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Summer has come and gone, and now down to the last few drops, and I can say that my battle with fajr is hardly won. I can’t say its lost either, but somehow were at a standstill. Maybe it’s wrong to talk about fajr like this, maybe that’s the whole problem: that I see it like an enemy rather than a savior. No matter, still we have a long way to go.

I have constantly struggled with fajr. It’s tested me and broken me. It’s pushed me more than most other religious rituals. Here’s the beginning of a post I started in the midst of a bout of failure this summer:

It’s summertime here and with it the feelings of shame and despondency wash anew. I’ve been here before and I will probably be here again but that only makes it more bitter. The problem is, no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to make myself believe that I am committed enough to make fajr prayer on time. Every morning that I snooze my alarm, I am reminded that I don’t have it in me.

It being The Faith.

The faith that all my fellow congregants seem to have. That I am met with all around at friday prayers or in Quran study circles. All these believers with all their awe inspiring faith. A faith that wells up inside them and pushes their sails forward. Upward and onward. While I sit here, flailing, floundering, and sinking.

To be honest, I think I never really had it. In my years when I would consistently offer fajr prayer on time, I truly believe that it was out of a sense of discipline and correctness more than anything. I hardly remember a deeply gratifying morning prayer. I can say with confidence that fajr was and is the least spiritually involved prayer that I offer. If not offered in a daze, it is offered in a hurriedness. Really, the best ones, if we can really use best here, have been the ones I’ve prayed late and have been filled with shame and remorse standing there before God.

Sometimes I tell myself, that’s it. That shame and sadness is part of why this is God’s plan for you. He offers you more feeling and connection, even though it’s not ‘correct’. But that only feels like a half answer. God could offer me anything in any way. He doesn’t need me to wake up late to give me connection in prayer. There is a shortcoming on my part that has not allowed me to transcend to the next level. I feel stuck repeating the same mistakes over and over; I can never overcome.

So how can I make myself believe? If I have no action to inspire faith, and no faith to inspire action, where do I even begin?

Fajr makes me believe, but it also strips my faith. It’s like the gauge of my spirit and I use it to judge myself and to judge Allah’s acceptance of me. And in some ways, I’m not wrong to do that. I am not a heavy sleeper. I also enjoy staying up late. Actually I don’t like sleeping much. For someone who fights sleep as much as I do, making fajr on time shouldn’t be a thing. If I don’t make fajr on time, it’s because I don’t want to. And if I don’t want to, then what does that mean about me, my faith, and my dealing with God. It means a lot, but most of all it feels like it means I’m utterly hopeless.

Thankfully though, here at the end of August, I have some hope left. This summer, I tried something new: Punishment.

If you know me, you know I have a strong coffee addiction. Most days I would rather sip one latte to another, than eat a proper meal. Right now, as I’m typing this, I have a nice full mug of frothy caffeinated goodness next to me. I started to argue with myself though,, that I really couldn’t justify needing that morning cup if I had willfully snoozed my alarm through fajr. If I wasn’t getting up early, why would I so desperately need coffee in the morning. Isn’t coffee to wake me up and energize me?! Many hours of sleep should have done that enough. The thought pestered me as much as I shooed it away . Finally, I decided that if I missed fajr prayer, I would deny myself my most favorite ritual: coffee.

Happily enough (or maybe sadly enough) this punishment tactic worked. My success rate this summer for praying fajr on time has surpassed many many summers. What’s more is that I often stayed up very late this summer and still somehow found a way to be on time for fajr. Either by pushing a few more hours to pray and then sleep or by getting up to my alarm despite my fatigue. I will admit that while traveling, I did suspend this punishment system, but my success rate also fell drastically. I missed many fajr prayers and I think it had less to do with the change in time zones than it did with my decision not to follow through with the coffee denial.

I feel like I found something that works.

Normally, I wouldn’t encourage such tactics. I try to deal with myself in terms of love and hope more than power and force. Maybe its just a product of the times, but I often reason that if you can’t do it out of the love of it, your action isn’t really sincere. And in a way that’s true. I just decided that I would try and flip that on its head. Instead of trying to prove my love through doing, here, I would prove it through denial. Maybe my faith isn’t strong enough to pull me out of bed in those sweet moments of sleep I delight in so much. Maybe my love is weak here. But once I’m awake, I can tell God I love Him enough to deny myself a cherished worldly pleasure for missing the pleasure of meeting Him.

I don’t say this is ideal. I do think that I need to be at the point where my love for God propels me out of bed at any time of day or night. I do think that proving by ‘doing’ is much better than proving by denial. So, as I said, fajr and I are at a standstill. Neither won nor lost. But no matter. A restoration of hope is enough for my spirit now. It’s helped me believe again, and that’s more than I thought possible.

Was This Useful In Improving the Quality of Your Salah?