Wednesday,23 August, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1344, (11 - 17 May 2017)
Wednesday,23 August, 2017
Issue 1344, (11 - 17 May 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Mindfulness in worship

The holy month of Ramadan is fast approaching, a time to rejuvenate our hearts and minds and achieve mindfulness in acts of worship, writes Ghada Abdel-Kader

 Mindfulness in worship
Mindfulness in worship

Some people may suffer from distraction or the inability to concentrate while practising the different acts of worship (al-ibadaat) such as prayer, reciting the holy Quran, fasting, duaa (supplication), tasbeeh (the utterance of short sentences in praise and glorification of God), istighfar (seeking forgiveness from God for sins committed) and zikr (the remembrance of God).

“People sometimes perform their prayers or different acts of worship without really paying attention to what they are doing,” said Mirhane Ahmed, an energy expert and mindfulness meditation facilitator.

“When you achieve a state of mindfulness in prayer and worship, this increases faith, makes you closer to Allah, makes you more full of strength, more confident, and improves the ability to face all life’s challenges and stresses,” she adds.

Ahmed describes some steps to follow on how to release yourself and raise your thoughts to access a state of higher awareness and mindfulness during different acts of worship.

The first step is to ask yourself where and what you are doing. Start to connect with your inner body, feeling your joints or muscles, sensing your own body temperature, and listening to your heartbeats. The second step is to remember that being mindful depends on accessing the power of now. Stop thinking about the things that happened in the past or being anxious about the future. Just become intensely conscious of the power of now.

The third step is to observe a moment of silence and to learn to talk less and listen more. Pause for a few seconds and observe the flow of your breath. Become aware of the moment of silence and continue to observe what is happening but with a powerful sense of attention on the present. You will learn to hear your inner voice and to listen better to others.

The fourth step is to focus on a vacuum or empty space. Turn off your mind, start to look out at the universe, keep watching the sky. Clear your mind of any ideas or thoughts in order to avoid mental distraction during prayer. The last step is to have complete reliance (al-tawakkul) on Allah. Stop over-thinking and worrying about what may be going to happen in the future.

As Allah says in the holy Quran, “nothing will happen to us except what Allah has decreed for us: He is our Protector, and on Allah let the Believers put their trust” (surat al-tawbah, chapter 9, verse 51). This verse talks about how a true Muslim must believe that all our affairs are in Allah’s hands. We can do only what is under our control, and we must leave the results to Allah.

These steps can be part of a daily routine, Ahmed says. “They only need practice, focussed attention and sustained effort. It is only a matter of time until they become a daily habit. You will soon find yourself doing them automatically and spontaneously without any effort.”

“Over-thinking is a strong addiction in human beings. Always try to remind yourself of what you are doing now,” she adds. If you feel under stress and nervous, or distracted and losing concentration on what you are doing, “start to take deep breaths. Focus on the movement of air going in and out of your body. This helps you to return to a peaceful and tranquil state. Distractions fade away. You became more productive, attentive and more energetic in finishing your work.”

Al-khusho’ (humility and sincerity) in prayer and the presence of both mind and heart are also important. This is a state of mind that contains serenity, tranquillity, dignity and humility.

On how to achieve al-khusho’ during prayer and worship, Ahmed recommends that before starting your prayer you make an intention (niyyah) to yourself that each time your prayer will be better than before. Always remind yourself that you are in the presence of Allah, meaning that there is a conversation going on between you and Allah.

During prayer, try to recite the holy Quran in a slow and pleasant tone and stick to the rules of stopping (there are symbols in the text of the Quran to show where to stop or to continue in order to preserve the correct meaning of the recitation) and tajweed (rules governing pronunciation during the recitation of the Quran). The time of silence between each verse (ayah) gives the reader the opportunity to understand and feel the meaning.

In prayer, Ahmed adds, when you kneel down or do sajdah (prostration) positions, try to feel your entire body and limbs prostrating with you. Imagine that while you are sitting and reciting the tashahhud (a portion of the prayer) you are sending prayers and blessings (salat and salam) to the Prophets Ibrahim and Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Them). Try to feel that all your organs, including your heart, lips and tongue, are seeking forgiveness with you. If you feel your heart is full of stress, sadness or grief, always remember Allah and surround yourself with his memory, including by prayer, tasbeeh, istighfar, making supplication, and reading the Quran, Ahmed says.

She gives a simple exercise to reach a mindfulness for beginners. First, take slow and deep breaths until you feel totally relaxed. Second, start to examine your thoughts, whether negative or positive, without judgement or getting involved in them. Third, look at your thoughts from the outside, and let them out of your head: Imagine you are looking at the sky and can see the thoughts coming out of your mind. Fourth, try resting each thought on a cloud in the sky and watch the air pushing the cloud forwards until it gradually disappears.

Do these things until you find your mind becomes totally clear and empty. Remind yourself that your mind is as big as the sky and contains infinite space.

Ahmed recommends carrying out such exercise once a day on waking up in the morning and before performing any act of worship. They will help to clear your mind and make you more focussed.

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