Ways of Developing Khushoo‘
Translation from 33 Sababun Lil-Khushoo’ Fi Salaah by Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid
This can be achieved in several ways, such as the following:
Preparing oneself for prayer properly
By repeating the words of the adhaan after the muezzin;
By pronouncing the du’aa’ to be recited after the adhaan: “Allaahummah Rabba haadhihi’l-da’wati’l-taammah wa’-salaati’l-qaa’imah, aati Muhammadan il-waseelata wa’l-fadeelah, wab’ath-hu’l-maqaam al-mahmood alladhi wa’adtah (O Allaah, Lord of this perfect call and the prayer to be offered, grant Muhammad the privilege (of interceding) and also the eminence, and resurrect him to the praised position that You have promised)”;
Reciting du’aa’ between the adhaan and the iqaamah;
Doing wudoo’ properly, saying Bismillaah before it and making dhikr and saying the du’aa’ after it, “Ash-hadu an laa ilaaha ill-Allaah wahdahu laa shareeka lah wa ash-hadu anna Muhammadan ‘abduhu wa rasooluhu (I bear witness that there is no god except Allaah alone, with no partner or associate, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and messenger)” and “Allaahummaj’alni min al-tawwaabeena waj’alni min al-mutatahhireen (O Allaah, make me of those who repent and make me of those who purify themselves)”;
Using siwaak to cleanse and perfume the mouth that is going to recite Qur’aan in a short while, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Purify your mouths for the Qur’aan.” (Reported by al-Bazzaar, who said: we do not have it with any better isnaad than this. Kashf al-Astaar, 1/242. Al-Haythami said: its men are thiqaat. 2/99. Al-Albaani said: its isnaad is jayyid. Al-Saheehah, 1213);
Wearing one’s best and cleanest clothes, because Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “O Children of Adam! Take your adornment (by wearing your clean clothes) while praying…” [al-A’raaf 7:31]. Allaah is most deserving of seeing us “take our adornment” for Him. Clean, pleasant smelling clothes are also more comfortable and relaxing, unlike clothes for sleeping or working in.
We should also prepare ourselves by 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 and solid, without any gaps, because the shayaateen come in through the gaps in the rows.
Moving at a measured pace during prayer
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to move at a measured pace during salaah, allowing every bone to return to its place. (Its isnaad is classed as saheeh in Sifat al-Salaat, p. 134, 11th edn. Ibn Khuzaymah also classed it as saheeh as mentioned by al-Haafiz in al-Fath, 2/308). 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, 1/536, no. 858).
Abu Qutaadah (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: ‘The worst type of thief is the one who steals from his prayer.’ He said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah, how can a person steal from his prayer?’ He said, ‘By not doing rukoo’ and sujood properly.’” (Reported by Ahmad and al-Haakim, 1/229; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 997).
Abu ‘Abd-Allaah al-Ash’ari (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, ‘The one who does not do rukoo’ 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-Tabaraani in al-Kabeer, 4/115. In Saheeh al-Jaami’ it says, hasan).
The one who does not move at a measured pace in his prayer cannot have khushoo’ because haste is a barrier to khushoo’ and pecking like a crow is a barrier to reward.
Remembering death whilst praying
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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-Albaani, 1421. It was reported from al-Suyooti that al-Haafiz ibn Hajar classed this hadeeth as hasan).
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) also advised Abu Ayyoob (may Allaah be pleased with him): “When you stand up to pray, pray a farewell prayer.” (Reported by Ahmad, 5/412; Saheeh al-Jaami’, no. 742) – meaning the prayer of one who thinks that he will not pray another prayer. The person who is praying will no doubt die, and there is some prayer that will be his last prayer, so let him have khushoo’ in the prayer that he is doing, for he does not know whether this will be his last prayer.
Thinking about the aayaat and adhkaar being recited during the prayer and interacting with them
The Qur’aan was revealed to be pondered over. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “(This is) a Book (the Qur’aan) which We have sent down to you, full of blessings that they may ponder over its Verses, and that men of understanding may remember.” [Saad 38:29]. No one can ponder over its verses unless he has some knowledge of the meaning of what he is reciting, so that he can think about it and be moved to tears by it. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “And those who, when they are reminded of the aayaat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) of their Lord, fall not deaf and blind thereat.” [al-Furqaan 25:73]. Thus the importance of studying Tafseer (Qur’aanic commentary) is quite clear. Ibn Jareer (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “I am astonished at people who read the Qur’aan and do not know what it means. How can they enjoy reading it?” (Muqaddimat Tafseer al-Tabari by Mahmood Shaakir, 1/10. For this reason it is important for the reader of Qur’aan to look at a Tafseer, even if it is abridged, when he is reading. For example, he could read Zubdat al-Tafseer by al-Ashqar, which is abridged from the Tafseer of al-Shawkaani, and the Tafseer of al-‘Allaamah Ibn Sa’di, entitled Tayseer al-Kareem al-Rahmaan fi Tafseer Kalaam al-Mannaan. At the very least he could consult a book explaining the unusual words such as al-Mu’jam al-Jaami’ li Ghareeb Mufradaat al-Qur’aan by ‘Abd al-‘Azeez al-Seerwaan, which is a compilation of four books of unusual words used in the Qur’aan).
Another way of helping oneself to ponder over the meanings is to repeat aayaat, because this will help one to think deeply and look again at the meanings. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to do this. It was reported that he spent a night repeating one aayah until morning came. The aayah was (interpretation of the meaning): “If you punish them, they are Your slaves, and if You forgive them, verily You, only You are the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.” [al-Maa’idah 5:118]. (Reported by Ibn Khuzaymah, 1/271 and Ahmad, 5/149; Sifat al-Salaah, p. 102). [Translator’s note: Shaykh al-Albaani’s book Sifat al-Salaah is available in English under the title The Prophet’s Prayer described by Shaikh Muhammad Naasir-ud-Deen al-Albaani, translated by Usama ibn Suhaib Hasan, Al-Haneef Publications, Ipswich, UK, 1993]
Another way of helping oneself ponder over the meanings is to interact with the aayaat. Hudhayfah said: “ I prayed with the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) one night… he was reciting at length. If he recited an aayah that mentioned tasbeeh, he would say Subhaan Allaah; if it mentioned a question, he would ask a question; if it mentioned seeking refuge with Allaah, he would seek refuge with Allaah.” (Reported by Muslim, no. 772). According to another report, [Hudhayfah] said: “I prayed with the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), and if he recited an aayah that mentioned mercy, he would ask for mercy; if he recited an aayah that mentioned punishment, he would seek refuge with Allaah, and if he recited an aayah that mentioned deanthropomorphism of Allaah, he would say Subhaan-Allaah.” (Ta’zeem Qadr al-Salaah, 1/327). This was reported concerning qiyaam al-layl (prayer at night).
One of the Sahaabah – Qutaadah ibn al-Nu’maan (may Allaah be pleased with him) – prayed qiyaam at night and did not recite anything but Qul Huwa Allaah Ahad, repeating it and not adding anything more. (Al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, 9/59; Ahmad, 3/43)
Sa’eed ibn ‘Ubayd al-Taa’i said: “I heard Sa’eed ibn Jubayr leading them in prayer during the month of Ramadaan, and he was repeating this aayah (interpretation of the meaning): ‘… they will come to know, when iron collars will be rounded over their necks, and the chains, they shall be dragged along, in the boiling water, then they will be burned in the Fire.’ [Ghaafir 40:70-72].” Al-Qaasim said: “I saw Sa’eed ibn Jubayr praying qiyaam al-layl and reciting (interpretation of the meaning): ‘And be afraid of the Day when you shall be brought back to Allaah. Then every person shall be paid what he earned…’ [al-Baqarah 2:281], and repeating it twenty-odd times.” A man of Qays who was known by the kunyah Abu ‘Abd-Allaah said: “We stayed with al-Hasan one night, and he got up to pray qiyaam al-layl. He prayed and did not stop repeating this aayah until just before dawn (interpretation of the meaning): ‘… and if you count the Blessings of Allaah, never will you be able to count them…’ [Ibraaheem 14:34]. When morning came, we said, ‘O Abu Sa’eed, you did not recite any more than this one aayah all night.’ He said, ‘I learn a great deal from it: I do not glance at anything but I see a blessing in it, but what we do not know about Allaah’s blessings is far greater.’” (Al-Tidhkaar li’l-Qurtubi, p. 125).
Haroon ibn Rabaab al-Usaydi used to get up at night to pray Tahajjud, and he would repeat this aayah until daybreak (interpretation of the meaning): “… ‘Would that we were but sent back (to the world)! Then we would not deny the aayaat (signs, verses) of our Lord, and we would be of the believers!’” [al-An’aam 6:27], and weeping until daybreak.
Another way of helping oneself to ponder over the meanings is to memorize Qur’aan and various adhkaar 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 khushoo’, as Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “And they fall down on their faces weeping and it adds to their humility [khushoo’]’” [al-Isra’ 17:109].
The following is a moving story that illustrates how the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) had khushoo’, as well as explaining how it is obligatory to think of the meaning of the aayat. ‘Ataa’ said: “ ‘Ubayd ibn ‘Umayr and I entered upon ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah 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 Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).’ She wept and said, ‘He got up one night and said, “O ‘Aa’ishah, leave me to worship my Lord.” I said, “By Allaah, 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. Bilaal came to tell him that it was time to pray, and when he saw him weeping, he said, “O Messenger of Allaah, you are weeping when Allaah has forgiven you all your past and future sins?” He said, “Should I not be a grateful slave? Tonight some aayaat have been revealed to me; woe to the one who recites them and does not think about what is in them (interpretation of the meaning): ‘Verily! In the creation of the heavens and the earth…’” [Aal ‘Imraan 3:190… or al-Baqarah 2:164].’” (Reported by Ibn Hibaan. He said in al-Silsilat al-Saheehah, no. 68: this is a jayyid isnaad).
One example of interacting with the aayaat is to say “Aameen” after al-Faatihah, which brings a great reward. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “If the imaam says ‘Aameen,’ then say ‘Aameen’ too, for whoever says ‘Aameen’ and it coincides with the ‘Aameen’ of the angels, will have all his previous sins forgiven.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, no. 747). Another example is responding to the imaam when he says “Sami’ Allaahu liman hamidah (Allaah 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 (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). 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-Bukhaari, al-Fath, 2/284).
Pausing at the end of each aayah
This is more helpful in understanding and thinking about the meaning, and it is the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), as Umm Salamah (may Allaah be pleased with her) described how the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) would recite, “Bismillah il-Rahmaan il-Raheem”, and according to one report, he would pause, then say, “Al-hamdu Lillaahi Rabbi’l-‘Aalameen, al-Rahmaan, al-Raheem.” Then according to one report, he would pause, then say, “Maaliki yawm il-deen,” and he would break up his recitation aayah by aayah. (Reported by Abu Dawood, no. 4001; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in al-Irwaa’, where its isnaads are described. 2/60).
Pausing at the end of each aayah is Sunnah even if the meaning continues into the next aayah.
Reciting in slow, rhythmic tones (tarteel) and making one’s voice beautiful when reciting
As Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “… and recite the Qur’aan (aloud) in a slow, (pleasant tone and) style.” [al-Muzzammil 73:4]. The recitation of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was clear, with each letter pronounced distinctly.” (Musnad Ahmad, 6/294, with a saheeh isnaad. Sifat al-Salaah, p. 105).
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) “would recite a soorah in such slow rhythmic tones that it would be longer than would seem possible.” (Reported by Muslim, no. 733).
This slow, measured pace of recitation is more conducive to reflection and khushoo’ than a hurried, hasty reading.
Another way of helping oneself to have khushoo’ is by making one’s voice beautiful when reciting. This is something that was advised by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), as when he said, “Beautify the Qur’aan with your voices, for a fine voice increases the Qur’aan in beauty.” (Reported by al-Haakim, 1/575; Saheeh al-Jaami’, no. 3581).
Beautifying it with one’s voice does not mean elongating the vowels and giving it a tune in the manner of corrupt people; it means beautifying one’s voice with the fear of Allaah, as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Truly, the one who has one of the finest voices among the people for reciting the Qur’aan is the one whom you think fears Allaah when you hear him recite.” (Reported by Ibn Maajah, 1/1339; Saheeh al-Jaami’, no. 2202).
Knowing that Allaah responds to prayers
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Allaah, 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 Allaah, Lord of the Worlds,’ Allaah says, ‘My slave has praised Me.’ When the slave says, ‘The Most Merciful, the Bestower of Mercy,’ Allaah says, ‘My slave has extolled me.’ When the slave says, ‘Master of the Day of Judgement,’ Allaah 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,’ Allaah 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,’ Allaah 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 Soorat al-Faatihah – Translator].
This is a great and important hadeeth. If everyone kept it in mind when he prays, he would attain immense khushoo’ and al-Faatihah would have a great impact on him. How could it be otherwise, when he feels that his Lord is addressing him and giving him what he is asking for?
This “conversation” with Allaah must be respected and accorded its proper value. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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, 1/236; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 1538).
Praying with a barrier (sutrah) in front of one and praying close to it
Another thing that will help one to have khushoo’ is paying attention to the matter of having a sutrah and praying close to it, because this will restrict your field of vision, protect you from the Shaytaan and keep people from passing in front of you, which causes a distraction and reduces the reward of the prayer.
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “When any one of you prays, let him pray facing a sutrah, and let him get close to it.” (Reported by Abu Dawood, no. 695, 1/446; Saheeh al-Jaami’, no. 651).
Getting close to the sutrah is very beneficial, as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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, no. 695, 1/446; Saheeh al-Jaami’, no. 650).
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 saheeh ahaadeeth. (Al-Bukhaari; see al-Fath, 1/574, 579).
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) advised the one who is praying not to allow anyone to pass between him and his sutrah. He said: “When any one of you is praying, he should not allow anyone to pass in front of him, and he should prevent him as most as he can. If he insists, he should fight him, for he has a companion [i.e., shaytaan] with him.” (Reported by Muslim, 1/260; Saheeh al-Jaami’, no. 755).
Al-Nawawi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “The wisdom in using a sutrah is to lower your gaze and not to look beyond it, and to prevent anyone from passing in front of you… and to prevent the Shaytaan from passing in front of you and trying to corrupt your prayer.” (Sharh Saheeh Muslim, 4/216).
Placing the right hand on the left hand on the chest
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), when he stood up to pray, used to place his right hand on his left hand (Muslim, no. 401), and place them on his chest (Abu Dawood, no. 759; see also Irwa’ al-Ghaleel, 2/71). The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, “We Prophets were commanded… to place our right hands on our left hands in prayer.” (Reported by al-Tabaraani in al-Mu’jam al-Kabeer, no. 11485. Al-Haythami said: Al-Tabaraani reported it in al–Awsat and its men are the men of saheeh. Al-Majma’, 3/155).
Imaam Ahmad (may Allaah 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, p. 21).
Ibn Hajar (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “The ‘ulamaa’ said: the meaning of this posture is that it is the attitude of the humble petitioner, it is more likely to prevent fidgeting, and it is more conducive to khushoo’.” (Fath al-Baari, 2/224).
Looking at the place of prostration
It was reported from ‘Aa’ishah that “the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to pray with his head tilted forward and his gaze lowered, looking at the ground.” (Reported by al-Haakim, 1/479. He said it is saheeh according to the condition of the two Shaykhs [al-Bukhaari and Muslim], and al-Albaani agreed with him in Sifat al-Salaah, p. 89).
When the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) entered the Ka’bah, his eyes never left the place of his prostration until he came out again. (Reported by al-Haakim in al-Mustadrak, 1/479. He said it is saheeh according to the condition of the two shaykhs, and al-Dhahabi agreed with him. Al-Albaani said, It is as they said. Irwaa’ al-Ghaleel, 2/73).
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 (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) “would point with the finger next to the thumb towards the qiblah, and focus his gaze upon it.” (Reported by Ibn Khuzaymah, 1/355, no. 719. The editor said: its isnaad is saheeh. See Sifat al-Salaah, p. 139). According to another report he “pointed with his index finger and did not allow his gaze to wander beyond it.” (Reported by Ahmad, 4/3, and by Abu Dawood, no. 990)
There is a question in the minds of some people who pray, which is: what is the ruling on closing the eyes during prayer, especially when a person feels that this increases his khushoo’?
The answer is that this goes against the Sunnah that was reported from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) that was just referred to above. Closing the eyes means that a person misses out on the Sunnah of looking at the place of prostration and at his finger. But there is more to the matter than this, so we should listen to the opinion of an expert, al-‘Allaamah Abu ‘Abd-Allaah Ibn al-Qayyim, which will explain the matter further. He (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “It is not part of the Prophet’s teaching to close the eyes during prayer. We have already mentioned how he used to look at his finger during the Tashahhud and the du’aa’, and he would not let his gaze wander beyond his finger… Another indication [of the fact that he kept his eyes open] is the fact that he stretched his hand forth to take the bunch of grapes when he saw Paradise, and he also saw Hell and the woman (who had tormented) the cat, and the owner of Stick (al-Mihjan). Likewise, he pushed away the animal that wanted to pass in front of him whilst he was praying, and he pushed back the boy, and the young girl, and the two young girls. He used to wave to those whom he saw greeting him (whilst he was praying). There is also a hadeeth that describes how the Shaytaan tried to tempt him whilst he was praying, so he grabbed him and strangled him, as he had seen him with his own eyes. From these ahaadeeth and others we learn that he did not close his eyes when he prayed.
The fuqahaa’ differ as to whether closing the eyes during prayer is makrooh. Imaam Ahmad and others did count it as makrooh, and said: “This is the action of the Jews,” but others allowed it and did not count it as makrooh. The correct view is that if keeping the eyes open does not affect a person’s khushoo’, then this is better, but if keeping the eyes open affects a person’s khushoo because of decorations, adornments etc. in front of him, which distract him, then it is not makrooh at all for him to close his eyes. The opinion that indeed it is mustahabb in this case is closer to the principles and aims of sharee’ah than saying it is makrooh. And Allaah knows best. (Zaad al-Ma’aad, 1/293, Daar al-Risaalah edn.)
Thus it is clear that the Sunnah is not to close one’s eyes, unless it is necessary to do so in order to avoid something that may adversely affect one’s khushoo’.
Moving the index finger
This is something which is neglected by many worshippers because they are ignorant of its great benefits and its effect on khushoo’.
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “It is more powerful against the Shaytaan than iron” (reported by Imaam Ahmad, 2/119, with a hasan isnaad, as stated in Sifat al-Salaah, p. 159), 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 Allaah and to be sincere in his worship of Him alone, and this is what the Shaytaan hates most; we seek refuge with Allaah from him.” (al–Fath al-Rabbani by al-Saa’idi, 4/15).
Because of this great benefit, the Sahaabah, may Allaah be pleased with them, used to enjoin one another to do this and were very keen to remember to do this thing which so many people nowadays take so lightly. It was reported that “the Companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to enjoin one another, i.e., with regard to pointing with the finger during the du’aa’.” (Reported by Ibn Abi Shaybah with a hasan isnaad, as stated in Sifat al-Salaah, p. 141. See al-Musannaf, no. 9732, part 10, page 381, Dar al-Salafiyyah, India, edn.)
The Sunnah in pointing with the forefinger is that it should remain raised and moving, pointing towards the qiblah, throughout the Tashahhud.
Varying the soorahs, aayaat, adhkaar 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 aayaat and adhkaar. This is what a person misses out on if he only memorizes a few soorahs (especially the short ones) and adhkaar. Varying what one recites is the Sunnah and is more conducive to khushoo’.
If we study what the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah of upon him) used to recite in his prayer, we will see this variation. For example, with regard to the opening du’aa’, we find examples such as the following:
“Allaahumma baa’id bayni wa bayna khataayaaya kamaa baa’adta bayn al-mashriqi wa’l-maghrib. Allaahumma naqqani min khataayaaya kamaa yunaqqaa al-thawb al-abyad min al-danas. Allaahumma’ghsilni min khataayaaya bi’l-maa’ wa’l-thalj wa’l-barad (O Allaah, separate me (far) from my sins as You have separated (far) the East from the West. O Allaah, cleanse me of my sins as white cloth is cleansed from dirt. O Allaah, wash me of my sins with water, snow and ice).”
“Wajahtu wajhi li’lladhi fatara al-samawaati wa’l-ard haneefan, wa maa ana min al-mushrikeen. Inna salaati wa nusuki wa mahyaaya wa mamaati Lillaahi Rabb il –‘aalameen, laa shareeka lahu wa bidhaalika umirtu wa ana awwal al-muslimeen (I have set my face towards the Originator of the heavens and the earth sincerely and I am not among the mushrikeen. Indeed my prayer, my sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allaah, the Lord of the Worlds: no partner has He. With this I have been commanded, and I am the first of the Muslims (those who submit to Him).”
“Subhaanak Allaahumma wa bi hamdika wa tabaaraka ismuka wa ta’aala jadduka wa laa ilaaha ghayruk (Glory and praise be to You, O Allaah, blessed be Your name and exalted be Your majesty. There is no god besides You).”
And other du’aa’s and adhkaar which the worshipper can use at various times.
Among the soorahs which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah of upon him) used to recite during Salaat al-Fajr we find a great and blessed number.
The longer mufassal soorahs (soorahs from the last seventh of the Qur’aan), such as al-Waaqi’ah , al-Toor  and Qaaf , and shorter mufassal soorahs such as Idhaa al-shamsu kuwwirat [al-Takweer 81], al-Zalzalah , and al-Mi’wadhatayn [the last two soorahs].
It was reported that he recited al-Room , Yaa-Seen  and al–Saaffaat , and on Fridays he would recite al-Sajah  and al-Insaan [76, a.k.a. al-Dhahr] in Fajr prayer.
It was reported that in Salaat al-Zuhr, he would recite the equivalent of thirty aayaat in each of the two rak’ahs, and that he recited al-Taariq , al-Burooj  and wa’l-layli idhaa yaghshaa [al-Layl, 92].
In Salaat al-‘Asr, he would recite the equivalent of fifteen aayaat in each rak’ah, and he would recite the soorahs already mentioned in connection with Salaat al-Zuhr.
In Salaat al-Maghrib, he would recite short mufassal soorahs such as al-teeni wa’l-zaytoon [al-Teen 95], and he recited Soorat Muhammad , al-Toor , al-Mursalaat  and others.
In ‘Ishaa’ he would recite medium-length mufassal soorahs, such as al-shamsu wa duhaahaa [al-Shams 91], idhaa’l-samaa’u inshaqqat [al-Inshiqaaq 84]. He told Mu’aadh to recite al-A’laa , al-Qalam  and al-layli idhaa yaghshaa [al-Layl, 92].
In qiyaam al-layl, he used to recite the long soorahs. It was reported that he (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to recite 200 or 150 aayaat, and sometimes he used to shorten the recitation.
He used to vary the adhkaar he recited in rukoo’. In addition to “Subhaana Rabbi al-‘Azeem (Glory be to my Supreme Lord)” and “Subhaana Rabbi al-‘Azeem wa bi hamdih (Glory and praise be to my Supreme Lord)”, he would say: “Subbooh, Quddoos, Rabb il-Malaa’ikati wa’l-Rooh (Perfect, Blessed, Lord of the Angels and the Spirit),” or, “Allaahumma laka raka’tu wa bika aamantu wa laka aslamtu wa ‘alayka tawakkaltu anta Rabbi. Khasha’a sam’i wa basari wa dammi wa lahmi wa ‘azmi wa ‘asabi Lillaahi Rabbi’l-‘Alaameen (O Allaah, to You have I bowed, to You I have submitted, in You I have believed, to You I have submitted and in You I have put my trust. Humbled are my hearing, my seeing, my blood, my flesh, my bones and my nerves for Allaah, Lord of the Worlds).”
When standing upright from rukoo’, after saying “Sami’a Allaah liman hamidah (Allaah listens to the one who praises Him)” he would say, “Rabbanaa wa laka’l-hamd (Our Lord, and to You be all praise),” or sometimes, “Rabbanaa laka’l-hamd (Our Lord, to You be all praise),” or, “Allaahumma Rabbanaa [wa] laka’l-hamd (O Allaah our Lord, [and] to You be all praise).” Sometimes he would add the words: “Mil’a al-samawaati wa mil’a al-ard wa mil’a maa shi’ta min shay’in ba’d ([Praise] filling the heavens, filling the earth, and filling whatever else You wish)”, and sometimes he would add, “Ahl al-thanaa’i wa’l-majd, laa maani’a limaa a’tayta wa laa mu’tiya limaa mana’t, wa laa yanfa’u dhaa’l-jaddi minka’l-jadd (Lord of Glory and Majesty! None can withhold what You grant, and none can grant what You withhold; nor can the possessions of an owner benefit him in front of You).”
In sujood, in addition to “Subhaan Rabbi al-A’laa (Glory be to my Lord Most High)” and “Subhaana Rabbi al-A’laa wa bi hamdih (Glory and praise be to my Lord Most High),” he would say “Subbooh, Quddoos, Rabb il-Malaa’ikati wa’l-Rooh (Perfect, Blessed, Lord of the Angels and the Spirit),” or “Subhaanak Allaahumma Rabbanaa wa bi hamdik, Allaahumma’ghfir li (Glory and raise be to you O Allaah, our Lord. O Allaah forgive me)” or “Allaahumma laka sajadtu wa bika aamantu wa laka aslamtu, sajada wajhi lilladhi khalaqahu wa sawwarahu wa shaqqa sam’ahu wa basarahu, tabaarak Allaahu ahsaan al-khaaliqeen (O Allaah, to You I have prostrated, in You I have believed and to You I have submitted. My face has prostrated to the One Who created it and gave it shape, then brought forth its hearing and its vision. Blessed be Allaah, the Best to create),” and others.
When sitting between the two prostrations, in addition to “Rabb ighfir li, Rabb ighfir li (Lord, forgive me, Lord, forgive me),” he would say, “Allaahumm aghfir li warhamni wajbarni wa arfa’ni wahdini wa ‘aafini wa arzuqni (O Allaah, forgive me, have mercy on me, strengthen me, raise my rank, guide me, pardon me, sustain me).”
A number of versions of the tashahhud have been narrated, such as: “Al-tahiyyaatu Lillaahi wa’l-salawaatu wa’l-tayyibaat al-salaamu ‘alayka ayyuha’l-Nabiyyu …etc. (All compliments, prayers and pure words are due to Allaah. Peace be upon you, O Prophet…)” and “Al-Tahiyyaat al-mubaarakaat al-salawaat al-tayyibaatu Lillaahi, al-salaamu ‘alayka ayyuha’l-Nabiyyu…etc. (All compliments, blessed words, prayers, pure words are due to Allaah. Peace be upon you, O Prophet…)” and “Al-tahiyyaat al-tayyibaat al-salawaatu Lillaahi, al-salaamu ‘alayka ayyuha’l-Nabiyyu… etc. (All compliments, good words and prayers are due to Allaah. Peace be upon you, O Prophet …).”
So the worshipper may use one form one time and another at another time, and so on.
There are a number of versions of the prayers sent upon the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), such as:
“Allaahumma salli ‘ala Muhammad wa ‘ala aali Muhammad kamaa salayta ‘ala Ibraaheem wa ‘ala aali Ibraaheem, innaka Hameedun Majeed. Allaahumma baarik ‘ala Muhammadin wa ‘ala aali Muhammadin kamaa baarakta ‘ala Ibraaheem wa ‘ala aali Ibraaheem innaka Hameedun Majeed (O Allaah, send prayers on Muhammad and on the family of Muhammad, as You sent prayers on Ibraaheem and the family of Ibraaheem, verily You are Worthy of Praise and Full of Glory; O Allaah, send blessings on Muhammad and on the family of Muhammad, as You sent blessings on Ibraaheem and the family of Ibraaheem, verily You are Worthy of Praise and Full of Glory).”
“Allaahumma salli ‘ala Muhammad wa ‘ala aali baytihi wa ‘ala azwaajihi wa dhuriyatihi kamaa salayta ‘ala aali Ibraaheem, innaka Hameedun Majeed wa baarik ‘ala Muhammadin wa ‘ala aali baytihi wa ‘ala azwaajihi wa dhuriyatihi kamaa baarakta ‘ala aali Ibraaheem innaka Hameedun Majeed (O Allaah, send prayers on Muhammad and on his family, wives and progeny, as You sent prayers on the family of Ibraaheem, verily You are Worthy of Praise and Full of Glory; O Allaah, send blessings on Muhammad and on his family, wives and progeny, as You sent blessings on the family of Ibraaheem, verily You are Worthy of Praise and Full of Glory).”
“Allaahumma salli ‘ala Muhammad al-Nabiyy al-Ummi wa ‘ala aali Muhammad kamaa salayta ‘ala aali Ibraaheem, wa baarik ‘ala Muhammad al-Nabiyy al-Ummi wa ‘ala aali Muhammadin kamaa baarakta ‘ala aali Ibraaheem fi’l-‘aalameen, innaka Hameedun Majeed (O Allaah, send prayers on Muhammad the Unlettered Prophet and on the family of Muhammad, as You sent prayers on the family of Ibraaheem, and send blessings on Muhammad the Unlettered Prophet and on the family of Muhammad, as You sent blessings on the family of Ibraaheem among the nations, verily You are Worthy of Praise and Full of Glory).”
Other similar versions have also been narrated, and the Sunnah is to vary among them, as stated above. There is nothing wrong with reciting one version more than others, because it is more strongly proven and better known in the books of saheeh ahaadeeth, or because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) taught one version rather than others to his Sahaabah when they asked him about it, and so on.
(All of the above texts etc. have been taken from Sifat al-Salaat al-Nabi (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) by Shaykh Muhammad Naasir al-Deen al-Albaani, which he compiled from the books of hadeeth).
Performing sujood al-tilaawah when reciting an aayah where this is required
One of the etiquettes of reciting Qur’aan is to perform sujood al-tilaawah (prostration for recitation) when one recites an aayah containing a “sajdah” (place where a prostration is required). In His Book, Allaah describes the Prophets and the righteous as follows (interpretation of the meaning): “… When the Verses of the Most Beneficent were recited unto them, they fell down prostrating and weeping.” [Maryam 19:58]. Ibn Katheer (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “The scholars agreed that we should prostrate here [when reciting this aayah] so as to follow their example.” (Tafseer al-Qur’aan al-‘Azeem, 5/238, Daar al-Sha’b edn.)
Sujood al-Tilaawah in prayer is very important because it increases khushoo’. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “And they fall down on their faces weeping and it adds to their humility [khushoo’].” [al-Israa’ 17:109].
It was reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) prostrated when he recited Soorat al-Najm  in his prayer. Al-Bukhaari (may Allaah have mercy on him) reported in his Saheeh that Abu Raafi’ said: “I prayed ‘Ishaa’ with Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) and he recited Idhaa al-samaa’u inshaqqat [al–Inshiqaaq 84] and prostrated. I asked him about it, and he said, ‘I prostrated behind Abu’l-Qaasim [the Prophet] (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), and I will continue to do so until I meet him again.” (Saheeh al-Bukhaari, Kitaab al-Adhaan, Baab al-Jahr bi’l-‘Ishaa’).
It is important to maintain the practice of sujood al-tilaawah, especially since it causes annoyance to the Shaytaan and suppresses him, thus weakening his hold on the worshipper. Abu Hurayrah said: “The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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 Imaam Muslim in his Saheeh, no. 133).
Seeking refuge with Allaah 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.
Waswaas is a problem that befalls everyone who turns to Allaah with dhikr and other kinds of worship; it is inevitable, so one has to stand firm and be patient, and persist in the dhikr or salaah, and not give up. His sticking to it will ward off the Shaytaan’s plots from himself. “… Ever feeble indeed is the plot of Shaytaan.” [al-Nisaa’ 4:76 – interpretation of the meaning].
Every time the slave wants to turn his thoughts towards Allaah, 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 Allaah, the Shaytaan wants to cut off his route. For this reason, it was said to one of the salaf: “The Jews and Christians say that they do not suffer from the problem of waswaas.” He said, “They are speaking the truth, for what would the Shaytaan want with a house that is in ruins?” (Majma’ al-Fataawa, 22/608).
This is a good analogy. It is as if there are three houses: the house of a king, filled with his treasure and savings, the house of a slave, containing his treasure and savings, and an empty house with nothing in it. If a thief comes to steal from one of the three houses, which one will he choose? (al-Waabil al-Sayib, p. 43).
When the slave stands up to pray, the Shaytaan feels jealous of him, because he is standing in the greatest position, one that is closest [to Allaah] and most annoying and grievous to the Shaytaan. So he tries to stop him from establishing prayer in the first place, then he continues trying to entice him and make him forget, and “making assaults on him with his cavalry and infantry” [cf. Al-Isra’ 17:64], until he thinks of prayer as less important, so he starts to neglect it, and eventually gives it up altogether. If the Shaytaan fails to achieve this, and the person ignores him and starts to pray, the enemy of Allaah will come and try to distract him, by reminding him of things that he did not remember or think of before he started praying. A person may have forgotten about something altogether, but the Shaytaan will remind him of it when he starts praying, so as to distract him from his prayers and take him away from Allaah, so that his heart will no longer be in his prayers, and he will lose out on the honour and reward of Allaah turning toward him, which is only attained by the one whose heart is really in his prayer. Thus he will finish his prayer no better off than when he started, with his burden of sins not reduced at all by his salaah, because prayer only expiates for sins when it is done properly, with perfect khushoo’, and the person stands before Allaah in body and soul.” (Al-Waabil al-Sayib, p. 36).
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) taught us the following methods of combatting the wiles of Shaytaan and getting rid of his waswaas:
Abu’l-‘Aas (may Allaah be pleased with him) reported that he said, “O Messenger of Allaah, the Shaytaan interrupts me when I pray, and I get confused in my recitation.” The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, “That is a shaytaan whose name is Khanzab. If you sense his presence, seek refuge with Allaah from him, and spit [dry spitting] towards your left three times.” [Abu’l-‘Aas] said: “I did that and Allaah took him away from me.” (Reported by Muslim, no. 2203)
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) also told us about another of the Shaytaan’s tricks and how to deal with it. He said, “When any one of you gets up to pray, the Shaytaan comes and confuses him – i.e., mixes up his prayer and creates doubts in his mind – so that he does not know how many [rak’ahs] he has prayed. If any one of you experiences that, he should do two prostrations whilst he is sitting.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, Kitaab al-Sahw, Baab al-Sahw fi’l-Fard wa’l-Tatawwu’).
Another of the Shaytaan’s tricks was described as follows. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “If any one of you is praying and feels some movement in his back passage, and is uncertain as to whether he has broken his wudoo’ or not, he should not end his prayer unless he hears a sound or smells an odour.”
Indeed, his tricks may be very strange indeed, as the following hadeeth makes clear. Ibn ‘Abbaas reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was asked about a man who thought that he had broken his wudoo’ when he had not done so. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The Shaytaan may come to any one of you when he is praying and open his buttocks and make him think that he has broken his wudoo when in fact he has not. So if this happens to any one of you, let him not end his prayer unless he hears the sound of it with his ears or smells the odour of it with his nose.” (Reported by al-Tabaraani in al-Kabeer, no.11556, part 11, p. 222. He said in Majma’ al-Zawaa’id, 1/242, its men are the men of Saheeh).
There is a devilish trick which “Khanzab” plays on some worshippers:
He tries to distract them by making them think of acts of worship other than the prayer that they are performing, by making them think of some issues of da’wah or knowledge, so that they start to think deeply about those matters and stop focusing on the prayer they are performing. He even confuses some of them by suggesting to them that ‘Umar used to make plans for the army whilst he was praying. We should let Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah explain this matter and set the record straight:
“With regard to what was reported, that ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab said, “I make plans for the army whilst I am praying,” this was because ‘Umar was commanded to engage in jihaad and he was the leader of the believers (ameer al-mu’mineen, i.e., the khaleefah), so he was also the leader of jihaad. So in some respects he was like the one who prays the prayer of fear (salaat al-khawf) whilst also watching out for the enemy, whether or not there is actual fighting. He was commanded to pray, and also to engage in jihaad, so he had to carry out both duties as much as he could. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): ‘O you who believe! When you meet (an enemy) force, take a firm stand against them and remember the Name of Allaah much, so that you may be successful.’ [al-Anfaal 8:45]. It is known that one cannot achieve the same peace of mind during jihaad as at times of peace and security, so if it happens that a person’s prayer is lacking because of jihaad, this does not mean that his faith is lacking.
For this reason, standards may be regarded as being slightly relaxed in the case of prayer at times of danger as compared with times of peace. With regard to prayer at times of danger, Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): ‘… but when you are free from danger, perform al-salaah. Verily, the prayer is enjoined on the believers at fixed hours.’ [al-Nisa’ 4:103]. So the one who is commanded to establish prayer at times of peace is not commanded to do so in the same manner at times of danger.
Moreover, people are of varying levels in this regard. If a person’s faith is strong, he will have the proper presence of mind when he prays, even if he thinks of other matters. Allaah had caused the truth to reside firmly in ‘Umar’s heart, and he was al-muhaddith al-mulham (‘the inspired speaker’), so there is nothing strange in a person of his calibre making plans for the army whilst performing the prayer. He was able to do this, whilst others are not, but undoubtedly when he did not have these concerns to think about, his presence of mind in prayer would be greater. And no doubt the prayer of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) at times of safety was even more perfect that at times of danger, in terms of external appearance. If Allaah has made allowances with regard to some of the external movements of the prayer at times of fear, how then about the internal aspects?
In conclusion, therefore, if a person who is pressed for time thinks about some obligatory matter whilst he is praying, this is not the same as a person who is not pressed for time thinking during prayer about some matter that is not obligatory. It may be that ‘Umar could not give thought to making plans for the army except at that time, because he was the leader of the ummah with many obligations and responsibilities. Anyone could find himself in a similar situation, according to his position. People always think during prayer about things that they do not think of at other times, and some of this could come from the Shaytaan. A man told one of the salaf that he had buried some money, but he had forgotten where he had buried it. He told him, ‘Go and pray,’ so he went and prayed, and he remembered where it was. It was said [to the salafi], ‘How did you know that?’ He said, ‘I know that the Shaytaan will not leave him alone when he prays without reminding him of something that matters to him, and there is nothing more important to this man than remembering where he had buried his money.’ But the good slave will strive to attain perfect presence of mind in prayer, just as he strives to do everything else properly that he is commanded to do. And there is no help and no strength except in Allaah, the Most High, the Almighty.”
(Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 22/610)
Thinking of how the salaf were when they prayed
This will increase one’s khushoo’ and motivate one to follow their example. “If you were to see one of them when he stood up to pray and started reciting the words of his Master, it would cross his mind that he was standing before the Lord of the Worlds, so he would be filled with overwhelming awe.” (Al-Khushoo’ fi’l-Salaah by Ibn Rajab, p. 22).
Mujaahid (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “When one of them stood in prayer, he would be too fearful of his Lord to allow his eyes to be drawn to anything, or to turn aside or to fidget by playing with pebbles or anything else or to think of any worldly matter, unless he forgot, during prayer.” (Ta’zeem Qadr al-Salaah, 1/188)
When Ibn al-Zubayr stood up to pray, he would be like a stick (i.e., immobile) with khushoo’. Once he was prostrating when a missile from a catapult was launched at him, when Makkah was being besieged, and part of his garment was torn away whilst he was praying, and he did not even raise his head. Muslimah ibn Bashshaar was praying in the mosque when part of it collapsed, and the people got up [and fled], but he was praying and did not even notice. We have heard that one of them was like a garment thrown on the floor; one of them would end his prayer with the colour of his complexion changed because he had been standing before Allaah. One of them would not know who was standing to his right or left when he prayed. One of them would go pale when he did wudoo’ for prayer, and it was said to him, “We see that when you do wudoo’ a change comes over you.” He said, “I know before Whom I am going to stand.” When the time for prayer came, ‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib would be visibly shaken, and the colour of his face would change. It was said to him, “What is the matter with you?’ He said, “By Allaah, there has come the time of the amaanah (trust) which Allaah offered to the heavens and the earth, and the mountains, but they declined to bear it and were afraid of it, but I bore it [cf. Al-Ahzaab 33:72].” When Sa’eed al-Tanookhi prayed, there would be tears rolling down his cheeks onto his beard. We heard that one of the Taabi’een, when he stood up to pray, his colour would change, and he would say, “Do you know before Whom I am going to stand and with Whom I am going to talk?” Who among you has fear and respect like this? (Silaah al-Yaqazaan li Tard al-Shaytaan, ‘Abd al-‘Azeez Sultaan, p. 209)
They said to ‘Aamir ibn ‘Abd al-Qays, “Do you think to yourself during prayer?” He said, “Is there anything I like to think about more than the prayer?” They said, “We think to ourselves during prayer.” He said, “About Paradise and al-hoor (“houris”) and so on?” They said, “No; about our families and our wealth.” He said, “If I were to be run through with spears, it would be dearer to me than thinking to myself about worldly matters during prayer.”
Sa’d ibn Mu’aadh said: “I have three qualities, which I wish I could keep up all the time, then I would really be something. When I am praying, I do not think about anything except the prayer I am doing; if I hear any hadeeth from the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), I do not have any doubts about it; and when I attend a janaazah (funeral), I do not think about anything except what the janaazah says and what is said to it.” (Al-Fataawa li Ibn Taymiyah, 22/605).
Haatim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “I carry out what I am commanded; I walk with fear of Allaah in my heart; I start with the [correct] intention; I magnify and glorify Allaah; I recite at a slow and measured pace, thinking about the meaning; I bow with khushoo’; I prostrate with humility; I sit and recite the complete tashahhud; I say salaam with the [correct] intention; I finish with sincerity towards Allaah; and I come back fearing lest [my prayer] has not been accepted from me, so I continue to strive until I die.” (Al-Khushoo’ fi’l-Salaah, 27-28).
Abu Bakr al-Subghi said: “I lived through the time of two imaams (leaders) although I was not fortunate enough to hear them in person: Abu Haatim al-Raazi and Muhammad ibn Nasr al-Marwazi. As for Ibn Nasr, I do not know of any prayer better than his. I heard that a hornet stung him on his forehead and blood started flowing down his face, but he did not move.” Muhammad ibn Ya’qoob al-Akhram said: “I have never seen any prayer better than that of Muhammad ibn Nasr. Flies used to land on his ears, and he did not shoo them away. We used to marvel at how good his prayer and khushoo’ were. His fear [of Allaah] in prayer was so great that he would put his chin on his chest as if he were a piece of wood standing up.” (Ta’zeem Qadr al-Salaah, 1/58). Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on him), when he started to pray, used to tremble so much that he would lean right and left. (Al-Kawaakib al-Durriyah fi Manaaqib al-Mujtahid Ibn Taymiyah, by Mar’i al-Karami, p. 83, Daar al-Gharb al-Islaami).