That prostration from which the earth would tremble
Mufti Muhammad Qasim Attari
Allah Almighty declares:
وَ اَقِمِ الصَّلٰوةَ لِذِكْرِیْ(۱۴)
“Establish Salah for My remembrance.”
As Muslims, we know the centrality of Salah as the essential form of worship in Islam, yet, many of us are unaware of its true significance, real purpose, and deep wisdom. More than a mere set of movements, Salah is the vehicle for spiritual upliftment which draws believers closer to their Lord. While the obligatory Salah is the quickest way to Allah’s nearness (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī), supererogatory Salah continues to water our growth, drawing us even closer to Him with each bow and prostration.
The perfect Salah combines outer considerations—such as conditions, essentials (farāʾiḍ), and recommendations (mustaḥabbāt)—with inner elements, the most important of which is to actively engage with and focus on Allah’s remembrance.
The Salah which is rooted in Allah’s remembrance is free of heedlessness, as mentioned in the Holy Quran:
وَ لَا تَكُنْ مِّنَ الْغٰفِلِیْنَ(۲۰۵)
“Do not be of the neglectful ones.”
One fundamental sign of not being heedless is for the one standing in Salah to know the Salah and what he recites therein. Just as it is stated:
حَتّٰى تَعْلَمُوْا مَا تَقُوْلُوْنَ
“(Do not approach Salah in the state of intoxication) until you have the sense to understand what you say.”
To treat heedlessness, reflect on the nature of Salah; it is an intimate conversation between you and Allah Almighty. The Beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّمsaid, “The one offering Salah is in private conversation with his Lord.”
In contrast, the heedless prayer distances the worshipper from Allah Almighty: “The one whose Salah does not prevent him from immodesty and evil, he only grows distant from Allah Almighty through it.” Also, one does not attain full benefit from such a Salah, i.e., proximity to Allah Almighty. Rather, one only feels tiredness. The Beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّمsaid, “How many stand ˹in Salah˺ but attain nothing but fatigue and toil from it.” Or they attain very little benefit, just as the beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم said, “A servant ˹of Allah˺ completes his Salah and returns, but only a reward equal to a tenth of the Salah is recorded for him.”
Presence of mind is the soul of the Salah, and this soul is breathed into the Salah when the heart is present with the opening proclamation (takbīr). The more present the heart is, the further this soul will permeate into all parts of the Salah.
An easy way of attaining spirituality in Salah is to gain presence of heart, i.e., along with the limbs, involve the heart in Salah; recite the words and litanies of Salah whilst understanding them, keep in mind the majesty of Allah Almighty, and through this majesty, create an awe for Allah Almighty within your heart. Also, have hope in the mercy of Allah Almighty.
The details about this are as follows:
(1) Presence of heart: You must be engaged with and focused on every action and litany of the Salah without being distracted. This essentially means that along with your limbs, your heart must perform the Salah.
(2) Understanding the Quran and the litanies of Salah: Offer Salah whilst understanding the translation and meaning of what you are reciting.
(3) Reverence and awe: Recall the majesty, power, and perfection of Allah Almighty so you sense and feel awe for Him.
(4) Hope and modesty: While considering your shortcomings in Salah, remain hopeful of reward from Allah Almighty. After all, His grace, mercy, and compassion are unbound. In fact, you should feel embarrassment in presenting your weak prayer in the esteemed and majestic court of Allah Almighty, and you should feel shame in offering such a prayer in His pure court.
Ways to embody these attributes
(1) To reach a presence of heart, try to keep your attention focused on the Salah. Recall the eternality and immense reward of the Hereafter. Consider the temporal nature, faults, and calamities of this life. Then think of how present your heart and mind are when you go to the leaders and high-ranking individuals of this world, so why is your heart not present when you enter the court of the Creator of the heavens and the earth, the omnipotent true king and Lord of the worlds? By thinking in this manner, you will attain a presence of heart.
(2) The method for Salah with an understanding is to memorise the translation of the surahs, verses, and litanies recited in Salah and reflect on their meanings. Not only will this ward off satanic whispers, but it will bring attentiveness and humility in the Salah.
(3) You will be overcome with awe and reverence for Allah Almighty once you recognise His true majesty and power vis à vis your weakness and dependency. You can refer to the state of awe that Allah’s majesty invoked in the prophets الـصَّلٰوةُ عَـلَـيْـهِمُ وَالـسَّـلَام; this will inspire you.
(4) To increase your hope in His mercy, remember the favours of Allah Almighty and the mercy He has been bestowing upon all His creation for millions of years. Also, one should recall the countless favours that the Merciful Lord has bestowed on him, he should remember the safe abode of Paradise in the Hereafter which will be full of bounties, and the promises of Paradise for those who offer Salah.
(5) To develop shame in presenting your acts of worship, reflect on how weak your Salah is, how many flaws you have, and your lack of sincerity. Whereas, His court is such that from among those who present their acts of worship are all of the prophets, messengers, the angels, the champions of truth (ṣiddīqīn), the saints, and the righteous رَحِمَهُمُ الـلّٰـهُ عَـلَـيْهِمُ السَّلَام , and even these esteemed personalities declare: “O Allah! We could not worship You in a manner of which You are rightful.” So, if this is the state of those who reached perfection, then how defective will the Salah of a flawed person like me be.
This is akin to me parading my broken, worn-out cart in extremely high-end showrooms designed by the world’s best companies. Remember that the acts of worship performed by the prophets, messengers, the angels, the champions of truth, the saints, and the righteous و َحِمَهُمُ الـلّٰـهُ عَـلَـيْهِمُ السَّلَام are infinitely superior to the products of these companies, and our acts of worship are a thousand times worse than that broken cart.
If these steps are implemented with full attention and diligence, then with the grace of Allah Almighty, we will attain a Salah that is full of Allah’s remembrance. May Allah Almighty grant us weak ones the ability to offer a perfect Salah for the sake of the perfect ones.
اٰمِیْن بِجَاہِ النَّبِیِّ الْاَمِیْن صَلَّی اللہ تَعَالٰی عَلَیْہِ وَاٰلہٖ وَسَلَّم
 [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 16, Surah Ta ha, p. 69)
 [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 9, Surah al-A’raf, verse 205)
 [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 5, Surah al-Nisa, verse 43)
 Muslim, vol. 1, p. 390, Hadith 1230
 Kanz-ul-Ummal, juzz 7, vol. 4, p. 212, Hadith 20079
 Ibn Majah, vol. 2, p. 320, Hadith 1690
 Abu Dawood, vol. 1, p. 306, Hadith 796