, this is a hadith from Imam As-Sadiq. This is not a fantasy or a fairy tale. The door is knocked again.

He opens the door, he sees that it's the same beggar carrying the bag. The beggar tells him, I'm an Angel of Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala. Allah sent me to test you, to see will you thank Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala? Fa wajadaka abdan saabira, fa wajadaka abdan shakura. He saw that you are a thankful servant. You thanked Allah with what he has given you, take this 20 thousand dirhams. Enjoy your life.

This, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the reliance on Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala. This is the faith in Allah and this is when our prayer becomes action. When I pray, I ask Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala to place me on the right path. I ask Allah to make me from the good. But when I give charity, that means my prayer did have an impact on my life. When I do good deeds, when I stay away from sin, it means that my prayer did have an impact on my life.

I won't take any more of your time because we have a respected guest. The sheikh is about to speak, so we ask Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala to accept all of our prayers. Wal hamdulillahi Rabb Al-Alameen. Wa sallalahu 'ala Muhammad wa a'laa alihi bayti at-tayyibeen, at-tahireen
 

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