Worldly things come to my mind in prayer. I cannot be peaceful and perform prayer in khushu (humbly). What should I do?

The Details of the Question

Worldly things come to my mind in prayer. I cannot be peaceful and perform prayer in khushu (humbly). What should I do?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Due to the degeneration in daily life and being very busy, confusion of the mind and lack of spiritual orientation can sometimes exist in our worship.

We sometimes fall into despair due to this kind of worship, which we perform in a confused mood; we have delusions like worship is not accepted without taking spiritual pleasure and feeling peaceful; a kind of slackening occurs. Can such an interpretation be true? Is our worshipping still valuable and blessed despite everything? Is sincerity essential?

Once, I summarized an evaluation regarding the issue from Imam Sharani's book called Lawaqih. If we have a look at it, we will see that there is a hopeful approach and you will not feel slack inshaallah no matter how confused your mood is while worshipping.  Imam Sharani gives the following information while explaining the state of not taking pleasures from worshipping and not feeling peaceful:

To take pleasure from worshipping, to feel excitement is a nice state that is liked by almost all of us. It is a depth that affects man. Everybody wants it. This depth is necessary.  However, it is wrong to fall into despair when this desired peace cannot be attained.

There are such slaves of Allah that were not pleased with taking pleasure from worshipping and feeling very peaceful; they found these feelings contrary to sincerity, which is the spirit of worship; they thought they worshipped to take pleasure and find peace and prayed to Allah as follows:

- O Allah! If what makes us worship is the pleasure and peace we take from worshipping, we take refuge in You from it and ask You to eliminate this reward, which you give to weak people to encourage them, from us.

After that, Imam Sharani makes the following evaluation:

- If a person becomes very happy due to the pleasure and peace he takes from worshipping and always expects this like a principle of prayer, he needs to know that he is an addict of pleasure and peace. It means he worships due to the encouragement of the pleasure and peace he takes, not due to sincerity.

Imam Sharani gives an example at this point:

- Afdaluddin, one of the great saints of Egypt, once said to me, "I had been thinking for a long time that I was improving in night worshipping and that my sincerity was increasing. Once, while meditating at night, I was inspired some different things. An inner voice warned me: Your improvement in worshipping does not originate from sincerity but from the spiritual pleasure and peace you take and feel while worshipping. If the pleasure you take ends, the peace is lost, your soul objects and you worship in a confused mood, you will see whether your sincerity has increased or not.

Afdaluddin concludes the issue as follows:

- After that, I regarded the worshipping that I did not take pleasure from as worship in which I struggled against my soul more; I understood that the real sincerity was in the worship that involved struggling against the soul!..

According to this interpretation, it can be said that the images that are reflected on our eyes and hearts during daily affairs can cause confusion in our minds and keep our minds busy; we might not feel peaceful and not take pleasure from worshipping. We might even worship by struggling against our soul. However, despite everything, there will be no slackening and doubt in our worshipping. We know that we worship because it is the order of our Lord not because we take spiritual pleasure and peace. Our duty is to fulfill the divine order without expecting anything.

There are some reasons for our unwillingness while performing worship:

1. It may be because we do not comprehend the value and significance of our worship properly. It is necessary to benefit from works that tell about the essence of worship regarding this issue.

2. The places in which we live may be spiritually awful. As a matter of fact,  our sense of smell is disturbed when a carcass is near. Just like this, as our spirit is affected negatively in places where harams are performed mostly, we may not get pleasure from worship.

3. A sick man cannot get full pleasure from what he/she eats. For example, someone whose tongue has a sore cannot get the taste of the food that he/she eats. Then, he must be treated. Similarly, we wound our hearts and souls and make them sick with the sins that we commit. So we cannot get pleasure fully when we perform worship, which is the nutrient of the spirit. That is why we need to have treatment. The treatment of souls is achieved firstly with repentance and asking for forgiveness and then avoiding committing sins again.

There is an important issue here: A sick person cannot get pleasure from the foods that he eats but he continues to eat and drink. For, he must feed himself. Similarly, we must continue to worship though we do not get pleasure. For, our soul needs nourishment. Inshallah, we will start to get pleasure from them in time and our worship will protect us from sins.

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