I’ve often thought of the difference between salaah and life as being similar to our experiences in the school assembly. When we were in school standing in the assembly area waiting for the principal to address us, I used to take comfort in the fact that I was among a crowd and therefore not the centre of attention. I didn’t really worry about the principal seeing my shirt hanging out of my pants, or my hair being dishevelled, or perhaps that I was chewing gum. But if for some reason the principal called out my name and asked me to go to the front and meet him at the podium, I would suddenly find myself in a panic stricken state straightening my shirt, neatening my hair and trying to get rid of the gum I was chewing. Suddenly, the need to comply with the behaviour and standards that he set for us became important, but only because I knew he was now looking directly at me, which meant I was no longer hidden by the crowd.
That, to me, is the equivalent of our daily lives relative to the moments we take for salaah. While we’re going about our daily business, we’re among the crowd, distracted by the activities we’re chewing on and forgetting that our actions are still as visible as always to Allah, unlike the principal that could only ever focus on a single student at a time. But when we make salaah, if we do it consciously and not out of habit or ritual, we immediately become aware of the fact that we’re now specifically presenting ourselves to Allah and not just existing in Allah’s general presence (so to speak). But if we don’t see this difference in purpose and focus, it becomes difficult to feel different towards our connection with Allah in salaah compared to out of salaah. In other words, the chances of us contaminating our salaah with thoughts of the daily grind are that much higher.
I think if we are able to hone our focus during salaah, we’ll find that our focus on the detail of life outside of salaah will also improve. I think such a shift in focus will lead to an overall improved disposition resulting in a more mindful existence where every action and every deed becomes an act of worship, not because we do it in Allah’s name, but because we will then be able to go beyond that simple realisation and in fact link our actions with our desired state in the hereafter.
There is nothing that we do that doesn’t either bring us closer to Allah, or take us further away from Him. When we assume that there are some actions that are neutral in all this, that’s when we’ll find ourselves drifting away without realising it, until we’re jolted out of our complacency (usually because of a trial or tribulation that interrupts our daydream) before we realise that that supposedly harmless action or endeavour was in fact detrimental to our faith.