“Guard strictly the Salah, especially the middle Salah. And stand before Allah with obedience.” (2:238)
Reading the Quran, or if you cannot understand Arabic like myself, reading the translation of the Quran, will lead you to see the high important Allah SWT assigns to salah or prayer. It is something that can very much determine your fate on judgement day, when you stand completely alone, with no support of family or friends, in front of your Maker. This is evident in the following verse of the Holy Quran: “Truly, those who believe and do righteous deeds, and perform Salah, and give Zakah, they will have their reward with their Lord. On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (2:277)
But establishing regular and especially focused salah is something I myself continue to struggle with to this day. It is something many Muslims struggle with on a daily basis. However, by now I have set some ground rules for myself in order to ensure better success in this realm of faith, and I feel that God willing you may find this helpful too. The first rule I have set for myself, is seeing the fulfilment of salah as a journey instead of a destination. What I mean by a journey, is that before, I got frustrated with myself because I often had days or weeks when I was establishing regular salah on time, and then for some reason I got distracted or lazy and would miss a couple of salahs, which would then put me in a downward spiral of feeling like I failed myself and thinking thoughts like, “What’s the point of praying meghrib when I already missed asr. I already ruined my whole day’s salah pattern by missing one salah.” But thoughts like these hurt my salah even more because I subconsciously believed that there is no way I can ever establish all my salahs on time and with full focus. What I did not realize was that it is not that I failed myself by missing one prayer or by losing focus in between, but instead I was failing myself by dwelling on the missed prayers and thereby missing more prayers.
So keeping in mind that the fulfilment of salah is a journey, you must forgive yourself if you miss a salah, sincerely ask Allah SWT to forgive you for it, and move on by making sure you say the next salah on time. The trick is to stop thinking about all the salah you missed and not think about all the salah you must establish in life, but instead to simply focus on the salah you must make in the time that you are presently conscious of. In this way, you will find that you are much more successful in praying more regularly and on time. Build a routine for you salah in order to make it a part of your life.
If you are someone who has a habit of not praying, then you must first have a desire to change your praying habits. Then you must turn towards Allah SWT and sincerely repent for your past errors and ask Him to guide you in fulfilling your salah on time and to make it easy for you. You must be patient with yourself in this matter because success will not come overnight. But if you are willing to succeed then go at it at a pace you are comfortable with. Maybe start by praying the salah that are easiest or most convenient for you to pray. Then after a couple of days increase your salah and God willing you will see the fruits of your efforts. Everything takes some time and effort to achieve, even regular salah.
If you are concerned about your ability to wake up for fajr, just know that if you really want to pray fajr on time, then you will do whatever it takes to make sure you wake up on time. Yes, it is more challenging because you must disrupt your deep sleep, but it is by no means impossible. You must first deeply desire to pray fajr on time, and then seek Allah’s help in strengthening your willpower and making it easy for you. You should use the spiritual power of Ramadan to train yourself in the matter of salah.
The same rule applies for staying focused during salah. Losing focus during salah is something most Muslims face, and again, you must look at this aspect as a journey as well. You cannot say that you have arrived at the destination until your death, because until you say your last salah, you cannot fully judge this matter. Hence, do not think about all the salah you have previously said being distracted, but instead sincerely repent to Allah SWT for your past errors in this regard, and ask him to help you in staying focused during salah. Then put your full effort into staying focused during the salah and watch how Allah SWT helps you.
One key point you must understand is that if you are not fluent in Arabic, then you MUST seek out translations of the surahs, verses, and duas you recite during the salah. This is because in order to really focus on your salah and hence get the full benefit from your salah, you must speak from your heart. You are after all, conversing with your Lord, so what kind of a conversation would it be that you do not even know what you are saying to Him. Therefore, salah is not a light matter, and you must memorize and understand the meanings of your words. So when you recite during prayer, your mind must be focused on what you say, as the words must come out of your heart. Otherwise, it is like you are running a tape player with no connection to Allah SWT. But at the same time be patient with yourself and plan out the times you must devote to learning the meanings one at a time. Do not feel rushed or overwhelmed because Allah SWT is the Most Merciful and so He is gentle and patient with us.
Salah is the foundation of our faith in Allah SWT. Our souls cannot survive unless we turn to our Lord Almighty and glorify Him for everything that He made us and everything that He gave us. So do what you have to do in order to master your salah, because there will be no one to put your blame on that awesome day, if you just dream and sit and do nothing about it today.
Check out this pdf file for some basic translations of the words in salah: