Question # 223: What should we do to introduce KHUSHU (Khushoo) in our Salah?
Bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,
Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,
All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).
First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.
Shorter Answer: Khushoo’ means heart standing before Allah in calmness, serenity, tranquility, dignity and humility. Fear of Allah (swt) and the sense that He is always watching makes a person achieve khushoo’. On the other hand, it is the plot of Shaytaan to divert people from salah by all possible means and to whisper to them during their prayer so as to deprive them of the joy of worship and cause them to lose the reward. Two key things that help to develop khushoo’ are: strong desire to do what is obligatory, and pushing away all distractions. Following is the summary of some of the means of developing khushoo’:
- Preparing oneself for prayer properly (such as repeating the words of the adhan after the muezzin, reciting the du’aa after adhan, making wudu’ properly and reciting du’aa after it, using siwaak to cleanse the mouth, wearing one’s best clothes, covering ‘awrah, getting ready early and waiting for the prayer, and making the rows straight without any gaps);
- Moving at a measured pace during salah (and not rushing to complete the prayer);
- Remembering death (pray as if it is one’s last prayer);
- Pondering over ayat and adhkar being recited;
- Reciting in slow, rhythmic tones (tarteel) and making one’s voice beautiful;
- Believing that Allah responds to the prayers and bearing in mind that Allah can see him and is watching him as he prays;
- Praying with a barrier (sutrah) in front;
- Placing the right hand on the left hand on the chest;
- Looking at the place of prostration (sujood);
- Looking at index finger throughout Tashahhud and moving it;
- Varying between various soorahs, ayat, adhkar and du’aa’s recited in prayer;
- Seeking refuge with Allah from Shaytaan;
- Removing anything that may be distractive;
- Not praying when there is food prepared that one wants to eat;
- Not praying when one needs to answer the call of nature;
- Not praying when one feels sleepy;
- Not praying behind someone who is talking (or sleeping);
- Not moving unnecessarily during prayer;
- Not raising one’s gaze to the heavens;
- Trying not to yawn when praying;
- Not putting one’s hands on one’s hips when praying; and
- Lastly, the Prophet forbade: pecking like a crow/cockerel, spreading one’s forearms like a carnivore, always praying in the same place like a camel keeping to its own territory, sitting like a dog or turning like a fox in prayer)
Imam Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah wrote in his book “Al-Waabil as-Sayyib min al-Kalim at-Tayyib” about the five levels of khushoo’ and corresponding reward and punishment. (Refer Long Answer below) In fact, whoever stands before Allah praying in humility, his/her second standing on the Day he meets Him, will be made easy.
Let’s conclude this with a beautiful summary on attaining khushoo’ as narrated by a pious predecessor: “When the time for Prayer is at hand, I make a proper ablution, go to the spot where I intend to pray and sit there till all my limbs and organs are in a collected state. Then I stand up to perform my Prayer, placing the Kabah between my brows, the Bridge- over-Hell beneath my feet, Paradise to my right and Hell to my left, and the Angel of Death behind me, thinking all the while that this is my final Prayer. Then I stand between hope and fear. I carefully pronounce “Allahu Akbar!” Then I recite the Quran harmoniously, bow in humility and prostrate myself submissively. I then sit back on my left haunch spreading out the top of my left foot and raising my right foot on the toes. I follow this with sincerity. Then I wonder whether or not my Prayer has been accepted.”
Importance of khushoo’
Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an: “…and stand before Allah with obedience” (Soorah al-Baqarah 2:238) and concerning the prayer: “… and truly it is extremely heavy and hard except for al-khaashi’oon…’ (Soorah al-Baqarah 2:45).
Salah is the greatest of the practical pillars of Islam, and khushoo’ in prayer is required by shari’ah. When Iblees, the enemy of Allah (swt), vowed to mislead and tempt the sons of Adam and said “Then I will come to them from before them and behind them, from their right and from their left…” (Soorah al-A’raf, 7:17), one of his most significant plots became to divert people from salah by all possible means and to whisper to them during their prayer so as to deprive them of the joy of this worship and cause them to lose the reward for it. As khushoo’ will be the first thing to disappear from the earth, and we are living in the last times, the words of Hudhayfah (ra) are particularly pertinent to us: “The first thing of your religion that you will lose is khushoo’, and the last thing that you will lose of your religion is salah. There may be a person praying who has no goodness in him, and soon you will enter the mosque and not find anyone who has khushoo’” (al-Madaarij).
Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an: “Successful indeed are the believers, those who offer their salah (prayers) with all solemnity and full submissiveness.” (Soorah al-Mu’minoon, 23:1-2) – i.e., fearing Allah (swt) and in a calm manner. Khushoo’ means [heart standing before Allah in] calmness, serenity, tranquility, dignity and humility. What makes a person have this khushoo’ is fear of Allah (swt) and the sense that He is always watching (Tafseer Ibn Katheer, Daar al-Sha’b). Khushoo’ means that the heart stands before the Lord in humility and submission (al-Madaarij).
It was reported that Mujaahid said: “’…and stand before Allah (swt) with obedience” (al-Baqarah, 2:238)’ – part of obedience is to bow, to be solemn and submissive, to lower one’s gaze and to humble oneself out of fear of Allah (swt), may He be glorified.” (Ta’zeem Qadr al-Salah)
The site of khushoo’ is the heart, and its effects are manifested in the physical body. The various faculties follow the heart: if the heart is corrupted by negligence or insinuating whispers from Shaytan, the worship of the body’s faculties will also be corrupt. “Khushoo’ in prayer happens when a person empties his heart for it (prayer), and focuses on it to the exclusion of all else, and prefers it to everything else. Only then does he find comfort and joy in it, as the Prophet (saws) said: ‘… and my joy has been made in salah.’” (Tafseer Ibn Katheer; the hadith is in Musnad Ahmad and Saheeh al-Jaami’)
Concerning the virtues of khushoo’ and as a warning to the one who neglects it, the Prophet (saws) said: “Five prayers which Allah has made obligatory. Whoever does wudu’ properly for them, prays them on time, does ruku’ properly and has perfect khushoo’, it is a promise from Allah that he will be forgiven, but whoever does not do this, has no such promise – if Allah wishes, He will forgive him, and if He wishes, He will punish him.” (Reported by Abu Dawood; Saheeh al-Jaami’)
Things that help achieve khushoo’
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) explained the things that help us to have khushoo’: “Two things help us to [develop khushoo’]: a strong desire to do what is obligatory, and weakness of distractions.
With regard to the first, the strong desire to do what is obligatory: [this means that] a person strives hard to focus on what he is saying and doing, pondering on the meanings of the Qur’an recitation, dhikr and du’aa’s, and keeping in mind the fact that he is speaking to Allah (swt) as if he sees Him, for when he is standing in prayer, he is talking to his Lord.
Ihsaan means ‘that you worship Allah (swt) as if you see Him, and if you cannot see Him, He can see you.’ The more the slave tastes the sweetness of salah, the more attracted he will be to it, and this has to do with the strength of his emaan…
With regard to the second, weakness of distractions: This means striving to push away all distractions that make you think of something other than the prayer itself, and warding off thoughts that keep you mind off the purpose of the prayer. This is something which differs from one person to another, because the extent of waswaas has to do with the extent of one’s doubts and desires and the heart’s focus and dependence on what it loves, and its efforts to avoid what it dislikes.” (Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 22/606-607)
Means of Developing Khushoo’
- Preparing oneself for prayer properly: The following acts should be performed, namely, repeating the words of the adhan after the muezzin, reciting the du’aa after adhan, reciting du’aa’ between the adhan and the iqamah, making wudu’ properly and reciting du’aa after it, using siwaak to cleanse the mouth, wearing one’s best and cleanest clothes to prayer, covering our ‘awrah properly, purifying the spot where we are going to pray, getting ready early and waiting for the prayer, and making the rows straight without any gaps as shayaateen come in through the gaps in the rows.
- Moving at a measured pace during salah: The Prophet (saws) used to move at a measured pace during salah, allowing every bone to return to its place. (Its isnaad is classed as sahih in Sifat al-Salaat; Ibn Khuzaymah also classed it as sahih as mentioned by al-Haafiz in al-Fath) He commanded those who were not doing their prayer properly to do this too. He said, “None of you has prayed properly until he does this.” (Reported by Abu Dawood)
Abu Qutaadah (ra) said: “The Prophet (saws) said: ‘The worst type of thief is the one who steals from his prayer.’ He said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, how can a person steal from his prayer?’ He said, ‘By not doing ruku’ and sujood properly.’” (Reported by Ahmad and al-Haakim; Saheeh al-Jaami’)
Abu ‘Abd-Allah al-Ash’ari (ra) said: “The Prophet (saws) said, ‘The one who does not do ruku’ properly, and pecks in sujood, is like a starving man who eats only one or two dates; it does not do him any good at all.’” (Reported by al-Tabarani in al-Kabeer. In Saheeh al-Jaami’ it says, hasan)
- Remembering death whilst praying: The Prophet (saws) said: “Remember death in your prayer, for the man who remembers death during his prayer is bound to pray properly, and pray the prayer of a man who does not think that he will pray any other prayer.” (al-Silsilat al-Saheehah by al-Albani. It was reported from al-Suyooti that al-Haafiz ibn Hajar classed this hadith as hasan). The Prophet (saws) also advised Abu Ayyoob (ra): “When you stand up to pray, pray a farewell prayer.” (Reported by Ahmad; Saheeh al-Jaami’)
- Thinking about the ayat and adhkar being recited during the prayer and interacting with them: The Qur’an was revealed to be pondered over. Allah says in the Qur’an: “(This is) a Book which We have sent down to you, full of blessings that they may ponder over its Verses, and that men of understanding may remember.” (Soorah Saad, 38:29) Another way of helping oneself to ponder over the meanings is to memorize Qur’an and various adhkar to be recited during different parts of the prayer, so that one may recite them and think about their meanings. Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an: “And they fall down on their faces weeping and it adds to their humility [khushoo’].” (Soorah al-Isra’, 17:109) [Moreover, it is incumbent upon every Muslim to learn the language of the Qur’an]
Examples of interacting with the ayat are saying “Ameen” after al-Faatihah; The Messenger of Allah (saws) said: “If the imam says ‘Ameen,’ then say ‘Ameen’ too, for whoever says ‘Ameen’ and it coincides with the ‘Ameen’ of the angels, will have all his previous sins forgiven.” (Reported by al-Bukhari); Next, responding to the imam when he says “Sami’ Allaahu liman hamidah (Allah hears the one who praises Him)”; the members of the congregation should say, “Rabbanaa wa laka’l-hamd (O our Lord, to You be praise).” This also brings a great reward. Rifaa’ah ibn Raafi’ al-Zirqi said: “One day we were praying behind the Prophet (saws). When he raised his head, he said, ‘Sami’ Allaahu liman hamidah,’ and a man behind him said, ‘Rabbanaa wa laka’l-hamdu hamdan katheeran tayyiban mubaarakan fih (Our Lord to You be much good and blessed praise).’ When he finished, he said, ‘Who is the one who spoke?’ The man said, ‘Me.’ He said, ‘I saw thirty-odd angels rushing to see who would write it down first.’” (Reported by al-Bukhari, al-Fath)
- Reciting in slow, rhythmic tones (tarteel) and making one’s voice beautiful when reciting: Allah says in the Qur’an: “… and recite the Qur’an (aloud) in a slow, (pleasant tone and) style.” (Soorah al-Muzzammil, 73:4) The recitation of the Prophet (saws) was clear, with each letter pronounced distinctly.” (Musnad Ahmad, with a sahih isnad. Sifat al-Salaah)
- Knowing that Allah (swt) responds to prayers [and bearing in mind that Allah can see him and is watching him as he prays]: The Prophet (saws) said: “Allah, the Blessed and Exalted has said: ‘I have divided the prayer between Myself and My slave, into two halves, and My slave shall have what he has asked for.” When the slave says ‘Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds,’ Allah says, ‘My slave has praised Me.’ When the slave says, ‘The Most Merciful, the Bestower of Mercy,’ Allah says, ‘My slave has extolled me.’ When the slave says, ‘Master of the Day of Judgement,’ Allah says, ‘My slave has glorified me.’ When the slave says, ‘It is You alone we worship and it is You alone we ask for help,’ Allah says, ‘This is between Me and My slave, and My slave shall have what he asked for.’ When the slave says, ‘Guide us to the Straight Path, the path of those whom You have favoured, not the path of those who receive Your anger, nor of those who go astray,’ Allah says, ‘All these are for My slave, and My slave shall have what he asked for.’” (Saheeh Muslim, Kitaab al-Salaah, Baab wujoob qiraa’at al-Faatihah fi kulli rak’ah). [Words in italics are the translation of the meaning of Soorah al-Faatihah]. This “conversation” with Allah must be respected and accorded its proper value. The Messenger of Allah (saws) said: “When any one of you stands to pray, he is conversing with his Lord, so let him pay attention to how he speaks to Him.” (al-Haakim, al-Mustadrak; Saheeh al-Jaami’)
- Praying with a barrier (sutrah) in front of one and praying close to it: This restricts the field of vision, protect from Shaytaan and keep people from passing in front. The Prophet (saws) said: “When any one of you prays, let him pray facing a sutrah, and let him get close to it.” (Reported by Abu Dawood; Saheeh al-Jaami’). Getting close to the sutrah is very beneficial, as the Prophet (saws) said: “When any one of you prays facing a sutrah, let him get close to it so that the Shaytaan cannot interrupt his prayer.” (Reported by Abu Dawood; Saheeh al-Jaami’). The Sunnah in getting close to the sutrah is to have three cubits between it and the spot where one prostrates, or to allow enough space for a sheep to pass between the two, as is reported in the sahih ahadith. (Al-Bukhari; see al-Fath)
- Placing the right hand on the left hand on the chest: The Prophet (saws), when he stood up to pray, used to place his right hand on his left hand (Muslim), and place them on his chest (Abu Dawood; see also Irwa’ al-Ghaleel). The Messenger of Allah (saws) said, “We Prophets were commanded… to place our right hands on our left hands in prayer.” (Reported by al-Tabarani in al-Mu’jam al-Kabeer. Al-Haythami said: Al-Tabarani reported it in al-Awsat and its men are the men of sahih. Al-Majma’) Imam Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him) was asked about the meaning of placing one hand on top of the other when standing in prayer. He said: “It is humility before the Almighty.” (Al-Khushoo’ fi’l-Salaah by Ibn Rajab)
- Looking at the place of prostration: It was reported from ‘Aa’ishah (ra) that “the Messenger of Allah (saws) used to pray with his head tilted forward and his gaze lowered, looking at the ground.” (Reported by al-Haakim; he said it is sahih according to the condition of the two Shaykhs [al-Bukhari and Muslim], and al-Albani agreed with him in Sifat al-Salaah)
- Looking at index finger and moving it in Tashahhud: When a person sits for Tashahhud, he should look at the finger with which he is pointing as he is moving it, as it was reported that the Prophet (saws) “would point with the finger next to the thumb towards the qiblah, and focus his gaze upon it.” (Reported by Ibn Khuzaymah; the editor said: its isnad is sahih; See Sifat al-Salaah). According to another report he “pointed with his index finger and did not allow his gaze to wander beyond it.” (Reported by Ahmad and by Abu Dawood)
The Prophet (saws) said: “It is more powerful against the Shaytaan than iron” (reported by Imam Ahmad with a hasan isnad, as stated in Sifat al-Salaah), i.e., pointing with the forefinger during the Tashahhud is more painful to the Shaytaan than being beaten with a rod of iron, because it reminds the slave of the Unity of Allah and this is what the Shaytaan hates most… (al-Fath al-Rabbani by al-Saa’idi, 4/15). (Refer Question # 197 for details)
- Varying the soorahs, ayat, adhkar and du’aa’s recited in prayer: This makes the worshipper feel that he is encountering new meanings and moving between different topics mentioned in the ayat and adhkar. This is what a person misses out on if he only memorizes a few soorahs (especially the short ones) and adhkar. Please refer to Sifat al-Salaat al-Nabi (saws) by Shaykh Muhammad Naasir al-Deen al-Albaani, which he compiled from the books of hadith was adhkar and various soorahs recited by Prophet (saws) in his salah)
- Performing sujood al-tilaawah when reciting an ayah where this is required: One of the etiquettes of reciting Qur’an is to perform sujood al-tilaawah (prostration for recitation) when one recites an ayah containing a “sajdah” (place where a prostration is required). Sujood al-Tilaawah in prayer is very important because it increases khushoo’. Allah says in the Qur’an: “And they fall down on their faces weeping and it adds to their humility [khushoo’].” (Soorah al-Israa’ 17:109) Abu Hurayrah (ra) said: “The Messenger of Allah (saws) said: ‘When the son of Adam recites a sajdah, the Shaytaan goes away weeping, saying, “Woe to him! He was commanded to prostrate and he prostrated, so Paradise is his; I was ordered to prostrate and I disobeyed, so Hell is my fate!”’” (Reported by Imam Muslim in his Saheeh).
- Seeking refuge with Allah (swt) from the Shaytaan: The Shaytaan is our enemy, and one of the aspects of his enmity is his whispering insinuating thoughts (waswaas) to the worshipper at prayer so as to take away his khushoo’ and confuse him in his prayer. Every time the slave wants to turn his thoughts towards Allah, thoughts of other matters come sneaking into his mind. The Shaytaan is like a bandit lying in wait to launch an ambush: every time the slave wants to travel towards Allah, the Shaytaan wants to cut off his route.
Abu’l-‘Aas (ra) reported that he said, “O Messenger of Allah, the Shaytaan interrupts me when I pray, and I get confused in my recitation.” The Messenger of Allah (saws) said, “That is a shaytaan whose name is Khanzab. If you sense his presence, seek refuge with Allah from him, and spit [dry spitting] towards your left three times.” [Abu’l-‘Aas] said: “I did that and Allah took him away from me.” (Reported by Muslim)
- Removing anything that may distract the worshipper: Anas (ra) said: “‘Aa’ishah had a decorated, colorful curtain which she used to cover the side of her house. The Prophet (saws) said to her, ‘Take it away from me, because its decorations keep distracting me when I pray.’” (Reported by al-Bukhari, Fath al- Bari) Another indication of this is the fact that when the Prophet (saws) entered the Ka’bah to pray in it, he saw two ram’s horns. When he had prayed, he told ‘Uthmaan al-Hajabi, “I forgot to tell you to cover the horns, because there should not be anything in the House to distract the worshipper.” (Reported by Abu Dawood; Saheeh al-Jaami’)
Also, one should also avoid praying in places that are very hot or very cold, if possible. The Prophet (saws) told us to delay praying Dhuhr in summer until the hottest part of the day was over. Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “Praying when it is intensely hot prevents a person from having the proper khushoo’ and presence of mind, and he does his worship reluctantly, so the Prophet wisely told them to delay praying until the heat had lessened somewhat, so that they could pray with presence of mind and thus achieve the purpose of prayer, i.e., having khushoo’ and turning to Allah.” (Al-Waabil al-Sayib, Daar al-Bayaan)
- Not praying in a garment that has decorations, writing, bright colors or pictures that will distract the worshipper: ‘Aa’ishah (ra) said: “The Prophet (saws) stood up to pray wearing a checkered shirt, and he looked at the patterns in it. When he had finished his prayer, he said, “Take this shirt to Abu Jaham ibn Hudhayfah and bring me an anbajaani (a garment with no decorations or checks), because it distracted me when I was praying.” According to another report: “These checks distracted me.” According to another report: “He had a checkered shirt, which used to distract him whilst he was praying.” (Reports in Saheeh Muslim)
- Not praying when there is food prepared that one wants to eat: The Messenger of Allah (saws) said: “Do not pray when there is food prepared.” (Reported by Muslim) If food has been prepared and served, or if it is offered, a person should eat first, because he will not be able to concentrate properly and have khushoo’ if he leaves it and gets up to pray when he is wanting to eat. He should not even hasten to finish eating, because the Prophet (saws) said: “If the dinner is served and the time for prayer comes, eat dinner before praying Salaat al- Maghrib, and do not rush to finish your meal.” According to another report: “If dinner has been put out and the iqaamah has been given for prayer, eat dinner first and do not rush to finish it.” (Agreed upon. Al-Bukhari, Kitaab al-Aadhan, Baab idhaa hadara al-ta’aamu wa uqeemat al-salaah; Muslim)
- Not praying when one needs to answer the call of nature: No doubt one of the things that can prevent proper khushoo’ is praying when one needs to go to the washroom. The Prophet (saws) forbade praying when one is suppressing the urge to urinate or defecate. (Reported by Ibn Maajah in his Sunan; Saheeh al-Jaami’). If anyone is in this position, he should first go to the bathroom and answer the call of nature, even if he misses whatever he misses of the congregational prayer, because the Prophet (saws) said: “If any one of you needs to go to the toilet, and the prayer has begun, he should go to the toilet first.” (Reported by Abu Dawood; Saheeh al-Jaami’) If this happens to a person whilst he is praying, he should stop praying, go and answer the call of nature, purify himself then pray, because the Prophet (saws) said, “There is no prayer when there is food prepared or if one is suppressing the urge to expel waste matter.” (Saheeh Muslim) Without a doubt, this trying to suppress the urge takes away khushoo’. This ruling also applies to suppressing the urge to pass wind.
- Not praying when one feels sleepy: Anas ibn Malik (ra) said, “The Messenger of Allah (saws) said: “If any one of you feels sleepy when he is praying, he should sleep until he [is rested enough to] know what he is saying,” i.e., he should take a nap until he no longer feels drowsy. (Reported by al-Bukhari)
- Not praying behind someone who is talking (or sleeping): The Prophet (saws) forbade this; he said: “Do not pray behind one who is sleeping or one who is talking.” (Reported by Abu Dawood; Saheeh al-Jaami’; He said, a hasan hadith) – because one who is talking will distract the worshipper with his talk, and one who is sleeping may expose something that will distract the worshipper.
- Not turning around during prayer: Abu Dharr (ra) said: “The Messenger of Allah (saws) said: ‘Allah continues to turn towards His slave whilst he is praying, so long as he does not turn away, but if he turns away, [Allah] turns away from him.” (Reported by Abu Dawood; Saheeh Abi Dawood). [Only in cases of absolute necessity, certain actions are allowed during prayer, for e.g., the Prophet (saws) ordered killing of snakes and scorpions even during prayer, and a person who is praying should stop and even fight one who wants to pass in front of him whilst he is praying, he told women to clap during prayer [if they spot a mistake on the part of the imam], and he used to wave or gesture to people who greeted him whilst he was praying.] (Majmoo’ al-Fataawa)
- Not raising one’s gaze to the heavens: The Prophet (saws) forbade us to do this and issued a warning against it. He said: “When any one of you is praying, he should not lift his gaze to the heavens, lest he lose his sight.” (Reported by Ahmad; Saheeh al-Jaami’)
- Trying not to yawn when praying: The Messenger of Allah (saws) said: “If anyone of you feels the urge to yawn during prayer, let him suppress it as much as he can, lest the Shaytaan enter…” (Reported by Muslim) If the Shaytaan enters, he will be more able to disturb the worshipper’s khushoo’, in addition to laughing at him when he yawns.
- Not putting one’s hands on one’s hips when praying: Abu Hurayrah (ra) said: “The Messenger of Allah (saws) forbade putting the hands on the hips during prayer.” (Reported by Abu Dawood, no. 947; Saheeh al-Bukhari, Kitaab al-‘Aml fi’l-Salaah, Baab al-Hadhrfi’l-Salaah).
- Not resembling animals: The Messenger of Allah (saws) forbade three things in prayer: pecking like a crow, spreading one’s forearms like a carnivore, or always praying in the same place like a camel keeping to its own territory. (Reported by Ahmad) According to another report: “He forbade me to peck like a cockerel, to sit like a dog or to turn like a fox.” (Reported by Imam Ahmad; Saheeh al-Targheeb)
The reward recorded is in proportion to the degree of khushoo’, as the Prophet (saws) said: “A slave may pray and have nothing recorded for it except a tenth of it, or a ninth, or an eighth, or a seventh, or a sixth, or a fifth, or a quarter, or a third, or a half.” (Reported by Imam Ahmad; Saheeh al-Jaami’) Only the parts of his prayer where he focused and concentrated properly will be of any avail to him. It was reported that Ibn ‘Abbas (ra) said: “You will only have from your prayer that which you focused on.”
Imam Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah wrote in his book “Al-Waabil as-Sayyib min al-Kalim at-Tayyib”:
“When it comes to prayer, people are of five levels: The first is the level of the one who wrongs himself and is negligent. He does not do wudu’ properly, or pray at the right time or make sure he does all the necessary parts of prayer.
The second is one who observes the outward essentials of prayer, prays on time and does wudu’, but he has lost the battle against his own self and is overwhelmed with waswaas.
The third is one who observes the outward essentials of prayer, prays on time and does wudu’, and also strives against his own self and against waswaas, but he is preoccupied with his struggle against his enemy (i.e. the Shaytaan), lest he steal from his prayer, so he is engaged in salah and jihad at the same time.
The fourth is one who when he stands up to pray, he fulfils all the requirements of the prayer, and his heart is fully focused and alert lest he omit anything, and his concern is to do the prayer properly and perfectly. His heart is deeply immersed in his prayer and worship of his Lord.
The fifth is one who does all of that, but he takes his heart and places it before his Lord, looking at his Lord with his heart and focusing on Him, filled with love and adoration, as if he is actually seeing Him. That waswaas and those thoughts diminish, and the barriers between him and his Lord are lifted. The difference between the prayer of this person and the prayer of anyone is else is greater than the difference between heaven and earth. When this person prays, he is preoccupied with his Lord and content with Him.
The first type is punishable; the second is accountable; the third is striving so he is not counted as a sinner; the fourth is rewarded and the fifth is drawn close to his Lord, because he is one of those for whom prayer is a source of joy. Whoever finds their joy in prayer in this life, will find their joy in being close to Allah in the Hereafter, and will also find his joy in Allah in this world. Whoever finds his joy in Allah will be content with everything, and whoever does not find his joy in Allah, will be destroyed by his feelings of grief and regret for worldly matters.”
(The above is a (paraphrased) excerpt from the book ‘33 Ways of Developing Khushoo’ in Salaah’ by Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid)
[Ibn al-Qayyim also (may Allah have mercy on him) said: Every individual must stand before Allah twice: when he stands before Him in prayer and when he stands before Him on the Day he meets Him. Whoever stands before Him as he should in the first instance, the second standing will be made easy for him, but whoever is heedless with regard to this standing, and does not stand before Him (in prayer) as he should, that standing (on the Day of Resurrection) will be made difficult for him. (al-Fawaa’id)] (Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid)
Let’s conclude the answer with this beautiful summary on attaining khushoo’: It is related of Hatim al-Asamm (may Allah be pleased with him) that he said, in answer to a question about Prayer: “When the time for Prayer is at hand, I make a proper ablution, go to the spot where I intend to pray and sit there till all my limbs and organs are in a collected state. Then I stand up to perform my Prayer, placing the Kabah between my brows, the Bridge- over-Hell beneath my feet, Paradise to my right and Hell to my left, and the Angel of Death behind me, thinking all the while that this is my final Prayer. Then I stand between hope and fear. I carefully pronounce “Allahu Akbar!” Then I recite the Quran harmoniously, bow in humility and prostrate myself submissively. I then sit back on my left haunch spreading out the top of my left foot and raising my right foot on the toes. I follow this with sincerity. Then I wonder whether or not my Prayer has been accepted.” (“Inner Dimensions of Islamic Worship” by Imam Ghazali)
Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.