Hanzala hadith, khushu (humbleness) and peace in prayer

Peace in prayer means “to be conscious of prayer, not to think of something else and to make the mind and the heart be engaged with Allah only.”

Khushu (humbleness) means “the spiritual, respectful stance, pleasure, ecstasy and excitement given to man by this consciousness.”

It is doubtless that a person is regarded in prayer to the extent that he has peace and khushu – in terms of appearance and reality, form and content, and inside and outside.  

Fiqh scholars explained even the tiniest details about prayer: what is fard, wajib, sunnah, makruh, haram and mufsid in prayer. Why did they not explain the decree on peace and khushu in prayer, which is the real purpose of prayer? Why did they not say, “If there is no peace and khushu, there is no prayer”?

In fact, there are some fiqh scholars who said so but the majority of the scholars knew the human nature and they were sure that Allah would not assign a duty that His slaves would not be able to fulfill; therefore, they explained the importance of peace and khushu, stating that it was makruh to perform prayers when a person needed to urinate, or when the meal was ready, when he was hungry and thirsty, etc,; thus, they tried to prepare the circumstances necessary for peace and khushu.   

I will mention two hadiths regarding the issue.

A hadith reported by Abu Dawud is as follows:

“A man returns after performing his prayer while a tenth part of his prayer, or a ninth part, or an eighth part, or a seventh part, or a sixth part, or a fifth part, or a third part, or half of it, is recorded for him.” (Abu Dawud, Salah 124)

The parts that are not recorded are the ones that are left incomplete from the principles of prayer. The most important one among them is peace and khushu. However, this hadith gives hope to the believer and encourages him to increase his efforts. It gives hope and says ‘Keep on performing prayers even if you cannot have peace and khushu in the whole prayer; try to have as much peace and khushu as you can.’

A hadith included in Muslim is known as the hadith of Hanzala.

Hanzala, who was one of the scribes of the Prophet (pbuh), narrates:

Once, I met Abu Bakr. The following conversation took place between us:  

-How are you? O Hanzala!

-Hanzala has become a munafiq (hypocrite).

-Subhanallah! How do you say such a thing?

-I say that because when we are in the company of the Prophet (pbuh), we ponder over Hell-Fire and Paradise as if we see them with our very eyes and when we are away from him, we attend to our wives, our children, our business; most of these things (pertaining to afterlife) slip out of our minds.

-By Allah, we also experience the same.

Thereupon, I and Abu Bakr went to the presence of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh)  and told him about it. The Prophet (pbuh) said,

- By Allah, if your state of mind remained the same as it was in my presence and you were always busy in remembrance (of Allah), the Angels would shake hands with you in your beds and in your paths but, Hanzala, some time should be devoted (to the worldly affairs) and some time (should be devoted to prayer and meditation). (The Prophet said it thrice). (Muslim, Tawba 12-13)

In sufism, some saints who are not prevented from peace and khushu by the worldly affairs are mentioned but they do not form the majority. It is necessary to work very hard and to be educated and trained in order to attain that level. Most of the people try to attain the state of peace and khushu in prayer and outside prayer, and train for that exceptional state; they have their share to the extent that they can attain.  

There is a nice aphorism. Not everybody who goes hunting hunts. However, it is not possible for a person who does not go hunting to hunt. Prayer is like hunting. A person who performs prayers will sometimes hunt (attain peace and khushu).

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