Sillah

Connection in Prayer

Tag: Refresh

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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Journeying through Prayer

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. 

Salah Tips for New Muslims

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.

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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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Allah, Open the Doors of Your Mercy for me

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.

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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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