#71: Distraction in Prayer

Question:

Assalamualaikum ustaz, there are certain areas in a mosque where television or screens are installed to display the sermon or class schedule as well as reminders and words of wisdom which is truly beneficial. However, sometimes the screens are placed on the wall facing the congregants in prayer and distract the khusyuk (concentration) of people who are praying. Hope to get your feedback on this matter.

Answer:

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 Last Day.

Lexically, Ibn Faris said: “Khusyuk (consists of three main letters) kha’, syin and ‘ain is one source which means bowing or submission.”

It is said the word khusyuk has almost the same meaning as the word khudhu’. As for the differences with khudhu’, it only pertains to a person’s body while khusyuk involves the body, voice and sight.

As for the terminology, Imam al-Baghawi cited several interpretations of scholars regarding khusyuk in prayer. Although the interpretations are different, however, they aren’t contradictory, rather they complete each other. The reason is some commentators explained the meaning of khusyuk in the physical sense and others explained it in the spiritual sense.

According to Imam al-Baghawi, scholars differed in defining the meaning of khusyuk in Allah SWT’s statement “الَّذِينَ هُمْ فِي صَلَاتِهِمْ خَاشِعُونَThey who are during their prayer humbly submissive. However, they agreed in stating that khusyuk is an important element for a high-quality prayer.

Among the opinions of companions and scholars regarding the meaning of khusyuk are:

  • Ibn ‘Abbas said: Calm and humble.
  • Ali bin Abi Talib RA said: Not turning to the left and right.
  • Sa’id bin Jubair said: It is (a person) who is oblivious as to who is on his left and right, he didn’t turn, for he fully concentrated on (facing) Allah ‘Azza wa Jalla.
  • ‘Amr bin Dinar said: It is calmness and beautiful situation (movement).
  • Ibnu Sirin and others said: It means you never shift your sight from the place of your prostration.
  • Atha’ said: You don’t move about in prayer.
  • Al-Hasan (al-Basri) and Qatadah said: (They are) people who are fearful.
  • Muqatil said: (They are) those who are humble (tawadhu’)
  • Mujahid said: Lowering one’s gaze and voice.
  • Some say, khusyuk in prayer is: Gathering concentration (observe in prayer) and avoiding other matters as well as reflecting on the meaning of recitation and dhikr he stated verbally. [2]

Khusyuk is a commandment. Furthermore, it is considered the essence and heart of prayer. This is based on the hadith of the Prophet PBUH narrated by Uthman bin Affan:

مَا مِنِ امْرِئٍ مُسْلِمٍ تَحْضُرُهُ صَلاَةٌ مَكْتُوبَةٌ فَيُحْسِنُ وُضُوءَهَا وَخُشُوعَهَا وَرُكُوعَهَا إِلاَّ كَانَتْ كَفَّارَةً لِمَا قَبْلَهَا مِنَ الذُّنُوبِ مَا لَمْ يُؤْتِ كَبِيرَةً وَذَلِكَ الدَّهْرَ كُلَّهُ

“When the time for a prescribed prayer comes, if any Muslim observes proper ablution, humility and bowing, it will be an expiation for his past sins, so long as he has not committed a major sin; and that means for all time.” [3]

It is one of the highly encouraged acts in prayer. Sheikh Ubaidullah al-Mubarakfuri said: “Which means performing all the requisites humbly in submission. The requisites are fulfilled both physically and spiritually which means with the presence of his heart and body.” [4]

Regarding the question presented, basically, it is sunnah to look at the place of prostration when one is praying. This is in accordance with the hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah:

أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- كَانَ إِذَا صَلَّى رَفَعَ بَصَرَهُ إِلَى السَّمَاءِ فَنَزَلَتْ (الَّذِينَ هُمْ فِى صَلاَتِهِمْ خَاشِعُونَ) فَطَأْطَأَ رَأْسَهُ

Indeed, once the Messenger was praying and he lifted his eyes to the skies. Then, the verse الَّذِينَ هُمْ فِى صَلاَتِهِمْ خَاشِعُونَ was revealed. He then lowered his head.” [5]

The act of lowering one’s head and focusing our gaze on the place of prostration helps to have khusyuk in prayer. Imam al-Nawawi said: “Scholars have agreed on the need of having khusyuk in prayer and the need of lowering one’s gaze from anything that is distracting as well as it is makruh to twist and turn in prayer.” [6]

It is makruh to turn and look in the direction other than the place of prostration. Thus, lowering one’s head and focusing on the place of prayer helped us to pay full attention to prayer.

Among the ways to attain khusyuk in prayer is to close our eyes to prevent us from looking at anything that can distract our focus in prayer. This is the opinion stated by Imam al-Nawawi. He said: “It isn’t makruh to close one’s eyes if there is fear of damage. This enables him to combine khusyuk and the firmness of his heart. It also prevents him from gazing around and prevent his mind from getting disturbed.” [7]

In the book al-Taqrirat al-Sadidah, it is stated: “It is sunnah to close one’s eyes if there is something distracting in front of him.” [8]

Hence, we conclude that it is sunnah for us to lower our gaze and focus our eyes on the place of prostration. And it is also permissible to close one’s eyes to prevent from looking at matters that could affect our khusyuk in prayer. We also advise the mosque or surau officers to switch off the television or adverts in front of the congregants as soon as the iqamah is called out. This is so that the congregants can give their full attention without getting distracted by the adverts or tazkirah broadcasted on the screens or television.

Wallahu a’lam.

 

[1] See Mu’jam Maqaayiis al-Lughah, pg. 316

[2] See Ma’alim al-Tanzil, 5/408

[3] Narrated by Muslim (565)

[4] See Mir’ah al-Mafatih Syarh Mishkah al-Masabih, 3/31

[5] Narrated by al-Baihaqi dalam Sunannya (3683)

[6] See al-Majmu’ Syarh al-Muhazzab, 3/270

[7] See al-Majmu’ Syarh al-Muhazzab, 3/271

[8] See al-Taqrirat al-Sadidah fi Masa’il al-Mufidah, pg 238

 

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