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WARNING AGAINST ILTIFĀT (LOOKING HERE AND THERE) IN SOLAH




By
Ibn Abdillah As-sudaisiy al-Iloori

It is from the Sunnah of our beloved Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم for us to always make sure that we have khushoo' (humility) in our solawaat. 
This is one of the qualities of a true believer as mentioned by Allāh in Suratul Mu'minoon. Allāh says:

الَّذِينَ هُمْ فِي صَلَاتِهِمْ خَاشِعُونَ

They who are during their prayer humbly submissive [Surat Al-Mumenoon, Q23: 2]

Consequently, one of the factors that define khushoo' in solah is the need to avoid looking here and there while praying. It is an height of unseriousness in solah to be turning one's head away from the qiblah to the right, left, up or back. We need to take note of this. May Allāh guide aright.

In a hadith narrated by 'Aaishah رضي الله عنه on the dangerous effect of Iltifāt (looking around in solah), the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said:

هُوَ اخْتِلاَسٌ يَخْتَلِسُهُ الشَّيْطَانُ مِنْ صَلاَةِ الْعَبْدِ

"It is snatching, something which shaytān snatches from the prayer of a servant" (Saheeh Bukhari)

This hadith was one of the hadiths mentioned by Al-Hāfidh Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalaaniy رحمه الله in Chapter 5 of his 'Bulughul Marām Min Adillatul Ahkām' while discussing the concept of Al-Khushoo' (Humility) in Solah. 

Ibn Hajar رحمه الله reported the above Hadith along with a similar hadith, reported in At-tirmidhi, that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم warned against looking around in solah for being an act of destruction. It is also mentioned in that Hadith that Iltifāt is permissible in nawaafil if there is need for it. Although, Sheikh Al-Albani رحمه الله said this hadith is weak [See Da'eeful Jaami' (6389)], Sheikh Muhammad Hāmid Al-faqiy رحمه الله said it is permissible to do Iltifāt where necessary in a way that the khushoo' of the person praying will not be affected. According to him, this is permissible in both obligatory and voluntary prayers. He said Abu Bakr رضي الله عنه did something of this nature when he shifted for the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم to take over a solatuz zhuhr during his lifetime. This shows that moving slightly in solah when there is need for it is excused. But for a person to be looking here and there in solah as if someone is chasing him, this is not permissible. 

It is strongly recommended in the Sunnah that a Muslim should focus his eyes on his point of sujūd (prostration) in order to attain some level of concentration and seriousness in solah. Ibn Qudaamah رحمه الله said:  

It is mustahabb for the worshipper to fix his gaze on the place of prostration. Ahmad said, according to the report of Hanbal, Proper focus and humility (khushoo’) in prayer means that (the worshipper) should fix his gaze on the place of prostration, this was narrated from Muslim ibn Yasaar and Qataadah.  (Al-Mughni, 1/370)

Therefore, the attitude of looking at other than the point of sujūd when it is needless is unacceptable. In fact, there are reports that describe the powerful connections between Allah and His servants in their prayers, to the extent that if a person starts his prayer, Allāh سبحانه وتعالى also focuses on him as long as he is conscious of Him in his solah. But once he starts looking here and there, Allāh takes His face off him. May Allāh save us from this. This could mean that Allāh has nothing to do with his solah. 

In a hadith, Jābir ibn Samurah رضي الله عنه reported that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said those who raise their eyes to the heavens in solah should stop doing so, otherwise, their sight might not return to them if they continue that way. This hadith is in Saheeh Muslim. Some of the sufis are fond of this practice. Some people are fond of looking up while praying and some people do dance or shake their bodies in solah without any evidence for it. Some people do this after reciting Suratul Faatihah in solah. There is no evidence for this. May Allāh make it easy for us to do away with things that could hinder our khushoo' in our solawaat.

What can we say about someone who is praying and your eyes meets with his eyes and he keeps looking at you continuously, instead of looking at the point of sujūd? Can we say such a person is actually praying? There are many case of this nature in our society. Yet, solah is one of the most important pillars of Islam. Without solah, we are going nowhere. Solah is the first thing that Allāh will check on the Day of Judgment. If the solah of a person is not accurate, there is problem. 

A lot of people have been praying ignorantly. Some people have been praying, but when they die, they may not find any record in their prayer account, probably because the prayers they have been offering are not up to the minimum standard recommended in the Sunnah of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم when he said: pray as you saw me praying! Even those who pray with knowledge and understanding, they still supplicate Allāh to accept it, not to talk of those who are forgetful and nonchalant in their prayers. 

Many people don't learn how to pray, they just pray anyhow. It is important for a Muslim to learn his or her religion. The case of many of our women is pathetic. Many of them don't pray. Most of those who pray among them do so without their khimar. They pray with their legs, arms, necks and hairs open. They hardly concentrate in their solah. Have you not seen some market women? They will be praying and be selling at the same time. If anyone is to joke with anything in the religion, it should never be solah. And when you try to correct some people, they will insult you. Allāh's aid is sought. 

On the Hadith of 'Aaishah رضي الله عنها mentioned above, Sheikh Ibn Al-'Uthaymeen رحمه الله hinted that shaytān is always trying to have influence on us whenever we are about to do any act of 'ibadah (not just solah). Shaytān would attempt to distract someone's attention with worldly thoughts during solah. That is why we must be careful. It must be noted that shaytān does not have power over the true believers in their acts of worship. His influence is mainly on those who patronizes him and those who associate with him. Allāh says:

(إِنَّهُ لَيْسَ لَهُ سُلْطَانٌ عَلَى الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَلَىٰ رَبِّهِمْ يَتَوَكَّلُونَ ,إِنَّمَا سُلْطَانُهُ عَلَى الَّذِينَ يَتَوَلَّوْنَهُ وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ بِهِ مُشْرِكُونَ)

Indeed, there is for him no authority over those who have believed and rely upon their Lord. His authority is only over those who take him as an ally and those who through him associate others with Allah [Surat An-Nahl 99-100]

However, we must never feel safe from satanic inclinations. If care is not taken, shaytān can instil riyaa' (show-off) or other evil in someone's mind and destroy his deeds. He might also distract his attention and may cause him not to focus on his 'ibaadah. Therefore, we should focus on our ibaadaat and use them to please Allāh alone. We should not feel safe from the inclinations of shaytān. We must continue to supplicate Allāh against him. This is part of the essence of the opening adhkaar in prayers. If some of those that were better than us could still be influenced by shaytān, then, who are we not to be careful of satanic inclinations at all time. One of the scholars said:

وَلَولاَكَ لَمْ يَسْلَمْ مِن إبليسَ عابد            
                    فَكَيفَ وقَدْ أَغْوَى صَفِيَّكَ آدَمْ


"Were it not for your sake (Allah), no worshipper would have escaped the temptations of Iblees; And just how will that be possible when he (Iblees) could mislead Adam, your chosen one?"

Summarily, Ikhtilās linguistically means "stealing" or "snatching". Technically, it is a way by which shaytān snatches from someone's rewards in Solaah. Even if one is not very careful, shaytān can take over his solah completely through this process. Allāh's aid is sought. 

On the other hand, Iltifāt is "looking here and there" in solah, This is strongly condemned in the Hadith of 'Aaishah رضي الله عنها as reported in Saheeh Bukhari and At-tirmidhi. The relationship between the two terms is that "Iltifāt" (looking here and there in solah) is what leads to "Ikhtilās" (stealing from solah by shaytān). 

Meanwhile, in his explanation of the hadith of 'Aaishah رضي الله عنه, Sheikh Muhammad Ibn Al-'Uthaymeen رحمه الله divided Iltifāt (looking here and there in solah) into two (2): "Iltifāt bil Qalb" (absent mindedness) and "Iltifāt bil Badan" (bodily instability). That of the "qalb" (mind) has to do with an unsettled mind in solah. The thought of a person praying must go to Allāh alone. Even though this may not be completely achievable even by the most Pious  amongst us, we must try as much as possible to protect our thoughts in solah. Otherwise, shaytān can intercept the mind of a person praying and take over his prayer if he is not very careful. 

That of the "badan" (body) has to do with the bodily unseriousness in prayers. Shaytān can take over the solah of a person if he keeps looking here and there. He can steal from his solah to the point of not even having any reward in it. This means that we should take proper care of our minds and body while praying in order to maximize the benefits accruable therefrom. 

The Sheikh said the lack of humility and concentration relating to the mind is the most dangerous of the two types of Iltifāt. Sometimes, you may see someone who by his posture appears to be focused and conscious in his prayers. But his mind might be divided. Allah's aid is sought on this. It is only Allāh who can judge this because He is the only One who sees the heart.

This is a short note I have tried to make on the above Hadith as reported by the Mother of the Believers ('Aaishah) رضي الله عنها. May Allah forgive any error I might have made therein and make this beneficial to us all. In just one hadith, you can see what we have been able to learn. As we strive to learn business tips and courses that would make us to excel in worldly affairs, we need to create time for learning our religion as a matter of superior importance. This is part of what shows that Islam (Sunnah) is the true way. This is one of the things that at least every Muslim should be able to know to safeguard his or her prayers.   But go to all of these assalatu groups and make it a question among their men and women, you will be surprised with the kind of result you will get. Trying to worship Allāh without knowledge does not profit us. 

As for us, brothers and sisters who are striving upon Sunnah, we equally need to rise to this challenge. Sunnah can't be practiced with ignorance or laziness. Our women are far more lagging behind. Islam can't be practised with ignorance and slackness. Apart from tawhīd (knowledge of oneness of Allāh), an area I think the Muslim community should declare a state of emergency in its teaching, learning and practice is Solah.

May Allah make it easy and guide us all aright.

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