I was reading Leo Babauta’s great new eBook entitled “Focus” and came across a chapter that reminded me of Salah. The chapter talks about the importance of developing a ‘Focus Ritual’ to help a person fight daily distractions and focus on their most important tasks for the day.
Think about Salah for a moment, and the power it has to fight distractions when performed properly and full concentration. When the athan goes off, we physically get up, leave everything we do, cleanse ourselves with a purifying ritual called wudhu, walk to the nearest mosque, perform a set of pre-defined actions with full concentration and thought, then head back home feeling completely refreshed.
This happens 5 times a day at a minimum. Have you ever thought about the effect this action has in our day to day focus and for our spiritual productivity? Leo provides an interesting insight in the following passage:
“Mindfully observing a ritual is important, especially when it comes to focus, because often we get distracted without realizing it. The distractions work because we’re not paying attention. So when we pay attention to a ritual, it’s much more conducive to focus, and then to creativity.”
Islam emphasises the importance of one’s focus on their Salah, in fact focus and concentration are linked to success in this life and the Hereafter. Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala reminds us in the Qur’aan that: “Successful indeed are the believers. Those who offer their Salah (prayers) with all solemnity and full submissiveness” [Surah Al-Mu’minun 23: 1–2). Ibn Abbas (RadiyaAllahu-Anhu) said: ‘you will gain nothing from your prayer except what you focus on’ [Taken from Madaarij As-Salikeen].
Since Islam teaches us to develop complete focus on our submission and relationship with Allah, this focus is not only meant for our daily prayers, but should stretch to every aspect of our life. Living a distracted life might be ‘fun’ but it’s not productive, and to be honest, I would suggest that a distracted life is one of the tricks of Shaytaan to keep our focus away from what is truly important in our lives.
Let’s think practically about this now, how can we harness the power of Salah to induce focus in our lives and fight distractions? Here are simple steps:
1. Never ever miss Fajr salaat
This beautiful and uplifting Fajr prayer is perhaps your most powerful focus ritual and act of ibadah for the whole day. When you start your day with Fajr salah, you allow your mind to rest and focus on the most important aspect of your life first and that is worship of Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala), then the most important elements of your life. Never ever miss this beautiful prayer.
2. REFOCUS with Salah
If during the day, you feel completely overwhelmed with all sorts of distractions and can’t seem to get moving on important tasks and to-do items here’s how you can REFOCUS: get up, make wudhu, and pray 2 rak’ah (your intention should be Duha prayer if performed before the sun reaches its zenith, or nafl if at another time) with full concentration asking Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) for help and support. This simple technique is not only rewarding, but also extremely powerful for us as Muslims. It’s almost like pressing the “RESET” button in your brain when your mentally overwhelmed.
3. Pray night prayer and witr before you sleep
Normally at the end of each day, I like to spend at least 30 minutes disconnected from the rest of the world. There’s no better way to spend it disconnected, than spending it in night prayer and witr. After praying the night prayer, spend 5-10 minutes thinking about what you’ll focus on tomorrow. Conversely, you can get up in the middle of the night to pray tahajjud prayer and get an extra early (and productive) start to your day.
Above we’ve discussed the ways to refocus, assuming that you’ve no problem focusing in salah, however if you’re distracted in salah, here’s a great resource, ‘33 Ways of Developing Khushoo in Salah‘ to help put you on the path to full concentration (khushoo) insha’Allah
Remember, for a Muslim, the key to success in this life and Hereafter is truly dependent on being able to fully concentrate and FOCUS in salah, and give our undivided attention to our Creator – Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala).
Further recommended reading:
- FOCUS by Leo Babauta: http://focusmanifesto.com
- The Humility in Prayer by Ahmad Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali: http://www.kalamullah.com/worship.html