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IslamQA: How to focus better on dhikr or prayer

Salam alaykum, how does one do dhikr so they are engaged with it and not bored? I want to fix this part of my ibadah but I find with the repetitions my mind wanders and am surprised to find myself in the middle of planning my grocery list while my tongue is saying the words mindlessly on autopilot. How do people do dhikr with sincerity?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

I don’t think there is a way to have perfect focus on dhikr or prayer except by entering a trance state (as I explain below). The point is to do your best, to put in the time and effort, and if despite that your brain does not cooperate, then it is not your fault. Your reward depends on your effort and sacrifice. A person who has a hard time focusing but spends more time and effort in doing dhikr or prayer will likely have a higher reward than someone who has perfect focus but spends less time and effort. Your sincerity depends on your intention and effort, not on whether you can focus or not.

Being able to focus depends on your brain chemistry at the time. Right before bed it is much easier to focus on prayer than in the middle of the day, for example. And if you do five minutes of meditation right before the dhikr or prayer, you will be able to focus much better. Personally I do something called self-hypnosis where I lie down or sit comfortably in a chair, relax, and say in my mind “I feel calmer and calmer, I feel more and more relaxed.” After about five minutes I enter a hypnotic trance where my mind is extremely lucid and calm, and if I do dhikr, or recite Quran in my mind, it is easily ten times more powerful and emotional than doing it in a normal state. I believe this is what certain Sufi practices achieve, except this is much easier and doesn’t require any Sufi ideas or beliefs.

And God knows best.
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