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I struggle with fajr prayer. I really struggle. I’ve been at an around 20% success rate. I even tried writing an ‘Around the Web’ article just to help motivate me, but I can’t seem to conquer the struggle. Summer times are usually the worst because fajr is so early and I sleep late, but there have been years where I’ve been a lot more successful than I am these days. Winters are better because I can just get up and start my day and get my prayer in on time – but that mostly just feels like cheating. It doesn’t really feel like I’m offering a sacrifice for the sake of meeting someone I love, or at the very least fulfilling His expectations. I hate to say it, but it feels like I’m at an all-time low and I’m starting to doubt I can ever climb back up. 

Why is this the case? Why am I struggling so much?? 

I’m not a heavy sleeper. I toss and turn through the night. I even sometimes get up to pray a night prayer and then miss fajr. It makes no sense and I feel very ashamed about it. Especially as someone who is dedicating their time to thinking and writing about how to connect to God more through my prayer, it doesn’t seem appropriate that I would be missing the time window for the first prayer of the day. This is a basic component of having a successful prayer life and I can’t even get it down. What’s even more is that I don’t even feel guilty about it like I used to. When I was younger, if I missed fajr I would wake up in such a fright and I would rush to fulfill the prayer right away. I would just feel so disappointed. Now it’s become so much more commonplace that that sadness has dulled and even when I miss the prayer, I get up slowly and go about my regular morning routine and then pray. Actually, even when I get up with enough time to pray within the window, I sort of drag my feet, daring myself to miss the prayer. 

What is going on?!

A lot of the advice that I’ve found on the internet or from people in my life argues that missing fajr is just a symptom. When your relationship is good with Allah, then your prayer falls into place. If you’re struggling in your devotion to God though, you will see the effects of it in your prayer. That may very well be the case. I definitely feel less connected to some of the external practices that I grew up with. I watch more Youtube videos then I would care to admit. I can really see that in some sense my practice has changed from what it was when I was the young woman so despondent that she missed her fajr prayer.

But in some ways, this is anything but the case too. I feel like I’ve come to understand God in a new way that is so much more personal and my devotion is so much more earnest. I’ve moved steps forward in my prayer specifically and my prayers have a quality to them that they’ve never had before. So much so that a lot of prayers that have been done throughout my life resemble the worst prayers that I do today. I’m not going to say that I am praying with the utmost devotion and submission that I aspire to. I’ve definitely seen an improvement in prayer quality though, and a desire to perform my prayers at a better level. How could it be that progression in my prayers is simultaneous to a depleted quality in relationship to Allah?! 

But maybe it’s not my faith in Allah directly that I need to be thinking about. Maybe it’s my faith in my ability to be guided by Allah: my faith in being able to be a person who can get up for fajr. I can tell you for sure that when I was the girl I remember feeling sad at missing fajr, I was also the girl who used to believe that she couldn’t miss fajr. I had strong conviction that I was one of the people who got up no matter what. I don’t believe that anymore. It feels now, that there’s too much evidence to the contrary. How many times have I slept in? gone to bed late knowing it means I will probably miss the prayer? snoozed my alarm multiple times? … Maybe before I used to have the occasional slip up, but those slip ups have compounded, and what was once or twice is now always. Given that, it only makes sense to believe that now I’m a person who cannot make fajr on time. 

In his book ‘!! فاتتني صلاة‘ or ‘I Missed a Prayer!!’, Islam Jamal talks about how the mind will support whatever beliefs you set it to. If you instruct your mind to believe that you are able to get up to make a 4 AM flight, your mind will fill in the necessary facts to make you believe that you can and will get up for a 4 AM flight. It will put faith in your ability to respond to your very loud alarm clock, to move on little sleep, to be confident that you can gather the few unpacked items quickly in the morning, and so on. Meanwhile, if you hold in your mind: “I can’t make this flight”, then your mind will support you just as surely. It will remind you that you are heavy sleeper and you miss your alarms often. It will tell you that 4 hours of sleep is not enough. It will convince you that you are not packed properly and will be rushing to find things in the morning. That initial belief that you chose for your mind in a sense will push you to mentally create a reality that aligns with it. Jamal was saying the same applies when we believe that we are people who can and will get up for fajr prayer. 

If I believe I’m a fajr “prayerer” – I am someone who this is part of their life and their identity – I will get up and pray. It won’t be something that I doubt. But if I have already decided that I’m not someone who can do this, then my brain will supply the necessary information to prove it to me. It will tell me you are sleeping too late, you never catch your alarms, you don’t have a good enough relationship with God, you can’t you expect to get up out of a warm bed for God, and so on and so forth.  In many ways all it really boils down to is an act of faith.

Trusting that we can be good believers is so much tied up in our trust of God. If I label myself as someone who can’t pray, who doesn’t have that special edge to be one of those people, then isn’t that just an extension of saying: 

God didn’t pick me → God doesn’t want me → I am outside of His grace 

Yet God himself does not accept that as an answer. He tells us in the Quran:

قُلْ يَـٰعِبَادِىَ ٱلَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُوا۟ عَلَىٰٓ أَنفُسِهِمْ لَا تَقْنَطُوا۟ مِن رَّحْمَةِ ٱللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يَغْفِرُ ٱلذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا ۚ إِنَّهُۥ هُوَ ٱلْغَفُورُ ٱلرَّحِيمُ ٥٣

“O My servants who have gone to extremes against themselves: despair not of Allah’s mercy, for indeed Allah forgives all misdeeds; indeed, He is the Oft-Forgiving, the Bestower of mercy.”

Azumar (The Troops) 39:53

So if Allah Himself is choosing to see me with compassion, despite: 

how many prayers I’ve missed, 

how many mornings I’ve slept in, 

how heavy I find the prayer

how absentminded I have been

how lost and rebellious I feel

How can I cast myself outside of His Mercy?! How can I label myself as someone who is beyond change, if God himself won’t label me that way. 

I must nurture in my mind the conviction that I am already devoted to fajr, and every day is simply a chance to testify that. The evidence of my ability to follow through will then flow accordingly. I will be able to hold on to each success and choose to see those prayers as the true reflection of who I am. In turn, I will be more and more convinced of my identity as a person who is a fajr “prayerer”. What’s more, if I already believed that praying fajr was meant for me, even if I overslept sometimes or really did miss the prayer, it wouldn’t be a big deal overall, because I would see it as a simple slip up, not a reflection of my identity and commitment to Allah. Instead of taking each slip up and converting it into evidence against me, I can register it as a reminder to try again.

Fajr then, just becomes one more act of faith along a life’s journey of seeking Allah and that first act of faith in myself can lead the way.

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