Sillah

Connection in Prayer

Our First Focus Group!

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Alhamdulillah we were blessed this past Jamad Althanee (February 2021) to complete Sillah’s first ever focus group! We are so grateful to all those who signed up and made a commitment to work on their prayers. May Allah bless their faith and grant them closeness to Him in all of their prayers and actions. If you want to skip all the minor minutia of how the focus group ran, feel free to scroll down. We’ve put together a simple infographic to share some of the results we got. If you like knowing the nitty gritty details read on!

Our focus group was survey based. We reached out to a personal network of friends and family and 20 people signed up. In the entrance survey, responders were asked to choose a focus area that they would most like to see improvement in with regards to their prayer experience: timeliness, concentration, connection, or stress relief. They were then prompted to consider what daily action would best help them target their focus area. They also had the option of choosing from a provided list. Daily action items included things like making duaa, praying within 15 minutes of the athaan’s call, daily intention journaling, and so on.  Participants committed to this action item for one month. 

Read More

Around the Web: (re)Start Edition

Reading Time: 5 minutes

While salah is the most fundamental practice of the believer, many Muslims struggle to pray or to pray consistently. You may be such a Muslim. You may have maintained prayer many years ago but somehow, along the way, fallen out of practice. You may have never really gotten the hang of praying. No matter. If you are feeling motivated to start praying then take comfort. Allah ﷻ tells us that no slave of His takes a step towards him except that He, Allah, comes toward him even more quickly1https://abuaminaelias.com/dailyhadithonline/2017/06/01/if-he-comes-walking-i-come-running/. Your desire to return to salah is an indication of Allah calling you to Him. Don’t let negativity stop you. Respond to Allah’s call and begin. 

Get Inspired

A simple reason to take heart in the beginning of this journey back to meeting Allah is knowing that others have tried and succeeded. Muslims all over the world are on a journey to meet their Creator. Some are in the same exact place as you, and some were and have moved forward. This personal story gives a lot of inspiration for anyone struggling to build a consistent practice of prayer. Another personal reflection shares how it’s possible to be lost, find your way, and then get lost again; but not to lose heart. And finally, if you need inspiration in the form of more tough love, check out this convert’s reflections on salah. 

Where to Start

The idea of building or rebuilding a complete prayer practice is overwhelming. It is key however, to override emotions of pessimism with those of longing and hope. Before even beginning to look into how to schedule your prayers, reach out and reconnect emotionally to Allah. What will propel you through this period of building salah into your life is a growing attachment to being with your Lord. Check out this article for further discussion of why this is so important. It’s the first step in your journey back to Allah but it’s also encased in every step you will take forward.  

Read More

Salah, Spiritual Stamina, and Not ‘Feeling It’

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Some years ago, I was at a gathering and a friend of mine was telling us that she’d recently taken up yoga. She was telling us about the different benefits she gets from practicing yoga; things like focus, relaxation, rejuvenation, and so on. Then she mentioned something along the lines of ‘we’re supposed to get all that from salah but I don’t so I found this as a good alternative’. She wasn’t implying that she would stop praying, but more that she had lost hope in finding personal benefit beyond whatever salah was already giving her. I remember feeling sad but also at a loss for what to say. I also wanted all those things she found in yoga, and wasn’t finding them in my prayer. 

The fact of the matter is that many of us, when we pray, feel nothing. This is despite the fact that we may have been praying for years, being diligent in our timeliness, and even trying to add extra prayers to our day. Prayer becomes burdensome and loathsome: something to fit into your schedule out of obligation rather than pleasure. How can it be that so much practice has yielded so little progress? 

Upon reflection, what my friend said provided me with immense guidance. Yoga is a ‘practice’ and, like so many other physical fitness endeavors, requires building of stamina over time to achieve noticeable progress. Being able to lift 300 pounds doesn’t happen the first day you go to the gym. It doesn’t happen the tenth or even the fiftieth time either. The same applies to running many miles or doing amazing backbends. To be able to see results physically, intentional practice is necessary . This means maintaining a regular regiment of practice. Not only that, but you also need to watch what you eat, research methods of progressing, refine your form constantly, consider taking supplements, and so on. The diligence necessary to achieve a physical fitness goal is not just at the gym, it’s beyond that and can take over your life. The more you want to achieve, the more committed you need to be. 

Read More

Journeying through Prayer

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I intend for these words to illustrate the sweetness found in the closeness of Allah experienced through prayer. The relationship we each have with Allah can truly only be expressed through the breathe of our spirits. May Allah grant us the courage to journey deeper to Him, fulfilling our purpose to worship Allah alone, as we rise and submit throughout our day in prayer.  

As I have recently learned to perform the prayers, I found myself falling in love with Islam. The beauty of Islam is found in the compassionate guidance Allah bestows upon each of us as human beings created by Him: to praise Him and carry this truth throughout the earth. The Prophet (peace be upon him) showed us how to worship and answer our hearts’ call out to be closer to the Love that gave us life. Islam is truly the path to Allah in the fullness of all that He is. True to who Allah is, our lives are not a journey towards death but an adventure towards life. In this pursuit of Allah, I have come to see the darkness, the seasons of grief, as blessed. In truth, each of us knows in the recesses of our hearts how life on this earth is both brutal and beautiful. At times, this reality can seem overwhelming and cause us to seek temporary relief. In Allah though, is eternal peace that is so generously given as soon as you turn in His direction. 

As I learned the rhythm of prayer, I experienced a transformation of my own heart. In the beginning, I was naturally excited to learn a new ritual, but I could not have imagined the true nature of the commitment I had made. I committed to choosing Allah every day, five times a day. I learned to praise Allah and seek Him in every season of my life, not only when my heart was heavy or filled with joy. I did not know the Arabic language beyond the way my heart recognizes its intrinsic beauty. Simultaneously, as I learned to pray, I interacted more and more with the Quran, and have come to recognize it as a sanctuary for the believer. This was not a quick process, and I slowly came to know the fundamental truth that, Allah’s timing is perfect

This lifelong journey towards Allah requires you to truly surrender yourself to Him. Learning how to pray took me over a year, and it was a challenging process. There is nothing I know in this world that compares to performing the prayer in establishing that worshiping Allah is your true purpose and design. I had to confront the reality of my existence — notice the directions I was turning that were not serving me, and choose to reorient myself. Similar to the month of Ramadan where we establish new patterns, prayer allowed me to completely revitalize my days, filling them with peace and purpose.  

In learning to perform the daily prayers, I discovered myself. I learned how capable I am to answer the call of Allah in my life. I learned how to not get caught in the chaos of life, but to seek the peace of Allah each day. For anyone who is new to Islam and desiring to learn the five daily prayers, I wish to tell you that all you need to do is turn towards Allah. Do not feel shy because, at one point, every Muslim was at the beginning of their prayer journey. Find a teacher who will guide you, give you feedback, and answer your questions. You will bloom as you travel down this path. Pray and spend time with your Muslim family, knowing you are not alone in your pursuit of Allah in this world. Stay focused because as surely as you will move towards God, you will have to reckon with the distractions that try to hold you back. The practice of prayer itself will keep you on the straight path because it will require you to rise early, cleanse and purify yourself, and submit when you hear its call. Be diligent in your practice. Be open to a new life patterned after the praise and remembrance of Allah, for that is where you will find peace. 

Racial Freedom in Islam: Notes for America

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Forced silent in a body the world told him was cursed
When George Floyd was pinned to the ground,
Did he hold on to hope?
That this life of his would be more?
Perhaps Allah accepted this prayer
and exposed America’s hypocrisy,
Once again,
by choosing a Black person
as a catalyst for justice

To be Black in America requires a level of resiliency and hope that cannot be taught in textbooks. It is a lived experience, to endure Muhammad Ali-style jabs and smile without showing blood on your teeth. The Black experience forces one to confront what is at the core of all spiritual transcendence teachings: reform and respect are lifelong struggles and, even when they cannot be found outside oneself, they can and must be discovered by venturing inward.  

It’s no coincidence Black Americans are more likely to say they believe in God with absolute certainty (83%) than Whites (61%) and Hispanics (59%). When we look at Islam in the Black community in America, 75% of Black Muslims say religion is very important to them. That is a higher level of commitment than for non-Black Muslims (62%). Black Muslims are also more likely than other Muslims in the US to perform the five daily prayers (55% vs. 39%)  proving that Blackness is inextricably linked to faith, and more specifically to Islam. (Pew)

Read More

Inspiring Teens to Become “Establishers of Prayer”

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Duaa Haggag, LPC holds a Master’s in Counseling and works in private practice as a child, adolescent, and family therapist in Greater Flint, Michigan. She serves as a Community Educator at The Family & Youth Institute and works with Muslim youth through the Muslim American Society. She is the mother of three girls, ages 16, 14, and 11 who make sure life is always an adventure.

On a hot and sweltering day, the cool shade of a forgiving tree can provide such relief and solace. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad ﷺ shares with us a vivid image of the day where we will all be filled with fearful anticipation. Only a select few, seven types to be exact, will have the mercy of Allah’s shade, on a day where there is no shade but His. One of these categories is youth who grow up in the worship of Allah ﷻ. 

How can we help youth maintain their relationship with Allah so that it endures the many developmental changes of life? For some, engaging in prayer throughout childhood was easy, perhaps because it was part of a family tradition, or because parental admiration meant so much that they were conditioned to pray like everyone else. But, what happens when the innocence of childhood wanes and the strong need for parental approval wears off? Do these youth carry on prayer as an essential part of their daily living? Do they take ownership of this cornerstone of faith, or do they shed it amongst other things in their quest for independence?

Model Salah as a Source of Comfort & Direction

When the Prophet ﷺ would ask Bilal (ra) to make the call for prayer, he would say, “Relieve us with it, O Bilal.” It is fascinating that the reference to salah here is one of relief, and directly relates to the relief we will also get when we are under Allah’s shade on the Day of Judgment. A key to instilling prayer in teens is the perspective that prayer is a source of comfort, release, and reprieve from the woes of the world and struggles in society. 

The seeds of this perspective start before the teenage years. As caretakers, we must model and show that we look forward to our salah as a way to re-center our vision and as a means of grounding our daily living. In surat Ta-Ha, Allah ﷻ says, “Bid your family to pray, and pray steadfastly yourself. We are not asking you to give Us provision; We provide for you, and the rewards of the Hereafter belong to the devout.”[20: 132] In essence, we must practice praying steadfastly ourselves when we ask our youth to pray, and we do so for our own benefit and reward. 

When our children see us complete our prayers as a rushed after thought or task to “get out of the way,” they will not grow to see it as a worthwhile pursuit in their lifestyle. When teens do not feel invested in salah, or that they will get something out of the experience (both in this life and the next), they will run after alternative activities that give them not only comfort, but purpose. 

Read More

Salah Tips for New Muslims

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Here at Sillah we hope to be able to meet the personal development needs of all people who are seeking salah. That’s why we reached out to Hoda Elsharkawi for her advice on how you, a new Muslim, can handle some of the pitfalls that can happen when trying to build a prayer routine. Hoda has been teaching people about the basics of Islam for over 20 years through a weekly New Muslims class in the Boston, MA area and has seen many converts go through the experience of beginning to pray. Below are some of her tips on successfully navigating starting a prayer practice. – Admin

Commitment

Muslims start learning and practicing the prayers at the age 7 per the Prophet’s  ﷺ advice. It takes commitment and  discipline to be able to perform all the prayers every day whether one feels energetic or not. As a new Muslim, this can be a challenge but it should be the highest priority once a person converts. All prayers are mandatory and it is considered a major sin to miss any, especially the fajr (dawn) and asr (afternoon) prayers. Whatever you do, don’t miss those. It eventually becomes easier to pray all your prayers regularly and you may even start to feel lost or disoriented if you miss a prayer. 

Procrastination

This is a problem some Muslims fall into. You tell yourself: “I will start tomorrow”. This usually happens when you have the intention and desire to pray but you haven’t started. The days go by and you keep telling yourself “tomorrow, I will start tomorrow”. My advice is that whenever you want to start, start right away. If it is thuhr (noon) time, get up and perform your thuhr prayer, this way, you break the cycle of procrastination.

Read More

Ramadan 1441 Workshop: From Routine to Ritual

Reading Time: 13 minutes

Ramadan is fast approaching and many of us are starting to focus our attention on what we want to get out of it. Given the worldwide pandemic and quarantine protocols, this Ramadan will probably be like no other. We have a truly unique opportunity to zero in on the practices that may have eluded us for many years. We likely won’t be distracted by social events and gatherings and we will also be forced to contend with our spiritual practice and stamina without much outside support. This Ramadan you may get to know just how strong and developed your spirituality is. All that in consideration, this will be an excellent time to revisit the routines we take for granted, and always on the top of our list here at Sillah, is your salah.

Salah is the ultimate routine of the Muslim. Day in and day out, you are praying and no matter the strains, you have to make it work. This design of salah is meant to facilitate constant connection with Allah. For many though, the routine of salah has become just that, a mindless nuisance to fit in somewhere and move on. It’s really meant to be more than that; it’s meant to be a ritual. That’s why this year we have decided to spotlight the routineness of salah and some ideas on how we can push it to become an uplifting ritual. We hope that if you spend thirty days of Ramadan working on reshaping your prayer routine, you will walk out with a renewed salah experience. 

Specifically, we’ve suggested practices with regards to three aspects of your routine with salah: building or creating a routine, shaking up or varying your routine, and deepening or extending your routine. Below is a list of different options with regards to these three areas. Additionally, we’ve tried to include practices that can be useful to people of all levels. Even if you haven’t been able to commit to praying consistently, check out the options below! Whether you’re someone who doesn’t pray or someone who consistently prays extra, we hope the suggestions below can grow your connectedness to your Lord.

Read More

Around the Web – Parenting Edition

Reading Time: 4 minutes

One of the most important responsibilities Muslim parents may feel is ensuring that their children hold fast to their practice of salah. There are so many components to this! Making sure your kids remember to pray, pray on time, have wudu, pray even if it’s embarrassing, pray mindfully, pray in the mosque, be willing to stick their feet in a public sink to make wudu. The list goes on. The more you think about it, the more daunting it can be. We took a look at some of the resources available on the internet right now on kids and salah. Honestly the quality resources available aren’t much but we did a round up of what’s there and put the following together. We hope these can give you a little support.

Putting the Parent Back in Parenting

Though for many parents, the urgency of wanting to find a solution for a kid who won’t pray feels imminent, the best place to start with addressing it is actually in oneself. It can be easy to forget, but for children, parents are a huge influence on their religious worldview1This concept is discussed at length in this great article by Yaqeen Institute. Actions, more than words, tell your children about what salah means and value it should hold in their lives. Check  this article and this one for some ways to revive your own perspective on prayer life. For more practical tips look here and here, and for new mothers especially, check out this article. All of these links can help address some issues that may unintentionally translate into one’s children. 

If you’re only going to read one thing …

Read More

Allah, Open the Doors of Your Mercy for me

Reading Time: 8 minutes

During the current Coronavirus outbreak, and temporary shuttering of mosque doors, many of us are reflecting on our experiences with our mosques. For this contributor, a complicated relationship surrounds his experience with his local mosque. Though it may be particularly painful to read during this time, his story is an important reminder so we thought to share it anyway. May Allah ﷻ grant us His grace and return us to His houses of worship soon. Ameen  -Admin

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
اللهم صلي وسلم على سيدنا محمد

Allah, open the doors of Your mercy for me – اللهم إفتح لي أبواب رحمتك

I sprinted across the expansive carpet,
reaching top speed
weaving through legs,
dodging glasses,
(alright, maybe I stepped on a few)
racing a new friend,
before everyone went into sujood.

Twenty years later, I still get grief about those flattened and broken glasses and I make it a point to keep mine in my pocket whenever I pray in the mosque. Still, I would never turn rowdy kids away from the mosque. I have always been a proponent of the idea that children should be allowed to experience the house of Allah ﷻ with joy. I would argue, to anyone who would listen, that every person who worshipped Allah ﷻ in any of His houses should seek to also uplift the children who are in His house. 

The joy I experienced as a child, and my idealism about it as I grew, guided me to join a group of people who sought to serve at my local mosque. I tried to help as they came together to transform a house of Allah ﷻ from a space for ritual prayer alone, to a space that brought people together intentionally; a space that would meet our “community needs”. We wanted our mosque to be a space that would live out all the stories we heard about the mosque in the time of the Prophet ﷺ – a dream of a mosque brought to reality.

Allah, open the doors of Your mercy for me – اللهم إفتح لي أبواب رحمتك

The extraordinary is witnessed – in His house.
Stoic, strong, becomes bent, weak – in His house.
Hungry, homeless, becomes full, housed – in His house.
Harsh, sharp, becomes soft, conscientious – in His house.
Poor, needing, becomes rich, giving  – in His house.
Lost, exhausted, becomes guided, invigorated – in His house.
Looked-over, dejected, becomes sought-after, respected – in His house.

We were living the dream. I witnessed a complete stranger arrive from out of town, go to the closest mosque to rest, ask Allah ﷻ for help, and he had housing before the night was out. I witnessed a man larger than most doorways become reduced to the size of his out-stretched, tear-riddled hands, as he begged Allah ﷻ for strength. I witnessed a friend transform from constantly judging others with a sharp-tongue to someone who guarded his words and spent more time asking for forgiveness from people than judging their actions.

Read More

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén