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Verses from Surah al-Mu’minun [1 – 4]

4. The textual root “khasha`a” literally means to humble, and lower oneself. Since that mental state in the Prayers leads to tranquility and immobility of the body, “khushuu`” has been widely defined as the motionless state when the head is bent forward, eyes look downward, and concentration is kept high (Au.).

Mujahid, Zuhri and others defined “khushu`” in Prayers as motionlessness. `Ali said, “Do not pay attention to anything else during your Prayers.” Hasan and Ibrahim said that “khushu`” is a state of the heart, while that of the body is to be motionless. `Ataa’ in fact, as well as a few others, report that the Prophet used to look sideways and towards the front until this verse was revealed, after which he was never seen in Prayers but his gaze fixed downward (Ibn Jarir).

One might be reminded, however, that the above report about the Prophet is a truncated one (Ibn Kathir).

In fact, Ibn Seereen said that they used to say, “Let not the sight travel beyond the prayer mat. If it habitually goes beyond that, then one might close the eyes” (Ibn Kathir from Ibn Abi Hatim).

Nevertheless, Ibn `Abbas, Hasan and others have interpreted the term as that “fear of heart” which leads to the neglect of everything else besides the Prayers (Ibn Jarir).

Qurtubi writes: Scholars have differed over khushu`, whether it is obligatory or an additional adornment. `Abdul Wahid b. Zayd, as in Nisapuri’s commentary, claimed that there is consensus over its obligatory nature.

To substantiate the view that khushu’ is obligatory, Razi presents the following verses of the Qur’an: First, “Do they not ponder over the Qur’an?” (Muhammad: 24). Now pondering cannot be obtained without realizing the meaning of what is recited.

Second, “Establish the Prayers for My remembrance,” (Taa-haa: 14). Absent mindedness is the opposite of remembrance.

Third, “Until you know what you are saying,” (Al-Nisaa’: 43). Imam Ghazali has argued, adds Razi, that the Prayers have been referred to one’s private whispering with Allah. And a talk in which one’s mind is not present is no talk at all. Further, he writes, if we removed “khushu`” from Prayers, we remove the reason why it tops the list of rituals and is a mark of distinction between a believer and an unbeliever.

In any case, “khushu`” has to show itself in a man’s manner of conducting the Prayers. Not to dress up properly, to play with one’s clothes during the Prayers, to think of something else other than the Prayer, to yawn, etc., are all indicative of the lack of “khushu`”. It is reported of the Prophet that he saw a man fiddling with his beard during the Prayers. He remarked, “Had this man’s heart been in ‘khushu`’, his limbs would have also been in ‘khushu`’” (Zamakhshari). But the report is weak (Alusi).

However, Alusi adds that we have another report in Bukhari, Abu Da’ud and Nasa’i, which says that the Prophet was asked by `A’isha about diversion of attention away during the Prayers. He answered, “That is a seizure that Satan snatches off from the Prayer of a believer.” We also have a report in Ibn Abi Shaybah, in Ahmad’s Kitab al-Zuhd, and in Hakim who termed it Sahih that Abu Hudhayfah said, “The first thing you will miss in your religion is ‘khushu`’ and the last thing the Prayers” (shortened).

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