Allāh ﷻ states,
قَدۡ أَفۡلَحَ ٱلۡمُؤۡمِنُونَ (١) ٱلَّذِينَ هُمۡ فِى صَلَاتِہِمۡ خَـٰشِعُونَ (٢)
“The believers have succeeded, those who pray with khushūꜤ.”Qur’ān, 23/1-2
KhushūꜤ in this verse is a comprehensive term, comprising humility, concentration, reverent fear, and stillness. Allāh ﷻ has predicated the success of a believer on developing such a prayer. And since the statement is general, it is inferred that the success promised here is complete and unrestricted, it is success in every sphere of life and the afterlife. It is no surprise then that Prophet ﷺ said,
مَنْ تَوَضَّأَ فَأَحْسَنَ وُضُوءَهُ ثُمَّ صَلَّى رَكْعَتَيْنِ لَا يَسْهُو فِيهِمَا غُفِرَ لَهُ مَا تَقَدَّمَ مِنْ ذَنْبِهِ
“Whoever performs ablution in the best manner, then prays two units, without being unmindful in either of them, his previous sins will be forgiven.”Sunan Abī Dāwūd, 905
And yet there is another, possibly more profound meaning, to the success that ṣalāt provides. That meaning which becomes clear when the mu’adhdhin proclaims, ‘Hasten to prayer, hasten to success’. When a believer is in prayer, he is attaining success. He is in intimate conversation with his Lord, worshipping Him, seeking His assistance, and gaining His pleasure, the believer is fulfilling his purpose of creation, and this is true success. In football terms, a striker’s success is judged by scoring goals. No matter how many passes he makes, if he isn’t scoring, he isn’t fulfilling his purpose in the team and thus he isn’t considered successful. In the same vein, a believer’s success is judged by his worship of his Lord. No matter how much money he makes, or how famous he becomes, if he isn’t worshipping his Lord, ultimately he is unsuccessful. It is for this reason that a scholar said, “Success calls five times a day every day, but people are too busy to answer the call because they are too busy trying to be successful.” Additionally, the more a believer prays, and the more he perfects his prayer, the more successful he is. So, while the external success that comes as a result of perfecting the prayer is sought-after, the success inherent to the prayer and gaining closeness to the Creator should be the primary intent.
Having understood this, it should be stated from the outset that achieving a perfect prayer is a lifelong effort. No wonder its reward is so great. However, it is possible with abundant supplication and a strategy. We will discuss this strategy in three distinct phases: pre-ṣalāt, in-ṣalāt, and post-ṣalāt. Extending the sporting analogy afore, pre-ṣalāt preparation is like the warm-up before the big game, in-ṣalāt is the event itself, and post-ṣalāt is the cool-down that follows. By maximising pre- and post-ṣalāt preparation, one increases their chances of performing successfully in the ṣalāt itself.
Your life outside ṣalāt and your ṣalāt itself are directly connected
One should not be in the delusion that actions committed outside of ṣalāt have no impact on the ṣalāt itself. If outside of ṣalāt one is always thinking of business with no concern for obeying the commands of Allāh ﷻ regarding trade, his ṣalāt will also be occupied with thoughts of expanding his business and increasing his profits. And if outside of ṣalāt he is constantly engaged in sins, obeying his base desires, and falling prey to the whispers of Satan, then one will be susceptible to these whispers in the ṣalāt itself. How many a times does an immoral glance on the street come back to destroy our concentration in ṣalāt! On the other hand, when one often remembers Allāh outside of ṣalāt, then in his ṣalāt he will increase in connection and awareness of his Lord. And this awareness will increase his consciousness of Allāh Most High in his daily life, leading to a virtuous cycle. And this is one meaning of the statement of Allah ﷻ,
وَأَقِمِ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَۖ إِنَّ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ تَنۡهَىٰ عَنِ ٱلۡفَحۡشَآءِ وَٱلۡمُنكَرِۗ وَلَذِكۡرُ ٱللَّهِ أَڪۡبَرُۗ وَٱللَّهُ يَعۡلَمُ مَا تَصۡنَعُونَ (٤٥)
“Establish prayer. Indeed prayer prevents man from indecency and wrongdoing.”Qur’ān, 29:45
Plan your day around the ṣalāt
When something is important, it becomes the centrepiece, and everything else is built around it. When ṣalāt is the purpose of our being, it deserves to be the centrepiece of our day, and all other activities should be planned around it. When this is done and ṣalāt is given its due importance, one will not miss ṣalāt in congregation in the masjid, let alone missing the ṣalāt itself. Testament to this is that very rarely does a person miss ṣalāt in Ramaḍān because life in this special month is planned around the five daily prayers. Furthermore, making ṣalāt the action around which your day revolves is a signal to the brain of the importance of focusing therein.
Start preparations upon hearing the adhān
When one of us has a meeting with an important individual, he sets reminders to ensure he doesn’t forget. He doesn’t want to miss the meeting, and he knows that his own insignificance means that the important person will not take the effort to remind him prior to the meeting. Yet, when the time of our meeting with the King of all Kings approaches, the great king, despite the lowliness of His servant sends him a personal reminder – the adhān.
Every moment someone somewhere is calling the adhān. It is a symbol of Islām. And Allāh ﷻ states,
ذَٲلِكَ وَمَن يُعَظِّمۡ شَعَـٰٓٮِٕرَ ٱللَّهِ فَإِنَّهَا مِن تَقۡوَى ٱلۡقُلُوبِ (٣٢)
“Whoever observes the sanctity of the symbols of Allāh surely does so from the piety of their hearts.”Qur’ān, 22:32
Thus, preparation for the ṣalāt should begin by responding to the adhān. The complete sunnah method of responding is as follows:
- Repeat after the caller saying exactly as he says, except when he says ḥayya Ꜥalā ‘l-ṣalāh or ḥayya Ꜥalā ‘l-falāḥ one should respond with la ḥawlā wa lā quwwata illā biLlāh
- Read the shahādah followed by raḍītu biLlahī rabbā wa bi Muḥammadin rasūlā wa bi ‘l Islāmi dīnā – this will result in the forgiveness of sins
- Send salutations upon the Prophet g – Allāh ﷻ will send ten blessings upon the reciter
- Recite the famous duꜤā (allāhumma rabba hāẓihī ‘l daꜤwat …) asking Allāh Most High to grant the Prophet ﷺ nearness to him, the best reward, and the praiseworthy station – the one who recites this will be assured of the Prophet’s ﷺ intercession on the day of reckoning
- Supplicate for your needs as supplications are accepted at this juncture
The similitude of hearing the adhān is that of a person who places a reminder on his phone for an upcoming meeting. Upon hearing the reminder, if the meeting is important, he will immediately begin preparing for the meeting. However, if the meeting has no significance in his sight, he will dismiss the reminder, and continue the task he was previously engaged in, rushing at the last moment to make the meeting. At this juncture, one should assess which is their response to the adhān. Further, when one actively responds to the adhān as mentioned afore, he will enter the right frame of mind for attaining maximum khushūʿ in ṣalāt. As will become evident, many of the actions encouraged or required before ṣalāt are forms of psychological and mental preparation which enable the worshipper to perform optimally in the ṣalāt.
Make a perfect wuḍū’
The importance of ṣalāt becomes manifest in that its precursors are independent acts of worship to whom is attached great virtue. ꜤUthmān bin ꜤAffān h said: I saw the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ performing wuḍū’ the way I have just done it and said, “He who performs wuḍū’ like this, his previous sins will be forgiven and his prayer and walking to the mosque will be considered as supererogatory acts of worship.” To do wuḍū’ like the Messenger ﷺ is to fulfill both the necessary and optional components. Upon doing so, one becomes physically and spiritually cleansed. This is important as while fellow human beings can only see our external state, Allāh ﷻ is also cognizant of our inner state and so we must purify our external and internal before entering His divine court. Having this thought in mind while performing wuḍū’ also creates awe in the heart and a sense of gratitude for being given access to the celestial court despite one’s lowly and sinful state. These feelings are the essence of khushūʿ. Further, scholars have stated that a wuḍū’ done with concentration is a precursor to a prayer done with concentration.
Finally, the Prophet ﷺ has informed us that on the day of judgment, believers will be recognised by the radiance on their limbs that will be a result of their making wuḍū’ for ṣalāt. This is apt as in this life, a Muslim is recognised by his commitment to ṣalāt. A man prostrating in a corner is instantly recognised as a Muslim praying. And, thus we see that just as devotion to ṣalāt is a tell-tale sign of a believer, devotion to wuḍū’ is also a tell-tale sign.
Wear dignified clothing
Allah ﷻ states,
يَـٰبَنِىٓ ءَادَمَ خُذُواْ زِينَتَكُمۡ عِندَ كُلِّ مَسۡجِدٍ۬
“O Children of Adam, dress well whenever you are at worship”.Qur’ān, 7:31
Commenting on this verse, Al-Nasafī explains that the sunnah is that one adopt the best appearance for ṣalāt because it is conversing with the Lord, and thus beautification and applying perfume is desirable, just as concealing one’s nakedness and purification is necessary. In practical terms, one may keep aside a thawb or other such clothing to wear before prayer. This practice can be seen in some communities, where the imam will ensure to wear a robe over his regular clothing before leading the ṣalāt.
Pray your pre-fard prayers
Athletes undergo long and arduous training sessions with the purpose of being game ready. The pre-fard prayers serve the same purpose, allowing the worshipper to build up his focus and concentration so that when the farḍ prayer begins, he is free from distractions and fully focused on his Lord ﷻ.
Go to the masjid in a dignified manner and in good time
When the body is calm, the mind also becomes calm. Hence, the Prophet ﷺ encouraged believers to walk the masjid and not run to it. This is further due to the dignity and decorum demanded from communion with the Creator ﷻ.
Pray in congregation in masjid
Congregational worship is more powerful and effective than individual worship. Just as a group petition is more impactful than the petition of one individual alone. And Allāh’s ﷻ mercy is too great to accept the prayer of some of the congregants while rejecting the others. In addition, just as a face-to-face meeting is a more effective form of communication than an online meeting, coming to the House of Allāh ﷻ and praying is superior to praying in one’s own home.
Resolve to concentrate in the prayer
Along with making an intention for the denomination of ṣalāt you are praying, also intend to concentrate during the ṣalāt. Set a target that in every posture you will remember Allāh ﷻ thrice. Imagine that this could be your last ṣalāt, because there is no guarantee that it isn’t. Imagine the prayer of a prisoner on death row, what would be his thoughts during his final prayer?
In summary, it can be said that all the acts which precede the ṣalāt serve as physical or psychological preparation to allow the believer to take maximum benefit from communication with His Lord. Practically speaking, one should adopt each of these suggestions one by one, each for a duration of days until it becomes habitual, and observe the positive impact it has on the quality of one’s prayer.
 Qur’ān, 23/1-2
 See Tafsīr Ibn al-Jawzī, 23/1-2
 Sunan Abī Dāwūd, 905
 Tweet by Shaykh Kazi Luthfur Rahman
 It is incredible that even if one doesn’t ever pray the perfect ṣalāt, he has, nevertheless, spent his life trying to remember Allāh and that is the intent. This is just like the one who memorises the Qur’ān with ease, but then spends the rest of his life constantly repeating it out of fear of forgetting it. That he is thus enabled to spend his days reciting Qur’ān is the real miracle, even more so than the initial memorisation.
 Qur’ān, 29:45
 Qur’ān, 22:32
 Saḥīḥ Muslim, 746
 Saḥīḥ Muslim, 386
 Saḥīḥ Muslim, 747
 Saḥīḥ Muslim, 747
 Sunan al-Tirmidhī, 3594
 Saḥīḥ Muslim,
 Sunah Ibn Mājah, 284
 Qur’ān, 7:31
 Saḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, 866