What does khushu (humbleness in prayer) mean? What should be done in order to perform prayer in khushu (humbly) and to get rid of heedlessness?
Humbleness (khushu’) literally means fearing, obeying, being modest and submissiveness. In the Quranic verse which is translated as “On that Day will they follow the Caller (straight): no crookedness (can they show) him: all sounds shall humble themselves in the Presence of (God) Most Gracious: nothing shalt thou hear but the tramp of their feet (as they march).” (Ta Ha, 20:108) people’s fearing, bowing, silence in front of Allah’s greatness is explained with the word “humbleness”.
In the Quranic verse which is translated as “Has not the Time arrived for the Believers that their hearts in all humbleness should engage in the remembrance of God and of the Truth which has been revealed (to them)” (al-Hadid, 57:16), the concept of humbleness is presented directly as a function of the heart.
In Islamic terminology, humbleness is presented as both a function of heart such as fearing, forbearing, submitting and also as a function of organs such as being in silence and motionless. In this sense, humbleness is a dual interaction, the essence of which is in the heart and the reflection of which is on the body.
The Spirit of Prayer is Humbleness
A prayer performed in humbleness is presented as the key to Heaven in the Quran.
We can see this meaning in the Quranic verse which is translated as “The believers must (eventually) win through, those who humble themselves in their prayers” (al-Muminoon, 23: 1-2).
On the other hand, it is a fact that many Muslims may experience a humanly state of heedlessness and may not be humble all the time although they always perform their prayers sincerely and they want to do so. In this sense, it is necessary to make a correct diagnosis of this incurable illness.
A hadith about humbleness:
Hazrat Ali narrates: The Prophet (pbuh) used to recite the following supplication in ruku’ (bowing position) of the prayer: “My Allah! I have bowed for You, I have believed in You, I have submitted to You. My ears, eyes, mind, bones and veins humble themselves to You.” (Muslim, Musafirin, 201.)
Two Elements of Humbleness in Prayer: Takhliya (Clearing) and Tahliya (Filling)
Takhliya (Clearing): The third letter of this Arabic-origin word “kh” is a “glottal h”. It has got the same meaning as “clearing” in the English statement “clearing the building.”
As a term regarding the issue, it means purifying and cleaning of the heart of a person who performs prayers, removing the thoughts in his heart, which are unrelated to prayer, from his heart and clearing his heart which is the home to feelings and thoughts, from all kinds of images which disturb his peace in the presence of the Lord.
Tahliya (Filling): The first letter of this Arabic-origin word “h” is not a glottal h. It means filling something with nice things, ornamenting something.
Tahliya in prayer means filling and refreshing one’s heart, mind, feelings the whole inner world with peace and ornament them with the truths of prayer.
As “clearing” is prioritized in the word of Oneness (La ilaha illallah), it is necessary to prioritize it in the issue of prayers as well. In the word of Oneness, “la” serves as a sweeper and sweeps away all the fake and superstitious beliefs on the way. After the home of the heart is cleared from the dirtiness of shirk with “la”, the owner of the heart in question elevates to the palace of Oneness with the elevator called “illa” and is adorned with this truth. “La ilaha illallah” puts this truth into words.
It is valid for prayers too. It is impossible to elevate to the presence of Allah in its real sense and reach the position of “humbleness” without being purified from the non-physical dirtiness of all beings except for Allah.
As a matter of fact, feelings of human beings are stuck around the things which they are busy with, just as ivies are. Without clearing them from the dirtiness, it is very difficult to elevate to the presence of Allah and reach humbleness. Is there any other choice but taking water out of a glass in order to fill it with milk? This physical rule is also valid for metaphysics. The heart is a glass too. Without pouring the water (dirtiness of worldly beings) out of it, you cannot fill it with milk of peace and humbleness.
In this sense, the reason why we are still occupied with worldly things during prayer is the fact that we do not put this wisdom in question and the rule which is experienced into practice. We are not right to complain about why we cannot reach peace and humbleness in prayers when we start prayer while the worldly matters are still occupying our hearts.
In fact, it is another reason behind the necessity of performing preliminaries such as ablution and cleanliness before prayers. By making ablution (wudu) we both provide physical cleanliness and also metaphysical cleanliness in terms of ideas, mind and feelings. And while doing it, we direct our minds and feelings towards the Supreme Creator, whose presence we will come to soon and cover a significantly long mile.
Humbleness is both the seed and the fruit of prayers
Humbleness is presented as the seed of prayer in the Quranic verse which is translated as “Nay, seek (God's) help with patient perseverance and prayer: It is indeed hard, except to those who bring a humble spirit” (al-Baqara, 2:45)
And in the verse which is translated as “The believers must (eventually) win through, those who humble themselves in their prayers” (al-Muminun, 23: 1-2), humbleness is presented as a fruit of prayers.
The opposite of humbleness is heedlessness. And heedlessness is a triangle of Satan. One of its line is Satan, the other is lower-self and the last one is undisciplined reasoning. Satan makes people remember things which are unrelated to prayer while on is in prayer. And lower-self wants to continue to be occupied with the same things which it was occupied before prayer, during prayer too. And undisciplined reasoning wants to enjoy itself with random things without thinking that it is in the presence of Allah during prayer. For this reason, as soon as we realize that our minds are occupied with delusions and nonsense, we should turn to the presence of Allah and continue our prayer as if nothing happened. We should not ever think, “Why did it happen like that?”
Of course, if a prayer performed in humbleness and a prayer performed without humbleness were deemed equal, it would not comply with the notion of justice. On the other hand, it is difficult to have tranquil from the beginning to the end. What matters here is to minimize the time spent in heedlessness in prayers. Otherwise, it is impossible for human disposition to get rid of it totally.
Because of this difficulty, the Prophet said on the way back from the war of Uhud “We have returned from the small war (jihad) to the big war” and stated that this big war was the fight against one’s own lower-self. It is also stated that the most difficult part of the fight against lower-self is the one during prayers.
As a matter of fact, some Companions such as Hazrat Ali, Hazrat Ibn Abbas and Hazrat Anas, attracted attention to the subtlety in the verse in the chapter al-Maun and stated that the expression “from prayer” was very different from the expression “in prayer”.
According to this, if we say “fi salatihim” it means “woe on those who are heedless in their prayers” and it is wrong; because not being heedless, not forgetting in prayers is something out of human power. It is known that even the Prophet made sahw (mistake) in prayer. All Islam Jurisprudence books include “sahw in prayer” as a section.
That is why it was said “an salatihim” in the verse. It means “they are heedless from their prayers”. That is to say; they are unaware of their own prayers; they forget it and they do not care about it. They would not perform prayers at all if they did not want to show off for other people…
For this reason, some scholars, in order to attract attentions to this fine detail, said: “Thanks be to Allah, it is not stated “Fi salatihim” but “an salatihim” in the Quran.
In conclusion, performing prayer in humbleness means to reach the unity of body and soul. In order to reach this level, one needs to make worldly and unworldly preparations.
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