Not many of us realize the subtle and hidden secrets that lie behind our movements in Salah (prayer). Some of us may even rush through it without giving much thought to the hidden intricacies and the hidden beauty. How many people stand in Salah but their mind does not stand focused? How many people bow down but their inner soul refuses to bow? How many people prostrate but their heart fails to do so? And how many people pray but a prayer has not been written for them? Ibn Al-Qayyim gives a beautiful description of prayer in his book Asrar Al-Salat. An excerpt of which follows:
It has been prescribed for the servant to extol and praise his Lord as he is rising up from Rukoo’ (i.e. bowing in prayer). So he exalts and praises his Lord because Allah has guided him to attain this humbleness which others have been prevented from attaining. He is returned to a state of uprightness, standing up to be in his Lord’s service. He stands in front of Him just as he stood in front of Him during recitation (when reciting Al-Fatihah), and for that reason it is prescribed that he praises and exalts Him just like he praised and exalted Him during the recitation.
There is a special meaning to this rising: It is a state that reaches and penetrates the heart. It is for this reason that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) used to prolong this standing (after the Rukoo’) just as he prolonged the Rukoo’ and Sajdah (prostration). He would praise and exalt Allah much therein.
In the night prayer, the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to repeatedly say during this standing after the Rukoo’, “For my Lord is all Praise, for my Lord is all Praise.” (Abu Dawood and Nasa’i)
It has been prescribed for the servant to repeat these actions and words (i.e. repeat recitation of Al-Fatihah, Tasbeeh in Rukoo’, Sajdah etc), as it is a source of nourishment for the heart and soul. There is no strength in them (the heart and soul) except by this. Repeating it is just like repeatedly eating food – mouthful after mouthful until a person eats his fill, and drinking again and again until his thirst is quenched. If a hungry person only took one mouthful of food and then pushed his food away, what will that mouthful do for him? In fact, it may even cause him to become hungrier!
For this reason, one of the Salaf said: “A person who prays but does not find tranquility in his prayer is like a person who is hungry, then food is brought to him but he only takes one or two handfuls. What will it then do for him?”