We live in a world of distraction where we are constantly connected to technology and to the outside world. With this outward connection, where we are so connected to others, many of us have become disconnected from ourselves. As a result of this, we find it difficult to hold our focus or to concentrate on anything for a substantial amount of time.
In this meditation we will, in sha Allah, examine the purpose of salaat and how it teaches us to connect to ourself. By perfecting our salaat, we can increase our levels of concentration which, in today’s age, is vital in every area of our life.
Imam Ali Zainulabedeen (AS) was asked why we perform two sajdas and one rukuh in each rakaat. The Imam (AS) answered by saying that a sajda was a higher form of submission than a rukuh. In this answer, we find the key to concentration in salaat, which is submission.
In salaat, it is our submission that allows us to connect to ourself. In the rest of this meditation, we will examine the many ways in which we submit.
The first way that we submit during salaat is through our senses. When we look at the prophets (AS) of Allah (SWT), we see that their senses were always in submission. Salaat provides us the opportunity to remind ourselves of how we need to submit our senses as well.
One of the very first acts that we perform in salaat is when we say takbiratul ehram and place our hands adjacent to our ears. This physical act carries great symbolism as it literally signifies us to close our ears to the external world and listen to our heart and the internal voice of guidance within us.
We see many examples in the Quran Majid of how Allah (SWT) guided his Nabis (AS) through their heart, for example Musa (AS) was told what to say by Allah (SWT) and by closing his ears metaphorically to the external world, Musa (AS) could hear the internal guidance that he was being given.
Once we have submitted our ears, we then submit our eyes. During salaat, our eyes are focused on one place, the place of our sajda. In our daily life, we often look up and down, left and right, searching and looking for where to go and what we want. By submitting our eyes, we are acknowledging that we only have one desire and one destination, which is the closeness to Allah (SWT).
Once our eyes and ears are submitted, we then submit our nose, through submitting our breathing. The oxygen that we breathe in from our nose is pumped via our heart throughout our whole body, reaching every organ and every cell. When what we breathe in is pure, this purity is transported throughout our body. When this breath is regulated, calm and peaceful, this is also transmitted throughout our body and we feel at peace with our self and, through this peace, are able to know our self.
Finally, once our ears, eyes and nose are submitted, we submit our mouth. Throughout our salaat, we recite ayahs from the Quran Majid, tasbeehs and duas. By elevating our words through the power of the words that we are reciting, we submit our mouth. Many of our problems are caused by our mouth (lying, swearing, backbiting etc) and when our mouth is used to praise Allah (SWT) we try to abstain from that which will displease him, throughout the rest of the day.
Therefore, the first submission in salaat is the submission of our senses. By turning these senses inward, we use them to hear, see and speak our own truth and to do so in a calm and peaceful manner. Therefore, in order to concentrate, turn your senses inwards and see the power that they will then be given, as your self expresses itself.
In order to submit our senses, we first need to submit our intention. This is why we begin our salaat through the niyaat, the setting of the intention. In order to increase your concentration, set yourself the intention to do so. This will navigate and direct the senses into submitting and allow them to do so.
Through our niyaat we are submitting our mind. We are reminding ourself that every other matter can wait, what is most important is what is in front of us, the rakaats of salaat that we are offering. Likewise, it is important that whenever we have a task at hand, we submit our intention and, consequently, our mind to only that task.
The great distraction that the mind can face is the ego. It is our ego that distracts us, that makes us question ourselves by comparing ourselves to another. This is why Fatema (AS) said that in sajda our rear end is raised higher than our head, which is why many Arabs found it difficult to pray, as they saw this as a sign of humiliation. In truth, this is symbolic to train and remind your ego of its truthful place, so that it can no longer distract your or cause you to question yourself, as through sajda, you connect to Allah (SWT) and you can only do this by submitting your ego. Likewise, to concentrate on a task at hand, submit your ego as that distracts you and prevents you from connecting with that which is before you.
The true power of salaat is that it reminds us that all we have is within us. By turning our intention, our mind and our senses inwards and by placing the ego, that part of us which wants us to look outwards, in submission, we realise that when we are connected to Allah (SWT) through salaat we have everything that we need within us and, when faced with a task at hand that requires concentration, we also see that we have that which we need within us as well. Therefore, when we truly master salaat, this concentration turns every action into an act of an ibadat, which is why Imam Mohammed-ul-Baqir (AS) said that even work is a form of ibadat, and every moment of our life is an act of worship.
May Allah (SWT) grant us all the power to submit our senses, our niyat and our mind to his will and, through this, may we submit our ego so that it can no longer distract us in a world full of distraction. May every salaat perfect our concentration and may our concentration turn every act into one of ibadat. Aamin.