What is Khushu in Islam?

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What is Khushu? What is the significance of Khushu? How can a Muslim access Khushu? Things to know about Khushu…

The outward prerequisites of prayer are regulated by Islamic jurisprudence (Fiqh). A prayer that does not observe the regulations set by Islamic law is not acceptable. However, a prayer that is not done in pious reverence is not a respected one. Therefore, a prayer should combine the outward regulations and the inner ones that adorn the heart. Adornment of the heart can be accomlished by actualizing the secret of purification. It is said in the Qur’an:

But those will prosper who purify themselves.” (A’la (7:14).

This spiritual cultivation is so important for prayer. Allah does not mention the obligatory (fardh), the necessary, (wajib), and the number of units of prayer, but rather repeatedly states the importance of pious reverence, sincerity, and peace of mind. The importance of these states covers our entire life. So, the spiritual side of prayer is the most important component that the praying person should observe. It is said in the Qur’an:

The believers must (eventually) win through: those who humble themselves in their prayers…” (Muminun, 23:1-2).

The Prophet (J) says:

“Whoever makes ablution accordingly, and prays in time, and bows down and prostrates in pious reverence, his prayer arises as a luminous light and calls to the praying person: ‘ –May Allah save you as you observed my details!’ And whoever does not make ablution accordingly, and does not pray in time, and does not bow down and prostrate in pious reverence, his prayer arises as a dark object and calls to the praying person: ‘ – May Allah waste you as you wasted me!’ Thus, the prayer, following Allah’s decree, goes to a place and then comes back to slap the face of the praying person.” (Tabarani).

HOW DOES A SERVANT ACHIEVE PIOUS REVERENCE IN PRAYER?

Bahaaddin al-Naqshiband was once asked:

“– How does a servant achieve pious reverence in prayer?”

He answered:

“- There are four prerequisites for that:

  1. 1. Legitimate earning,
  2. Remaining vigilant during ablution for prayer,
  3. Feeling the presence of Allah as one begins prayer by saying “Allah is Great!”
  4. Feeling the presence of Allah all the time; remaining in peace and tranquility, and obeying Allah after prayer.”

THE SERVANT IS TREATED BY ALLAH ACCORDINGLY

Pious reverence in prayer is so important that the servant is treated by Allah accordingly. The Prophet (J) says:

“When a person completes his prayer, one tenth of its reward is given to him; or he is given one ninth; or one eighth; or one seventh; or one sixth; or one fifth, or one fourth, or one third, or half…” (Abu Dawud, Salat, 124).

“Many people cannot get one sixth, or even one tenth, of the reward for his prayer. He only gets the part he does in pious reverence.” (Abu Dawud, Nesai).

Namely, the servant gets reward for only the prayer he does in pious reverence.

Those who do prayers in sincerity mean to perform prayers adequately and thereby to commit themselves to Allah. They engage themselves only with prayer, and perform prayer in order that they may renlize  spiritual accomplishments. They fix their eyes on the point to which they prostrate, and sensing that they are under Divine scrutiny, they go into rapture in spiritual pleasure.

This is, of course, the condition of the sincere servants with a sound heart. Namely, pious reverence is the fruit of sincerity. Then, sincerity provides the servant with pious reverence, and it advances him to high degrees before Allah as well as providing Divine protection. The Prophet (J) says in this regard:

“Good news is for those who are guided into the right way. It is just because of them strong troubles vanish.” (Fadail-i Amal).

In order for sincerity and pious reverence to take root in the heart and thereby bring spiritual benefits the following points should be observed:

  • 1. Peace of Heart: The soul should be covered up with only the spirit of the prayer, praise of Allah, and the verses. One should break with worldly engagements. A soul that cannot break with the engagements of the world cannot concentrate on the prayer. It can never be aware of his/her presence before Allah. If the servant manages to overcome this forgetfulness, and manages union with Allah, and also benefits from the meanings of the recitations, then s/he acquires peace of mind/heart. Thus, men of Allah used to struggle to compensate for not only the prayers they did not perform properly, but also the ones they were not able to perform in peace of mind. However, this does not mean that everbody must act in the same way, but it demonstrates the importance of a sound heart in prayer.

The cause for peace of mind is spiritual endeavor. It is the desire to rise spiritually. And this endeavor is actualized by comprehending that intimacy with Allah can only be attained through prayer.

  • 2. Perception: One should perceive what he recites. This is the second important thing after peace of mind. And perception acts as a bridge in order that peace of mind in prayer be kept at other times as well.
  • 3. Reverence: One should be aware of his being in the presence of Allah, and keep pious reverence both physically and spiritually. Namely, reverence means maintaining peace of mind, perception, and regulations in prayer. Maintaining these manners enhances the merit of the prayer and a prayer having these manners intercedes for the praying person on the Day of Judgment.

One should take into consideration the following warning:

“If you want your prayer to be an ascension, do not think that your worship is an excellent one in the face of the Grandeur of the Lord, and the blessings that Allah endowed you with! Do not ever think that your worship is enough to thank Allah! Think about the Prophet (J) who used to say: ‘O my Lord! I was not able to duly thank You; please forgive me!’”

  • 4. Awe and Fear: The praying person should feel the awe and dread which come out of reverence. Awe and Fear provide the praying person with an awareness of Allah’s Power and Highness, and thereby earnestness and piety come out. Piety arises from the awe of Allah, and protecting the heart from unawareness. These are the most effective way of enhancing the rank of the servant before Allah. It is said in the Qur’an:

”.. The most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you…” (Hujurat 49:13).

Abu Zarr narrates:

The Prophet (J), one day, had gone out in the autumn. The leaves of trees were falling down. The Prophet (J) then said:

“O Abu Zarr! There is no doubt that if a Muslim prays just for the sake of Allah with all his sincerity, his sins fall off him as these leaves fall off the trees.” (Ahmad, Targib).

  • 5. Hopeful Expectation: One is supposed to expect the Mercy of Allah during prayer, and appeal to Allah after the prayer as well. If one fears only, this condition makes the person sorrowful, and it may one day play havoc with our spiritual balance. Therefore, hopeful expectation eliminates this danger.
  • 6. Modesty: This is a complementary virtue to the above mentioned merits. The servant who sees himself in the presence of Allah feels ashamed of his/her indecent behaviors, and therefore avoids them. Thus, he becomes aware of his lapses and oversight in prayer. He does not get obsessed with relying on his worship. The Prophet (J) says in this regard:

“No one should ever rely on his sins being forgiven just because of his worship (prayer).” (Fadail-i Amal, 251).

Thus, one cannot guarantee that his sins would be forgiven because of prayer, and one should always remain ashamed of his indecent behavior as forgiveness is a Blessing and a Mercy from Allah. It is a requirement of His Compassion. Otherwise, we are unable to pray and thank the Lord adequately. However, prayers that are done in a humble and vigilant manner please Allah through His Beneficence and Blessing.

In short, one who does not combine the rhythm of the body with the awe of the heart cannot attain to the essence of prayer. One needs to strive to capture the essence of prayer both physically and spiritually. Those things that damage the union of body and spirit should be cleared away and the mind should be kept free of all kinds of distraction. The Prophet (J), for example, says in this matter:

“When prayer and a meal overlap have the meal first!” (Bukhari, Muslim).

THAT THE PRAYERS OF THE FOLLOWING THREE GROUPS OF PEOPLE ARE NOT ACCEPTED

Muslim scholars are particular about the union of body and spirit in prayer, and they metaphorically point out that the prayers of the following three groups of people are not accepted:

  1. Hunter
  2. Porter
  3. Merchant

Here, the hunter represents that person who pries about with his eyes during prayer; here, the porter represents the person who does not ease himself to avoid freshening his ablution though he really needs to do so; and the merchant, here, stands for the person who does not clear his mind and heart of worldly dealings. These three metaphorical groups of people cannot steep themselves in prayer, and cannot attain awe and tranquility. They perform prayers just for the sake of doing, and this is not acceptable before Allah as the parts of the body should be ready for prayer as well. Thus, when the Prophet (J), who saw a person passing his hand through his beard said:

“– If there were awe in this person’s heart, all parts of his body would remain quite still.” (Tirmizi). This saying of the Prophet (J) points toward the union of body and spirit in prayer.

The following sayings of the Prophet (J) call attention to this point:

“When you rise up for prayer, do your prayer, keeping all parts of the body very still! Do not weave as Jews do. Because keeping the body immobile is a requirement for a sound prayer.” (Tirmizi).

“Seven things are from Satan in prayer (i.e., Satan likes them): bleeding of the nose, napping, misgivings, yawning, itching, looking around, and playing with something…” (Tirmizi).

These things encroach upon the spirit of prayer.

Conversely, if the praying person seems outwardly in awe, but inwardly away from awe, this is called hypocritical awe. And the heart should be kept away from such a condition.

The epilogue in this matter of awe is the words of the prayer of the Prophet Abraham (a.s), which Allah has provided us with in the Qur’an:

My Lord! make me keep up prayer and from my offspring (too), O our Lord, and accept my prayer!” (Ibrahim, 14:40).

Hatem-i Asam suggests the following points about performing prayer properly:

“Prepare for prayer in the best way. Then put the Ka’bah in between your eyebrows; and the bridge (sirat) to paradise under your feet; and paradise to your right; and the hell to your left! Enter the presence of Allah with awe and hope, thinking that Azrail (angel of death) is about to take your life, and this is your final prayer in this world! Begin to pray consciously saying “Allah is Great”! Start reading the Qur’an slowly and think of the meaning! Make your soul bow down in reverence and prostrate in humbleness. Make your body follow the external requirements for prayer, but let your soul always remain in the state of prostration and do not allow separation from this union for one breath..”

Al-Gazzali discusses having the love of the Messenger of Allah (J) while in the sitting position (tahhiyat) in prayer and gives an important example. In prayer it is necessary for the heart to be at peace as made clear in the following teaching.

He says:

“It is required to imagine the Prophet (J) in between the eyes of the heart while saying, (O Prophet, may the Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon you!) in the first and final sitting.”

This particular greeting by Allah to His Prophet at the time of the Prophet’s ascension (mi’raj) to the heavens with the words “O Messenger! May the Peace and Mercy of Allah be upon you both in this world and the Hereafter” is such an exceptional exaltation for him.

Prayer, is like the ascension of the believer, providing those who think deeply on it with benefits from Divine Grace.

Therefore, one should try to benefit from the spirit of sending blessings on the Prophet (J) in prayer. It means a remembrance for us of the Prophet’s ascension to the Heavens. His ascension is the mysterious transfiguration of the love of Allah towards the Prophet (J). The Declaration of Faith that is cited right after sending blessings on the Prophet signifies how honorable a gain is the belief in One Allah and being a servant to Him, and also signifies the requirement of sending greetings on the Prophet (J) whenever his name is mentioned. So, the prayer with all these contents is like a window shutter opened to us from the true essence of Islam. Lovers of Allah come close to Allah through this window shutter, and they watch the High transfigurations and realities as they observe the Divine mystery. Therefore, one cannot reach perfect faith without realizing the mystery in sending blessings on the Prophet (J) alongside citing the name of Allah by chanting the formula of the Declaration of Faith.

Thus, Allah enjoins believers to send blessings on the Prophet (J) as a reflection of fondness for the Prophet (J) in a verse in which it is said that Allah and the angels send blessings to him as well:

Allah and His angels send blessings on the Prophet: O you that believe! Send blessings on him, and salute him with all respect.” (Ahzab 33:56).

Thus, those who worship and pray get carried away and do not care about worldly concerns. They take no account of worldly pleasures.

THOSE PEOPLE WHO CAN MANAGE TO PRAY

Jalal al-Din Rumi says about those people who can manage to pray in this framework:

“Those people go out of this world as soon as they enter prayer as a sacrificial animal does when slaughtered.”

Then Rumi calls to the praying person:

“You pray standing as a candle in the niche of a mosque indicating the direction of Mecca. Be wise and know the meaning of the first recitation while beginning prayer as (Allah is the Greatest-اللَه اَكبَر) It means: (O our Lord! We sacrifice ourselves in your presence! And by putting our hands to our ears we put everything behind us, and we direct ourselves to You!)

The recitation of اللَه اَكبَر ‘Allah is the Greatest’ while beginning prayer is like the recitation of ‘Allah is the Greatest’ while slaughtering a sacrifice. By saying اللَه اَكبَر) ‘Allah is the Greatest’ while beginning prayer you are supposed to slaughter your sensuality.”

“At that moment your body is like Ishmael and your soul is like Abraham (a.s). When your soul says ‘Allah is the Greatest’ your body gets rid of all sensuality and passions. And when you say الرَ همن الرهيم

بِسمِ الله ‘In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficient, and the Most Merciful’, they get sacrificed.”

“Those who pray stand in line as they would do on the Day of Judgment; they begin to account for their actions and appeal to Allah.”

“Standing in prayer while weeping corresponds to standing before Allah on the Day of Judgment after arising from the grave. Allah will question you and ask: ‘What have you done in your worldly life? What have you earned and what have you brought to Me?’”

“Such questions come to mind in Allah’s presence in prayer.”

“While standing in prayer the servant feels ashamed, and then bows down as he cannot manage to stand because of the shame he feels. While bowing down he glorifies Allah by saying ‘Glory to my Lord, the Great’.”

“Then Allah orders the servant: ‘raise your head and answer the questions!’”

“The servant raises his head ashamedly, but he cannot bear that condition and this time he prostrates.”

“Then he raises his head again, but he cannot bear that condition and he prostrates again.”

“Then Allah says: ‘Raise your head and answer. I will question you about what you have done in your earthly life.’”

“Allah’s Word to him is so forceful that he cannot bear to stand. And therefore he sits with his knees bent. Allah says: ‘I provided you with favor and benefaction, how did you make use of them? Did you return thanks for them? I provided you with material and spiritual wealth; what did you earn with them?

“Then the servant turns his face right; and greets the soul of the Prophet (J) and the angels. And tells them: ‘O masters of the spiritual world! Please intercede with Allah for this poor servant.’”

“The Prophet (J) answers to the greeting person: ‘The time for help and comfort is over. It should all have been done in worldly life. You have not performed good deeds there, you have not worshipped, you have wasted your time!’”

“Then the servant turns his face left. He asks for help from his relatives. They answer: ‘Do not ask help from us. Who are we? You are supposed to answer your Lord on your own!’”

“The servant who cannot find help from any side gets disappointed. Having abandoned all hope to find help he resorts to Allah, to seek refuge in Him and opening his hands in prayer he says: ‘O my Lord! I have abandoned any hope from anybody. You are the First, the Last, and the Unique for the servants to appeal to, and the last to turn to. I seek refuge in Your Eternal Mercy and Compassion.’”

Rumi continues;

“See these pleasant signs of prayer and be aware of what you would be facing. Gather yourselves together and try to benefit from your prayer both physically and spiritually! Do not put your head like a bird collecting grain on the ground!.. Take heed of the saying of the Prophet: ‘The most wicked thief is the one who steals from prayer.’” (Hakim, Mustadrak, I, 353).

“If one prays in pious reverence and beseeches Allah in awareness of His Love, Allah pays him a compliment saying that ‘I am at your service.’”

The Prophet (J) says about the degrees of prayer in terms of pious reverence:

“Two people pray separately at the same place and at the same time. However, there is as huge a difference between them as between the sky and the earth.” (Ihya).

Therefore, the Qur’an points out that true believers are those who justly do their prayer in pious reverence: “And those who guard (the sacredness) of their worship.” (Maarij, 70:34).

It is again said in the same chapter of the Qur’an:

Those who remain steadfast to their prayer.” (Maarij, 70:23).

Those who spiritually experienced think that:

“The intent of this verse is to express the spirit of prayer as only an outward manifestation of prayer cannot remain permanently. But it is the spirit that bows down and prostrates. Permanent prayer means remembering Allah all the time.”

Mawlana Jalal al-Din Rumi, also, interprets this verse metaphorically:

“The servant keeps his state at prayer and also afterwards. In this way he spends all his life in pious reverence and decency; and also watches his mouth and soul. This is the way of the lovers of Allah.”

Rumi goes on:

“The prayer that keeps us away from evil acts is done five times a day. Whereas the lovers of Allah always remain in prayer for the love in their soul and the Divine fondness that kindles their lungs does not calm down with praying five-times a day.”

“The prayer of the lover of Allah is like the condition of a fish in water. As a fish cannot live without water, the soul of a lover of Allah cannot find peace without constant prayer. Therefore, the expression that “visit me not much!” is not for the lovers of Allah. The soul of the true lovers always remains thirsty.”

“If a lover stands apart from his desire even for a moment, it feels like thousands of years to him. And if he spends thousands of years with his dearest one it feels like just a moment to him. That is why a lover of Allah always remains in prayer and it is by this that he meets Allah. If he misses even a unit of prayer, it feels to him like missing thousands of units of prayer.”

“O wise and smart ones! It is beyond the reach of the intellect to understand the union with Allah in prayer. It can only be understood by sacrificing the intellect for the Dearest and reviving the heart.”

And reviving the heart depends on to which direction the servant goes. Rumi says about this direction as follows:

“The direction for kings is the crown and the belt; and the direction for the worldly-minded is gold and silver; and the direction for those who love material beings is idols; and the direction for lovers of spirit is the heart and the soul; and the direction for ascetics is the niche of a mosque; and the direction for the careless is unnecessary works; and the direction for the lazy is to sleep and eat; and the direction for humans is knowledge and wisdom.

The direction for the lover is eternal union; and the direction for the wise person is the Face of Allah; and the direction for the worldly-minded is possessions and rank; and the direction for dervishes is the provisions of religious orders; and the direction for passion is worldly desires; and the direction for the people of confinement is putting trust in Allah.

We must be aware that the direction we face for prayer is not the building of the Ka’bah, but it is the place where the Ka’bah is located. If the Ka’bah is moved to another place it cannot be the direction for prayer there.”

So one is supposed to direct his heart to Allah while directing his body towards the Ka’bah. Because the direction for the heart is Allah.

On the other hand, in order to accomplish pious reverence in prayer one is supposed to have a perfect intention to perform his prayer in accordance with the following saying of the Prophet (J), “acts are judged by intentions.” This means being conscious of whose presence we are in as we pray. This requires examining the desires of the heart and also divorcing all aims except the approval of Allah.

One is supposed to feel the Grandeur of Allah as soon as he begins prayer with the words “Allah is Great!” When the person raises his hands to his ears to begin prayer he is supposed to put everything behind him. The praying person should feel the delight of being in Allah’s presence in his heart. He should feel as if he has left this transitory world for the Hereafter when he begins prayer.

The praying person is supposed while standing to set his eyes on where he puts his head for prostration. He should always feel that he is in Allah’s presence, and that s/he is an impotent being and therefore s/he always needs Allah. He should try to be among those servants whom Allah praises with the words “What a nice servant!”

While reciting from the Qur’an he is supposed to read properly, and also to try to understand and to contemplate the meaning of the verses as well as putting them into practice in life. The Prophet (J) says that “Recitation of the Qur’an means speaking to Allah.” (Abu Nuaim, Hilya, 7, 99). Therefore, one’s soul should be vigilant while reading the Qur’an.

One is supposed to say the words “Glory to my Lord, the Greatest” by contemplating its meaning and feeling the Grandeur of Allah while bowing down.

And while saying the words “Glory to my Lord, the Highest” in the position of prostration one is supposed to feel, again, the Grandeur of Allah. Being aware of the fact that the servant comes closest to Allah in the position of prostration, we should get our soul to prostrate as well as our body. Only by doing so can we attain that blessing from the secret of the verse “Bow down in adoration, and bring yourself closer (to Allah)!” (Alaq 96:19). Thus, the servant should enjoy his union with Allah and try to be among those lovers of Allah who long for receiving the love of Allah.

While sitting upright after every two units of prayer the servant should sit in reverence and feel how impotent he is and, therefore, he should call down Allah’s mercy.

When it comes to the act of turning one’s face to the right and to the left to complete prayer with the words said to the two angels “peace and mercy of Allah be upon you”, this should be done feeling the joy of union with Allah through prayer and sharing this feeling by greeting the two angels on one’s right and left shoulders.

If a prayer is performed in a way that pleases Allah, the greeting said to the two angels is returned by them. And Allah rewards this kind of prayer in the Hereafter as said in the Qur’an:

Peace unto you for that you persevered in patience! Now how excellent is the final Home!” (Rad, 13:24).

Such requirements of prayer as pious reverence, decency, and union with Allah are not beyond the reach of humans. Spiritual enjoyment in prayer should not be considered as just a decorative element of prayer since the prayers of the Prophet (J), who taught us how to pray, present a nature transcending such an evaluation. Also, the prayers of his companions and those of the (chosen) friends of Allah who follow them are spiritual guides for us too.

Source: Osman Nuri Topbaş, ISLAM SPIRIT AND FORM, Erkam Publications

DECLARAION OF FAITH AT THE LAST BREATH

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