#197: Praying While Closing One’s Eyes

Question:

Assalamualaikum ustaz. Is it permissible for a person to close his eyes while praying to increase his khusyuk (focus)?

Answer:

Waalaikumussalam wrt. wbt.,

Alhamdulillah, praise and gratitude to Allah SWT for His countless blessings for us all. Praise and salutations to our beloved Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his family, companions, and all those who follow his footsteps until the Final day.

Prayer is one of the main obligations in Islam. It is an honoured worship that plays an important role in developing the character of a person and his faith. Thus, it is crucial for us to understand the truth from the worship of prayer.

Al-Hasan al-Basri once said: “O sons of Adam, prayer is worship that protects you from sins and transgression. If your prayer doesn’t stop you from sins and transgressions, then in actuality, you haven’t prayed.” [1] According to the above advice, we can understand that if we pray properly, then it will positively affect our character.

Allah SWT states:

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ ﴿١﴾ الَّذِينَ هُمْ فِي صَلَاتِهِمْ خَاشِعُونَ

“Certainly, will the believers have succeeded: They who are during their prayer humbly submissive.” [2]

Ibn Kathir when commenting on the above verse, he said: ‘Ali bin Abi Talhah narrated from Ibn Abbas R.anhuma: “خَاشِعُونَ” (those who are humbly submissive) are those who fear Allah and calm. From Ali bin Abi Talib RA: What is meant by khusyuk here is the humbly submissive of one’s heart.

Whereas, Hasan al-Basri said: “Khusyuk is in their hearts, which leads them to lower their gaze and humble themselves.” Khusyuk in prayer can only be attained by a person who focuses his heart and forgets all other activities. During this time, calmness and contentment ensued in his heart. [3]

It is narrated that this verse is revealed when Rasullullah PBUH was praying, he was looking up. Hence, this verse was revealed and he promptly lowered his gaze to the place of prostration. [4]

According to al-Baghawi, scholars have differing opinions in interpreting the meaning of khusyuk in Allah SWT’s statement “الَّذِينَ هُمْ فِي صَلَاتِهِمْ خَاشِعُونَ” (They who are during their prayer humbly submissive). However, all of them agreed that khusyuk is an important element for a quality prayer.

Among the opinions of companions and scholars related to the meaning of khusyuk are:

  • Ibnu ‘Abbas said: Calmness and humility (مخبتون أذلاء)
  • Ali bin Abi Talib RA said: Not turning to the right or left
  • Sa’id bin Jubair said: It is (a person who) doesn’t know who is on his left or right, he never turned for he’s khusyuk (facing towards) Allah ‘Azza wa Jalla.
  • ‘Amr bin Dinar said: it is calmness and beauty of his position (action)
  • Ibnu Sirin and others said: If you don’t look up from the place of your prostration.
  • Atha’ said: It is when you are not occupied moving your body in prayer.
  • Al-Hasan (Al-Basri) and Qatadah said: (They are) those who fear Allah (متواضعون)
  • Mujahid said: It is lowering one’s gaze and voice (غض البصر وخفض الصوت).
  • Some state, khusyuk in prayer is: Gathering concentration (in performing the actions in prayer) and turning away from his other affairs as well as reflecting on the meaning of the recitation and dhikr recited. [5]

Here, we’ll also present several scholars’ opinions in defining khusyuk:

  • Imam Ibn Qayyim al-Jauziyyah said: Khusyuk is: A heart that stands in front of Allah with humility and obedience.
  • Imam Junaid Al-Baghdadi said: Khusyuk is; a feeling of humility in one’s heart in front of the All-Knowing who knows the unseen matters. [6]
  • Imam Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali also gave an interesting definition of khusyuk. He said: The origin of khusyuk is a delicate, calm and firm heart. [7]
  • Al-Syaukani when commenting on this verse said: Some scholars include (khusyuk) as a part of the action of the heart such as fear and apprehension. While others said it is a part of the action of the body such as calmness in prayer, not moving here and there and not doing any useless movements in prayer. Lexically, it means calmness, tawadhu’ (humility), fear and subservient. [8]

According to Syeikh Muhammad Rasyid Ridha, the meaning of khusyuk in prayer is the result of a sahih belief (iman) which helps his actions to follow his belief. Khusyuk is a result of the feeling of kasyatullah in the heart until it overflows to one’s actions, feelings and calm and submissive gaze. Whilst khusyuk with one’s voice is through the melodious voice and mellow language the same as khusyuk in other body parts. [9]

It should be understood that khusyuk can be divided into two:

  • Khusyuk of the heart is the presence of someone’s heart while praying, focused facing Allah SWT bringing the love for Him, Honouring Him and fearing His punishment and hoping His rewards until he feels close to Him with a calm heart full of reflection, understanding everything that he recites and perform in prayer. Khusyuk of the heart gives birth to the khusyuk of the body, for it is the basis of khusyuk.
  • Khusyuk of the body is calm in actions in prayer, minding the manners and is not hasty in reciting dhikr and supplication, lowering the gaze towards the place of prostration, not looking up or other direction that is distracting and is not busied with useless movements.

According to the above opinion of several scholars, we can conclude the definition of khusyuk to be: Khusyuk is the action of the heart which includes fear, humility, submission in front of Allah in showcasing the actions of the body such as calmness in prayer, not turning left and right as well as lowering one’s gaze during prayer.

The Issue of Closing One’s Eyes in Prayer

Going back to the basics, it is sunnah for us to look at the place of prostration when we are praying. This is based on several narrations such as what is stated by Imam Ibn Hajar who cited the statement of Muhammad Ibn Sirin who said:

“The previous people (the companions) turn in their prayer until the revelation of the statement of Allah SWT:

قَد أفْلَحَ المُؤمِنُون الَّذِينَ هُم فِي صَلاتِهِم خَاشِعُون

“Certainly, will the believers have succeeded: They who are during their prayer humbly submissive.” [10]

Thus, they turned back to the direction of their prayer (and pray properly focused) and look in front of them. And they encouraged themselves to not look past the place of their prostration.” [11]

The above narration is as though giving the meaning to us that the characteristics of a prayer that is khusyuk are when it is performed in a condition where a person doesn’t turn to the left or right, upwards and others. Hence, the companions focus their gaze only on the place of prostration. It describes that khusyuk only happens when they pray while looking at the place of prostration.

Whilst the act of closing one’s eyes during prayer is makruh according to the jurists for it contradicts the encouragement to look at the place of prostration. They argued presenting the hadith narrated by Ibn Abbas RA, where Rasullullah PBUH said:

إِذَا قَامَ أَحَدُكُمْ فِي الصَّلَاةِ فَلَا يُغْمِضْ عَيْنَيْهِ

“When one of you gets up for prayer, he must not keep his eyes closed.” [12]

According to Ibn al-Qayyim, the wisdom taken from such hadiths and others is the generality, where we learn that the Prophet PBUH didn’t keep his eyes closed when he was praying. Jurists have differing opinions as to its makruh ruling. Imam Ahmad and others’ opinion stated that it is makruh to keep one’s eyes closed in prayer. He said that it is the act of the Jews. While other scholars permit it and didn’t rule the act makruh. In their opinion, it can help in attaining khusyuk which is the essence, soul, and true meaning of prayer.

He then said: The accurate opinion is: If he doesn’t keep his eyes close (in prayer) and it doesn’t affect his focus, then this is prioritized. If he opens his eyes and it prevented him from attaining khusyuk, for instance, there are distractions in front of him, then it is not an issue for him to close his eyes. And the opinion that rules it permissible to keep one’s eyes closed is nearer to the usul and maqasid syara’ compared to the opinion which states that it is makruh. [13]

His opinion is in line with the opinion of a renowned scholar in madhhab al-Syafie, Imam Izzuddin Izz bin Abd Al-Salam, who said: “Keeping one’s eyes closed in prayer when he sees another person who prays badly, and if this helps him to attain khusyuk and keeping the presence of his heart with his Lord (while he is keeping his eyes closed), then closing his eyes is prioritized compared to opening them.” [14]

Conclusion

We state that the ruling of closing one’s eyes in prayer is originally makruh for it contradicts with the commandment of looking at the place of prostration. Although if one finds that if he keeps his eyes closed then it helps him to focus and attain khusyuk in prayer, then it is permissible and sometimes prioritized.

Wallahu a’lam.

 

[1] See al-Durr al-Manthur, 6/466

[2] (Surah al-Mukminun: 1-2)

[3] See Tafsir al-Quran al-‘Azim, 5/110

[4] See al-Tafsir al-Munir, 9/329

[5] See Ma’alim al-Tanzil, 5/408

[6] See Madarij al-Salikin, 1/521

[7] See al-Khusyu’ fi al-Solat, Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali, pg. 17

[8] See Fath al-Qadir, 1/977

[9] See Tafsir al-Manar, 1/301

[10] Surah al-Mu’minuun (1-2)

[11] See Fath al-Bari, 2/272

[12] Narrated by al-Tabarani (1/37)

[13] See Zad al-Ma’ad, 1/284-285

[14] See Fatawa Izz Ibn Abd Al-Salam, no. 31

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