When I look at salah , I see meditation already wired into it. Salah consists of repitition, we are invited to focus on something, some zikr with the power of our minds. We tend to simply repeat what we have memorized and by the time we even begin to realize we are praying, the salah is over. Salah has the potential to help us train our minds in a way that brings our soul closer to Allah . To allow Allah to direct our thoughts , to look at life and situations in the way He would like us to see them.(1)
Sometimes we are so lost in telling Allah what we want , we forget to listen to His response. We forget to listen to what He would want for us, which would be infinitely better than what we could possibly want for ourselves. Let Him guide your desires. And we can only do that if we listen.
In life the only way we can listen effectively is if we are silent. Meditation actually helps quiet the mind , to take a break from the constant stream of thoughts and judgements. If we can quiet our minds we might be able to connect better with Allah.
At the time of the first revelation, Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.a.) spent his time in meditation and solitude. He would go to the cave of Hira with food and water and spend days and weeks in remembrance of Allah (SWT) .(2)
"In meditation, the mind is clear, relaxed, and inwardly focused. When you meditate, you are fully awake and alert, but your mind is not focused on the external world or on the events taking place around you". (3)
Among the many different methods of meditation, some involve repeating a 'mantra' ( a phrase) or focusing on a single aspect like the breath. The idea is to allow your mind to rest on the point of focus and to allow the mind to free itself from distractions. It can be a very liberating and relaxing feeling. That is what our salah could bring us. We just need to practice focusing on our zikr in prayer. Salah can be that comforting place of stillness and silence, that helps us step out of the chaos of this world and find peace , and also the answers we seek in how to live our lives .
As the Qur'an says:
Surely by Allah's remembrance are the hearts set at rest (13:28)
Making time for meditation
One of the problems that people face in their daily lives is that they find it difficult to take out time to meditate. It sometimes feels like a seemingly impossible challenge to be able to carve out some alone time for yourself. But amazingly Allah has done that for us. He has already made salah a part of our lives.
It is the training ground for your mind and soul. And the beauty of it is that by training your mind to focus in salah you are actually working on strengthening your connection with Allah.
The wandering mind
Another beautiful concept in meditation is the acceptance of the fact that your mind will wander , and that what you do when you catch your mind wandering is what it is all about.
"The most important moment in the whole process is the moment after you’ve been distracted"(4)
Meditation teaches to be kind to yourself, to realize that this very moment is the moment of mindfulness. So instead of inwardly berating or belittling yourself for your mind wandering you simply work on gradually and gently bringing your awareness back to your point of focus. And each and every time you do that with awareness, you are actually strengthening that muscle in your brain. Meditation has been proven to make actual physical changes in the brain , creating new pathways that become easier and easier to use over time. (5)
Another aspect in meditation is to let go, to stop trying to control everything. That is very much in line with what Allah says in the Qur'an about "Tawakkul":
وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ وَكَفَىٰ بِاللَّهِ وَكِيلً
And rely on Allah; and Allah is sufficient for a Protector.
Holy Quran 33:3 (English - Shakir)
We let go by trusting in Allah. We do our bit , our best and then Allah removes the burden of the results from us by telling us to rely on Him. Then however it turns out ,whatever the result, if we trust Allah we are at peace.
Salah could be a doorway, a getaway, a place to melt into, to disappear into a comforting place with your Lord, away from the chaos around. In a world filled with so much uncertainty, you are doing the one thing in the moment that is absolutely right, that you know with certainty your Lord has asked of you. A place to find stillness and silence , comfort and peace.
A concept in meditation that we again find in salah and is in fact, supposed to be present in all our actions is setting an intention. In many guided meditations you are asked to set an intention.
"An intention is about how we commit to showing up in our life everyday, regardless of what is happening around us. It is a guiding principle or value that we act from, and it is very much based in the present moment." - Marzia Hassan (6)
In our prayers we set an intention:
Wajib Qurbatan ilallah
This is the reason for our prayer:
Wajib - simply because Allah has told us to, He has made it obligatory on us ( and since He is our Creator, The Rahman (the All Beneficient) and The Raheem (All- Merciful), He always knows what is best for us and will only lead us to that which is in our best interest.
Qurbatan ilallah - to gain closeness to Allah
This is why we pray, this is the intention taught to us by God.
All the other benefits ,the peace, the stillness, the guidance, are all, God-willing, the by-products of our prayers.
That is another lesson learnt from meditation : we don't have to chase the outcomes. We simply pray because we have been asked to by Allah, to gain closeness to Him.
Then once the intention is set , we are clear on the reason for our actions, for our prayers, we can now let go, leave it to Allah, do Tawakkul and trust Him. Maybe your prayer was not as perfect as you had hoped , maybe your mind wandered , maybe your got distracted by your surroundings or your little one climbs all over you while you attempted to pray. Your bit was to do your best, with a clear intention. And that applies to all our actions in life.
The lessons we can learn from meditation can perhaps help us in how we approach our prayers, to encourage us to keep praying, knowing it is a beautiful journey to our Lord.
Application and practice
An example of a practical application would be to simply take a few deep breaths before we pray. Just follow your breath in and out. (notice the cool air through the nostrils or throat, the gentle expansion of the belly and chest when you breathe in and breathing out the warmer air flowing out, the relaxation of the belly and chest.(7)
This practice brings you into the present moment, it helps centre you and settle your mind. Then you can set your intention and in sha'Allah pray with focus and awareness.
This is a link to a simple guided meditation practice (9 minutes) for those who would like to give it a try, to develop the resilience of the mind. It simply helps you to keep bringing your attention back to your point of focus.
This is another one (5min)where you just practice focusing on your breath. There are many different meditations and diverse ways to meditate out there and you can always find the one that best resonates with you.
May Allah guide us all in our journey towards Him.
Blogwork by Saleha Haji