My Prayers

by Amalia

I’m going to be very frank here. I used to have problems with prayer, sholat, or shalah. It did not give me peace and serenity that it always promised. I could not concentrate. I could not reach the state of khushu’. My mind was always somewhere else, no matter how much I wanted to concentrate. It was more like a “mechanical” ritual, as most of the things were said or recited so frequently that I often forgot what I recited. I did feel like a robot: reciting things without even realizing what came out of my mouth. There was a lack of connection between Allah SWT and I in the sholat.

Yes, my prayers had not been a comfort to my eyes. It’s sad, isn’t it? Something was definitely missing. But I could not figure out why or what was missing! At one point, I blamed myself — maybe I was not devoted enough. Maybe I had to read more Islamic books so that I could improve my sholat. Maybe I had to work hard for it. Or maybe,… maybe, time would tell. Maybe one day it would change like magic.

A few years ago I encountered this video on Why and How to Learn Arabic by Nouman Ali Khan. The whole talk was a slap to my face. I never realized the importance of learning Arabic (except to read the Qur’an) until I watched the talk. Learning Arabic is indeed very important, not to converse, not to order shawerma in Mekkah, but to understand the Qur’an. He gave a lot of reasons why it’s such an important language. I won’t write them here (because you need to watch it), but the video was enough to convince me that I had to start learning Arabic for the sake of understanding Allah’s words — so that I could pay attention to the ayats that were being recited in the sholat.

In the beginning, I did. I tried to learn Arabic language by myself through online resources. I could confidently say that I was not a beginner in Arabic language. I could still understand bits and pieces (i.e. some words) in the Qur’an. So it was not hard for me to learn it, alhamdulillah. I was certain that I could do this by myself. After all, Allah SWT promised us that He would make it easy for us to learn Arabic if we do it for the sake of remembrance to Him :).

Unfortunately, other commitments kept me busy and I started to abandon it completely. I stopped studying Arabic language. Years passed by and I came across a whole complete tafseer of Juz Amma and Tabarak by Nouman Ali Khan and Shaykh Abdul Nasir Jangda. I listened to the tafseer of Surah Al-Ikhlas and I was amazed by its depth! For the first time of my life, I was able to appreciate the Qur’an not only by its meaning and lessons, but also its linguistic aspect. Every time I recited Surah Al-Ikhlas in my prayer, I felt like Allah SWT told me to say HuwaAllahu ahad. He is Allah, One. It felt like He’s talking to me. Understanding and contemplating His words made so much difference. Subhanallah.

After that amazing experience, I tried to read the translation of the Qur’an, especially the short surahs that I usually recited in my sholat. I had been trying to listen to the tafseer of other surahs but I had not had the time for it yet (I think this is an excuse hahaha). Because I really had to sit down and listen carefully to the recording. I tried downloading it and putting it in my iPod so that I could listen to it on my way to campus, but I could not remember it somehow. So for now, I only read the translations of some surahs so that at least I could understand what I recited in my sholat.

Besides reading the translation, I also listened to this khutbah about Surah Al-Fatiha (again, by Nouman Ali Khan). The khutbah is more about the lessons and reminders from the surah, rather than the in-depth tafseer itself. Surah Al-Fatiha is an important surah as we’re told to recite it every single time we stand in prayers. Since it’s recited so frequently, it’s easy for us to lose our concentration when we recite this surah. The next thing we know, it’s already amin. But upon listening to the khutbah, my sholat greatly improved. Alhamdulillah.

I also discovered not long time ago that Allah SWT is actually conversing with us every time we recite Surah Al-Fatiha. For example, when we say alhamdulillahi rabbil alamin (All praise and thanks are due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds), Allah SWT responds with “my servant has praised Me”, and so on (read the full hadith).  I did not know that! It’s amazing, isn’t it?! This makes Surah Al-Fatiha the core and primary experience of the prayer. When I read this hadith, I vowed to never miss that chance of speaking with Allah SWT again. I had to make my sholat right this time.

The next video I encountered was The Meaning of the Tashahhud by Shaykh Abdul Nasir Jangda. Tashahhud is the sitting portion of the sholat. Although I understood most parts of the tashahhud, I failed to pay attention to its meaning whenever I said it. Again, I did it mechanically: saying things without realizing what I said. Once I watched the video and understood word by word and the stories behind some words, I could pay attention! It just felt so different and amazing. No words could describe it. After that, I tried to learn and memorize other phrases recited/said in sholat.

By the way, Bayyinah Institute, which was founded by Nouman Ali Khan, offered a weekend seminar called Meaningful Prayer which explains both the linguistic meanings behind each word in the prayer and the literary beauty in them. If I were in the States, I would have definitely taken part in this seminar!! I wish I could find such seminar in my country. Anyway…

Alhamdulillah, by doing my own self-study, my sholat nowadays becomes an amazing experience that I greatly enjoy. I do it not only because Allah SWT told me to, but it’s also because I love it and I find peace and serenity every time I do it. I find that the later reason is much stronger than the former. I find that sholat is a blessing that keeps me connected to Allah SWT and constantly asking for His guidance. I would never say that my sholat is near perfect — in fact, it’s imperfect, but I really hope that… insya Allah… my effort to improve my sholat is counted and my sholat (and yours) will be accepted by Him. Amin.

If you want to improve your daily prayers like I do, it’s never too late to do it. Here are some of the videos/audios that I find very useful:

  • Literary Gems of Prayer by Shaykh Abdul Nasir Jangda — watching this video made me feel SOOOOOO regret that I had been doing sholat without understanding anything I recited.
  • The Meaning of the Tashahhud by Shaykh Abdul Nasir Jangda — the beauty and the meaning of each words of the Tashahhud are explained in great detail
  • Lessons & Reminders from Surah Al Fatiha by Nouman Ali Khan — this one helps you to understand the surah in detail
  • Tafseer of surahs in Juz Amma and Juz Tabarak by Nouman Ali Khan & Shaykh Abdul Nasir Jangda — in-depth tafseer by Bayyinah Institute. You can download the audios as mp3 or as a podcast (for iTunes).
  • The Salah Series from — everything you want to know about sholat is explained here, including the meaning of phrases recited in sholat
  • Khusu’ in Sholat by Shaykh Abdul Nasir Jangda — this lecture covers the importance and virtues of khushu’ as well as steps to implement it (which are covered in the links or videos above)
  • Extra: Why and How to Learn Arabic for Comprehension of the Qur’an by Nouman Ali Khan — amazing talk which successfully made me regret all my life that I never took Arabic language seriously.

UPDATE: some more links

  • PrayAnywhere — all the supplications in the sholat are explained here! I love them!
  • RamadanPrep — there’s a talk called Your Salah 2.0 by Shaykh Abdul Nasir Jangda explaining about the meaning of takbir, sujud, and one of the concluding supplications.