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4 Ways to Increase Presence of the Heart During Prayer

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We have all heard the importance of paying attention to what we are saying and doing in our prayers. We call this presence of the heart, meaning our heart and mind must be present while we are praying rather than drifting from one thought to another. Presence of the heart in prayer is so important that we have been told that the more we have it during our prayer, the more Allah will accept our prayer. In this article on Islam4u, we will explore four ways to increase our presence of the heart in prayer.

1. Paying Attention to the Meaning of Our Prayer

We must know what we are saying while praying. If we don’t, it is as though we are only paying lip service. Much worse than that, we probably wouldn’t even know the purpose of prayer if we don’t comprehend the utterances of prayer. Therefore, learning the words that we speak during prayer greatly helps us focus during prayer and not get distracted by thoughts and imagination. So what does each utterance in prayer mean? Let us see for ourselves.

The Takbeer of Ihram

First, let us begin with the takbeerat al-ihram. The first takbeer is called takbeerat al-ihram, which in practice means the takbeer that you say to start the prayer. Allahu Akbar means Allah is greater than to be explained. He is so great that we cannot even imagine how great He is. When we say this takbeer, we bring our two hands up and pull them back behind our ears. This means that I am getting rid of everything other than prayer, or I am putting aside everything except prayer. I am only paying attention to Allah.

Recitation of Surah Fatiha and Another Surah

Second, we have the recitation of Surah Fatiha followed by another surah. Knowing the translation of the two surahs that we recite in the first and second rakat of prayer greatly helps us to focus and not daydream. Here is a translation of Surah Fatiha and Surah Ikhlas—the most recited surah after Surah Fatiha:

Surah Fatiha

In the Name of Allah, the All-beneficent, the All-merciful. (1)

All praise belongs to Allah, Lord of all the worlds, (2) the All-beneficent, the All-merciful, (3) Master of the Day of Retribution. (4) You [alone] do we worship, and to You [alone] do we turn for help. (5) Guide us on the straight path, (6) the path of those whom You have blessed — such as have not incurred Your wrath, nor are astray. (7)

Surah Ikhlas

In the Name of Allah, the All-beneficent, the All-merciful.

Say, ‘He is Allah, the One. (1) Allah is the All-embracing. (2) He neither begat, nor was begotten, (3) nor has He any equal.’ (4)

When you go over the translation of the surahs in your head while reciting the surahs in Arabic, not only will it help you to focus on your prayer, but will also deepen your connection with Allah. You will appreciate Allah more as you understand the meaning of each of the verses. This is one of the best ways of increasing your presence of the heart during prayer.

The Other Utterances in Prayer

The other utterances are the takbeerat, tasbeehat (the glorifications recited in ruku‘, sujud, and in the third and fourth rakat), and tashahhud.

It is also important to know the meaning of these utterances. We already said what takbeer means. We have three tasbeehat. One is recited in ruku‘, one in sujud, and once or three times in the third and fourth rakat of three-unit and four-unit prayers.

We say the following tasbeeh in ruku‘:

سُبْحانَ رَبِّی العَظِیمِ وَبِحَمْدِهِ

Glory and praise be to my Lord, the All-Supreme

Before going to sujud, we stand upright for a moment. It is also recommended to say the following before going to sujud:

سَمِعَ اللّه لِمَنْ حَمِدَهُ

May Allah hear the one who praises Him.

It is recommended to recite salawat on the Prophet and the Ahlul Bait after tasbeehat of both ruku‘ and sujud:

اللّهُمَّ صَلِّ عَلَی مُحَمَّدٍ وَآلِ مُحَمَّدٍ

O Allah, send your blessing on Muhammad and the progeny of Muhammad.


After having recited the surah after Surah Fatiha in the second rakah, before going to ruku‘, it is recommended to recite qunut. To do so, we bring our hands together and raise them in front of our faces. In qunut, we can recite any supplication that we want. Usually, the suppliations that begin with rabbana that have been mentioned in the Quran are recited. Here is one example:

رَبَّنَا آتِنَا فِي الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً وَفِي الْآخِرَةِ حَسَنَةً وَقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ

Our Lord, give us good in this world and good in the Hereafter, and save us from the punishment of the Fire.

The Fourfold Glorifications (Tasbeehat al-Arba’ah)

We recite this tasbeeh or glorification in the third and fourth rakat of three-unit and four-unit prayers. It is wajib (obligatory) that we recite it at least once, but it is better we recite it three times. Here is the tasbeehat:

سُبْحانَ اللّه، وَالحَمْدُ للّه، وَلا اِلهَ اِلاَّ اللّه وَاللّه اَکبَرُ

Glory be to Allah, praise be to Allah, there is no deity but Allah, and Allah is greater than to be explained.


Tashahhud is recited in the second rakah of the fajr prayer, the second and fourth rakat of four unit prayers, and the second and third rakah of the maghrib prayer. The greetings or salam are sent in the second rakah of the morning prayer (fajr) because it is a two-unit prayer. In the other prayers, tashahhud is recited without salam in the second rakah, and tashahhud along with salam is recited in the third or fourth rakah depending on the prayer. In other words, tashahhud accompanied by salam is recited in the last rakah of any prayer. Here is the text of tashahhud with its translation:

اَلْحَمْدُ للّه، اَشْهَدُ اَنْ لا اِلهَ اِلاَّ اللّه وَحْدَهُ لا شَرِیک لَهُ

Praise be to Allah. I bear witness that there is no deity but Allah, the one, who does not have any partner.

وَاَشْهَدُ اَنَّ مُحَمَّداً عَبْدُهُ وَرَسُولُهُ

I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and messenger.

للّهُمَّ صَلِّ عَلَی مُحَمَّدٍ وَآلِ مُحَمَّدٍ

O Allah, send your blessing on Muhammad and the progeny of Muhammad.

Now if the tashahhud is not in the last rakah of prayer, it is recommended to recite this supplication before standing up:

وَتَقَبَّلْ شَفاعَتَهُ و ارْفَعْ دَرَجَتَهُ

Accept his intercession and elevate his station.

The Salams (Greetings) in Tashahhud

In the final tashahhud, which can be in the second, third, or fourth rakah of a prayer depending on which prayer you are performing, the following is said:

السَّلامُ عَلَیک اَیهَا النَّبِی وَرَحْمَةُ اللّه وَبَرَکاتُهُ

Peace be upon you O Prophet and may His mercy and blessings be upon you.

السَّلامُ عَلَینا وَعَلی عِبادِ اللّه الصّالِحِینَ

Peace be upon us and the righteous servants of Allah.

السَّلامُ عَلَیکمْ وَرَحْمةُ اللّه وَبَرکاتُهُ

May Allah’s peace, mercy, and blessings be upon you all.

Some have said that the last salam addresses the Ahlul Bait. The first two salams are mustahabb (recommended) and the last one is wajib (obligatory). If you recite the first one but then remember that you are not in the last rakah, you can stand up without having broken your prayer. However, if you recite the second or third salam, you cannot stand up if you remember that you were not in the last rakah.

2. Mindfulness: Knowing What You Are Saying and Doing

The second way of increasing your level of awareness of Allah during your prayer is mindfulness. This means that you become aware of the fact that you are in the presence of Allah. If you know that Allah is watching you and listening to you, you will try your best not to be distracted by other thoughts. This technique can be employed along with the translation method where you focus on the meaning of the things you say during your prayer.

Just say to yourself, “I am standing in the presence of Allah. I am praying to Him and worshipping Him and no one else. I must make sure that my mind does not drift off. It would be disrespectful if I think about anything other than Allah.” The idea is to purge your mind of all thoughts except Allah. Think of Allah’s grandeur. Think about all the attributes of Allah, how He is All-seeing, All-hearing, All-knowing, Omniscient, and Omnipotent. If you do, you will never allow yourself to think about other things during your prayer.

3. Visualization

Another method for increasing your presence of the heart during prayer is visualization. It may seem counterintuitive but if you do it in the right it won’t. As you are praying, visualize yourself in a place where heaven is in front of you, hell is below your feet, and you are surrounded by angels. Say to yourself, “If I am distracted and do not devote all my attention to Allah, I will fall into hell. However, the more I focus on my prayer, the closer I will get to Allah, paradise, and His satisfaction. If I am focused in my prayer, these angels that surround me will promise to help me in this world and the hereafter.” Now how effective would it be if you combine this method with the two previous methods? You can do all of them simultaneously.

4. Submergence of the Soul

The fourth and last method is a bit difficult for those who are just learning to focus all their attention on Allah during their prayer. This method is for those who have mastered the basics of maintaining presence of the heart in prayer. At this stage, one must submerge their soul in Allah while having the feeling that Allah encompasses their entire existence. During prayer, one must feel nothing of oneself. You should not even think you yourself are going through the motions of prayer, but rather it is Allah who is moving you. In short, one submits one’s soul entirely to Allah and thinks nothing of oneself. You don’t even need to implement the other techniques we mentioned because, at this stage, you already know everything about the meaning of what you’re saying, the fact that you must be mindful, and the visualization that was mentioned. This technique surpasses all of those methods and there is no longer a need for them.

This technique can only be used if you first master the three previous ones. At this stage, the spirit ascends to such a high position that thinking about the meaning, visualization, and mindfulness all become superficial. You no longer need to rely on such methods. The submergence of the soul in Allah is much more profound and is perhaps the highest level of presence of the heart in prayer.

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Presence of the heart is one of the most important things that a Muslim must consider when praying. It means that you must focus all of your attention on Allah because He is the one whom we are worshipping and praying to in our prayers. We mentioned four methods for increasing presence of the heart in prayer. We said that one should know the meaning of what one is saying; one must be mindful of to whom one is praying; one should visualize oneself as being between heaven and hell; and finally, one must submerge one’s soul in Allah. Each of these methods, or a combination of them, can be adopted to achieve a high level of presence of the heart during prayer.

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