Losing concentration during the Salat
By: A. Muhammad

As it often happens, people do at times lose concentration during their Salat. Their minds drift and get distracted by side issues outside the Salat and away from the worship words they are reciting. They try hard to stop this from happening, but it keeps happening.
This article presents the main reasons as to why this happens. Subsequently, in acknowledging the reasons, then attempting to avoid them, the believer can indeed prevent this from happening, or at least, make its occurrence less frequent.
Before presenting these steps, it is important to note two matters:

1- Losing concentration during the Salat is not a personal problem for some people but a problem that is experienced by all believers at various times, with varying degrees.

2- The difference between believers is therefore not in whether they lose concentration at times or not, but whether they perceive this to be a problem or not.
Seeing this as a problem is an indication of a devoted heart to God. It reflects a believer's sincere desire to worship his Maker in the best possible manner.
In contrast, others do not see this as a problem. For such people, as long as they have uttered the Quranic words, bowed and prostrated, then they consider it to be a "job done".

The following are the causes and also the steps that can God willing resolve this problem:

Before starting the Salat

A mind that is occupied with unfinished or pending chores is more likely to lose concentration during the Salat than a mind free from such distractions. Therefore, finish the pending little tasks before you start your Salat so that they do not pop into your mind during the Salat.

If possible, try to pray in an empty quiet room that is free of noise and human conversation. If this is not possible, try to offer the Salat in a corner of the room and try as best as you can to isolate yourself from all distractions around you.

Still before starting the Salat, while you are standing, take a deep breath then try to isolate your mind from any thoughts, worries, or pending chores that have been on your mind during the day. It will help if you keep repeating the phrase "Praise God" (Sobhan Allah), repeatedly before you start the Salat. Alternatively, repeat the phrase "I stand before you my Lord", or similar phrases.

Do not recite different phrases at this stage, but repeat the same phrase. The aim of repeating the same phrase is to engage your mind with thoughts about God but at the same time allow the mind the necessary space to get you in the mood of humbleness and awe before God. Reciting different phrases will occupy your mind in thinking of their meaning without allowing it the needed space to achieve the aim of this stage (humbleness and awe).

Remind yourself of the following Quranic words:

Successful indeed are the believers; those who are humble in their Salat.

Remind yourself that you would attain a greater reward from your Salat if you stand humbly and in awe of God. This reminder will help you maintain your state of awe and concentration.
When you feel that you have freed your mind from all side thoughts and you are standing humbly before God, you can then start your Salat:

During the Salat

Many people observe their Salat silently. In fact, many do not even know that doing so violates a clear Quranic instruction. Make sure to follow God's instructions to recite your Salat in a moderate voice. Do not observe your Salat in a loud shouting voice nor whisper it, but to choose a moderate voice:

Do not shout your Salat nor whisper it, but seek a path in between.

It is much easier to lose concentration if we observe the Salat silently. In contrast, when we are able to hear the words we are reciting, it becomes easier to concentrate on the Quranic words and avoid drifting.

Throughout the Salat, never lose track of who you are standing before and who you are addressing. Imagine yourself standing before a very important person, say a Prime Minister or a President, would you ever lose concentration when you address such a person? What about when you stand before the King of all kings? The Almighty and Creator of all things, what level of concentration and respect are due?

Even though you have recited the Salat words repeatedly over many years, and you know the exact meaning of every single word, yet, always recall in your mind the meaning of every phrase you utter during your Salat. If you do not think of the meaning of what you recite, then know that you are halfway towards losing concentration. If you think of the meaning of what you recite, it will be difficult to lose concentration. And so, after reciting every phrase, stop and think of the meaning of the words you have just read. Stop just long enough to recall the meaning of what you have just recited. That could be a second or however time it takes.

Apart from the compulsory words that we must recite in every Salat, it can help if you try to avoid reciting the same set of voluntary glorification verses in every Salat. Try to vary your choice of voluntary glorification verses from time to time.
Varying the recited verses stops the Salat from becoming a habitual robotic exercise which is one of the reasons that contributes to loss of concentration. In contrast, when the mind is given new verses to recite from time to time, the mind becomes more engaged in what is being recited, and that can help with concentration.

If distracted while reading any Quranic words/verse, repeat the same Quranic words but with more focus. You do not have to repeat the whole Salat, nor the whole Sura, but only the words during which you lost concentration. Do not move to new words until you have recited the previous ones while focused.

Do not rush the Salat because you have to do other chores. Doing so will ultimately lead to loss of concentration. Set your priorities correctly. Remind yourself that none of your other chores is more important. Have the certainty that none of the other chores can be accomplished satisfactorily without God's blessings. Remind yourself that it is through worshipping God sincerely and humbly that you increase your chance of having God bless your affairs for you. Worshipping God is the best investment and the best insurance policy for attaining God's blessings.

Finally, be reminded that the human being cannot will anything unless God wills it too:

And you will not will unless God wills, the Lord of the worlds.

Therefore, implore God to aid you with your concentration during the Salat. It is God whom we trust in, and it is God who is our Ally and Supporter:

Did you not know that to God belongs the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth, and that you have none other than God as an ally or supporter?