I am unable to concentrate in my pr...

Egypt's Dar Al-Iftaa

I am unable to concentrate in my prayers as I am always distracted by different thoughts. Are my prayers valid?

Question

I am unable to concentrate in my prayers as I am always distracted by different thoughts. Are my prayers valid?

Answer

Any person who starts to pray should concentrate on the task at hand and think of what he is reciting or doing. Based on this, if you reflect on the meaning of what you say, you are bound to find it easier to concentrate in your prayers. If you have learned certain chapters of the Quran without understanding them, you should try to learn the meaning of each verse as this can help you to concentrate by reflecting on the meanings. However, if you continue to be distracted or suffer a lapse of concentration, resulting in doubt about what stage you have reached in your prayer, there is an easy solution to this problem. If, for example, you are in doubt as to whether you have completed two or three rak'as [cycles of prayer] i.e. you are certain that you have completed two rak’as but are in doubt of the third one, you should proceed on the assumption that you performed only two rak’as (of which you are certain). And then after completing the tashahud [testification of Faith], perform two prostrations of forgetfulness after which you should finish your prayer in the usual fashion. Your prayer is valid even if you do not perform the prostrations of forgetfulness.

Distraction in prayer is common, especially when one is preoccupied with everyday problems. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was once leading his Companions in a congregational prayer when he finished it after completing two rak'as instead of four. One of his Companions asked him about this and when he realized what has happened, he ordered his Companions to complete their prayers. They did not start their prayers afresh. This shows that prayers are valid despite the distractions.

Distractions may sometimes be caused by being preoccupied with our immediate concerns or entertaining thoughts of past experiences and events. The best thing to do in such a case is to concentrate on our recitation although this is not always possible. This is why we sometimes forget how many rak'as we have performed. This happened to God's Messenger himself. The prayer remains valid and need not be repeated.

In the particular case cited by the inquirer, what troubles this person is that lustful thoughts come to his mind as he is praying. Whenever this occurs, he should try hard to drive these thoughts away, reminding himself of God, the meaning of the verses he is reciting or anything related to prayer and faith. He need not interrupt his prayer or repeat it.
And God the Almighty knows best.
 

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