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What a Second-Degree Burn Taught Me About Focus, by Chloe Idris

Chloe Idris writes about losing focus and the searing pain of regret.

I’m writing this right now as I sit in bed, with my leg elevated and wrapped, nursing a second-degree burn. This is in fact my second second-degree burn since I left my home country to seek sacred knowledge, which seems oddly poetic – my first burn was in Jordan (where I was studying Arabic), and now my second has happened in Egypt (where I am studying the Islamic sciences). And although they’ve both been extremely painful, it’s clear that sometimes our most important life lessons come from that which hurts the most (and there’s nothing like sharp, searing pain to really drive a lesson home).

For this to make sense, I’ll have to tell you the story of how I got this latest burn. Since living in the Middle East, my husband and I have always had troubles with our kitchens and bathrooms. Blown fuses and exploding light fixtures that don’t get fixed for months, periods of no running water, periods of no hot water (always fun in the middle of a cold Jordanian winter)… I could go on. At the moment, we’ve been lucky enough to get the bathroom lighting repaired and the water running again, but the hot water seems to be gone for now. We’ve learned to take things in our stride and just have fun with it (it is an adventure, after all).

Which brings me to tonight, when we were doing the washing together – my husband was pouring the hot water (which had been boiled on the stove) and I was pouring the cold water into a single container to use. Of course everyone knows that any time boiling hot water is involved, you have to pay full attention. And we were paying attention, that is until the fifth round of water-pouring.

It was late, we were tired and joking around as we normally do, so it’s no surprise what happened next: something got bumped, the boiling water that was supposed to be pouring into the container was now pouring down my leg, and I was crying in pain.

My husband, being the quick thinker that he is, had me bundled straight into the bathtub and had cold water running over the burn in no time. And I know at this point you’re probably thinking ‘well that sounds painful Chloe, but I’m not really sure what you getting burned has to do with life lessons and seeking sacred knowledge.’

When You Least Expect It

We were discussing later how it had happened, because even though it was an accident, my husband felt terrible for even having accidentally caused me pain. And the reality is, it happened because we both stopped focusing. We took our eyes off the task at hand, and became distracted. We had nearly finished up with the washing, we felt like we were all done, so we stopped paying attention. And then I got burned.

As I was laying down later that night nursing my wound, I reflected over this incident. I believe everything always happens for a reason, that God has planned our lives perfectly, and that in hardships there are always lessons to be learned. And I realised, what if my distraction that lead to my burn, was really a reflection of my current state in life?

I mentioned earlier that I’m currently studying the Islamic sciences in Egypt, and I have exams just around the corner. But the process is being delayed and dragged out, and I could feel myself losing focus. It’s hard to maintain the same level of discipline and focus over a long period of time, whether it’s a university degree you’re working towards, your own private Islamic studies, or even just your personal ibadah (worship) that you are wanting to improve in.

Eyes On The Prize

So here’s the lesson: if you have a goal that you’re working towards, it’s essential that you keep your eyes on that goal, especially when you’re close to the finish line. It’s easy when you’re close to achieving your goal to start slowing down, to relax a bit more, to start looking around at what else is going on. But the final stretch isn’t the time to lose focus; that’s the time to renew your intention, fix your eyes firmly on your goal, and double down on the work that will get you there.

If you need to take the breaks, take them. If you need to recharge, do it. Do what you need in your daily life to keep yourself healthy and well, and then get back to work with focus and intention.

Because I can tell you from experience, there’s nothing like the sharp pain of regret (or a second-degree burn…) to make you wish you had paid more attention when it really mattered.

[cwa id=’cta’]

Are My Prayers Valid Even Though My Thoughts Are Elsewhere?

Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Question: Often, when I am performing my makeup prayers, my mind wanders. There are moments in my prayers when I am focused. Are my prayers valid even though my mind wanders?

Answer: Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray this finds you well. May Allah bless you with complete focus in prayer, and success in completing all of your make-up prayers.

Validity

Even though your mind wanders, so long as you perform the integrals of prayer, your prayer is valid.

Please ask Allah Most High to increase your focus in prayer. Please reflect on this tremendously beneficial essay and video: SeekersNotes: Nine Keys to Presence of Heart in Prayer – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.

Please refer to the following links:

Should I Repeat My Prayer Because of Heedlessness?

How To Attain Presence of Heart in Prayer

Presence of Heart in Prayer: A Reader

Wassalam,
Raidah

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Photo: Chaoyue 超越 PAN 潘

Am I a Hypocrite for Losing Focus in Prayer?

Answered by Shaykh Shuaib Ally

Question: Assalam alaykum,

I think I might be a hypocrite. Whenever I do an act of worship, I find it very difficult to think about Allah, and I nearly always end up thinking of something or someone else, and it feels like I am worshipping them. Am I committing major shirk?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,

I pray that this message finds you well, insha’Allah.

Being Fearful of the State of one’s Worship

Having fear that one’s worship will not be accepted is not a sign of hypocrisy or shirk. It is, rather, a sign that a person recognizes the importance of worship, and is trying to fulfil them, while also recognizing their own shortcomings.

The Qur’an describes fear over one’s state as a sign of belief, not one of hypocrisy or shirk. It describes believers as “those who are fearful of the punishment of their Lord;” [Qur’an; 70.27]; and “those who give what they have been given, while their hearts tremble at the thought that they will return to their Lord” [Qur’an; 23.60]; and, “for those who fear standing before their Lord shall be two gardens” [Qur’an; 55.46].

It is in this vein that ‘Umar b. al-Khattab (may God be pleased with him) is reported to have said, “Had I known that God had accepted one of my prostrations, or one silver coin in charity, nobody would have been more beloved to me than death.”

However, the proper way to deal with this fear is not to be paralyzed by it, but to take the steps towards beneficial action.

Difficulties in Focusing in Prayer

Building focus and concentration in prayer here is the desired goal, as prayer is truly beneficial when one’s heart and body work in concert, not when one is distracted by outside concerns. The Qur’an says, “Successful are believers; those who are attentive in their prayers” (Qur’an; 23.1-2).

However, while one should work on building this presence of mind, one should recognize that being distracted is a good sign that the devil is attempting to come between you and your Lord.
The Prophet (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him) said that “when the iqama is done, the devil approaches, to the point that he comes between a person and his soul, saying, ‘Remember this and remember that,’ about things that he hadn’t thought about prior, until a person can no longer remember how much he has prayed” [Bukhari, Muslim].

Imam al-Shaʿrawi, in his exegesis, explains the verse, “Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and be on guard…” [Qur’an; 5.92] by saying that we are instructed here to be on guard because the devil cannot stand one obeying, and thus seeks to confuse a person or otherwise compromise their worship while they are doing so.

In this regard, al-Shaʿrawi relates a story that has been told about Imam Abu Hanifa (may God be pleased with him), who was approached by a man who had buried some money and could no longer find it. He instructed him to spend the night in prayer, and then come back and report to him. The man later came and told the Imam that while he was standing in prayer, he suddenly envisioned the precise location of his money. The Imam replied, ‘By God, I knew that the devil would not allow you to complete the night with your Lord.’

Achieving Presence of Mind in Prayer

Imam al-Ghazali, in his Ihya ʿUlum al-Din, puts forward various pieces of advice related to building concentration in prayer. He lists among them:

-Proper preparation for prayer, including thinking about the afterlife and standing before your Lord

-Pondering over the words and meanings that are recited during prayer

-Removing from one’s immediate surroundings anything that can distract during prayer

-Removing from one’s life things that distract during prayer

-Removing from one’s heart love of this world, that is a root cause for much distraction

-Immediately dragging one’s mind back to prayer when you catch it wandering

For further practical advice on how to achieve presence of heart in prayer, please see the following comments from a number of leading scholars: Presence of Heart in Prayer: A Reader

Please see also: How to Strengthen Faith in Allah and Return to Him? A Reader

Shuaib Ally

Beautiful advice on focusing on your prayer, from Imam Siraj Wahhaj

Muslim-Prayer1Imam Siraj Wahhaj relates a beautiful hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) where he tells a companion in his masjid to “pray again” three times. Imam Siraj tells us why, and how we can avoid being in this situation.

Resources for Seekers:
Presence of Heart in Prayer: A Reader

Presence of Heart in Prayer: A Reader

Videos and answers from Imam Zaid Shakir, Shaykh Yahya Rhodus, Shaykh Zaynab Ansari, Imam Tahir Anwar, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, and others on how to have presence of heart in prayer

Istanbul,_Hagia_Sophia,_Allah

“Those who concentrate their attention in
humbleness when offering Prayers”
[Qur’an, 23.2]

Islamcast
Prayer – The Best Remembrance
In this lecture, Shaykh Faraz discusses how to utilize the prayer to connect with Allah (The Most Exalted).
Perfecting Prayer Webinar Presentations

How to Attain Presence of Heart
How Do I Attain Presence Of Heart In Prayer?
Closing One’s Eyes in Prayer: A Detailed Answer

Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali On Bringing The Heart To Presence During Prayer – Shaykh Abdus Shakur Brooks – The Medina Way
Illuminating The Heart with Prayer – Shaykh Abdus Shakur Brooks

The Light of Prayer- Shaykh Abdur Rahman al-Akhdari – Shaykh Abdus Shakur Brooks

How to Pray with Excellence – the Words of Hatim al-Asamm
How to Attain Presence of Heart in Prayer
Related Courses
Excellence in Faith & Action (from Ghazali’s 40 Foundations of Religion)
Purification of the Heart & Praiseworthy Character (from Ghazali’s 40 Foundations of Religion)
Qualities of the Believers in the Qur’an
Principles of Islamic Spirituality