Fajr. This Salah was the shortest one and the one that seemed the easiest to pray: two Rakahs, two Surat-Al Fatihas, two of any other surahs I could remember. After over ten years of inconsistent prayers, and over eight years of not practicing at all.
I had tried to commit to Salah before, but struggled to hold on to even one prayer a day.
After continuously forcing myself to pray, what finally kept me consistent in Salah was a beacon of hope and aid from Allah which helped me commit to praying one Salah a day.
From my experience, faith, patience, and resilience are all collectively necessary to improve our relationship with our Creator whether we are at the no Salah stage, the five Salah stage, or the Khushoo stage.
Being able to finally pray one Salat consistently was a blessing because I’d struggled with Salah, and my misplaced priorities had made it even more of a struggle. However, this was different now, and I had a constant yearning to pray those two rakats daily. After consistently praying it, Fajr became a habit; and even though it was just one Salah a day, His blessing made what had seemed foreign to me become a daily accomplishment no matter how much self-persuasion it took. Four years on, I only get this same sentiment when I have prayed all five Salah on time, and engaged in other Islamic rites.
Salah is the act of worship that Allah loves most, that He has made the strongest medicine for the soul.
As Muslims, worship of Allah and Allah alone is our purpose, our natural Fitrah. When we move away from our purpose, we do not move with ease, we tear away. We will feel the pain, and that pain is a sign that we have walked away from our sole purpose. When we walk away from our human nature and purpose, we walk away with our breath held. We keep holding it and our systems slowly disintegrate as we are not getting enough oxygen. We start to suffocate, and suffocation is painful. It’s when we go back to our purpose, worship, that we are finally able to breathe. It is then spiritual anabolism and self-renewal begin, thus allowing us to heal from the tearing.
2015 was a year when “empty” and “in pain” were the most accurate words I could have used to describe my innermost self. There was a hollowness, an emptiness that was isolating, hopeful and fearful. In this case, physical and emotional suffering and numbness were indications that something was missing, and had been missing for a while. Although I was significantly younger, the feeling of emptiness was something I was completely aware of.
What I was also aware of was the opposite of emptiness and the opposite of pain. My mothers’ insistent faith showed me this. She is the type of light that brings you warmth, and the most peculiar thing about her light is how resilient it is. My mother just never seemed to be dragged down too much by whatever went on around her. Her prayers always kept her centred- A true calm and collected queen (I will stop here so this writing does not become a mama Yinka stan article). She would always tell me “Ti ko ba siinkan ni ibi irun, a o ni ma te ori mo”- roughly translating to – “If there was nothing to be gained from praying, I and everyone else praying would not be so insistent on praying.” Seeing how seriously she took her prayers, her commitment to learning about Islam and her character really encouraged me to seek what she was gaining from praying. Role modeling is and was so important to me, and through my mum, Allah showed me what contentment and wholeness look like. May Allah reward her completely in the Dunya and the Akhirah.
In the absence of immediate primary role models such as family members, spending time with other Muslims was a blessing and encouraged me to be steadfast. Spending time in good company and also being a good company is very important because as Muslims, our character precedes us. Watching the collective commitment of brothers and sisters I was surrounded by during Salah made me reflect on its importance. Spending time around Muslims or in a mosque gives one the ability to watch and emulate positive habits, characters, and behaviours.
Allah is Ar-Rahman, the Most Merciful, and His Mercy encompasses all. “When my slave takes one step towards Me I take ten toward him” is one of my favourite reminders. Allah always creates a way for us to get closer to Him and His love is immeasurable.
Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “When Allah loves a slave, He calls out to Jibril and says: ‘I love so-and-so; so love him’. Then Jibril loves him. After that he (Jibril) announces to the inhabitants of heavens that Allah loves so-and-so; so love him, and the inhabitants of the heavens (the angels) also love him and then make people on earth love him”.
When we stray, our hearts feel the strain because of Allah’s Mercy and Love for us. The moment we pray one Salah and remind ourselves to consistently pray that Salah, Allah extends His Mercy to us and puts the urge to pray another Salah in our hearts. Every Shahada we say is a commitment to Allah, either as a new revert or in our Tashahhud: when we recite At-tahiyya between rakats or at the end of Salah. And Allah rewards this commitment by giving us the urge to it in our next Rakat or our next Salah – another opportunity of detachment from this finite world, an opportunity for closeness to Allah.
Love is at the heart of our Iman, fear, and hope drive us on to loving Allah and engaging in acts that Allah loves, which in turn leads to Allah loving us In sha’ Allah.
As Muslims, Allah SWT is, without doubt, our end goal, but He is also the Means of getting to our end goal ([al-Fatiha 1:5] “Iyyaaka na`budu wa-iyyaka nasta`eenu – You alone do we worship and You alone we ask for help”) so with hope, pray for the ability to make Salah and to perfect our Salah i.e pray for prayer. If you have strayed away from prayers, force yourself the same way you’d force yourself to study before an important test, with even more insistence.
Let completing all five salahs and on time be the marker of a successful day. Reminding yourself of Allah SWT’s Mercy and ever-forgiving nature is also the best primer to start or continue praying.
When I prayed Fajr alone, after a month or so, by Allah SWT’s mercy, Maghrib suddenly seemed like the next step, then it seemed disjointed to pray Maghrib without praying Dhuhr and Asr, and eventually, sleeping after isha made me feel safe and complete.
It took me some months to consistently pray five times a day, longer to add dhikr to my prayers, longer to learn the true significance behind prayer- it being the act Allah loves the most. Perseverance in the Deen and humility in prayer is something I’m praying Allah SWT in His infinite Mercy grants me (and anyone one else striving towards it!) always.
One salah is better than none, two is better than one, three is better than two, four is better than three, five is better than four, and five with complete humility is the best. May Allah SWT guide us towards the best and make the best easy for us. If you need to, start with one salah, and add dhikr (the act of remembrance of Allah through repeating SubhanAllah, Alhamdulillah, Allahu Akbar and by His other Names) because the remembrance of Allah soothes the soul.
Ramadan is four months away, meaning approximately 600 Salahs and approximately 600 calls to prayer.
Every single call to prayer is an opportunity to reconcile your heart with its source of oxygen. Several opportunities to improve and perfect our breathing. Changing old habits requires discipline and work. May Allah give us constancy and perseverance in our faith.
The nature of prayers is that as long as we are alive, every second, every minute is an opportunity to breathe; to worship. May the Turner of hearts – Allah, who has all hearts between His two Fingers – keep our hearts firm on His Deen”
“Allahumma ya Muqallib al Quloob thabbit qalbi ‘alaa Deenik,”