In this counseling answer:
• To ensure that you feel submerged in the prayer while you pray, you need to understand it.
• If you want to focus, you need to avoid distractions.
• If we see something or hear something which is distracting, we should try to take our mind off it. This can be done by rationalizing that the time spent on thinking about it can be rather utilized to something else, something more useful or relaxing perhaps.
• Improve your focus by planning your day, exercising, and improving your willpower.
Assalaamu Alaikum dear sister,
Thank you for sending us your question and putting your trust in our ability to propose a solution to your current situation.
Allah SWT says in the Quran,
And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me. (51: 56)
Many children are forced to offer the 5 daily salah by their parents most often not understanding why. Negative feelings, repulsion, annoyance and lack of motivation to pray stem from not understanding and mindlessly doing the actions of the salah.
To worship Allah, to attain His pleasure, and to be under His shade on the Day. When you realize that you do not want to pray, a connection with Allah, it is your realization of the lack of quality of your prayers and the realization of the lack of connection with Allah.
Prayer, dear sister, is a physical, spiritual and an emotional connection between Allah and His slave. It is a form of communication between Allah and us. When we pray, we call upon Allah, we acknowledge his omnipotence, we confess our weaknesses and inabilities and we ask Allah for divine guidance.
For instance, when we talk about the five pillars of Islam, prayer, although very important, is the second pillar, not the first. The first pillar is “La ila ha illallah”. This is because before we do any action, we must have a sincere intention. When we pray without a clear intention and clear understanding, we are not feeling the prayer, and hence it feels empty and hollow.
Therefore, to ensure that you feel submerged in the prayer while you pray, you need to understand it. Simply knowing the definitions of the chapters of the Quran read is not enough. There is a huge difference between knowing something and understanding something. Knowing is simply being aware of its physical presence or its surface meaning. However, understanding it means to go beyond its surface meaning. Understanding means to internalize it and make sense of the knowledge and be able to apply it.
So, how do you understand the Quran? How do you understand the prayer? Before you understand the fundamentals of Islam, you need to understand the Creator. You need to understand Allah. You need to know what it means to be a Muslim, and you need to know WHY you are a Muslim. Are you a Muslim simply because your parents are Muslim and you were taught how to pray? Or are you a Muslim because Allah has filled your heart with the light of truth and you are able to distinguish what is right from wrong (believers vs. non-believers)?
In my opinion, when we do not question our own actions, we lose their purpose and eventually the actions come to a halt themselves. In order to overcome your feeling of hollowness when praying, I would like you to devote at least 10-15minutes every single day focusing on the following points:
- What is the message of Islam?
- Who is Prophet Muhammed SAW?
- Why am I a Muslim?
- How do I strengthen my connection with Allah?
- What have I done today to improve myself from who I was yesterday?
These 5 questions can be used as guidelines to evaluate your life’s purpose. When we question our goals, our actions, and ensure that intentions are pure and not questionable, we will feel motivated to improve ourselves, and depression cannot misguide us. 😊
If we want to focus, we need to avoid distractions.
The main thing to keep in mind is your goal in your life. When you want to become a professional (doctor, professor, engineer, teacher, etc.), you need to have your eyes on your target, the destination. If we want to focus, we need to avoid distractions. When that is in place, everything else falls in place and there is no such thing as a distraction.
Similarly, for a Muslim, there is one and the only goal, the goal is to please Allah, to obey Him. Everything we do, we must make the intention of pleasing Allah with our act. For example, when we are studying for a test, we must make the intention that we are studying so that we can make something valuable of ourselves and use it to serve mankind.
Imam Shafi said, “When we do not keep ours nafs busy with truth, it will keep us busy with falsehood.”
Therefore, if we internalize the meaning of this life, and understand the purpose, then it will be easy for us to keep ourselves on the right track.
When we have such a mindset, we can easily see our destination, it will be hard for anything to distract us, not matter how much dirt comes in our, we have our eyes set on the destination, and we will be focused on what it is that we want to achieve and gain in our lives.
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In addition, things will only become a distraction when we think too much about them. If we see something or hear something which is distracting, we should try to take our mind off it. This can be done by rationalizing that the time spent on thinking about it can be rather utilized to something else, something more useful or relaxing perhaps.
The distraction will only be detrimental if we focus too much of our attention on it. When you see something which you are aware is going to steer you on a different direction, you need to use your common sense, logic, and your ability to rationalize to remove it out of your front view.
Improve your focus
Write down what you do daily.
This is very important. If you list down everything you do in each day, it will help you see what it is that you have done which has taken you away from what you want to achieve in life. For example, if you see that you spent 3 hours watching a movie, or 1-hour surfing Facebook, you will see that the time wasted could’ve been spent doing something worthwhile for you spiritually, mentally, and emotionally.
Build your willpower.
Being focus on a goal and working towards achieving it is by no means an easy feat. When you fill your mind with productivity and try to erase noise, then it will become easy for you to keep yourself focused and on track.
I recently heard a story about a man in the 1800’s who wanted to marry a married woman. Being honest, he goes to the husband of the woman to ask him to divorce his wife, so he can marry her. The woman’s husband, being a very devout individual, appreciated his honesty. However, he said that if he prayed 5 times daily for 40 days, he will divorce his wife. After 40 days of praying regularly, the man (who wanted to marry the married woman) felt a spark in his heart. He realized what a grave mistake he had committed by having bad intentions for a married woman. He later went to her husband and apologized.
This story goes to say that when we pray with a true heart, it cleans our conscious, it makes us realize the good and distinguish it from the bad. The salah is the connection with Allah. When we stand to pray, we must realize that we are praying to the Owner or the World, and it is a special connection which has been bestowed upon us.
Allah SWT has chosen us over others to be rightly guided and be on the straight path. When we realize this, it will become easy for us to keep the noise away.
Exercise (your body).
As unnecessary as it may sound, exercising helps focus. It releases certain transmitters in your brain which improve focus, attention, and the ability to make new connections and expand learning. When you exercise, you will realize that it becomes hard for your mind to wander, and it will become easy for your mind to focus.
Reading puts your brain to work, and that’s a very good thing. Read things which interest you, and things which help you expand your knowledge.
I pray that my answer helps you find peace helps you enjoy your salah.
Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.