The Presence of Heart in Prayer

Contributed by Jameel Kermalli,

USA

Imam al-Sadiq (AS) has said:
Dear to me is the believer from among you who attends to God with his heart at the time of Prayer and does not pre-occupy his heart with any mundane matter. For, whenever a devotee turns with his heart to God, The Exalted, during Prayer, God heeds him and turns towards him the hearts of the faithful who regard him with affection, following God’s love of him.
(al-Hurr al-‘Amili, Wasa’ilush-Shi’ah, iv, 686)
The Commander of the Faithful, Imam ‘Ali (AS) says:
If the worshipper knew to what extent His (Allah’s) Mercy surrounded him during Prayer, he would never raise his head from the state of prostration.
According to a number of traditions, the Prayer has been called – a believer’s heavenly journey that protects him from moral indecencies. Ayatullah Ibrahim Amini says in his book Self Building that, ‘it is a pure sparkling stream of spirituality that whosoever enters it five times a day will purify his soul from all sorts of pollution and contamination’. Likewise, a Prayer offered without heart’s presence, although satisfies the performance of compulsory religious obligation, nevertheless, does not help in elevating the worshipper towards higher spiritual realms.
In another tradition, he said:
A Prayer, half of it may be accepted, or one-third, or a quarter, or one-fifth, or even one-tenth. Another Prayer may be folded like an old dress, and be thrown back at the face of its owner. No part of the Prayer is yours except that part which you perform with an attentive heart.
(Bihar al-Anwar, Volume 81, Page 260, Chapter 16, Tradition 59)
A similar tradition is narrated by al-Kulayni (RA) in al-Kafi, 3, page 363. al-Baqir and al-Sadiq (AS) have further said:
Nothing of your Prayer is yours except that which you did with an attentive heart. So, if one performed it completely erroneously, or neglected its disciplines, it would be folded and thrown back at its owner’s face.
(Wasa’ilush-Shi’ah, Volume 4, Page 687, Chapter 3, Tradition 1)
Imam al-Sadiq (AS) warns us that:
When a servant stands to offer Prayer, Allah (SWT) pays attention to him and does not shift His attention until the servant deviates from His remembrance for the third time. When this happens, Allah (SWT) too turns His attention away from the worshipper.
Therefore, the heart’s presence is a must in every single act in Prayer and that is the only way to achieve the merits hidden in this great obligation. It is narrated in Bihar al-Anwar that in the above instances, if the worshipper returns his attention and struggles not to lose his concentration, then his past sins are erased and he shall be granted such blessings that his reward cannot be counted. Allah (SWT) says:
Pay attention to Me, because I and the Angels are paying attention to you (in your Prayer).
According to al-Khumeini (RA), ‘the reality of invocation and remembrance is the invocation of the heart, without which the invocation of the tongue will be futile and worthless. This is referred to in a number of traditions’.
In his book Self Building, al-Amini relates:
In as much as heart’s presence is important and worthwhile, in the same proportion, its attainment is extremely difficult. No sooner a person starts his Prayer, Shaytan whispers in his heart pulling him from one side to another, and continuously engaging him into all sorts of thoughts and memories.
The heart engages itself into accounting, planning, reviewing past and future problems, solving academic problems, very often recollecting during Prayer, and topics, which were forgotten by him completely. And when he returns to himself, he discovers his Prayer are over.

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