This Khutba is about the most important pillar of Islam after the Shahada.
It is about Salaat, the honor of and blessing that Allah has given us in
providing us specific moments of the day wherein we have a private
audience with him, wherein we have a chance to reaffirm our sillat (or
attachment) with Him.

The times of Salaat are an opportunity for us to reconnect our souls to our
Lord and to free ourselves from the weight of this duniya and the worries
of our nufoos our souls. Because of the immensity of Salaat, the way in
which it was made obligatory was also given immense importance and
was unique – for the Prophet received the obligation of his nation to pray
5 daily prayers after the night of the Isra and the Miraj – the Night
Journey and the Heavenly Ascent.

Just as the ascent of the Prophet was an ascent from the physicality of the
world (Mulk) to the angelic domain (Malakut) until ultimately to the
divine presence of his Lord (Jabarut), our Salaat should be an ascent that
allows us to traverse these dimensions. Just as the ascent ended with the
presence of God, so too should our Salaat.

So let us ponder on this for a moment and think about our states in Salaat.
Do we long for it?
Do we feel bliss in it?

Know that if you want to know how close you are to Allah at any
moment of time – then think about how close Allah is to you. If you
want to know where you rank with Allah then think about where Allah
ranks with you.

This is why Salaat amongst being the greatest of
blessings is also a test as inevitably all blessings are – it is the way by
which we can test and gauge our Iman. The Khushoo, or closeness to
Allah you feel in your Salaat is the barometer – the measure by which we
know where we are at, at each moment in our journey to Allah.

What is Khushoo? To answer this it is worth pondering when Allah says:
“Indeed, they used to hasten to good deeds and supplicate Us in hope
and fear, and they were to Us humbly submissive (Khashi'een).”
[Al Anbiyaa: 90]

Elsewhere, Allah also describes the nature of this Khushoo:
“And they fall upon their faces weeping, and the Quran increases
them in humble submission.”
[Al Israa: 109]

Khushoo is a state of reverential awe, often the word is incorrectly
translated as fear, this is an inadequate translation. Awe, unlike fear, is
allied with love and respect, it comes from knowledge – knowing who
Allah is and who you are. Allah says:
Those who truly have reverential awe (Khushoo)of Allah, among His
Servants, (are those) who have knowledge: for Allah is Exalted in
Might, Oft-Forgiving.
[Qu'ran: 35:28]

True and beneficial knowledge has to bring about reverential awe, this is
why the Prophet used to take refuge in useless knowledge of no benefit,
wherein he used to say:
“O Allah, I seek refuge in You from the knowledge which does not
benefit, from the heart that does not entertain the reverential
awe/fear (of Allah), from the egotistical soul that does not feel
[Sunan Al Nisai]

In that sense Khushoo' is the heart of our Salaat. It is intimately tied in
with Iman, in-fact it is the very indication of the state of our Iman, as
Allah says:
“Certainly the believers have succeeded: Those who during their
prayer have reverential awe."
[Al Mu'minun: 1-2]

Now here is a crucial point: you can't fake Khushoo. You can go through
the outward motions of the Salaat and even the recitation but you cant
fake Khushoo – because it is the state of your heart. And that is ultimately
what our Salaat is judged by. As the Prophet is reported to have said:
“Verily, a man may return from praying and nothing is written for
him except a tenth of his prayer, or a ninth, or an eighth, or a
seventh, or a sixth, or a fifth, or a fourth, or a third, or a half.”

The place of Khushoo' is the heart – when the heart is not stable, the body
is not stable. It was narrated that Saeed Ibn al Musayeb saw a man
playing with his beard during prayer and said:
“If this man’s heart was filled with humility, so would his body

In-fact at a deeper level, the very motions of Salaat are intended to be
symbolic of our hearts. The Prophet is known to have to said in Rukoo':
“I affirm my faith in You and I submit humbly before You my
hearing, my eyesight, my marrow, my bone and my sinew.”
Likewise, the Sajda is a deeply symbolic act.

One of the most inspirational books I read in the early days of my own conversion was the
autobiography of Malcolm X. It is the story of someone who goes from
Malcom Little to becoming Detroit Red, to being called Satan, until he
meets someone in Prison and has to face upto his biggest challenge – to
make Sajda to Allah. He remembers the moment he bowed down (Sajda)
and describes it as the hardest thing he had done to date. Why is that,
because his psyche at a deep level was refusing to bow down, because his
ego was what was controlling his life, as he lived as hustler on the street
of Harlem, smoking reefers and coke as well as dealing in them - it was
only when he was able to bow down that he was able to change. He went
onto become Malcolm X and finally before dying he became as Al
Shaheed Al Malik Al Shabbaz. A lifetime of transformation for a man of
sincerity, a man of Salaat. His story is likewise echoed by many other
converts who remember the first moment they made Sajda.

The Prophet is reported to have said:
"The closest a servant comes to his Lord is in Sujood; therefore make
excessive du'a, for it is most likely to be answered."
[Sahih Muslim]

So the motions of the Prayer are reflective of how our heart should be,
this is why the Prophet said:
“Allah faces His servant while he is in Salaat and keeps facing him as
long as he does not turn. If he [the worshipper] turns, Allah turns
away from him.”
[Sunan al Tirmidhi]

So what is the turning above meant to indicate? Allah is beyond any
direction of space and time, rather the act of turning and facing here is
meant to indicate the turning and facing of the heart. It has been said that
the heart is like a mirror – it can only fully encapsulate the image when it
is fully focussed and facing the direction of the image. It has also been
said that the heart has only one direction – so when it is busied by
something else – its attachment to salaat is diminished by that portion.

The Salaat of the Sahaba
In the Sunan of Abu Dawud, it is narrated with a hasan (good) chain that
in one of the battles, the Prophet appointed two guards, one from the
Muhajiroon and one from the Ansar. At one point, the Ansari got up to
pray while the man from the Muhajiroon reclined in order to have a nap.
A man from the mushrikeen (disbelievers) who was close by saw this,
and fired a small arrow at the Ansari who was praying. It hit him, but the
Ansari, with some difficulty, removed the arrow and continued praying as
the blood seeped from him. The mushrik, upon seeing this, fired another
arrow. The Ansari was able to remove it also and continued praying.
However, the Ansari could not stand the pain of the third arrow and fell
into rukoo’ (bowing) and sujood (prostration), and this is when the
companion of the Muhajiroon woke up, seeing his friend seeping with
blood. Upon seeing this, the mushrik fled. “SubhanAllah! (Glory be to
Allah!) Why didn’t you alert me when he first hit you?!” the Muhajir
exclaimed. The reply of the Ansari was, “I was reciting a surah (chapter
of the Qur’an) that I love, and I did not like to cut it off.”

Such stories abound in the lives of Sahaba. Another narration describes a
Sahabi whose leg was in need of amputation and was faced with the
difficulty of surgery without anesthesia. Upon being offered alcohol to
help decrease the pain he would undoubtedly feel he refused it by saying:
'Cut it off while I am in prayer'. The amputation was completed while he
was in Sujood.

What was the difference between the Sahaba and us, such that they could
endure what would otherwise be excruciating pain in their Salaat? The
difference was hearts.

I was once speaking to someone who said, he came to the masjid and
tried praying and didn’t find any peace – so he decided not to come again.
The issue here is not the salaat – but it is our hearts – when our hearts are
occupied and busied with other than Allah, we cannot experience what
the salaat has to offer us, because our Salaat is not really a Silat or
connection with Allah.

Allah says:
Verily, I am Allah. There is no god but I: So serve thou Me (only),
and establish prayer for My remembrance.
[Qu'ran 20:14]

Prayer is for His remembrance, so when we enter in our prayers and
remember everything else apart from Him, have we really prayed? The
point is to make our Salaat for Him.
"Say: Verily, my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my
death are all for Allah, Lord of the Worlds."
[Qur'an 6:162]

We should never give up
So if we find our Salaat is about everything else other than Allah, then
what do we do? There is only one things we can do – we do more dhikr,
we strive to turn to Allah. We complain to Allah from the weakness of
our states, but we never leave the Salaat, we never leave the dhikr –
because it by the dhikr that our hearts are purified.
It is important to bear in mind that it is the time you feel the dhikr is the
hardest – that is when you need the dhikr the most.
"Those who believe and whose hearts find satisfaction in the
remembrance of Allah; for without a doubt in the remembrance of
Allah do hearts find satisfaction."
[Qur'an 13:28]

As Allah says:
"And remember Allah frequently that you may prosper."
[Qur'an 62:10]

We never leave the dhikr, as a great scholar of Islam, Ibn Ataillah says in
one of his Aphorisms:
Do not adandon the dhikr because you do not feel the Presence of
Allah therein. For your heedlessness of Him while doing the dhikr is
better than your heedlessness of Him in the dhikr itself. For perhaps
He will take you from a dhikr with forgetfulness to one with
awareness (yaqadha) and from one with awareness to one with
presence of Allah (Hudhur) and from the presence of Allah to one
wherein everything but the invoked (al Madhkur) is absent – And
that is not difficult for Allah.
[Hikm Ibn Ataillah]

Not giving up is essential for the nature of the heart is to turn, in-fact that
is what the Qalb means, that which turns, but when it turns to Allah – it
finds peace from every thing besides; this is what is known as the Sajda
of the Qalb or prostration of the heart. May Allah give that to us and you.
We end with the story of Fudayl Ibn Iyad, because it serves as a reminder
of the capacity of the heart to change and an encouragement for us on our
own journey.

Fudayl was an infamous highway robber; he would prowl in the night for
victims on the road from Abiward to Sarakhs. Between these two cities
was a small village in which lived a girl that Fudayl was in love with.
One night, out of desperation to be with her, Fudayl climbed the wall of
her home. As he was climbing over it, he heard a voice recite:
"Has not he time arrived for the Believers that their hearts in all
humility should engage in the remembrance of Allah."
[Qur'an 57:16]

Fudayl reflected…there and then he decided it was time to change.
And he did.
The same Fudayl who was known as a highway robber, would travel
along all the cities whose people he had previously stolen from, telling
people to take back what is their right. Having fulfilled all his dues, he
then dedicated himself to a life of worship and became known as Abid al
Haramayn, considered one of the foremost imams of the Salaf, the first
three generations of pious muslims.

And that is the nature of hearts, they can change – they change when
Allah gives us the ability to turn our hearts to Him. May He give us that,
may He give us our hearts in our salaat - and that is not a thing difficult
for Him.
Delivered on: 08-February-2013