Thinking About the Ayah Being Recited:
The Qur’an was revealed to be pondered over.
Allah tells us:
“(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.”
(Surah Sad 38:29)
No one can ponder over its verses unless they have some knowledge of the meaning of what they are reciting, so they can think about it and be moved to tears by it. Allah says:
“And those who, when they are reminded of the ayat of their Lord, fall not deaf and blind thereat.” (Surah al-Furqan 25:73)
Thus the importance of studying Tafsir, Qur’anic commentary, is quite clear. Ibn Jarir said: “I am astonished at people who read the Qur’an and do not know what it means. How can they enjoy reading it?”.
Another way of helping oneself to ponder over the meanings is to repeat ayat, because this will help one think deeply and look again at the meanings. The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, used to do this. It was reported that he spent the night repeating one ayah until morning came. The ayah was:
“If You punish them, they are Your slaves, and if you forgive them, verily You, only You are the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.” (Surah al-Maidah 5:1118)
Another way of helping oneself ponder over the meanings is to interact with the ayat. Hudayfah, may Allah be pleased with him, said:
“I prayed with the Messenger of Allah, (peace be upon him), one night… he was reciting at length. If he recited an ayh that mentioned tasbih, he would say SubhanAllah, if it mentioned a question, he would ask that question; if it mentioned seeking refuge with Allah, he would seek refuge with Allah.” (Recorded in Muslim/772)
One of the Companions, Qutadah ibn al-Nu’man, may Allah be pleased with him, prayed qiyam at night and did not recite anything but Qul Huwa Allahu Ahad, repeating it and not adding anything more. (Narration in al-Bukhari)
Another way of helping oneself to ponder over the meanings is to memorise 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.
There is no doubt that these actions – thinking about the meanings, repeating and interacting with the words – are among the greatest means of increasing khushu, as Allah says:
“And they fall down on their faces weeping and it adds to their humility.” (This calls for a prostration – Surah al-Isra 17:109)
Let us contemplate the following moving story of how the Prophet, peace be upon him, had khushu:
‘Ubayd ibn ‘Umayr and I enetered upon Aishah, may Allah be pleased with her, and ‘Ibn ‘Umayr said to her, ‘Tell us of the most amazing thing you saw on the part of the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him.’ She wept and said, ‘He got up one night and said ‘O Aishah, leave me to worship my Lord.’ I said, ‘By Allah, I love to be close to you, and I love what makes you happy.’ So he got up and purified himself, then he stood and prayed. he kept weeping until his lap got wet, then he wept and kept weeping until the floor got wet. Bilal came to tell him it was time to pray, and when he saw him weeping he said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, you are weeping when Allah has forgiven you all your past and future sins?’ He, peace be upon him, said: ‘Should I not be a grateful slave? Tonight some ayat have been revealed to me; woe to the one who recites them and does not think about what is in them, ‘Verily! In the creation of the heavens and the earth…’ (Surah al-Baqarah 2:164) (Reported by Ibn Hibban)
An example of interacting wit the ayat is to say, ‘Amin‘ after al-Fatihah, which brings great reward. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said:
“If the imam says ‘Amin’ then say ‘Amin’ too, for whoever says, ‘Amin’ and it coincides with the ‘Amin’ of the angels will have all his previous sins forgiven.” (Recorded in al-Bukhari/747)
Rifa’ah ibn Rafi al-Zirqi said, ‘One day we were praying behind the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. When he raised his head he said, ‘Sami’ Allahu liman hamidah’. And a man behind him said, ‘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.’
[Recorded in al-Bukhari 2/284]
People Are of Five levels in Regards to Prayer
Khushu is a serious, major issue, which is impossible to achieve without the help of Allah. Being deprived of khushu is nothing short of a calamity. Hence the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, used to say in his du’a:
“Allaahumma innee a’oodhu bika min qalbin laa yakhsha’… (O Allah, I seek refuge with You from a heart that has no khushu…).” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, 5/485, no. 3482)
Those who have khushu are of varying levels or degrees. Khushu is an action of the heart that may increase and decrease. Some people have khushu as great as the clouds of the sky, and others may finish their prayer without having understood anything at all.
When it comes to prayer, people are of five levels
The first is the level of the one who wrongs themself and is negligent. They do not do wudu properly, or pray at the right time or make sure they do all the necessary parts of prayer.
The second is one who observes the outward essentials of prayer, prays on time and does wudu, but they have lost the battle against their own self and are overwhelmed with waswaas.
The third is one who observes the outward essentials of prayer, prays on time and does wudu, and also strives against their own self and against waswaas, but they are preoccupied with their struggle against the enemy (i.e. the Shaytaan), lest he steal from their prayer, so thye is engaged in salah and jihad at the same time.
The fourth is one who when they stands up to pray, they fulfils all the requirements of the prayer, and their heart is fully focused and alert lest they omit anything, and their concern is to do the prayer properly and perfectly. This person’s heart is deeply immersed in the prayer and worship of their Lord.
The fifth is one who does all of that, but they take their heart and place it before their Lord, looking at Him with the heart and focusing on Him, filled with love and adoration, as if they are actually seeing Him. That waswaas and those thoughts diminish, and the barriers between them and their 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, they are preoccupied with their Lord and content with Him.
The first type is punishable; the second is accountable; the third is striving so they are not counted as a sinner; the fourth is rewarded and the fifth is drawn close to their Lord, because they are 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 their joy in Allah in this world.
Whoever finds their joy in Allah will be content with everything, and whoever does not find their joy in Allah, will be destroyed by their feelings of grief and regret for worldly matters.” (al-Waabil al-Sayib, p. 40).
Finally, we ask Allah to make us among those who have khushu and to accept our repentance. Ameen. All praise be to Allaah, Lord of the Worlds.