Short Answer: Follow three steps to increase your focus: if you have bad thoughts from Shaitan during salah, spit dryly on your left side, try to pray salah in congregation and seek more knowledge of the deen.
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All praises to Allah, your zeal in striving to improve your religious practice is quite commendable.
Indeed, your yearning to improve your salah and to continue praying the five daily prayers regularly is commendable at your age, especially since you were not raised with a prime focus on Islam since childhood, as you stated.
For a young adult’s heart to be guided by Allah to observe the obligatory religious rituals without faltering or falling short is indeed the best gift that they can receive at this fledgling stage in life.
So, rejoice in gratitude that Allah is guiding you to the Right Path!
Now for tips and advice about how you can allay the doubts and other distracting thoughts that you experience during prayer.
There are a few things that you can do as part of a long-term strategy to achieve that desired level of “khushoo” (devout concentration) in salah:
Firstly, whenever you have bad thoughts from Shaitan during salah, spit dryly on your left side, turning your head only slightly.
Secondly, try to pray salah in congregation. It is extremely commendable for you to strive as much as possible to pray as many of the 5 daily salahs as you can in congregation at the nearest masjid.
Start by disciplining yourself to attend one salah in the masjid per day, for example the isha prayer. Once you have become regular in that, move it up to two salahs in congregation per day.
Praying in congregation keeps a young man tied to the local Muslim community, which is a way of ensuring that he is less likely to give up the habit of praying once he has become regular in it.
Even if a couple of other men in your neighborhood are praying together somewhere (such as a prayer space designated as a musalla), try to join them in prayer. But always remember that, for a Muslim man, praying obligatory salah even with one more man is better than his praying it alone at home.
Knowledge is Light
Thirdly, strive to gain knowledge of the Qur’an, from authentic sources, e.g. by reading Tafsir books, and joining a weekly class or Islamic course at the local masjid.
Knowledge of deen is a light that chases away the dark shadows of doubt, and it is the believer’s most effective armor (protection) against the vile whispers of Shaitan.
You should especially start by understand the meanings of the surahs that you are already reciting in salah, by studying a translation of the Qur’an in the language that you can best understand.
Following the above three steps will, insha’Allah, prove to be of great help to you in dispelling the whispers of Shaitan during your daily five prayers permanently, and will also keep you steadfast upon the Right Path and prevent you from going astray from it once you have started praying regularly.
May Allah grant you the guidance to perform righteous deeds, and steadfastness upon them throughout life. Ameen.
I hope this answers your question.
Allah knows best.
(From Ask About Islam’s archive)
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