Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem
Assalam alaikum wr wb, peeps.
Some time ago, I read this article by Shaikh Abu Easa Niamatullah. To summarize the main thrust of his argument: Though the numbers of Muslims may well be increasing 235% a year, that is probably because we have more children than non-Muslims and it only takes into account the last 50 years, starting on an uneven footing anyway.
Moreover, so what if we are the fastest growing religion in the world? Just because there are more Muslims, doesn’t mean that they are all good Muslims. In fact, the opposite is quite likely.
If the five pillars of Islam, specifically Salah (the five daily prayers) are considered to be the absolute minimum a Muslim has to do to be practising, then well, according to Shaikh Niamatullah, there are probably very few of those around. “With more people seen to be praying, there are many times over more Muslims not praying. As those who are practicing their religion properly increases, the numbers of Muslims not practicing properly dwarfs it.”
The only question ringing in my head after reading this article is, “Why aren’t Muslims praying? More specifically, why do I find hard to maintain my daily prayers?”
I started to pray regularly when I was 11 years old, around the same time I started wearing hijaab. I missed prayers often, for parties, exams, studying, even TV shows, making it up in Khalah. I became stricter with Salah as I got older. This was mostly because of fear of Allah (SWT), but not really love of Him. Hadith said that if I missed my Asr prayer, all my good deeds would be wiped out. Others that played frequently on my conscience was that a believer’s faith could be judged by the frequency of their Isha and Fajr prayer.
But let me get to love later.
Sheikh Niamutallah’s article got me thinking about what it was about the practice of Salah that provided challenges for me and mah brothas and sistas.
The basic elements you need to comfortably pray are a quiet place free from distractions, adequate time to perform ablutions and your prayer and of course, a clear heart and mind. I tried to come up with a catchy acronym but the best I could do was another acronym – Q-TIP. Quietude, Time and Inner Peace.
I live in the UAE and by the Grace of God, there are prayer rooms in almost every building.
In Dubai Mall, there’s a prayer room every hundred paces. Emaar Properties takes their prayer facilities quite seriously.
A friend of mine who’d grown up in London once called prayer rooms in shopping malls “beautiful”. I admit I used to think it bizarre to suddenly come upon beautiful places of worship in a temple of consumerism. But still, they are blessings.
In my office building, the ladies’ prayer room is basically a converted janitor’s closet, but still, it qualifies as a quiet place free from distractions and I’m grateful for it.
Even though sometimes there’s a rather frazzled gentleman that uses it. I don’t mind – I think we’re the only two people in the whole building using the prayer room and I can’t think where the men’s prayer room must be and what it must be like.
What do people do in places where no such prayer rooms exist? Pray in car-parks? Changing rooms? I’ve heard it helps to have someone to keep watch and field any questions from onlookers so you can do your Salah without people freaking out. There have been some funny stories.
Ablution has traditionally presented some problems, even here in Dubai, where sometimes I’ve not had the luxury of Wudhu facilities. Try explaining to someone why you have your foot in the sink. The result? More funny stories.
Many of us have grueling work/study schedules. Work isn’t structured around sacral timings. In fact, I sometimes wonder if it’s even structured around human timings. When I was studying global politics in university, a feminist lecturer suggested that the world of work, politics and power was built in man’s image. Therefore it is rigid, structured and exacting and does not allow for the unstructured gendered feminine chaos of family life and child-rearing.
The company I work for is thankfully far more flexible and VERY family-friendly, Mashallah. None of my female co-workers have lost their jobs because they’ve gotten pregnant. My co-worker once even brought her daughter into work because she didn’t have school that day.
Unfortunately, from what I have observed, they are the exception and not the rule.
For me, since living in an Islamic country takes care of the first two, this third requirement is my personal Jihad.
As I said before, I used to have serious anxiety issues. I focused on the future to the point that it made me physically ill. I couldn’t find peace anywhere, not even in my prayers.
But even then, by the Grace of Allah (SWT), I somehow reached moments of great clarity. And in those moments of clarity, I felt humbled and powerful at the same time. Like I was connected to a power far larger than me. I felt like I didn’t care who was looking. Like I would welcome their questions. Because He (SWT) was on my side.
In the moments of confusion though, I was really confused. My mind would run up and down and sideways on work, men, family, clothes, jokes. I would come to the prayer room looking for answers and would leave feeling more confused than ever.
I began looking for ways to focus my concentration and let go of some of my anxiety. So far, a few things have worked, the most powerful of which is meditation. All these years, I hadn’t even been breathing. No wonder my brain scrambles around like a hamster on crack.
There is still however the tricky problem of motivation. Why am I praying? Why “should” I pray?
Don’t get me wrong. Fear works.
There is any number of sayings of the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) telling you about the dire effects of missing your prayer. Imams (people leading the congregation in prayer) expound on these from the pulpit all the time.
However, not many of them talk about the flip side.
How many of us are looking for love? How many of us want the love of someone kind, true, loyal, patient and giving?
Allah (SWT) is Al Latheef (Kind, Gentle).
Allah (SWT) is As Sadiq (The Keeper of His Word)
Allah (SWT) is As Sabur (The Patient)
Allah (SWT) is Al Mujeeb (The Responder).
(And this is one of my favorites) Allah (SWT) is Al Mumin (The Giver of tranquility)
Who in the universe could love us more than our Creator?
If you ask of Allah (SWT), He will surely answer. The sacred texts (Hadith and the Qur’an) say it over and over again. I can’t say it any better than this article, so I won’t even try.
Truth be told, I have more questions than answers. I do know I want to try something out. I want to pray in strange places. Mountains, villages, truck stops, shopping malls (not in the prayer room), hospitals, anywhere a modern-day Muslim might find themselves. I want to see what the difficulties are and what tools we need as a community to make it less difficult.
As someone who meditates (arguably a Buddhist practice), I’m really interested to see what the intersections and divergences in diverse spiritual practices are too. In short, I would like to make a documentary.
If you pray regularly or if you don’t, I’d really like to know why. I would greatly appreciate it if you would drop me a comment below.
And that goes for Muslims and for non-Muslims!
I’m really not the Huffington Post (yet), but if you don’t want the whole world reading your response, please do respond here on my About page.
And tell me all your funny awkward praying-in-not-so-private stories!!
May Allah (SWT) respond to your deepest desires in the way that is best for you in this world and the next Ameen! I love you guys
Wassalam and Fee Amanillah!
Update: Salams! Alhamdulillah just came across this incredible video by Br. Nouman Ali Khan as to how Shaitan tricks us into not praying.