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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

Should I Repeat My Prayer Because of Heedlessness?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: Many times we actually lose our mindfulness during prayer because of thoughts in our mind while having prayed outwardly in a correct manner. Does this require to repeat prayer?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray that you are in the best of health and faith, insha’Allah.

No, being inattentive during the prayer does not invalidate it as long as the integrals are performed.

As for having presence of heart, this is from the sunnas and proper manners of praying. Ask Allah to increase your presence, and take the means of doing so.

See also: How to Attain Presence of Heart in Prayer

And Allah alone gives success.

wassalam,

Tabraze Azam

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

What Is the Ruling of Closing One’s Eyes in Prayer?

Answered by SeekersHub Answers Service

Question: Assalamu aleykum,

I want to close my eyes in prayer for the sake of increasing my concentration, not for any other cause. Is it permissible?

Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray that you are in the best of health and faith, insha’Allah.

To close one’s eyes in prayer is somewhat disliked. This is because:

-it entails leaving the sunna of looking at the place of prostration,
-it resembles the worship of the Jews, and
-it is reported from the early Muslims that they disliked this.
There is a weak hadith regarding this, which is not sufficient as proof (in itself), but supports these other considerations.

However:

-if one does not gain full attentiveness or is distracted in prayer if one’s eyes are open, then it would be permitted (or, perhaps, even better) to close one’s eyes.

Please see: Closing One’s Eyes in Prayer: A Detailed Answer and: Presence of Heart in Prayer: A Reader

And Allah alone gives success.

SeekersHub Answers Service

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

How to Attain Presence of Heart in Prayer

Answered by SeekersGuidance Answers Staff

From a class of Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: When I stand up for a prayer I usually get a lot of thoughts and I heard this wasn’t allowed.  How do I fix this? 

Answer: Bismillah

The perfection of prayer comes from following the Sunnah of the Beloved Prophet, God bless him and give him peace. Outwardly, this means following the Prophetic teachings [with regards to actions]. Inwardly, this means embodying the Prophetic state: having presence with, and remembrance of, Allah Most High.

This has 3 aspects:

1) During prayer.

This is achieved by focusing on what we are saying and what we are doing.
One should know the meaning of what is said, and one should bring to mind why they are praying to begin with.

2) When you begin.

Focus. Gather your thoughts before you step into prayer. Pay attention to your intention. The significant action is not that you are praying, it is that you are praying to ALLAH.

3) Outside of prayer.

Have presence of heart with Allah outside of prayer, and you will have presence within it. Strive to keep your tongue moist with the remembrance of Allah in all that you do.

Related articles:

Nine Keys to Presence of Heart in Prayer

How Do I Attain Presence of Heart in Prayer

Consistency in Dhikr, the Advice of Scholars, and Recommended Books

The Aim, Purpose, and Consequence of Consistent Spiritual Routines

On the importance of prayer, and the impermissibility of leaving it:

What Should I Do if I Have No Time to Pray at Work?

Illuminating the Heart With Prayer

Jazakum Allahu khair

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Closing One’s Eyes in Prayer: A Detailed Answer

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: What is the ruling of closing one’s eyes in prayer? Where should one look when praying?

Answer: Walaikum assalam

To close one’s eyes in prayer is somewhat disliked. This is because:

  • it entails leaving the sunna of looking at the place of prostration,
  • it resembles the worship of the Jews, and
  • it is reported from the early Muslims that they disliked this.

There is a weak hadith regarding this, which is not sufficient as proof (in itself), but supports these other considerations.

However:

  • if one does not gain full attentiveness or is distracted in prayer if one s eyes are open, then it would be permitted (or, perhaps, even better) to close one s eyes.

The Position of the Four Schools:

The above is a summary of what Imam Haskafi said in Durr al-Mukhtar, Ibn Abidin in Radd al-Muhtar, Ibn Nujaym in al-Bahr al-Ra iq, and Imam Kasani in Bada i` al-Sana i`, in Hanafi fiqh.

This ruling was also confirmed by what Imam Buhuti said in Kashshaf al-Qina` in Hanbali fiqh; and Imam Dardir in al-Sharh al-Saghir in Maliki fiqh.

Within the Shafi`i school, it is transmitted that it is disliked to close one s eyes. However, Imam Nawawi chose that it is not disliked in his Majmu` and also in his Minhaj, which some interpreted as saying it is absolutely permitted to close one s eyes, and others that it is better not to (khilaf al-awla), unless it aid s one s presence of heart.

Reason for Dislikedness & the Place of the Eyes in Prayer

Imam Buhuti mentioned in his Kashshaf al-Qina` that a reason for its being disliked is that it can be a means for one becoming drowsy, such as when praying at night.

Imam Kasani explained in his Bada i` that the reason for looking at one s place of prostration is that each limb of the body has a share in the prayer s worship. Imam Ibn Nujaym mentioned that one does not close one s eyes in prostration, either, and mentioned that, “A number of Sufis (may Allah benefit us through them) said that one keeps one s eyes open because the eyes too prostrate.”

Imam Abu Bakr al-Jassas (Allah have mercy on him) mentioned in his magnificent Qur anic tafsir of the verses relating to legal rulings, Ahkam al-Qur an, explaining the words of Allah Most High in Surat al-Mu minin, “Successful indeed are the believers, who are reverent in prayer”, (23: 1-2) that:

  • Muhammad Ibn Sirin reported that the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) used to look up to the sky while praying. After this verse, he used to keep his head lowered.
  • It has also been reported from him that after this verse was revealed, the Companions would lower their gazes until their eyes did not go beyond their place of prostration.
  • It has been reported from Ibrahim, Mujahid and Zuhri that they said, “Reverenece (khushu`) is being still.”
  • It has been reported that Sayyiduna Ali (Allah be pleased with him) said, “Reverence is in the heart  and to avoid distractions in prayer.”
  • Hasan al-Basri said, “The reverent are the fearful.”
  • Abu Bakr al-Jassas commented: “Reverence (khushru) is all these meanings: being still in prayer, humble, not getting distracted, not looking around or moving, being fearful of Allah.”
  • This is why it is reported that Sayyiduna Ibn Mas`ud (Allah be pleased with him) would be like a thrown garment (in his stillness, and once in prayer, he would lower his voice, body, and gaze.)

And Allah alone gives success.

Faraz Rabbani.