Humility and Attentiveness in Prayer
The nearest a servant can be to his Lord is when he prostrates himself in prayer. .
Humility and attentiveness (khushoo‛) constitute the essence of the prayer and involve deep concentration and total humility before Almighty Allah, trying one’s best to concentrate and understand the Qur’anic verses and supplications recited in the prayer.
Being one of the most meritorious acts of worship, Allah I considers it to be one of the characteristics of the believers: “Successful indeed are the believers; they are those who humble themselves in their prayer.” (Al-Mu’minoon, 23:1-2)
Those who observe khushoo‛ in their prayer taste the sweetness of worship and faith, hence the Prophet’s saying, “The prayer is the source of my greatest joy.” (Sunan An-Nasaa’ee: 3940)
Means of Observing Khushoo‛ in Prayer
There are a number of means which help develop this state of humility and attentiveness in prayer including the following:
- Making the Necessary Preparations for the Prayer
This can be done by going early to the mosque (for men), observing the recommended acts that precede it, wearing appropriate and fine clothes and walking to the mosque humbly and in a dignified manner.
- Keeping Distractions away
One must not engage in prayer while there are some distractions that are bound to affect his concentration, such as pictures, loud noises, the need to answer the call of nature and hunger and thirst after food has been served. By keeping such distractions away, one develops a serene mind that paves the way for better concentration in this great act of worship one is about to offer.
Tuma’neenah has no equivalent in English, and it generally means avoiding haste and not moving from one posture to another until it has lasted at leastthe time that it took for the bones to settle.The Prophet r never offered his prayer hurriedly. He would perform all the prayer postures and movements perfectly and would not move from one posture to another until it lasted at least the time that it took for the bones to settle. He would also order those of his companions who rushed their prayers to take their time in all the prayer postures and movements and to complete them properly. He did not like them to rush it and compared the act of hurriedly offering the prayer to that of the pecking of crows.
He once said to his companions, “The worst kind of thief is one who steals from his prayer.” They asked him, “How can someone steal from this prayer?” He replied, “By not completing its bowing and prostrate postures properly.” (Musnad Ahmad: 22642)
Those who rush their prayer cannot possibly offer it withdeep concentration and total humility before Almighty Allah, for haste undoubtedly affects attentiveness and humility in prayer, reducing one’s rewards.
- Contemplating Allah’s Greatness
We must contemplate the greatness of the Creator, recognising His perfection and acknowledging one’s own weaknessesand defects. Those who contemplate the greatness of Allah cannot help but notice that they are rather worthless by comparison. This increases their reverence of Allah and makes them invoke Allah and humbly and earnestly ask Him for anything. We must also remember the eternal bliss Allah I has prepared for the obedient believers and the severe punishment He has prepared for the unbelievers. We also must think about the day when we will stand before Allah for the final judgement. Allah I mentions in the Qur’an that those who do so are indeed those who are certain they will meet Him: “Seek Allah’s help with patient perseverance and prayer; and truly it is a very hard thing except for the humble, those who know that they will have to meet their Lord, and that to Him they are returning.” (Soorat Al-Baqarah, 2:45-6) The more conscious awareness we have that Allah can hear us, give us and respond to our prayers, the more humbleness we develop and the more we will contemplate Allah’s greatness.
- Meditating on the Qur’anic Verses and Other Prayer Utterances and Responding to Them
The Qur’an was revealed to be reflected on, as the Qur’an states, “It is a Book We have sent down to you, full of blessing, so let people of intelligence ponder its signs and take heed.” (Soorat Saad, 38:29) This cannot be possibly achieved without understanding the meaning of the invocations, supplications and Qur’anic verses recited in prayer. Meditation on the meaning of what one recites as well as on one’s own condition is bound to increase one’s concentration and humility in prayer and even move one to tears and ecstasy. Such emotional effect becomes evident with every verse to which they listen, as the Qur’an states, “Those who, when they are reminded of the verses of their Lord, they do not turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to them.” (Soorat Al-Furqaan,25:73)
The Friday Prayer (Salaat-ul-Jumu‛ah)
Worshippers must listen attentively to the Friday sermon and must not engage in anything which is bound to distract them from it.
The Friday prayer (salaat-ul-jumu‛ah) is a religious obligation which takes the place of the daily afternoon prayer (salaat-udh-Dhuhr) on Friday. It is one of the most exalted Islamic rituals and one of its confirmed obligatory acts. On this day, Muslims gather once a week, listen to the sermon which the imaam delivers, and then offer the Friday prayer.
Virtues of Friday
Friday is the best and most exalted day of the week, for Allah I has favoured it over other days due to a number of virtues including the following:
- Allah I has specifically chosen it for the Muslims, as the Prophet r said, “Allah led those who came before us away from Friday. The Jews had Saturday, and the Christians had Sunday. Then Allah brought us and Allah guided us to Friday.” (Saheeh Muslim: 856)
- Allah created Adam on it, and on this very day the Day of Judgement will take place, as the Prophet r said, “Friday is the best day on which the sun rises. On this day, Adam was created; on it he was admitted into Paradise and on it he was turned out of it. The Day of Judgement will also take place on Friday.” (Saheeh Muslim: 854)
Who Must Perform the Friday Prayer?
The Friday prayer is a religious obligation that is binding on those who meet these conditions:
- They must be men: Women do not have to offer it.
- They must be legally accountable (mukallaf ) for their actions: It is not obligatory for insane or children who have not reached puberty.
- They must be resident: It is not obligatory for travellers or those who live in the countryside, outside towns and cities.
The Friday Prayer: Manner and Rulings
- It is recommended that a Muslim should take a ritual bath (ghusl), wear nice and clean clothes and proceed early to the mosque.
- Muslims gather in the mosque. The imaam mounts the pulpit (minbar), faces the worshippers and delivers the khutbah (sermon), which normally consists of two sections, between which he sits briefly. In this sermon, he reminds them of being conscious of Allah, offers them advice, preaches to them and recites to them verses from the Qur’an.
- Muslims must listen attentively to the khutbah. They are not allowed to engage in talking or do anything which will otherwise deprive them of benefiting from the khutbah, even if it is fiddling with the carpet, stones or sand.
- The imaam then descends from the pulpit, takes his position and leads the people in a two-rak’ah prayer in which he recites the Qur’an aloud.
- The Friday prayer can only be performed if a certain number of people are present. If any person misses it for a valid reason, he cannot make up for it; and if he offers it on his own, it will not be valid. Instead, he must offer the daily afternoon prayer (salaat-udh-Dhuhr).
- If a person comes late to the mosque and catches up with the imaam in less than one unit (rak‛ah), he must complete his prayer after the imaam concludes the prayer, treating it as the afternoon prayer (salaat-udh-Dhuhr).
- Those who are exempt from offering the Friday prayer, such as women and travellers, do not have to offer the daily afternoon prayer (salaat-udh-Dhuhr) if they have already performed the Friday prayer in the mosque
Those who Are Exempt from Attending the Friday Prayer
Islam stresses that Muslims who are not exempt from offering the Friday prayer must perform it and warns them against occupying themselves with worldly pursuits: “O you who believe, when the call is proclaimed to prayer on Friday, hasten earnestly to the remembrance of Allah and leave off business and traffic. That is best for you if you only knew ” (Soorat Al-Jumu‛ah, 62:9) It also warns that Allah will set a seal on the hearts of those who miss it without a valid excuse, as the Prophet r said, “Allah will seal up the hearts of those whomiss three Friday prayers consecutively, out of sheer negligence and without an excuse.” (Sunan Abu Daawood: 1052; Musnad Ahmad: 15498) This means that He will cover their hearts and place ignorance in them, just like the hearts of hypocrites and disobedient people. An excuse that is considered genuinely valid for missing a Friday prayer is one which involves unusually great hardship or one which is bound to cause serious harm to one’s health or is detrimental to one’s livelihood. .
Can a career that requires one to work at the time of the Friday prayer be considered a valid excuse to miss it?
“Say, ‘What is with Allah is better than trade or entertainment.’” (Soorat Al-Jumu‛ah, 62:11)
Generally, taking up careers that require one to carry on working at the time of the Friday prayer is not a valid excuse for missing the Friday prayer, for Allah I commands us to leave our worldly pursuits when we are called to the Friday prayer: “O you who believe, when the call is proclaimed to prayer on Friday, hasten earnestly to the remembrance of Allah and leave off business and traffic.” (Soorat Al-Jumu‛ah, 62:9)Therefore, a Muslim is required to take up jobs that will not prevent him from observing religious obligations even if such jobs are with less pay. The Qur’an also states, “For those who fear Allah, He ever prepares a way out, and He provides for him from sources he never could imagine. And if any one puts his trust in Allah, sufficient is Allah for him.” (Soorat At-Talaaq, 65:2-3)
When Can a Career Be Considered a Valid Excuse to Miss the Friday Prayer?
Careers which require us to carry on working during the time of the Friday prayer can only be considered a valid excuse in the following two cases:
- Such a career must provide a great benefit which cannot be possibly realised if a person leaves the job and attends the Friday prayer. By the same token, leaving it will certainly cause great harm, especially when there is no one else to replace him.
- Doctors who treat emergency cases.
- Guards or police officers who protect people and their property from theft and criminal activity.
- People who hold supervisory positions in large firms and the like which require constant supervision.
- If such a career is the sole source of income which covers his basic expenses, such as food, drink and other necessary matters, for him and his family, then he may not attend the Friday prayer and may continue his work until he finds an alternative job or until he finds a source of food, drink and necessary matters that are sufficient for himself and his dependents. However, he must keep looking for another source of income.
The Traveller’s Prayer
- A traveller may, when moving from one place to another or during his temporary residence which lasts less than four days, shorten the four-rak‛ah prayers to two each. Thus, he offers two units (rak‛aat, singular: rak‛ah) instead of four for the afternoon prayer (Dhuhr), the late afternoon prayer (‛Asr ) and the late evening prayer (‛Ishaa’), unless he prays behind a resident prayer leader (imaam), in which case he must follow suit.
- He may leave off the supererogatory prayers that are regularly offered with the obligatory ones (as-sunan ar-rawaatib) with the exception of the Fajr supererogatory prayer.
- He may combine the afternoon prayer (Dhuhr) and the late afternoon prayer (‛Asr), and the sunset prayer (Maghrib)and the late evening prayer (‛Ishaa’) at the due time of either of them. This serves to ease the hardship he undergoes while travelling.
The Prayer of the Sick
A Muslim must offer the obligatory prayers under all circumstances as long as he is fully conscious and in full possession of his mental faculties. Islam does, however, take into account people’s various situations and special needs, hence its legislation regarding sick people.
To clarify this point:
- If he is too sick to stand up, or if offering the prayer in a standing posture is bound to delay recovery, he is allowed to offer it in a sitting posture. If he cannot possibly do so, then he can offer it while lying down on his side. The Prophet r said, “Pray standing; if you cannot do so, pray in a sitting position; if you cannot do so either, then pray on your side.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree: 1066)
- If he cannot bow or prostrate, he may only lean forward as far as he can.
- If he cannot sit down on the floor, he may sit on a chair or anything similar.
- If he cannot perform wudoo’ for every prayer due to his sickness, he may combine the afternoon prayer (Dhuhr ) andthe late afternoon prayer (‛Asr ), and the sunset prayer (Maghrib)and late evening prayer (Ishaa’)
- If he cannot use water due to his illness, he may perform tayammum (dry ablution) instead and then offer the prayer