Praying five times a day, salaat, is a gift that we have received from Allah (SWT) through our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW) . It serves different purposes in our lives, from being a source of healing to a physical submission to Allah (SWT) . Supplication, or du’a, on the other hand, is the informal prayer (as I like to call it) which we can perform at any place, at any time, in any language, and in any state of mind. Salaat is incumbent upon us and contains certain guidelines without which it becomes invalid. I have outlined some of the common mistakes that are made in prayer and hope that you will find it useful as a reminder in your quest to become a better Muslim:
- Talking while performing of ablution. It is known that the focus during a prayer depends on the intensity with which wudhu is performed. If you are able to clear your mind of other thoughts and distractions while you are performing wudhu, you will be able to clear them from your mind while praying as well.
- Running the faucet dry. There is a tendency to let the water flow in our sinks while we take our time performing the cleansing process. It is important not to waste Allah’s (SWT) gift of water, for Islam has taught us to be gentle to ourselves, each other, animals, and the earth.
- Forgetting to remove make-up. While we are performing ablution, water is to reach every part of allotted areas with only the exception of physical inability. If it is obscured by foundation or nail polish, the ablution becomes invalid. We should take great care in removing everything from our skin and nails so that we purify ourselves according to the teachings of the Prophet (SAW) .
- Wearing skin-tight clothing. We are to approach Allah (SWT) in the best of physical conditions – clean clothes and clean body. Be equally careful to be modest in your dress when you approach the prayer mat: that your shirt is not too short, your pants are not too tight, and your hijab covers your chest. Modesty is loved by Allah (SWT) and it is best to maintain it especially in an act of worship. I find it easier to assign a certain piece of clothing, as in an abaya or a long shirt, to make sure there will be proper coverage without me being distracted and ruining my prayer.
- Failing to remove pictures. While you might want to debate on whether it is okay in Islam to have pictures displayed in your rooms, there is no point of discussion on the fact that pictures of humans, animals, or insects should not be present in your area of prayer. The rule of thumb is to make sure that within 180 degrees of you, there is no picture in sight. If you have a frame or two lying around, simply turn it over so that the face is not showing and there is no threat of jeopardizing your prayer.
- Just breathe. I cannot say it enough times: Slow down, sisters! Take your time and pronounce every word as you are praying and make sure the words are not strung together with barely enough time to breath. Furthermore, do not find yourself as a puppet, bending up and down in a swift motion while clutching your knees and then falling on the floor equally fast for prostration. Instead, follow each movement while understanding its significance, paying special attention to rukuh (when you clutch your knees) and sajadah (when you prostrate) because, as a hadith states, the longer you stay in these positions, the greater the display of your obedience to Allah (SWT) and therefore the greater the award.