Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch
Please clarify for me the following issues, as I have been suffering from misgivings in them: What is considered a laugh that breaks the prayer? What is the definition of quiet recitation? What does one do if they constantly doubt whether they made one or two prostrations? Does thinking of someone other than Allah when making an intention break the prayer? Does intending or thinking of leaving the prayer break the prayer?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate
Before we go into the specifics of your questions, reflect on the following guidelines regarding misgivings (waswasa):
Imam Ibn ‘Abidin mentions the following advice for one inflicted with misgivings.
He says, “As for the one who is often inflicted with misgivings, it is necessary for them to sever the cause of the misgivings and not to give it any consideration. This is because it is the doing of Shaytan, and we have been commanded to oppose him.” [Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]
What is True Caution?
Shaytan plays on people’s sincerity in their religion and incites them toward false caution. This false caution causes many people great hardship in their religion, to such an extent that many give up. This is what Shaytan wants.
However, true caution in the religion is to follow the Sunna of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace), no more, no less.
Laughing in Prayer
If a sane adult laughs audibly in the prayer, the prayer, as well as their wudu, are invalid. [Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah]
However, a mere crack in the voice or a slight breath do not constitute laughing. Instead, laughing entails hearing, seeing, or thought of something amusing, thus causing them to react in laughter.
If you do not hear, see, or think of something amusing that causes you to produce a laughing sound, then ignore any sounds that may come forth. It is not normal for someone to laugh for no reason, and mere sounds of the mouth are not laughing.
If one recites such that one or two people can hear them, this is not considered a loud recitation. Loud recitation is when the entire first row could hear had one been leading a congregation. [Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar citing the Khulasa and others]
For this reason, you do not have to go to extremes in whispering; a moderately quiet voice is sufficient.
Doubts in the Number of Prostration
If one constantly doubts how many prostrations they made, they apply their judgment and act accordingly. If you are still unsure, take the lesser of the two possibilities. [Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]
However, if this doubt arises after the prayer is over or after you have sat in the final sitting the length of the tashahhud supplication, you must ignore the doubts unless they are certain that they left out a prostration. [Ibid.]
The basis is that a person would normally make two prostrations; thus, in the case of doubts, consider that you performed both prostrations until you can prove otherwise. [Ibid.]
Thinking of Other Than Allah When Intending to Pray
Note that merely thinking of the creation when praying is not showing off. Sincerity is one’s intention to pray means that the motivating factor for them to pray is Allah Most High. Proof of this is that such a person would still pray regardless of anyone witnessing or not. [Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]
Furthermore, for one’s prayer to be valid, one must know which prayer one is praying. This intention is sufficient for the prayer to be valid; however, sincerity in the intention is a condition for reward. [Ibid.]
Does Intending to Leave the Prayer Break the Prayer?
Merely thinking of leaving the prayer or even intending to leave the prayer is insufficient for the prayer to be considered broken. The prayer is only broken if one does an action that is incompatible with the prayer. [Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]
An example of such an action is turning away from the Qibla, speaking, eating, or telling the Salam to leave the prayer.
The long-term cure for these constant doubts is to seek a deeper understanding of Islamic Knowledge. With knowledge, Shaytan can not deceive you with his whispers and plots. Therefore, I would advise that you find authentic scholars in your area and study with them a basic text in Islamic Jurisprudence.
Please note that SeekersGuidance.org has classes available in Islamic Jurisprudence and many other subjects.
Hope this helps
Allah knows best
[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Yusuf Weltch is a teacher of Arabic, Islamic law, and spirituality. After accepting Islam in 2008, he then completed four years at the Darul Uloom seminary in New York, where he studied Arabic and the traditional sciences. He then traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he stayed for three years studying in Dar Al-Mustafa under some of the greatest scholars of our time, including Habib Umar Bin Hafiz, Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf, and Shaykh Umar al-Khatib. In Tarim, Shaykh Yusuf completed the memorization of the Qur’an and studied beliefs, legal methodology, hadith methodology, Qur’anic exegesis, Islamic history, and several texts on spirituality. He joined the SeekersGuidance faculty in the summer of 2019.