I think we all must be familiar with this syndrome: We are hard at work, working on some project or another, be it a school project, a kitchen project, a carpentry project, a craft’s project, reading a book, or whatever it takes to fill your day with mad activity. You get so absorbed in your task, that literally nothing can distract, short of an earthquake or electricity failure. The other thing that can distract you pretty successfully is the adhan, which reverberates from your PC’s speakers at full volume, mashaAllah walhamdulillah!
You go off to make your wudhu (ablutions), put on your prayer cloak, head off to the prayer mat, and as soon as you say “Allahu Akbar“, the accursed shaytaan starts his nonsense: while a few mere minutes earlier, you had complete concentration, you now have none. You start thinking about things to jot down on your shopping list for tomorrow. You figure out which route to take to pick your kids up from school so that you can avoid as much traffic as possible. You try to remember if you have enough gas in your car. Anything and everything crosses your mind, and somehow the ten minutes it takes to pray is finally over. You go back to your prior project, not bothering to update your shopping list. In fact, it would be a miracle if you remembered all the things you wanted to place on the list.
Which brings me to the story my dad shared with us recently. He was in the masjid for maghrib (sunset) salaat (prayer), and in the last rakaat of the fardh (obligatory) prayer, somebody’s cell phone rings. The person did not reach down to turn it off, but rather reached down to pick it up, check who was calling, and then turn it off and put it away. This could have been anyone: you, me, my dad, my mom, my brother. In actual fact, he was my brother, my brother in Islam, and I am not passing judgment on him. After the salaat, another member of the congregation, who is new to the area, came up to this young man and asked him, with tears in his eyes, “What were you thinking, brother, to distract yourself in salaat like that? If you were standing before a judge in a court of law, would you look at your phone if it went off? Here we are in salaat, before The Judge…do you realize that?” This young man was quite shaken. I don’t think anybody explained to him quite so simply or with such total humility and sincerity the importance of total concentration on Allah for just a few minutes.
When I heard my father tell us this episode, I felt quite unnerved, and I ask Allah to bless this young man who made this lesson possible for me, and I ask Allah to bless this new-comer to our area for being so sincere and gentle in the way gave naseeha (advice). Every time I now go to pray, I flash back to this story, and remember I am standing before my Allah, my ultimate Judge, and it really helps my concentration. I don’t say my struggle with shaytaan is conquered, but I am somewhat closer to victory, inshaAllah.