And these are the adhan, purification, covering one's awrah, facing the qiblah, standing, the intention, the takbir, seeking refuge, the basmalah, the recitation of Fatihah and another surah, the ruku, sujud and tashahhud.
When you hear the call of adhan then make the terror of the call on the Day of Judgement present in your heart and prepare yourself externally and internally to respond and race towards it. Those who race to answer this call are the ones who will be called out with benevolence on the Day of Judgement. Remember also the description which Allah, the Most High, has given to the hypocrites when he said:
"And when they stand for the prayer they stand without earnestness (lazy)."
The description of the believers is the opposite of that. They stand for the prayer whilst rejoicing and with eargerness and liveliness, turning themselves towards Allah.
When you purify yourself in your home which is the furthest place (from the place of prayer), then your clothes which is your nearest covering and then your skin which is your lowest and innermost covering do not forget to purify your heart with repentance, remorse, firm resolution not to return to sins, and avoiding injustices (to others). The purification of the inner self precedes the purification of the external form.
Covering One's Awrah
It's meaning is that you conceal the undesirable parts of the body from the creation. But bring to mind along with this the ugly traits and characteristics and the scandals of your inner self. Try to bring about modesty and feel shameful in front of Allah from Whom no secret is hidden as it is not possible to cover it.
Facing the Qiblah
This is turning your face away from all other directions to the direction of the House of Allah. Know that it is also obligatory to turn the heart away from all other things towards Allah. Thus there occurs in one of the opening supplications of the prayer: "I have turned my face towards the One Who Created the heavens and the earth, sincerely." The purpose is the turning of the heart towards Allah and its sincerity towards Him after the body has been made to face the House of Allah.
This is making the body and the heart stand erect, upright in front of Allah. Bring to mind along with this the standing in front of Allah on the Day of Judgement for questioning and try to feel and sense the Might of Allah. Prepare yourself to stand in front of Him (in prayer) in such a way that it will lead you to safety on the Day of Judgement.
Fill your intention with sincerity to Allah, hoping for His reward, fearing His punishment and loving His nearness. Train and nurture yourself to recall this sincere intention along with every speech and action and know that none will be saved on the Day of Judgement except the sincere ones. Every action which has a desire for other than Allah is adulterated and obscured. Allah said regarding this:
"And We shall turn to whatever actions they did and make them into scattered dust."
When you declare the takbir with your tongue it is desirable that your heart does not treat it as having lied. If there is something in your heart which is greater than Allah, the Sublime, or your hawa (whim and desire) is greater to you than Allah and you are more obedient to it than to Allah, the Exalted, then you have taken it as a god and your will have declared its greatness. So your saying: Allahu-Akbar will have been but a mere expression of the tongue and the heart will have refrained from supporting the tongue. If it had not been for repentance, seeking forgiveness and harbouring good thoughts about Allah's generosity and forgiveness this would have been one of the greatest dangers.
Know that this means seeking a sanctuary with Allah, the Mighty, from Shaytan, the Rejected and Accursed, the one who lies in wait for you, jealous of your private conversation with your Lord and of your ruku' and sujud to Him, along with the fact that he did not agree to or offer a single prostration to Him. He has made it his concern to prevent you and cut you off from conversing privately with your Lord by his whisperings about the concerns and affairs of the world and its engagements and occupations until he prevents you from the honour of secretly conversing with Allah, its blessing and its reward. He also tries to cut you off from your Master, whose love and secret conversations make the hearts happy, and from gaining nobility in this life and the herafter by His remembrance and beautiful worship.
When you pronounce this, intend to receive blessings by the name of Allah along with which nothing in the heavens or the earth can cause harm and He is the All-Hearing the All-Knowing. When you say ar-Rahmanir-Raheem, recall in your heart His various benevolences so that His Mercy becomes manifest to you and hope arises in your heart.
Recitation of the Fatihah
Remember the saying of the Messenger (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam), what he has narrated from his Lord: "I have divided prayer between Myself and My servant into two halves, and My servant shall have what he has asked for. When the servant says:
All praise belongs to Allah the Rabb of all the Worlds.
Allah (mighty and sublime be He) says: My servant has praised Me. And when he says:
The Most Gracious the Most Merciful
Allah (mighty and sublime be He) says: My servant has extolled Me, and when he says:
Master of the Day of Judgement
Allah (mighty and sublime be He) says: My servant has glorified Me -and on one occasion He said: My servant has submitted to My power. And when he says:
You alone do we worship and from You alone do we seek help
He says: This is between Me and My servant, and My servant shall have what he has asked for. And when he says:
Guide us to the Straight Path, the Path of those whom you have favoured, not of those upon whom is your anger, nor of those who are astray
He says: This is for My servant, and My servant shall have what he has asked for."
An-Nawawi (rahimahullah) said: "The scholars have said the meaning of the word 'prayer' (in this hadith) is the Fatihah ... (His saying) 'I have divided it' is in terms of its meaning because the first half of it contains praise of Allah, His glorification, extolling Him and submitting (one's affairs) to Him and the second half contains a request, an imploration and a need."
Al-Ghazali (rahimahullah) said: "As for the other surah which is recited, you must recite it with reflection and thought, pausing at every verse until you understand its meaning. Allah said, 'Do they not carefully ponder over the Qur'an or are there locks upon their hearts?' "
Do not therefore, be heedless of His commands, prohibitions, promises, threats, admonitions, the stories of His messengers and the mentioning of His favours and bounties (upon His creation). Every one of these has a right upon you. Hope is the right of the promise, fear is the right of the threat, having a firm resolution to obey Him is the right of His commands and prohibitions, taking a lesson and warning is the right of His admonitions, gratefulness is the right of his favour and consideration is the right of the stories He has narrated.
Al-Qasimi (rahimahullah) said: "These meanings are related to the levels of understanding and the levels of understanding are related to the abundance of knowledge and the clarity of the heart. The levels and degrees of this (amongst people) cannot be comprehended. The prayer is the key to the hearts. Within it, the secrets of the words (which are recited) are uncovered. This is the right of the recitation and is also the right of the remembrances, and the glorifications. Then the worshipper should oberve and maintain awe and fear of Allah during his recitation by reciting with tartil (slow rhythmic tones) as this makes it easier to reflect."
The Ruku' and the Sujud
Ibn Qudamah (rahimahullah) said: "Try to feel modesty in your ruku' and humility in your sujud because in such a position you have placed the soul in its proper place. In sujou you have returned the limbs to their place of origin, upon the dust from which they were created. Understand also the meaning of the remembrances with inclination and zeal."
Al-Qasimi (rahimahullah) said: "It is desirable that you renew the mention of the Greatness of Allah the Sublime during them, that you strive to soften your heart, renew your khushu' and that you sense and realise the power of your Master and His transcendency and then your own lowliness and insignificance. Seek help from Allah to establish all of that in your heart and upon your tongue. Glorify Allah (above all defects) then give testimony for His Grandeur and that He is mightier than every single thing. Repeat this so that it is confirmed and established (in your heart). By saying: Allah listens to the one who praises Him, which means He will respond to the one who is grateful to Him, you raise your head from the ruku' with certain hope. Then follow that with additional gratefulness by saying: O Lord to You belongs all praise. Then fall into prostration which is the highest form of submission and yielding oneself (to Allah). Place and fix the noblest of your limbs, the face, upon the lowest of things and that is the dust. Along with this renew in your heart the greatness of Allah and say: Glorified is my Lord the Highest then raise your head while declaring His greatness and asking Him for your need by saying: O Lord forgive me and show mercy to me. Confirm your modesty and humility by repeating this a number times and then return to the sujud for a second time."
Al-Ghazali said: "When you sit then sit courteously and declare that all of what you express is from the salawat and the tayyibat, that is from the pure characteristics of Allah. Likewise, that the dominion belongs to Allah, and this the meaning of tahiyyat. Recall in your heart the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) and his noble personality when you say: Peace be upon the Prophet and the Mercy of Allah and His blessings. Send peace upon yourself and upon all of Allah's sincere slaves. Then testify to the oneness of the Exalted and to the messengership of Muhammad (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) thereby, renewing the covenant with Allah the Sublime with these two words of testification. Send prayers upon the Messenger (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam), like those of Ibrahim and then seek refuge in Allah from the four things: Punishment of the Fire, punishment of the grave, the trial of life and death and the trial of Dajjal, the Masih. Then with the final salutations, intend peace and security for the angels and those besides you. Feel grateful to Allah for giving you success and capability over this act of obedience. Fill yourself with awe and humility because you might have been negligent in your prayer and fear that it may not be accepted from you, that you might be disliked for a sin that you committed and as a result of which your prayer is thrown back at your face. Along with all of this hope that Allah will accept your prayer with His Generosity and Bounty."
This then, is the explanation of the prayer of the khashi'in, those who are humble and submissive in their prayers, the ones who guard their prayers, the ones who are constant in offering them, the ones who converse with Allah to the extent that they are able to become enslaved to Him. Let the worshipper turn himself to this prayer, let him rejoice to the extent to which it has been made easy for him and let him be grieved to the extent that the prayer has passed him by, and let him strive to find the cure for that.
As for the prayer of the inattentive and heedless, it is very risky, unless Allah covers him with His Mercy and Allah's Mercy is vast and His Generosity is abounding.
We ask Allah that He covers us with His Mercy and that He showers us with His forgiveness as there is no way for us except to admit our incapacity to perform His obedience.
(s) Risalah Ta'dhim Qadr as-Salat
(t) Abu 'Iyad as-Salafi