How to Gain Tranquility in Prayer

This article is written by Sister Jihan Anwar & collected from Productive Muslim website :  Part 1 | Part 2 | Part3  | Part4

(Part 1): How to Attain Ultimate Submission


We are quick to say we’ve submitted to the will of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) (glorified and exalted be He), but does our heart completely back our words? Have we submitted ourselves, or found “khushoo” in our prayer, our actions and our daily lives?
“Successful indeed are the believers, those who offer their salaah (prayers) with all solemnity and full submissiveness (Khushoo).” [Surah Al-Muminoon 23:1-2]
Definition of Khushoo
The reasons why we obey someone can be broadly traced under the following categories.
• Fear
• Recognition of superiority or authority
• Acknowledging the orders as just
• Love
If we comply with the commands of human beings based on the cited reasons, how do you think we should carry out our duties towards Allah – the only One we should fear, far superior to anything we could imagine, the One who is full of kindness in rewarding the righteous though being in no need of them. 

Allah reveals in the Qur’an: “Had We sent down this Qur’an to a mountain, you would surely have seen it humbling itself and rending asunder by the fear of Allah. Such are the parables which We put forward to mankind that they may reflect.” [Surah Hashr 59:21]
Linguistically, khushoo connotes a feeling of intense reverence, awe, submission and respect. In Islam it also comprehends that aspect of fear that stems out of deep knowledge of the power of Allah. Imam Ahmed once heard a man mocking another Muslim by mentioning the little amount of Islamic knowledge he had. Ibn Hanbal defended the Muslim by replying that he had the fruit of knowledge: khushoo.
The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) used to recite the following supplication:
“O Allah, I seek refuge with you from the non-beneficial knowledge, from a heart that does not possess khushoo’ from the evil desire which is never satisfied and from supplications which are not accepted.”
Khushoo and knowledge are deeply related. “It is only those who have knowledge among His slaves that fear Allah.” [Surah Fatir 35:28]The interesting point to notice is that usually fear is associated to the unknown and superstition feeds on ignorance, while in Islam, khushoo is a consequence of knowledge.
Thus khushoo goes beyond fear; the latter would be best rendered in Arabic by the word khawf. The purpose of khawf is to prevent us from falling into sins, to restrain our whims by keeping in mind the punishment for the transgressors. Khushoo, instead, is the means by which our hearts are brought to life, finding tranquility in the remembrance of Allah, seeking His pleasure with every action of ours. Khushoo is often associated with salat, but it shouldn’t be confined to it.
With the Shahadah we declare we have recognized who our Creator is, but its implication is deeper. By definition, a Muslim is the one that not only acknowledges His presence but that is wholeheartedly willing to submit to His will.
Salat is to be the manifestation of this submission of the hearts and limbs and, deprived of Khushoo, it becomes a mechanical act. If your heart is not in it, the very objective of Salat (linking you to Allah) has been missed.
The Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:“The first matter that the slave will be brought to account for on the Day of Judgment is the prayer. If it is sound, then the rest of his deeds will be sound. And if it is bad, then the rest of his deeds will be bad”.
And how can a prayer be accepted if we take it lightly and our attention is continuously diverted while we are in the midst of it?
The Qur’an says: “So woe to those who pray. But who are heedless of their payer.[Surah Al-Ma’oun 107:4-5]
What Khushoo is Not
Khushoo is not a synonym for weeping or lowering one’s gaze. Umar raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) (may Allāh be pleased with him) saw a young man lowering his head, so he said to him: “What is this? Raise your head, for indeed this (kind of) khushoo does not increase what is in the heart. Whosoever displays a khushoo that does not stem from the heart, then it is hypocrisy added to hypocrisy.“
Muhammad bin Sirin was once consulted about a man who dropped unconscious when the Qur’an was recited to him and it was attributed to his fear of Allah. Bin Sirin asked that an appointment should be arranged with the man, explaining: “We will sit on a wall, and the Qur’an – from beginning to end – will be recited unto him. If he falls off the wall, he is as he claims.”
When Aishah raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) (may Allāh be pleased with her) was informed that there were people who fainted on hearing the Qur`an, she replied: “The Qur’an is nobler than to have people lose their minds from it. Rather, it is as Allah the Mighty and Sublime said: “Those who fear their Lord tremble with fear by it, then their skins and hearts settle to the remembrance of Allah.” [Surah Al-Zumar 39:23]
We can derive from the above narrations that the heart is the center of khushoo. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was also reported as saying:“There is an organ in the body, if it is good, the whole body will be good, and if it is bad the whole body will become bad, verily it is the heart.”
Stay tuned; up next in this series: Obstacles to Attaining the State of Khushoo.

(Part 2) Obstacles to Attaining the State of Khushoo

Before suggesting ways to acquire khushoo we should ask ourselves why we haven’t achieved it yet or why we lost it. Hence let’s examine the factors that hinder us from experiencing khushoo.

External

These are the outward elements that capture our attention whilst we pray. They are usually related to the environment in which we are praying or our physical posture and motion.
  • Noisy places
  • Attractive or colorful decorations
  • Physical needs like hunger or thirst
  • Restlessness of limbs
  • Unless we are in a congregational prayer the presence of other people might divert our attention too

Internal

Internal causes are those associated with our mind-set, beliefs and character.
    1.  Ignorance
      When we descend to our graves we will be asked: “Who is your lord? Who is the man that was sent to you? What is your religion?”. If this basic knowledge is not engraved in our minds while we are alive, if we are not reminiscent about this and live upon it, what are the chances we will do anything but stutter when questioned.
      Do you know whom you have submitted to? Are you aware of the sacrifices that our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) made to convey this religion? Can you discern the absolute beauty and perfection of this way of life – the freedom and elevation gained from stopping to fear the creation to submit and revere no one but the Creator?
      Increase your awareness of these facts so as to humble yourself in your ibadah (acts of worship).
    2.  Pride/arrogance
      Too great to offer a sujood for the sake of Allah, too accomplished to supplicate to Him to grant you al-Firdous, too self sufficient to realize how weak and feeble we are as human beings, never mind our status or achievements in this dunya? We are all in need of Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) (glorified and exalted be He) mercy though we don’t deserve it.
      Pride can even stem from one’s own worship. Admiring one’s own recitation and supplications, feeling content of the charity we give, being self-satisfied with our knowledge. Hasan al Basri said regarding the Sahaba that they used to perform every obligatory and voluntary act with the outmost care and sincerity and yet they were afraid lest it wouldn’t be accepted.S
      hun pride and arrogance so as to taste the sweetness of khushoo!
    3.  Sins
      Sometimes sins can become a barrier to developing a sincere connection to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) (glorified and exalted be He) or, even worse, they may lead us to abandoning it. Don’t let this be your case. Sins shouldn’t be a reason to cut our relationship with God, or a reason to lose khushoo. Instead we can make it become the factor that prompts us to seek forgiveness and guidance from Allah with earnestness.
      As humans we all commit mistakes, but we should not lose hope of being forgiven.
      “And those who disbelieve in the ayah of Allah and the Meeting with Him, it is they who have no hope of My Mercy, and it is they who will (have) a painful torment.” [Surah Al-Ankabut 29:23]
    4.  Riya’a
      One may be doing all the outward deeds perfectly and have the basis of his creed messed up.
      Consider an extremely skilled archer at a competition. He inevitably catches every bird he sees, the only problem is that the targets were blue balloons. No matter how talented he is at hunting birds, he’ll never win the competition. So who is the target of your actions? Who do you want to please and think well of you? People may be deceived but would we escape from the scrutiny of the One who knows what’s in our chests, the All Hearer and All Seeing? Ultimately we would be just deceiving ourselves.
      “Verily, the hypocrites seek to deceive Allah, but it is He who deceives them; When they stand up for Salah, they stand with laziness, only to be seen by men; and they do not remember Allah but a little.” [Surah Al-Nisaa 4:142]
      Dua for purity of heart and actionAllahumma tahhir qalbiy minan-nifaaqi wa ‘amali minar-riyaa’i wa lisaany minal-kadhibi wa ‘ainy minal-khiyaanati fainnaka ta’lamu khaa’inatal-a’yuni wa ma tukhfil-sudur. (Oh Allah, purify my heart from hypocrisy and my actions from dissimulation and my tongue from lies and my eyes from stealthy looks, indeed You know stealthy looks of eyes and that which the breasts conceal.)
    5. Attachment to this world
      How many times did it occur that your mind was filled with everything except the remembrance of Allah? We shouldn’t be so busy with this life that we forget to prepare our provision for the hereafter. Don’t let keep delaying your salat in order to finish whatever you’re working on? Pay attention and observe every step with due care, instead of rushing through it in order to catch an appointment?

Time to Review our Priorities?


Abu Qutaadah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) (may Allāh be pleased with him) said: “The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him): “The worst type of thief is the one who steals from his prayer.” He said, “O Messenger of Allah, how can a person steal from his prayer?’ He said, ‘By not doing rukoo’ and sujood properly.”
One of the Tabieen, Amr Ibn Abd Al Qais, remarked: “I would prefer to be stabbed by spears in my body than think about the dunya during Salah.”
What do you think about before falling asleep? A scholar warned that if all we could think about was attached to this perishing world, it was a sign we needed to improve our connection with God. Your worries may outlive you as there’s no guarantee you will see a new day but certainly you will meet your Lord.
In the next post, we will look at ideas on how to practically obtain khushoo in our prayer and outside. In the mean time, try to answer the questions asked in this article and Part 1. Take the time to ponder them over without dismissing any. How sincere can you be to yourself? (Oops another question)


(Part 3) Practical Steps to Gain Khushoo

Khushoo is a means and a consequence.
Khushoo is a consequence of true faith and yaqeen (certainity) upon the words of Allah [SWT] and on the accountability of our actions. It is a means to gain tranquility in this racing, tempting world and to make us worthy of entering Jannah.

Practical Steps to Gain Khushoo Outside Salah

• Constant Dua and Remembrance of Allah
Khushoo is, in its essential point, constant remembrance of Allah [SWT] and His Greatness. It’s not a garment you hop into for salah. It should exist 24/7. What is your first thought when you wake up? When you close your eyes can you be sure you’ll ever reopen them? Ask Allah [SWT] to bless you with khushoo.
Keep an adhkaar book with you wherever you go. Even before reading the Qur’an, you will need something to soften your heart. That is what adhkaar are for.
• Learn Arabic
Make effort to learn Arabic and, if you already know it, aim for a detailed understanding of the Qur’an and hadith. To illustrate the importance of making an effort to comprehend what you read allow me to draw a parallel.
Let’s say you have a wonderful painting; the colors are rendered with a mastery close to genius, the prospective is breath taking and the skillfulness used to depict the subject is revolutionary under every aspect. A critic offers to evaluate it. With closed eyes, he runs his fingers over the drawing, mentally calculates the weight and size of the painting, going so far as to smell the acrylic chromes you have used. He declares your piece to be quite interesting but refuses to open his eyes. Your talent is wasted on him: though it is in his ability to appreciate the art, he refuses to do so.
Now, how many times have you heard people enlisting the miracle the Qur’an? How many times have you been fascinated by the recitation of a Qari? And yet you cannot fully value its beauty until you commit to study the language it was written in.
• Read about the Companions
If you seek motivation from inspirational people, the Sahaba are the ones you will need to know about.
Bilal (may Allah [SWT] be pleased with him) was steadfast while enduring extreme torture. He was asked several years later why did kept repeating “Ahd, Ahd”. He replied that he would see that the Quraish would become furious when hearing him testify once more the oneness of God, punishing him even more severely. The harsher he was persecuted the more he would become conscious of the underlying fear of his master for the power of his beliefs which in turn motivated the slave to declared them ever vigorously. Suhayb Al Rumi gave up all of his health to the Mushrikeen in Mecca in exchange to being allowed to reach the Prophet [SAW] in Medina.
How could they bear these experiences? Weren’t they human? Weren’t they made of flesh and bones, subject to weaknesses and desires? Indeed, but their hearts were alive; khashioon to the Lord of the Worlds instead of human beings.
They found the truth and they would give up everything and sacrifice their own lives for it. And it’s this same sacrifice that granted them victory. In fact when Suhayb approached the outskirts of Medina, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) greeted him by announcing: “Your transaction has been fruitful, O Abu Yahya. Your transaction has been fruitful”.
In addition, surround yourself with people that have a beneficial impact on you and remind you of Allah and encourage you to do good deeds
• Study and ponder the world around you
We often forget that our existence is a miracle, taking everything for granted and not seeing and reflecting. Think about children, for example. They have the most powerful capacity to marvel upon things. They explore, observe and listen. They are totally fascinated by what they are exposed to.
Growing up, most of us just grow dull. We miss out on what happens around us. If by looking at a full moon, a sunset, the variety of colors in the flowers or the order in the animal kingdom, we are not filled with awe, if we are unable to humble ourselves and whisper a sincere SubhanAllah, then we have forgotten that they are but signs of the mercy from Allah [SAW] reminding us of His supremacy.
There was a quote in my math book by Albert Einstein:
“God does not care about our mathematical difficulties, he integrates empirically”.
For quite some time I’ve thought about it with diffidence. Eventually though, I derived an interpretation, which might be completely biased, yet it allows me to appreciate the implications of the sentence. Look at the history of human kind: physiologist, mathematicians, astrologists, biologists, chemists – everyone busy in conjecturing, speculating and researching for centuries about the mechanism by which this universe is sustained. The more in depth you study a science, the easier it is for you to realize the ordered complex perfection that rules it, thus increasing your reverence towards the Creator. Had the sun been slightly closer or further from the Earth, life would have been impossible on it either because of extremely low or high temperature. The amount of rain that falls upon a soil makes a difference between a fertile terrain or a barren one. The percentage of nitrogen in the air, the ratio of hemoglobin to water in the blood – everything has a prearranged equilibrium.
“Glorify the name of thy lord, the Most High, Who creates, then makes complete, and Who measures (in due proportion), then guides” [Surah Al-A’ala, 87:1-3]
Reflect about the meanings and implication of the 99 attributes and names of Allah Azz wa Jall.
• Set yourself a regular routine to read or memorize the Qur’an.
“We have not sent down to you the Qur’an to cause you distress but only as a reminder for those who fear (have kashya of Allah)” [Surah Taha 20:2-3]
• Regular fasting
Consider it as a preparation for Ramadan, or more practically as a cleansing of the soul that will facilitate us to be more receptive to the commandment of Allah.
Do you have a few tips for us on how to improve Khusoo, or achieve greater submission? Share with us in the comments below and let us help each other rise above absentminded submission.


(Part 4) Practical Steps to Gain Khushoo

A Practical Guide to Gaining Khushoo Within Salah
  • Repeat the words of the Adhan
This is a subtle method to signal to your body and mind to draw away from any worldly affair you were engaged in. It’s an invitation to stop feeding your thoughts on the daily anxieties and temporary highs. This is the first step by which you acknowledge the call to prayer, where you are about to meet your Lord.
  • Salah your opportunity
You have been granted another opportunity to pray and give thanks. But have you ever realized the different functions Salah can be used for? How can you make it your joy? It is a way to overcome distress, sadness, fear and weakness. Furthermore, numerous are the hadith that portray the prayer as a mean for effacing sins and even avoiding them.
It’s your chance to seek forgiveness, to ask Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) (glorified and exalted be He) to grant you health, knowledge, Baraka or increase your Iman. You can use it as Istikara, in which you directly ask Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) (glorified and exalted be He) to guide you to choose the best option in a specific situation.
The Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) even suggested we pray two raka’at in order to remember what we forgot or find an item we lost. Every salah might be the last one you’ll be able to perform; take advantage of it. Next time you approach Salah, have a specific reason. This should aid you right away in preserving khushoo throughout salah.
  • Stay still for a moment
Simply stand a few moments before praying, be conscious of everything that is running in your head. You will find out that there is nothing, absolutely nothing more important than this very Salah. Take a deep breath and exhale, expelling all worries and distracting thoughts as you exhale. Leave the dunya behind. You are about to step in the presence of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) (glorified and exalted be He) and have a dialogue with Him.
  • Keep your gaze fixed
Focus your eyes on the spot in which you will perform sajda. Don’t worry if you find it difficult at first. Calmly reset your eyes on the point every time you notice that it is deviating.
As a side note, the movement of the eyes has been found to be directly related to one’s thoughts. This implies that it is not only your eyes that are wandering, your mind is too. When you notice this happening, simply re-direct your attention to the words you are saying. Be deliberately slow in performing every action.
  • Start the prayer by reciting a supplication
There are various dua (Dua’a Al Istiftah – Opening Supplications) the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)(peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) used before reciting surat Al Fatiha. An example is: “Subhaanak-Allaahumma, wa biham-dika, wa tabaarakasmuka, wa ta’aalaa jadduka, wa laa ilaaha ghayruka”
(I declare You free and far removed from all imperfections, O Allaah, and all praise is for You. Blessed is Your Name. Great and Exalted is Your Kingdom. None has the right to be worshiped besides You).
Remember to include it in yours so as to increase attentiveness. Try learning new supplications so that it doesn’t become a mechanical thing leading you to stop paying attention to what you are saying. Stand in prayer as if the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is leading you.
  • The power of visualization
One technique that instantly helps me focusing on the salah is a simple one based on a hadith about the siraat. The siraat is a narrow bridge suspended over Hell which everyone has to traverse to be admitted in Paradise.
Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri reported: “We, the companions of the Prophet said, “O Allah’s Apostle! What is the bridge?’ He said, “It is a slippery (bridge) on which there are clamps and (hooks like) a thorny seed that is wide at one side and narrow at the other and has thorns with bent ends. Such a thorny seed is found in Najd and is called As-Sa’dan. Some of the believers will cross the bridge as quickly as the wink of an eye, some others as quick as lightning, a strong wind, a fast horse or she-camel. Some will be safe without any harm; some will be safe after receiving some scratches, and some will fall down into Hell. The last person will cross by being dragged over the bridge.”(Sahih Bukhari- Volume 9, Book 93, Number 532).
Now imagine yourself on this bridge. You still don’t know which your final abode will be. In front of you there is Paradise, you can smell its scent and are yearning to reach it. Let the carpet you are standing on to perform salah represent the fine, thorny bridge that you need to cross. Below you, you can see a sea of blazing lava, you hear the cries of those who have fallen and your knees tremble at the only thought of being touched by it: the swiftest of movements could make you fall at any time.
The firmness of the person on the bridge will depend on their deeds and compliance to the deen in the dunya.
Some scholars argue that khushoo is a required element in salah, missing it would equal to having not satisfied the pre-requisites for sound worship.
Consider every salah as your attempt to cross the bridge, khushoo is your safety measure to reach the end of it.
  • A dialogue with Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) (glorified and exalted be He)
Have you ever asked yourself why Surat Al Fatiha is recited in every single raka’a?
The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), said in a Hadith Al Qudsi:
"Allah, the Exalted, said, `I have divided the prayer into two halves between Myself and My servant, and My Servant shall have what he asks for.' If he says, `Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds' Allah says, `My servant has praised Me.' When the servant says, `Most Gracious, Most Merciful'. Allah says, `My servant has glorified Me.' When he says, `Master of the Day of Judgment.' Allah says, `My servant has related all matters to Me.' When he says, `You do we worship, and your aid we seek.' Allah says, `This is between Me and My servant, and My servant shall acquire what he sought.' When he says, `Show us the straight path. The path of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray.' Allah says, `This is for My servant, and My servant shall acquire what he asked for.'" (Muslim 1:296, and An-Nasai in Al-Kubra 5:11, 12).
Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) (glorified and exalted be He) is not only listening to your prayer, but replying and rewarding you for every verse you utter.
  • Memorize ayats or suras and be eager to recite them during your salat
If you read a passage in the Qur’an which particularly clicked with you or brought you to tears, do your best to learn it and recite it after Al Fatiha. Frequently change the suras you recite. Make it a point to know their meaning, check the commentaries, the lexicon used, be critical about what you read, make it a dynamic activity by reflecting on what you recite as every verse is supposed to be stimulating your mind and heart.
  • Make at least one different dua’a in each sujood
Earlier we mentioned the need to reflect about the names and qualities that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)(glorified and exalted be He) attributed to Himself and revealed to us. Now it’s the time to use these names: when you make dua use the appropriate name depending on what you are asking for.
For example: when you are seeking for relief you may call upon Him by Al-Bâri’- The Maker of Perfect Harmony or Al-Salâm- The Flawless and the giver of peace. While appealing to His power to allow things to happen remember that He is Al-Mu’min- The Giver of Faith or Al-Haadi -The Guide. Ask Him to grant you and your family protection by calling Him Al-Muhaymin – The Guardian, Al-Raqîb- The Vigilant.
  • Get acquainted with the biography of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)
Read the seera of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) in detail, so that when you send blessing upon him you do it with sincerity.
  • Cultivate a feeling of gratitude and veneration
When you complete the prayer and say “Alhamdulillah, AllahuAkbar, Subhanallah” actually think about instances that would make you utter these words. For example if you have escaped an accident think about that when you say Alhamdullilah, when you say Allahu Akbar remember that us and all what this universe comprehends are compared to the throne of Allah as a ring in the desert.

The effect of Khushoo on productivity

Acquiring khushoo positively affects your productivity.
1. Quicker decision making
Having khushoo will make you see everything in a different prospective, what you do or don’t do is based on a specific evaluation: will Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) (glorified and exalted be He)be pleased if I do this? Does this take me closer to Jannah or to Hellfire? You then save the time worrying or dragging yourself in doubtful activities
2. You’ll have a forward-looking attitude
No regrets, fear nor desperation will take hold of you since you have certainty that everything happening is exactly as it should be. You trust in the mercy and justice of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) (glorified and exalted be He), as long as you follow His commandments nothing can harm you.
3. You’ ll stay away and be afraid of even coming close to commit a sin, hastening instead to perform good purposeful deeds.
4. Greater awareness in your day-to-day dealings.
By being constantly mindful of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) (glorified and exalted be He), you become more careful of how you treat people or use your resources, including time.
I hope these points may serve as a reminder to both you and me, and help us in attaining or increasing Khushoo.


About the Author
Sister Jihan Anwar is an MIS student sharing her musings with the team at MuslimYouthMusings and working as a journalist at the National Yemen Newspaper.

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