Khushu` in Prayer

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Shaykhu’l-Islam ibn Taymiyyah said:

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Allah, Most High, says,

  “…but that is a very hard thing, except for the humble.”[1]

This signifies the censure of those who do not have khushu`. Similar statements indicating censure are,

  “We only appointed the direction you used to face in order to know those who follow the Messenger from those who turn round on their heels. Though in truth it is a very hard thing – except for those Allah has guided.”[2]

  “What you call the polytheists to follow is very hard for them.”[3]

The Book of Allah, Mighty and Magnificent, shows that whoever finds what Allah loves hard to bear is blameworthy in the religion and receives Allah’s displeasure. Censure and displeasure only come ones way when an obligation is left or a prohibition is committed. Therefore if those who do not have khushu` are censured, its obligation is proven.

It is known that the reference to khushu` in His saying,

  “…but that is a very hard thing, except for the humble.”[4]

must incorporate khushu` in the prayer, otherwise the meaning becomes nonsensical, since it would mean that salah is hard except for one who has khushu` outside of it and not in it, as such it would mean that it is hard for those who have khushu` in the prayer but not hard for those who have it outside of the prayer! The verse would then become pointless. As such, this verse then proves that khushu` is obligatory in the prayer.

The obligation of having khushu` in prayer is also proven by His saying,

  “It is the believers who are successful: those who are humble in their prayer; those who turn away from worthless talk; those who pay the alms-tax; those who guard their private parts – except from their wives or those they own as slaves, in which case they are not blameworthy; but those who desire anything more than that are people who have gone beyond the limits – those who honour their trusts and their contracts; those who safeguard their prayer; such people are the inheritors who will inherit Firdaws, remaining in it timelessly, forever.”[5]

Allah, Glorious and Most High, informs us that it is these who will inherit Firdaws thereby showing that others will not do so; as such, this proves the obligation of having the qualities mentioned therein. This is because, were they recommendations, Firdaws could still be attained without them, since Paradise can be attained by the performance of obligatory deeds without the recommended. It is for this reason that only obligations are mentioned in these verses.

Khushu` is obligatory and comprises quietude and humility. In this respect is the saying of `Umar (RA) when he saw a person fidgeting in his prayer,

  “If the heart of this person was humble, so too would his limbs be,”

meaning they would be stilled and submissive.

Allah, Most High, says,

  “Among his Signs is that you see the earth laid bare and then when We send down water on it, it quivers and swells.”[6]

Here, He informs us that after having had khushu`, the earth quivers and swells, i.e. raises (with vegetation), this then proves that its khushu` was stillness and lowness.

It is for this reason that the Prophet ﷺ would say in his bowing,

 “ “O Allah, to You have I bowed, in You have I believed, and to You have I submitted: my hearing, sight, bones, and marrow are humbled to You,”[7]

as recorded by Muslim. Here he described himself with khushu` because the one bowing is still and in a posture of humility….

Khushu` is obligatory, as such the one who pecks on the ground like a crow when prostrating has not displayed khushu` therein. Similarly, one who does not fully return to (the standing posture) from bowing, before going down for prostration, has not been calm and still. Calmness (sukun) is the exact same thing as tranquility (³uma´ninah). The person who was not calm in his bowing or his prostration has not shown khushu in them. The person who does not have khushu` is sinful as we have just explained.

Amongst the proofs that khushu` is obligatory is that the Prophet ﷺ threatened people who left it, as in the case of a person who raises his gaze to the sky; this motion and this looking is at odds to khushu`. Anas (RA) records that the Prophet ﷺ said,

 “ “What is the matter with people that they raise their gazes in their prayers?”

He severely reprimanded those who did it saying

 “ , “They must stop or their sight will be snatched away!”[8]

Jabir ibn Samurah reports that ‘The Messenger of Allah ﷺ entered the Mosque to see people praying while looking up at the sky and said,

 “ “People must stop looking up at the sky or their sight will not return to them!”’[9]

The first was recorded by Bukhari and the second by Muslim, and both are recorded by Abu Dawud, Nasai, and ibn Majah.

Ibn Sirin said,

 “ ‘The Messenger of Allah ﷺ would look up in prayer and when Allah, Mighty and Magnificent, revealed,

  “It is the believers who are successful: those who are humble in their prayer…”[10]

 “ his sight never left the place of his prostration.’

This was recorded by Ahmad, al-Nasikh wa’l-Mansukh. Now, because raising ones sight to the sky goes against khushu`, the Prophet ﷺ prohibited it and threatened the one who did it.

As regards looking around, this reduces khushu` but does not negate it. This is why looking around decreases (the reward) of prayer; Bukhari, Abu Dawud, and Nasa´i record that `A´ishah (RA) said, ‘I asked the Prophet ﷺ about looking (here and there) in prayer and he said,

 “ “It is a snatching away that Shay³an steals from the servants’ prayer.”[11]

Abu Dawud and Nasa´i record the hadith of Abu’l-Ahwas from Abu Dharr (RA) that the Prophet ﷺ said,

 “ “Allah will remain turning to the servant in his prayer for as long as he does not look away. If he looks away, He will turn away.”[12]

There is no harm in looking around if there is a need to do so. Abu Dawud records on the authority of Sahl ibn Hanzaliyyah, ‘

 “ The iqamah was called for prayer – i.e. the morning prayer – and the Messenger of Allah ﷺ commenced praying, and kept looking at the mountain path.’ Abu Dawud said, ‘He had sent a horseman there to keep guard by night.’[13]

In a similar vein is his taking Umamah bint Abi al-`As ibn al-Rabi` from his daughter, Zaynab;[14] his opening the door for `A´ishah;[15] his descending the pulpit to teach the people prayer;[16] his stepping back during the eclipse prayer;[17] his holding Shaytan and squeezing his neck when he tried to sever his ﷺ prayer;[18] his command to kill snakes and scorpions while in prayer;[19] his command to push back and fight the one who is walking in front of one praying;[20] his command for women to clap their hands;[21] his motioning in prayer;[22] and other such actions in prayer that are done for a need. If, however, they are done without need, they would be regarded as mere fidgeting which negates khushu` and is prohibited in prayer.

The obligation of khushu` is also proven by the hadith reported by Tamim al-Ta´i from Jabir ibn Samurah (RA) who said, ‘The Messenger of Allah ﷺ entered in upon us and the people were raising their hands – the narrator, Zuhayr ibn Mu`awiyah said that he thought that was in the prayer – and he said,

 “ “What is the matter that I see you raising your hands as if they are the tails of headstrong horses, be calm in the prayer.”’

This was recorded by Muslim, Abu Dawud, and Nasa´i.[23] They also record on the authority of `Ubaydullah ibn al-Qibtiyyah from Jabir ibn Samurah who said, ‘When we would pray behind the Messenger of Allah ﷺ and performed the salam, we would wave our hands to the right and to the left. When the Messenger of Allah ﷺ had completed the prayer, he said,

 “ “What is the matter with you that he moves his hands as if they were tails of headstrong horses, it suffices you to do this – and he pointed with his finger – and to say the salam to his brother on the right and left.”[24]

Another narration has,

 “ “Does it not suffice one of you – or one of them – to keep his hand on his thigh and say the salam to his brother on his right and left?”[25]

The wording of Muslim has, ‘We prayed with the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, when we said the salam we would motion with our hands saying,

 “ “Peace be with you.”

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ looked at us and said,

 “ “What is the matter with you that you motion with your hands as if they were the tails of headstrong horses. When one of you says the salam, let him face his neighbour and not motion with the hand.”’[26]

Here the Prophet ﷺ ordered calmness in the prayer, the whole prayer, and calmness cannot come about without tranquility. Whoever is not tranquil is not calm, and the command for calmness accords to Allah’s command for khushu`….[27]

Footnotes

1 al-Baqarah (2): 45

2 al-Baqarah (2): 143

3 al-Shùra (42): 13

4 al-Baqarah (2): 45

5 al-Mu´minùn (23): 1-11

6 Fusilat (41): 39

7 Muslim #771 on the authority of `Al».

8 Bukhari #750

9 Muslim #117

10 al-Mu`iminùn (23): 1-2

11 Bukh«r» #751-3291

12 A¯mad #21508, Abù D«wùd #909, Nas«´» #1196
It was ruled •a¯»¯ by ibn Khuzaymah #481-482, akim #862 with Dhahabi agreeing, and ¯asan by Albani, al-Targhib #554.

13 Abù Dawùd #916

14 Abù Dawùd #918 on the authority of Abù Qatadah.

15 Abù Dawùd #922

16 Bukhari #917 and Muslim #44-45

17 Abù Dawùd #1178 on the authority of Jabir

18 A¯mad #3926 on the authority of ibn Mas`ùd with a ±a`»f isnad.
Bukhari #461-4808 and Muslim #541 record a similar hadith on the authority of Abù Hurayrah.

19 Abù Dawùd #921

20 Abù Dawùd #697

21 Abù Dawùd #939

22 Abù Dawùd #943

23 Muslim #119, Abù Dawùd #1000, Nas«´» #1184

24 Muslim #120, Abù Dawùd #998, Nas«´» #1185

25 Abù Dawùd #999

26 Muslim #121

27 Majmù` Fatawa, vol. 22, pp. 553-564. He proceeds to mention many more proofs, and the interested reader can refer to his Majmù

(NOTE: If you want to build a strong and powerful relationship with Allah, check out Islamia TV, where you can watch Islamic speakers from across the globe deliver inspiring and motivational courses. Learn more at www.islamia.tv.)



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