Sillah

Connection in Prayer

Category: Refresh

Our First Focus Group!

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. 

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Around the Web: (re)Start Edition

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.  

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Salah, Spiritual Stamina, and Not ‘Feeling It’

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. 

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Ramadan 1441 Workshop: From Routine to Ritual

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.

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3 Tips to Improve Your Salah Right Now

We’re always looking for simple hacks to help with everything from finishing the dishes quicker to writing the best term papers. Why not apply this towards your salah experience?! A simple tip isn’t going to fix any deep issues with your prayers, but it might add just a little life to something that has become one more to do list item. 

1: Call the Iqama

A lot of the times when we have to pray, we just jump into it. We’re rushed. We have things to do. We pray and move on to the next task. You may have heard that it’s best to pray some nafl, or supergatory, prayers before getting into the main obligatory prayer. That would definitely help you get more into the zone. If however, you don’t feel ready to commit to adding another couple of rakas, or units, consider saying the Iqama to yourself before beginning. The Iqama1The words/meanings of the Iqama are as follows: Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar (Allah is greater, Allah is greater) /Ash-hadu alla ilaha illallah (I witness that there is no deity (worthy of worship) but Allah) /Ashhadu anna Muhammadar-rasoolullah (I witness that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah)/Hayya ‘ala-ssalah (Come to the prayer)/Hayya ‘alal-falah (Come to prosperity)/Qad qamati-ssalah, Qad qamati-ssalah (Prayer is to begin, prayer is to begin)/Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar (Allah is greater, Allah is greater)/La ilaha illallah (There is no deity (worthy of worship) but Allah) is the shorter call to prayer you usually hear when praying in a group right before prayer starts. It is a declaration of your intention to put Allah before all else and to turn to Him in prayer.  Calling it aloud will give you a few moments to focus on the prayer (not on whatever task you were just doing), and you’ll gain more reward2That’s based on the hadith that Allah is pleased when He sees a single person making the call to prayer found here.

Bonus: Have a few extra minutes? Call the Athaan too! 

2: Say Your Prayers Out Loud

For Fajr, Maghrib, and Isha prayers, there is a strongly encouraged option to recite Quran during the first two rakas out loud3Based on the scholarly opinion sited here here. Unfortunately though, and especially when praying alone, this is often passed up. Praying out loud though, can really enhance your experience. It will allow you to contemplate the verses you are reading more easily and to better recall them. Have you ever recited the same verses in both the first and second rakas of prayer because you weren’t paying attention? That’s a lot harder to do if you’re reciting out loud. 

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