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What feelings do you feel when the time for prayer comes in?
How about what you feel when you knock on the door as you’re about to enter your best friend’s house?
What about other people? When you’re going to see:
your kind mother
your funny best friend
your angry boss
your distant cousin
your unresponsive teacher
your generous neighbor
your loving husband
your cold uncle
Each of these conjures up a different feeling but essentially: a rejoice at or recoil from the actual meeting. You naturally have a different relationship with each person and so you will feel differently about meeting them. The question though is, does that feeling have more to do with them or with you …
You are you. Your personality traits are the same: your faults and strengths within you. It’s true that what you show or hide can change depending on who you’re with, but that’s simply a choice. It’s not that you have changed or that you are necessarily a different person each time you see one of them, it is that your perceptions of how they view you and will respond to you is different. It’s your beliefs about who they are and how they will treat you that causes you to anticipate and respond to them differently.
Which brings us back to the first question … How do we feel when we are about to meet with Allah?
Do you feel … Nothing?
Maybe you feel nothing because you’re not really sure Allah is there. Maybe you have come to some logical conclusions about the necessity of the existence of God but your heart, your heart is despondent. It doesn’t feel Allah, neither His Presence, nor the effects of His care for you. Your life feels so detached from Him. If I pray or don’t pray, if I believe or don’t believe, life will continue as is. Your heart feels nothing at the anticipation of the meeting, because your heart feels nothing towards the One you are meeting with.
And maybe you don’t feel ‘nothing’, maybe you even feel dread …
What does the foreboding feeling you have about praying say about how you think Allah sees you and responds to you? If you’re dragging your feet to meet with Allah, it means you don’t really want to meet with Him. Why? Maybe in your heart, the only way you experience Allah is with fear and despair. Maybe you feel that Allah only sees you as a failure, unable to live up to your promise to be a true slave. Your heart shrinks at the thought of being before One who both knows the real you and is so disappointed in you.
Our vision of who Allah is and how He sees us is really what drives what we feel when we hear the call to prayer. How do you think Allah sees you and Who do you see yourself standing before?
How does Allah want us to Experience Him?
After entering into our prayer and offering our greetings to Allah, we begin our conversation with the words of Allah that He has chosen for us to say:
بِسْمِ ٱللَّهِ ٱلرَّحْمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
Bismi Allahi arrahmani arraheem
By the name of Allah, the constantly merciful, the intensely merciful.Al-Fatiha (The Opener), 1:1
This is the first thing that Allah chose for us to say to Him when we pray. Even more, Allah says about His name Arahman: I am the Merciful (Arahman), and I have created the womb (rahem) and I have given it a name from my name … 1AbdurRahman ibn Awf narrated that: I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) say: Allah the Exalted has said: I am Compassionate, and this has been derived from mercy. I have derived its name from My name. If anyone joins it, I shall join him, and if anyone cuts it off, I shall cut him off. Source: Sunan Abi Dawud 1694
The first and arguably the most important way for us to know Him is as we have known the wombs of our mothers: completely and entirely encompassing in love and care for us despite our utter ignorance of our mother’s existence. This world is a womb in which Allah is growing and caring for us constantly. Every turn, every breath, every heartbeat, every disappointment, every blessing, every thing that went right, every thing that made you sad, every longing, and every relief, all of it, is an act of love from Arahman.
What’s more is that He asks us to repeat this over and over in every unit of prayer.
He is the One constantly enveloping you in His love
He is your loving Caretaker
He is the One who is overseeing your whole world
You will meet Him soon
He is guiding you on the path
He is your Loving Caring Lord, growing you in the womb of this world, so you can come to Him as a complete, amazing person
Even though you are scared and worried, He will not let you get lost or turn away
This is how Allah introduces and re-introduces Himself to us in every meeting we have with him. We can pray our prayers without reciting any other verses of the Quran, but a prayer without Al-Fatiha is not considered a prayer. It’s as if to say, if you cannot speak any words of remembrance of Allah, you must at least know this: He is your loving caring Lord through this journey of life.
Making the Choice
Imagine if you are visiting your mother, and regardless of your history with her; regardless of if you made her proud, but especially if you were the source of much trouble in her life, she sat you down and said: tell me what I used to tell you when you were young. And you recited to her as she nodded along in affirmation:
… Mom, you love me, you love me more than I can ever understand. You’re always with me. You are ready to help me whenever I need help. You will always guide me in the best way. I should always come to you even if I’m scared because your love will always be there for me …
It may be so hard to say, and even more to feel, especially if there has been some distance and hurt between you. In a sense, it requires some real courage on your part to trust that she will accept you. But if you are brave, and if you are sincere, it would make a world of difference between you and her.
Wouldn’t you feel so totally relieved at knowing that there is still a chance for you to return to that love that began your relationship? Wouldn’t you feel secure in the embrace of knowing that no matter what, your mother will accept and love you. Wouldn’t your visit with her be more joyful? Wouldn’t just these simple words give you the courage to make amends for any mistakes you’ve made towards her?
Imagine now, if this is what happened every time you visited: you got this chance to feel totally loved and believed in. Wouldn’t you be eager to visit again?
Allah tells us that we experience Him just as we choose to.
The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ told us that Allah has said: I am as my servant expects Me to be … 2Abu Hurayrah said that the Prophet ﷺ said: Allah the Almighty said: I am as My servant thinks I am. I am with him when he makes mention of Me. If he makes mention of Me to himself, I make mention of him to Myself; and if he makes mention of Me in an assembly, I make mention of him in an assembly better than it. And if he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a cubit, and if he draws near to Me a cubit, I draw near to him a fathom. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed. Source: Hadith 15, 40 Hadith Qudsi; Narrated by Bukhari and others as well
Maybe right now, you don’t feel Allah’s care. Maybe you feel lost and far away from Him. Maybe you are scared to be before Him.
But know that at the moment you choose, you can know Him as He wishes you to know Him and as you wish to know Him: Your Loving Caring Lord. You can repair your relationship and make amends. You can feel Him respond to you. Your heart can be filled with the guiding light of His love. You can find peace and solace in being accepted by the One who knows you with all of your ugliness. You can be loved wholly by a love that will nourish you endlessly.
And the beauty is, you can use the very words He taught you to be able to find Him.
Just be brave. Lift your hands in salah and recite: Bismillah Arahman Araheem.