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How to Improve our Daily Prayers?
Dr Farhad Shafti

Following are a number of tips that will be useful for those who are interested in improving their daily prayers. It should be emphasized that these are all based on practical experiences and are not derived from the Qur’ān, Sunnah or Hadīth, although many of them are supported by these sources Nevertheless, to the best of my understanding none of the following is opposed to or in conflict with the Qur’ān or Sunnah.

1. There is a vast difference between a prayer which is offered on time and one that is delayed. No matter how effective the postponed prayer is, we can be assured that it could be many times more effective if we offered it on time. Part of improving and purifying our soul is to allow the prayer to interrupt our daily affairs rather than allow our daily affairs to interrupt our prayer times.

2. We should let our life (e.g. daily affairs) be oriented around our prayer. Instead of thinking that life is spending 24 hours a day during which we offer 5 prayers, we should consider that life is 5 prayers a day in the middle of which we are living.

3. We should not mind our daily work to be interrupted by prayers; rather we should be keen on interrupting it with prayers (of course when this can be done with no undesired consequences for yourself or others). What is one of the most enjoyable things that we do not like to be interrupted from? Watching a movie? Being with friends? Playing games? Studying Islam? Debating with others? We should improve our spiritual position and make our selves less relying on worldly affairs by willingly interrupting these affairs with an on-time prayer. We need to recite the prayer with its normal speed and with full concentration on these occasions. On the other hand, when there is really an important task that is needed to be done promptly, if possible, we should still offer the prayer on time but make it as short as possible. We will gradually get used to offering prayers even if they fall in the middle of our tasks without losing our concentration when we come back to them. We will find that this can also bring some blessings in the task we are engaged in.

4. Optional prayers (nafal) have many effects on one’s soul. Two of these effects are:

a. They can be seen as a practice and a rehearsal for the obligatory prayer much like the practice we do for our exam or for a sports match.

b. They compensate for obligatory prayers which are not offered in a proper manner.

It has been practically proved that offering a routine amount of optional prayers every day eventually has a significant effect in improving our daily obligatory prayers. (The emphasis is on “routine amount” not “extensive amount”)

5. Although it is not obligatory, but in order to improve our prayer, it is always better to refresh our ablution even if it is still valid from our last prayer.

6. Ablution is primarily for physical cleansing. I think it is also a symbol of our spiritual cleansing. Try to feel this. For example when washing our face we may also intend to purify our face (including eyes, mouth) from any sinful and useless act. The same can be said for the hands and feet. When wiping our head we may also intend to purify our self from any sinful or useless thoughts.

7. When we make your ablution, it is like brushing our teeth. We won’t eat chocolate immediately after brushing teeth. So we should not engage our selves in worldly affairs (good or bad) after making ablution. We should go directly to offer our prayer.

8. There are a number of milestones in our prayer that can take us from a spiritual state to an improved spiritual state. It is helpful to be aware of the ascending transmission of our spiritual condition throughout these points in our prayer: 

Commence the prayer with takbīr

This is a stage in which we are saying a temporary good bye to the outside world and is the point from which direct communication with our Creator will begin. It is like shutting down the door to any disruptions and disturbance in the way of our communication with our lord. It is interesting that the movement of hands at this stage (from ears down) is very much inline with this intention.

Arriving at the words: iyyāka na‘budu wa iyyaka nasta‘īn

In Sūrah Fātihah, we start our prayer by addressing God in the third person. The first place we address God as the second person is when we say the above words. We should consider this as the point where we reach the climax of what we want to achieve by reciting Sūrah Fātihah in our prayers. We need to make this phrase the warning and awakening signal in the prayer so that when you we them we feel compelled to focus more. If we feel like it, we can repeat the phrase till we are satisfied (there is no problem in doing so from the point of view of sharī‘ah).

Kneeling (Ruku‘)

Kneeling is a sign of doing away with our selfishness after appreciating the presence of a superior and glorious Being. Idealistically going to the kneeling position should be regarded as a natural reaction to a stronger feeling of humility in front of our Creator. In other words, one should reach a stage in which one finds no other choice but to kneel in front of the superior and glorious Being in front of him. Of course, not everyone can reach this level of prayer. However, even being aware of this will help to work towards that level.


Prostration is a higher degree of humility before Allah. Here, even kneeling is not enough to show the humble feelings of a Muslim. Falling on the ground in the state of prostration is the only way to express this level of humility. All that was said above about kneeling applies here but on a much greater scale.


We should not take the last part of our prayer lightly. Tashahhud is in fact the concluding part of the prayer. After a divinely guided spiritual journey, we are now renewing our allegiance to Allah and His messenger. This (if done correctly) can have a tremendous effect on reinforcing our faith. Once we do this and finish our prayer, potentially we can start our life afresh as a better person.

9. Prayer is talking to Allah.  We normally dress decently when speaking to another person. So we must do our best when we want to talk with Allah. Our attire should be decent and clean. Our hair should be combed. It is preferable that we brush our teeth and moderately perfume ourselves. All this will help us believe and appreciate that we are going to enter into a dialogue rather than talking alone to our own selves.

10. The entire earth has been made a worshipping ground for Muslims. When the prayer time comes and we are not at a convenient or private place, it may be wise to wait till we get to a comfortable place to pray. However, to work on our faith and strengthen it, it is also good to carry on with our prayers in the first possible place (being in a park, a corner of a street or a shop, a peaceful area at the work place - if there are no prayer rooms). Of course this is with the condition that (if applicable) the owner of the place does not mind our praying at his/her place and also that our prayer in public does not cause any inconvenience or annoyance to the people present. In any case, if we wait to reach a more appropriate place, this should only be for the sake of having a better prayer and not because of being shy or lazy.

11. Like an airplane that needs to speed down the runway before taking off, our spirits too need preparation for reaching their maximum capacity in getting closer to Allah. Saying iqāmah with concentration and doing istigfār before the prayer can be considered as part of this preparation.

12. While in the standing position of the prayer, we should not take away our eyes from the place of prostration. In the sitting position, we must not take away our eyes from our knees or the pointed finger (of course unless we are saying salām). This will help us focus and help bring more respect and humility within the prayer.

13. We should always try to avoid making excessive movements during the prayer. If we need to move our hands (for instance to scratch the face), we should do so with humility and respect in order not to disturb the very formal atmosphere that is established. This might further help us find ourselves in the presence of God.

14. One of the things that prevents us from making the most out of our prayer is that the prayer become a ritual habit for us. To avoid this, we need to bring some variation in the prayer every now and then, like reading another version of tashahhud or reading a new sūrah after Fātihah or shortening or lengthening one of the rukū‘ and/or prostration.

15. In general and as a routine, we should make the prayer a little bit longer than what we would consider a comfortable length of prayer. However, we need to keep in mind the previous point regarding shorter prayers. It is sometimes very helpful (for an improved prayer experience) to temporarily change the routine and to offer the prayer faster (or much faster) than usual.

16. The rather short pause after rukū‘ before going to prostration and the one between the two prostrations are very important. These can help us appreciate the different stages of the prayer that we are going through (refer to point 8). It is narrated that the Prophet (sws) used to stay for a while in these postures.

17. In the prayer, we enter into a dialogue with God. Like any dialogue, our focus should be on the other side of the dialogue (God) and not the means of dialogue (words uttered). We must not concentrate on the words, we must concentrate on the one for whom these words are uttered for then the concentration on words will naturally follow. When we are talking with a person, we automatically say speak without too much attention to the words we utter. It is the appreciation that the person is listening to us that makes us use appropriate words and not the other way round. The same analogy can be found in prayers. The best focus in the prayer is one where we are focusing on the fact that God is present and is hearing what we are saying. If, instead of this, we only try to focus on the words we utter, we will end up finishing the prayer without really feeling that we actually talked with someone. 

18. Following from the previous point, we should not worry about a few gaps in our concentration and should stick to the main focal point. We need to make sure that we are not focusing on concentration, but that we are focusing on God.

19. Relevant to the above, and in particular if we do not understand the Arabic, we need to know the meaning of the words we are saying. However, it should be noted that the prayer is not the place for practicing the meanings of the words. This should be done when we are not praying.

20. The prayer is not an opportunity to read the Qur’ān beautifully. We should avoid giving even minor attention to this aspect. Humility is the main point in offering the prayer which is not necessarily the same as reading the Qur’ān beautifully. Of course, there is nothing wrong with reading beautifully; it is in fact highly recommended. The point, however, is that it is not the aim of offering the prayer and it should not be the main point of attention in the prayer. Interestingly enough, the most beautiful recitations are those that come naturally when one feels humility during the prayer.

21. Unless we are in congregational prayer, we need to avoid being in a disruptive place.

22. The Qur’ān says that the prayer restrains people from shameful (fahshā) and unjust (munkar) deeds. Two lessons can be learnt from this:

a. If we can offer the prayers with a clear conscience while being in a state of sin, then our prayer is not a satisfactory prayer.

b. We must avoid shameful and unjust deeds to be able to have better prayers.

23. The relationship between hypocrisy and the prayer is like the relation between fire and water. One of the signs of hypocrisy could be that we feel that our prayers in the presence of others are better than those offered alone. The real amount of our progress in prayers is what we can feel when praying alone and not what we feel when praying in the presence of others.

24. It is highly recommended that the obligatory prayers should be offered in congregation. Some of the above points might be irrelevant to a prayer that is offered in congregation. Nevertheless all the above equally apply to the optional prayers.



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