Not Fluent in Arabic? 9 Tips to Keep from Zoning Out in Prayers

05 October, 2021
Q One of the toughest things for me is staying focused when you're in the communal prayer, and the imam chooses to recite a pretty long Surah. How do you keep from zoning out? Usually, I'll try to listen for words that I can recognize, but sometimes even those are few and far between.

Answer

Short Answer:  This is a really great question that honestly I believe a lot of non-native-Arabic speakers have at some point. Practice patience with yourself as you learn this new language and acquire yourself with its syntax and tones. Language learning aside, there are other ways to regain focus and closeness in prayer. One is to imagine the connection between you and Allah as it is happening in real-time. Read on to check out the rest of my tips.

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Asalaam Alaikum Wa Rahmatullah,

Thank you for contacting About Islam. This is a really great question that honestly I believe a lot of non-native-Arabic speakers have at some point. All believers want to cherish the beautiful words of Allah (SWT) and to feel a sense of respite in salah, but sometimes there is a disconnect when we don’t fully understand what is being recited of the Quran. 

The Path To Fluency

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Listening to the words that you know can be a good option, but I’ve honestly found that it can be a tad exhausting for my brain in longer surahs. It strains the brain when we’re focusing on a language we’re not fluent in because it is quite literally a workout.

Much like any muscle, if we work out our brains for an extended time, the muscle will get too tired to continue working out at some point. However, over time the brain will become quite strong and reinforce pathways to an understanding with more speed.

Practice patience with yourself as you learn this new language and acquire yourself with its syntax and tones. For those of us who grew up monolingual, the practice of learning another language is literally something we haven’t done since we were a small child.

It’s still quite hard, even if a person already knows two or more languages, but just know that no matter when you started learning, with dedicated and consistent practice comes fluency.

Exploring Closeness With The Divine

Language learning aside, there are other ways to regain focus and closeness in prayer. One is to imagine the connection between you and Allah as it is happening in real-time.

For example, there is an authentic Hadith Qudsi that elaborates on how Surah Al-Fatihah is responded to by Allah (SWT):

“I have divided prayer between Myself and My servant into two halves, and My servant shall have what they have asked for. 

  1. When the servant says: “All praise is due to the Lord of the Worlds – Allah (SWT) responds: My servant has praised Me. 
  2. And when one says: “the Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,” – Allah responds: My servant has extolled Me
  3.  When one says: |Sovereign of the Day of Judgement” –  Allah (SWT) responds: My servant has glorified Me – and on one occasion He said: My servant has submitted to My power. 
  4. And when one says: It is You we worship and You alone we ask for help, then He (SWT) says: This is between Me and My servant, and My servant shall have what they have asked for. 
  5. When one finishes the surah with “Guide us along the Straight Path, the Path of those You have blessed—not those You are displeased with, or those who are astray” -then Allah (SWT) responds: This is for My servant, and My servant shall have what he has asked for.”

(As narrated in Sahih Muslim and more collections)

It is sometimes tough for us as mortal worldly beings to ascertain when Allah (SWT) is having a “conversation” with us, which is why He gave us these ahadith to encourage us to keep contact with us. Truthfully, He loves to hear from us and asks the believers to try our best. 

Closing Suggestions

If these two options are not helping either, consider these suggestions:

  • Prepare for the salah by thinking about what you’re thankful for
  • Consider wearing nice, clean clothes just for prayer
  • Spend time in remembrance of death as you pray
  • Seek refuge with Allah from Shaytaan before starting the prayer
  • Pause at the end of each ayah if you know where they begin and end
  • Focus your eyes where you are going to prostrate in sujood
  • If you struggle with longer surahs, that’s okay! Perhaps try to memorize some short ones and study what they mean so you can ponder on them as you pray in the future, insha’Allah.

And Allah knows best.

I hope this helps.

Salam and please keep in touch.

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

I Feel Overwhelmed With Missed Prayers Daily

Beyond Hope and Fear: Learning to Love Prayers

New Muslims – How to Perfect Prayers