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Mosque Foundation | Bridgeview, Illinois

Mosque Foundation

Mental Preparation for Prayer

Ramadan Mubarak . Thursday is the first day of ramadan . isha and tarweeh prayer will be on Wednesday at 9:15pm

Mental Preparation for Prayer

Mental Preparation for Prayer

Ahmed Posing in Front of a Bookcase One

Remember the last important interview you had? You must have prepared well by conducting interview research, reviewing the dress code, planning the directions to the office, researching the institution online…etc. Your meeting with Allah is beyond all comparison. So, if you consider prayer a great blessing to communicate with Allah, you should be gratefully prepared. 

           In his al-Fawaid, Imam Ibn al-Qayyim observes: “There are two times when a servant stands before Allah: in prayer and on the Day of Judgment. Whoever takes care of the first, the second will be easy for them; whoever neglects the first standing, the second will be hard for them.” 

Here are quick tips to help improve our mental preparation for prayer: 

Start with a Focused Mind

           After preparing some food for family members, one of my relatives said, “Let us pray first and then eat without any interruptions!” She wanted her guests to enjoy eating with a clear mind. I responded, “Let us eat first and then pray without interruptions!” To be less distracted during prayer and to strengthen our focus on prayer, the Prophet ﷺ taught us to start our prayer with an undivided mind. 

           Ibn Umar narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said: “When dinner is being served, and the time for a prayer becomes due, start with the dinner and do not be hasty” (Bukhari & Muslim). That is why whenever he felt hungry and the meal was ready, Ibn Umar started eating even if he could hear the Imam’s recitation. We should also note that if a person is a little hungry and knows that hunger will not be a distraction, they should start praying. ‘Amr ibn Umayyah narrated that he saw the Prophet ﷺ using a knife to cut a piece of meat from a cooked sheep shoulder. As the prayer was called, the Prophet ﷺ put down the meat and the knife and offered the prayer” (Bukhari & Muslim).

           Similarly, the Prophet ﷺ taught us not to start praying when we feel that we need to use the bathroom. Instead of praying while you resist the urge to urinate or defecate, you should relieve yourself first. ‘Aiesha said that she heard the Prophet ﷺ saying: “No ritual prayer is to be offered when the food is being served or when a person resists “al-akhbathayn [the urge to urinate or defecate].” 

Dress Well

Wearing clean and neat clothes indicates that prayer is a special meeting and that you take it seriously. Dressing well is not a prerequisite for prayer; however, it is an excellent mental preparation for prayer. The Quran commands: “O children of Adam, wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer: eat and drink: but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters” (Quran 7:31). In accordance with this verse, Tamim al-Dari bought an expensive garment for prayer. 

Smell Nice 

           Smelling well could influence your brain’s activity. Many scents refresh the mind, create a sense of alertness, boost attentiveness, produce a sense of optimism, fight mental fatigue, improve focus, and stimulate clear thinking. It is interesting to note that smelling nice was part of the traits of the Prophet’s ﷺ personality. Anas ibn Malik narrated: “I have never smelt any musk or amber better than the fragrance of the Prophet (Reported by Muslim). Umm Salamah also narrated that the Prophet ﷺ used to wear musk and apply it to his face and hands whenever he performed wudu. The Companions followed this Sunnah very closely. Ibn Mas’ud was known for his pleasant smell, and before his prayers, he liked pleasing fragrances and neat clothes. Similarly, people knew if Ibn Abbas walked through a street because of his wonderful smell! 

It is equally important to avoid wearing anything with an overpowering smell since that could distract from prayer. Obviously, one must stay away from anything that produces a bad smell. In a clear-cut direction, the Prophet ﷺ instructed us: “Let those who ate onions or garlic keep away from our mosque since the angels are harmed by whatever harms humans” (Bukhari & Muslim).

Avoid Hardness of the Heart

Imam Ibn al-Qayyim observed: “Four things, when excessively done, will lead to the hardness of the heart: eating, sleeping, talking, and mingling with others.” Have you ever prayed after you overate or overslept? Have you ever prayed after having a long “unnecessary” conversation with somebody? No doubt, it was not the best prayer. Let us discuss the harmful effects of overeating, oversleeping, and excessive conversations before Salah. 

  • Do not eat until you are full. The Prophet ﷺ suggested eating until about 66% capacity! Al-Miqdad ibn Ma’d Yakrib said: I heard the Prophet saying: There is no vessel which the son of Adam can fill that is more evil than his stomach, for it is enough for him to take a few bites to straighten his back. Yet if he is overcome by appetite, then he may fill it with a third of food, a third of drink, and a third of breath.”
  • Besides the medical problems of oversleeping, those who oversleep may feel more tired. This feeling is not a proper preparation for prayer. 
  • Avoid lengthy conversations before Salah as much as you can. If necessary before prayer, limit your discussions to good causes or important matters. The Quran reads: “In most of their secret talks, there is no good except for one who exhorts [others] to a deed of charity or justice or conciliation between people. Whoever does this, seeking the good pleasure of Allah, We shall soon give a reward of the highest (value)” (Quran 4:114). Generally speaking, the Prophet ﷺ taught us: “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him or her say good or be silent.”

Take a Few Moments of Contemplation Before the First Takbirah

Some people may start their prayer after a long conversation with others or even after laughing or shouting, and suddenly they find themselves praying! Always take a few moments of silence to prepare your heart and mind. To bring in Khushu’ before you start your prayer, think of one of the following:

  • To generate a sense of humility that makes you look down humbly, remember a sin you committed and a blessing Allah bestowed on you. 
  • Imagine that this prayer might be your last. In this way, you will try your best to perfect it.
  • Visualize the glory and greatness of Allah’s creation (e.g., we have more than 150 billion galaxies!) and how small you are. Despite how small we look, Allah honored us; therefore, feel proud that you are one of His servants.
  • Think about how short this life is and how eternal the afterlife is. In 100 years, no one who is alive now will be here. 

Do Not Start Your Prayer With a Lie! 

One of the most effective ways to maintain your focus in prayer is to recognize the meaning of ‘Allahu Akbar’ through which we start our prayer. Allahu Akbar means “God is greater.” Greater than what? Greater than anything you can imagine. Therefore, when you begin praying with Allahu Akbar, you basically say Allah is greater than my money, school, work …etc. That is why Imam al-Ghazali warned: “Make sure that you do not start your prayer with a lie!” It is also interesting to notice that the phrase ‘Allahu Akbar’ signals most of the movements during prayer. In other words, ‘Allah is Greater’ is a constant reminder that thinking of anything other than Allah while you are in His presence is shameful. In this way, the frequently repeated Allahu Akbar can help us regain our focus.

Prepare Your Quranic Recitations

Instead of reciting the same short verses in every prayer, try to memorize various verses or passages or even single verses. If you can only learn one verse, here are some suggestions for inspirational verses: (2:186), (2:281), (3:8), (4:135), (16:277), (16:281), (17:23), (24:30), (29:69), (39:53), (41:30), (41:34), (49:10), (49:12), (49:13), and (50:16).  

Prepare Personal Duas

When you include personal prayers in your Salah for yourself, your family, and your Ummah, your Salah will be transformed from being a dead format into a real personal relation. The best part of Salah for personal prayers is during Sujud (prostration). The Prophet ﷺ taught us: “Nothing brings the servant closer to Allah more than Sujud; so, offer frequent prayers or supplications” (Reported by Muslim). Practically speaking, prepare your Duas and pray earnestly and sincerely. 

Allow Enough Time

When you pray on time, you have a better chance of concentration. Think of the last time you offered a prayer a few minutes before the following prayer was due. Think of the last time you had to combine two prayers without a valid excuse. So, for better focus during prayer, allow enough time. Of course, the best option, in this regard, is to join the congregation in prayer in the Masjid.

Observe the Sunnah Dhikr Daily

The more you focus on Allah outside of prayer, the easier you can focus on Him during prayer. Observing the many Dhikr the Prophet ﷺ taught us throughout the day will help a Muslim develop an undivided heart set on Allah and be willing to surrender to Him completely. 


By Sh. Ahmed Arafat