Khushu : Humility in Salat (part 1)
This article is an attempt to remind us of the importance of Khushu in our salah, what improves it, why we should constantly strive to guard our salah, and some productive tips to excel in our khushu.
‘Khushu’ is an Arabic word used to refer to humility or humbleness while offering our daily salah (prayers). The meaning and actualization of khushu lies in the ‘presence of our hearts’ while we are reporting for our daily duty towards Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).
Imagine that your boss or teacher gives you an assignment that needs to be done in a specific manner and completed before a set deadline. Then you receive the instructions, and glance over them hurriedly while thinking, ‘”Ah! Piece of cake, no problemo!” Then you go ahead and submit the assignment with an ear-to-ear grin thinking, “Great, gotten over with it right on time!” But then to your surprise, you are told that your work will not be accepted because your file is neither complete, nor does it comply with the instructions! It is deficient in every sense. Now you are in double trouble: not only have you run out of time, but your efforts have been wasted. Then the fear of not receiving that next salary or progression to the next level overtakes you. You come to realize that if you had paid attention to the instructions properly, you could have excelled in this simple assignment. A wise one would make sure to read, understand, and diligently follow the instructions next time rather than losing hope.
If we translate the above scenario into our daily deen life, we understand that the missing factor that prevents us from succeeding through in salah assignment is humility or khushu.
By not understanding the importance of khushu in our salah, we risk rejection of this beautiful act of worship and may experience a decrease in our Iman.
Salah is the key to our success in this world and the next.
But if we do not look after this key or lose it, we’ll not be able to unlock the doors that lead to the good in this life and the next – it’s as simple as that. Poor quality of salah is like not reaping full benefits of a powerful life management tool given to us by the Creator of Life Himself! Undoubtedly, when our salah is in good condition, we’ll notice that all the other life affairs also naturally fall into their right places with ease, In shâ Allah. Times of ease become more joyful and times of difficulties become easy, or at the very least become bearable.
“It is the believers who are successful: those who are humble in their prayer”
[Quran verse 23, 1-2]
Khushu refers to the submissiveness, gentleness, humility, yearning, and quietude (out of love as well as fear) within the heart due to the consciousness of Allah’s Greatness and Grandeur.
It is also the awareness of one’s own weaknesses, absence of haughtiness, arrogance and superiority from the heart. When the heart is full of khushu, the limbs also become subservient in humility to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). We may believe that when our minds are distracted, the concentration and humility in salah decreases. However, the truth is that it is actually the heart that causes khushu to increase or decrease.
The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said :
“Of surety there is a morsel of flesh in the body, if it is sound, the whole body will be sound, but if it is corrupt, the whole body will be corrupt. It is the heart.”
- Symptoms of Lack of Khushu in Salah -
Ever felt like you or someone praying next to you were making a sujood as though it was being done on a hot plate? The correct recitation of Surah Al Fatiha alone outlasts a couple of rakahs offered by you or someone praying next to you? Keep forgetting how many rakahs were completed and which surahs were recited? At the end of salah, do we feel a sense of incompleteness and regret instead of joy and accomplishment? Does salah seem more like a chore rather than a conversation? If the answer to any or all of these questions is yes, then the level of khushu needs to increase.
- Guarding Khushu Outside Salah -
The quality of our humility and presence of heart and mind in salah largely depend on what we are preoccupied with outside of Salah. We often forget that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is our Lord and He is Ever Watchful over us. He knows that we are the same individual, both in and outside of Salah. Allah neither starts watching us from the moment we say the first takbeer nor does He stop watching over us as soon as we say the final tasleem. He’ll account us for each and every action in and outside of salah and whether it was done with the intention of solely seeking His Pleasure or not.
This is something that we should remember at all times; no matter what we are doing. It is this consciousness of Allah that is called ‘taqwa’ and it is highly conducive to developing ourkKhushu in salah.
Sister Yasmin Mogahed has beautifully summarized this point in her comment:
“So often it hurts us that we are not able to focus in our prayers. Remember, the more you focus on Allah outside your salah, the easier it will be to focus on Him inside your salah. Try to fill your mind and heart with Allah as much as you can throughout your day. Talk to Him and make dua to Him constantly. This will build your personal relationship with Him. Then, going to salah will be like coming home to an old friend.”
- Our Khushu Fluctuates -
In all honesty, Khushu is something that does not remain at the same level all the time. Let’s face it; none of us is immune to distractions in salah, and even though all of us have been there, that doesn’t make it OK to continue offering Salah without humility. In fact, for this reason alone we must consistently strive to perfect (or at least aim to come close to perfecting) our humility in salah. We’ll face interior distractions in the form of thoughts, diversions, or an absent heart. We’ll also face exterior distractions such as things that happen in or around the prayer area. Depending on the state of our Iman, there will be times when we’ll experience something what I’d like to call a ‘Khushu-High’ and at other times our Khushu will take a downward plunge. Hence renewing our intentions and Iman is extremely important; that, in turn, will renew our khushu.
That is why our beloved Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) used to tell his companions:
“Renew your faith.” He was asked, “O Messenger of Allah, how do we renew our faith?” He said, “By frequently repeating La Ilaha ill-Allah (There is no god, but Allah)”
[Reported by Ahmad, 2/359]
Another important thing to remember is that it is incumbent upon us to equip ourselves with knowledge about khushu. That will help us recognize these fluctuating levels and prompt us to improve the level of humility in salah, so we may succeed in this world and the Hereafter, إن شاء الله
- Advice on how to improve Khushu in Salah -
Whenever you feel that your khushu is not up to its mark, immediately do something about it. Try reading helpful articles and maintain a weekly time to assess the quality of your salah.
Finally and most importantly, let’s never forget to ask Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to help us guide to the correct way and develop a good amount of khushu in our salah. There are many duas from the Quran and sunnah for this purpose.
The first step towards improvement is being mindful of Allah, acknowledging our deficiencies, and most importantly, asking for His help and then working towards achieving success and excellence through a good quality of Salah.
In the next part of this article, we will look at some practical steps to take towards achieving Khushu إن شاء الله