How to Concentrate in Taraweeh – Practical Tips

Just in time for the last ten nights of Ramadan, I want to share with you some of my tips for concentrating in Taraweeh. I think many Muslims want to come to Taraweeh but fear that they do not have the patience to stay very long. Also, they often feel that their minds wander during the prayer. I hope these tips will help you as they have helped me. This year I have attended Taraweeh much more often than in years past and while of course I am grateful to Allah for tawfiq, I think some mental habits have helped me as well.

But before I start explaining my tips, I want to emphasize as the imam in my community emphasized tonight that a Muslim must accomplish the fara’id (obligatory acts) before working on Sunnah actions. Praying the five daily prayers is much more important than praying taraweeh. Also, obeying parents is fard (unless they command a son or daughter to commit shirk), so one cannot attend taraweeh if it means disobeying one’s parents.

1. Start with pure intentions

Islamically, we believe that Allah (SWT) judges actions based on intentions. Your intention in taraweeh should be to obey Allah, to praise Him, to show gratitude toward Him and to follow the splendid example of His Last Messenger, Prophet Muhammad (salla allahu alaihi wa sallam). A  Muslim should not set out to be Mr. Muslim and impress others with his ability to complete 20 rakahs.

2. Use positive mental imagery

There is a story of a certain pious Muslim who used to use a set of five images to concentrate in his salat. First, he would imagine the Ka’aba stood in front of him as he prayed. This is a kind of inner dimension of the qiblah. Second, he imagined the Angel of Death hovered behind him. This reminded him that death is always close by. Then he imagined Hell with its all-consuming fires on his left side. Next, he imagined Heaven with its lush gardens on his right side. Finally, he imagined the needle-thin Siraat, the bridge people must cross in the Afterlife, beneath him. When he told his Muslim brother about this, his brother replied, “By Allah! If this is salat, I have never prayed salat in my life.”

It’s not easy to imagine these things in your salat, but it’s worthwhile. When your heart thinks Death is right behind it, it cannot fixate on worldly things. Also, imagining Heaven in every salat will help you develop hope that Allah will open its doors for you.

3. Always know what rakah you are reading.

I have a system for knowing what rakah I am in. I find that if I only think about the number of the rakah, I start wondering to myself if I am, for instance, in the 9th or 10th rakah. Instead of thinking of the number alone, I think of the number and the corresponding surah. So when I am in the first rakah, I think of Fatiha. In the second rakah, Al-Baqarah and I might even picture a cow to jog my memory. And so on. Of course, this only works if you know the names of the first 20 surahs in order.

I highly recommend learning the names of all 114 surahs in order. It’s really not that hard. But for the sake of Taraweeh, you should at least learn the names of the first 20. I will include in this entry a chart of these surah names and numbers. You will be surprised at how handy it is to “walk around knowing” these names. When a speaker cites Quran 4:34, Insh Allah, you will know instantly that the citation is in Surah An-Nisa.

4. Develop a mental dictionary

When you are in Taraweeh, pay close attention to the words being recited. When you hear, “jannatil firdaus,” you should think of Heaven. When you hear “azab ul azeem” you should think of the tremendous punishment of Hell. Listen for the names of the Noble Prophets of Allah (SWT). With practice, you will become more and more sensitive to the meanings of the words in the Quran. I also recommend using a parallel Quran that has a translation along with the Arabic text. I use an Arabic-English Quran, but if my Urdu were stronger, I would use an Arabic-Urdu Quran. Mash Allah, the Quran is available in many languages so take advantage of that fact.

5. Pace yourself

Which is better – 20 rakahs one night followed by zero rakahs the second night or ten rakahs one night followed by ten rakahs the next night? I can say emphatically that the answer is the latter. Allah (SWT) loves actions that are small, yet consistent. If you want to do 20 and Allah (SWT) gives you the tawfiq to do that, it is definitely an action of merit. But make sure you do not burn out too quickly.

I hope you find these tips helpful. If you have more that you think will benefit others, please post them in the comments.

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First 20 Surahs of Al-Quran
1 Al-Fatiha 11 Hud
2 Al-Baqarah 12 Yusuf
3 Al-e-Imran 13 Ar-Ra’d
4 An-Nisa 14 Ibraheem
5 Al-Ma’idah 15 Al-Hijr
6 Al-Anam 16 An-Nahl
7 Al-A’raf 17 Al-Isra’
8 Al-Anfal 18 Al-Kahf
9 At-Taubah 19 Maryam
10 Yunus 20 Ta Ha
  1. #1 by bhatty on September 1, 2010 - 11:32 am

    The only tip I hadn’t heard before was #3 – “Always know what rakah you are reading”. Personally, keeping track of the rakah does not necessarily help me focus and in some ways can be a distraction. However, I like that you included it because it was creative and encouraged memorizing the surahs. I would also recommend knowing the last 20 in order as well.

    p.s. You mentioned you were going to include a chart?
    p.p.s. I would advise others not to get too creative with developing a visual mnemonic for Ch. 4. 🙂

  2. #2 by readforsoul on September 12, 2010 - 3:30 pm

    Thanks for that. nice post. i always found myself using #2 and #4….imagery and dictionary.. i think quality of prayer is more important than quantity. Its common to see people stressing on praying more rakah or reading more quran… but ppl hardly talk about concentration, intentions, devotion, pondering over the message..which i think is the main thing…

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