Salat is the ritual prayer practiced by Muslims in supplication to Allah. Salat or salaah, is performed five times day, at sunrise (Fajr), noon (Dhuhr), afternoon (Asr), sunset (Maghrib) and nightfall (Isha'a). Salaah is obligatory for all Muslims once they have reached puberty.
The purpose of salat is primarily to act as an individual's communication with God. It enables one to stand in front of God, thank and praise Him, and ask for Him to show one the "right path" (as mentioned in surah al-Fatihah which is recited in every prayer).
But how to gain proper concentration in Salat?
In order to gain proper concentration in Salat, it is important to keep one’s mind free of all pre-occupations with worldly affairs. Since our minds tend to dwell on the things which we are currently absorbed with, it is important to break the hold of this world upon our minds by conditioning ourselves to think consistently of Allah and the Last Day.
They only are the (true) believers whose hearts feel fear when Allah is mentioned, and when the revelations of Allah are recited unto them they increase their faith, and who trust in their Lord; (Al-Anfal:2)
Another important point to remember is that often because of our indulgence in major sins, we may be deprived of true joy in Salat - as a penalty for these sins. Such sins include displeasing one’s parents, fornication or adultery or indiscriminate mingling and mixing with members of the opposite sex, or unethical conduct and behavior in financial dealings, etc.
Therefore, as a prerequisite step towards improving our concentration in Salat, we must examine our life and purge it of all the major sins according to the best of our ability. After having done so, we can follow these tips which have been gleaned from the discussions of the Salaf al-Salih (pious predecessors):
1. Before standing up for Salat, try to deal with all the minor urgent matters which demand your attention. If you are oppressed by hunger, eat first; if you are pressed to attend to the call of nature, relieve yourself; if you are the parent of an infant, feed him or her, or keep him or her busy.
2. Perform your ablutions well, paying due care and attention.
3. Approach the Salat with zest and passion as if it is the most important task in your life. Actually the Prophet (peace be upon him) taught us that we could do nothing in this world that could ever surpass Salat in merit and excellence.
4. Visualize that in your Salat you are going to have a special audience with Allah, Lord of the worlds, and that you are enjoying a direct communion with Him - which, in fact, is true.
5. Think of the Salat you are performing as if it were the last Salat of your life. In fact, it could very well be the last one, since no one is given a guarantee that he would live to perform another Salat.
6. Picture the scene of the Last Day when people will be lined up into two groups, one destined for heaven, and another for hell, and ask yourself where you would be placed.
7. Focus your mind on what you are reading in your Salat.
8. If, in spite of your best efforts, your mind is still wandering, seek refuge in Allah and bring your mind back to Salat.
9. Pray to Allah and beg Him to grant you true the joy of concentrating in your Salat and protection against the wanderings of your mind.