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Tips that help achieve better concentration in prayers

Afterall what is it that God wants, ( Sheik Arif asks )? Does He want us to bow down and prostrate even more? Offer more prayers? ...

Afterall what is it that God wants, (Sheik Arif asks)? Does He want us to bow down and prostrate even more? Offer more prayers? Go to even more pilgrimages? Well if that's what He wanted then he could have created a thousand more Gabriels who would continually offer such worship. Who would continouly sing His praises more loudly and deeply than we ever can. Why settle for the measely bird-pecking worship that we offer?

If there's anything that God wants from us, it's change. It's to constantly become better and grow from within. Growth physically, mentally and spiritually. One method to attain such growth is to strive for a betterment in the quality of our worship.

Concentration in Prayer is important. Why, because it's the one single indicator of your taqwa/piety levels. Want to know how's your relationship with God? your level of faith? Ask yourself how much is your focus during namaaz. Afterall what does God want? It's not more prayers, but better prayers. Not for Him, but for us.

Here are 15 tips that can help you achieve greater concentration in prayers:

1. Watch your thoughts not just during prayers but the whole day: Thoughts lead to actions. The No.1 method to improve concentration in prayers, is by improving our state of God consciousness throughout the day. Ask/Tell yourself:

- How will this activity of mine pleasing God?
- Aren't I so fortunate to have men who obey me?
- I enjoy a pleasant life, I am privileged and honoured, and I am safe from many calamities and misfortunes.
- Sure I may have this problem at work, but that's because I have work.

It's because we think of God very little during the day and are more preoccupied with of worldly affairs, it's those thoughts that still distract us when standing on the prayer mat. The mind rarely is in 'the Now' and is mostly in the past or future. Once you have been practicing to remain God Conscious throughout the day:
- you'll get better at changing your focus back to prayers because you've been practicing it all day, every day
- even after losing your focus it's more likely that you'll have God in your thoughts, because that's Whom you've been thinking about all day.

2. Recollect your Hajj trip: If you have been to Hajj or Umra, recall the awe when you saw the Ka'ba for the first time. How you couldn't stop the tears rolling down your face. The peace and serenity you experienced then. When doing Sajdah bring the same deep emotions through you when doing the first Sajdah inside Masjidul Harram.

3. A Hadith: "Realise that whatever it is that your thoughts are diverted to, the One whom you are praying to has more control on it's outcome than you do." ~ Paraphrase of a Hadith I read, apologies for the lack of reference.

4. Wudhu: If you want to increase your focus in prayer, increase your focus during Wudhu.

5. The Call to Prayer: A simple method to increase concentration immediately in your very next namaaz is just to, recite Azaan and Iqamah before beginnig prayers. Even if you are alone. Especially if you are alone. Try it. It really works.

Prophet Mohammed:
O' Abu Dhar! Be like him, who in a deserted place (though alone),
calls Adhan and Iqamah (Call for Prayer) and says his Prayer. So your
Lord says to the angels, 'Look at My servant! He is praying and no one
sees him but Me? Then descend 70,000 Angels and pray behind him Then descend 70,000 Angels and pray behind him and seek forgiveness for him until the next day.
~ Concentration in Prayer by Jameel Kermali

6. Know before you speak: You can focus in your prayer only if you are 100% clear on the meaning of the Surahs and the zikrs that are being recited. The best investment you can give to your spiritual life is to read the translation what's recited and be clear on each and every zikr in namaaz. Sometimes we have an idea on what the meaning of the zikr is but don't know it precisely. It helps to have the extra bit of clarity on the meaning and know exactly what it is we are reciting.

7. Think about it: Once you know the meaning of what's being recited, take a pause, go through the zikr in your head. Reflect upon it. Then recite it.

8. Reciting these two verses before you begin prayer:

6:79 Surely I have turned myself, being upright, wholly to Him Who originated the heavens and the earth, and I am not of the polytheists.

6:162 Say. Surely my prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are (all) for Allah, the Lord of the worlds;

10. Recite different surahs. If it's Surah Ahad that you recite regularly. There are other Surahs that we've memorised but never recite in namaaz. For eg. majority of muslims have memorised the Four Surahs that begin with Qul. Recite those and reflect on it's meanings.

11. Pray when it's time. First things first. When we give God priority, He gives us His priority. Look forward to the time when it's prayer and then drop whatever you are doing to go and pray. Make this especially true for yourself if you're traveling. (By the way, Click here to see a wonderful Nasheed by Dawud Wharnsby titled, "All the earth is a place of worship.")

12. Apply perfume: Purchase a small scented bottle and keep it right next to your prayer mat. Apply it on yourself before begining prayer. If possible a designated pair of clothes. It's a way of telling God that you giving importance to your appearance hence to your prayer.

13. Location, location, location: When not traveling have a designated place to pray. Keep the place clean and clear of mirrors, pictures, anything that may cause distraction.

14. Keeping the light in the room low. It's a different feeling altogether.

15. Practice. You'll get there.

This post is a summary of key learnings from the book Concentration in Prayer and the lecture (part1 & part2) by Dr. Murtaza Alidina on Understanding Namaaz