Prayer

A slice of humble pie

A short while ago,  I ‘uber pooled’ a taxi with a stranger. I have done this a few times when I couldn’t justify getting a taxi home, beyond feeling just a bit lazy. This time a lady jumped in to the back with me and promptly greeted me with the muslim salutation ‘peace be  upon you’.

Strangely, despite being a very private person, there are times when I am happy to share elements of my life freely with others. On the most part however, I keep my deepest hopes and dreams to myself.  This lady, upon us setting off in the car to our respective destinations, began to tell me about her life. How she was mixed race, how she only discovered faith in her later years, how she is trying to maintain a good relationship with her Trump loving mother, how she was married multiple times and finally how she is currently in court, fighting for the right of her son to attend a faith school, despite her ex-husband’s objections. She turned to me and told me her son’s name and asked me to pray and make dua that the court case goes well. I promised her I would.

I don’t know how the court case went and I probably wouldn’t recognise the woman if I was to pass her by in the street again. But this lady’s attitude taught me something: humility.

Some people may think that this lady telling her life story might be lonely or too talkative or to relate to the social media craze we live in now was ”oversharing’. I saw something else. I saw someone who was humble enough to confide to an absolute stranger her biggest concerns in life at the time and ask for help in the form of a prayer, and at the same time strong in her self to know that her sharing didn’t make her weaker in the eyes of the other person. There is a prophetic saying (hadith) that ‘the dua of a muslim for his brother in his absence is responded to’. 

This struck a cord with me, particularly because I wondered how often I ask loved ones to pray for me or to help me. I wondered if this was because I felt I never needed to do so because in the Islamic tradition, there is no need for an intermediary to communicate your feelings and prayers to God. I realised, that perhaps a part of it too was because I don’t like to admit when I am in need. To open myself in this way would feel too overwhelming and would indicate that I am not as self-sufficient (bar God) as I aspire to be.

It is one thing to only rely on God and to call on only Him for relief, and quite another to not seek dua or help from others due to a lack of humility.

And so, any prayer and good vibes you can send my way would be humbly and graciously received <3.

I ask for God’s abundant mercy and blessings to be showered in your life and that you may see both joys and hardships as only beautiful things.

Ameen.

 

 

 

 

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It’s in the little details

On a recent trip to France, a few friends and I were eager to find a mosque; to fulfil our religious obligation as well as experience and get a sense of the Muslim community in the heart of Nice. I think ba

ck to the people we asked along the way in locating this mosque and how each and every person shall, God willing find reward with their Lord for easing and aiding the prayer of three travellers.  From the Tunisian man who admitted that he did not pray but took the sincere effort to make dua for us and call his friend and ask him for directions  to Sengalese and Moroccan waiters showing us further directions on a map. We reached what looked like a homely prayer space for the immediate community within the neighbourhood but for a number of reasons, we were unable to access the garage-turned-mosque (not to go into it too much detail, as we understood the social complexities in this neighbourhood however the importance of providing a space for women to pray in should never be overlooked).  Feeling utterly dejected, a friend suggested we ask a nearby church if we could pray there.

And just like that, we turned around to find an Islamic Bookstore, with two men I will never forget and will continue to pray for any time they cross my mind. Slightly embarrassed, we asked if we could pray in their shop and again just like that,  they cleared the place, moving their products they had to provide more prayer space and privacy for us and left the shop with three foreign strangers inside free to do whatever they liked.

God had blessed us with greater lessons that day than a fleeting experience in a neighbourhood mosque; that all of God’s earth is a prayer space and is not confined to a constructed building and that prayer is sometimes more appreciated when you realise it may not be easily accessible due to man-made mental and physical barriers.  Also important was the realisation that there are people that constantly surround us who manifest godly characteristics with absolutely no expectation or desire of worldly thanks or appreciation, a walking example of the Quranic verse ‘they give food to the poor, the orphan, and the captive, though they love it themselves, saying ‘we feed you for the sake of God alone. We seek neither recompense nor thanks from you’ (Surah 76:9).                      

Perhaps the Tunisian man who made dua for God’s mercy towards us was more sincere in his efforts to help others than I was in my bid to pray.

Your actions inspire others so never underestimate the importance of doing good. Ibn Al Qayyim, the Islamic Scholar once said “Perhaps you might be asleep while the doors of Heaven are knocking with tens of supplications for you, by a poor person you aided or a sad person you cheered up or a distressed person you brought relief to. Therefore, do not underestimate doing good at all.”

A kind word or action may inspire someone else to pay it forward, to better themselves and ultimately may be the sincere little detail that is your saving grace by God’s mercy. The prophetic tradition of the prostitute who entered paradise due to her quenching the thirst of a puppy should never escape our minds.

A while ago, a friend informed me that the Prophet (pbuh) once said that if a person recites ayat ul kursi after each prayer, there will be nothing standing between them and their entering Paradise except death thus highlighting the importance of the verse as well as reaffirming God’s love of our deeds to be consistent, especially when small.

Now, each time I remember to say the ayat after my prayer, I think of the increasing reward my friend is receiving and how pleasantly surprised, God willing she will be on the last day that matters.

And I think of the Tunisian man, the Moroccan and Sengalese Waiters and the two book shop owners who will never quite realise the weight of the little good deeds they sowed that day, and how their actions affected three travellers, who were truly humbled and inspired by the little details.

The pursuit of humble knees

Multitasking has its perils. While trying to text and walk down a flight of stairs, I fell over.  To be honest, it wasn’t dramatic. I only missed one step, I didn’t have the embarrassment of pitiful onlookers and the only real damage, was that to my purse, as I was holding coins and I heard them tumble slowly but surely down the sharp metal rails to a point of no return. My knee does hurt though, the last time I remember my knee hurting as much was when I fell into a thorn bush at age nine.  Cycling also has its perils. I still have this vivid memory because a thorn was unknowingly lodged into my knee for about two weeks until one boring day, I daringly squeezed said knee and lo and behold, a thorn literally jumped out…any way I digress.

The reason I momentarily relived my knee to floor impact was because prayer motions are currently not as second nature as before. Bowing and prostration are a bit uncomfortable, but I persist knowing that I will be back in full form in a day or so.

But this got me thinking about how grateful I should be at being able to physically submit to God in prayer.  This post is not about establishing prayer itself, though of course it is related, but rather about the often under appreciated value of the prayer positions themselves (when performed with sincerity) and what they signify.

How many people are unable to pray physically, or need the aid of a chair? While circumstance such as age or illness renders prayer that does not include all the physical positions still acceptable and fulfilling, how many people wish they could go back in time and perform prayer as they once did, healthy or young?

I had recently finished reading Malcolm X’s autobiography and thought about the section where he speaks about initially finding it impossible to bend his knees in submission to God.  He says in Chapter 4 ‘the hardest test I ever faced in my life was praying… bending my knees to pray-that act- well, that took me a week…. I had to force myself to bend my knees. And waves of shame and embarrassment would force me back up’.  

I don’t think I had necessarily considered just how significant the prostration position is, but the story about the creation of mankind clarifies this importance whereby God instructed the angels and Iblis to prostrate to Adam, as a form of honouring man and in turn an act of worship through obedience to God’s command.  Iblis refused to prostrate, claiming himself superior to man, leading to his ultimate demise.  This was an act of not only disobedience on the part of Iblis, but also arrogance.

(Allah) said: “O Iblis! What prevents you from prostrating yourself to one whom I have created with Both My Hands. Are you too proud or are you one of the high exalted” . Iblis said: “I am better than he. You created me from fire, and You created him from clay.” Surah Saad 75-76.

When Muslims prostrate in prayer, they willingly submit to God, putting their best part of their selves on the ground, the lowest point possible. This act is not just in heart or mindless action but is a sincere demonstration of their humility before God. Prostration not only signifies humility but also gratitude. There are 15 verses in the Quran where an additional prostration is required. One verse that indicates this importance of gratitude and humility is in Surah Al Sajdah: 15: ‘Only they believe in Our messages who, when they are reminded of them, fall down prostrate and celebrate the praise of their Lord, and they are not proud’.

The importance of these positions is also such that the Prophet said, “The worst thief is he who steals from his prayer.” His companions asked, “O Messenger of Allah, how does he steal from his prayer?” He said, “He does not perfect its ruku and sujud” and he recommended that each movement must last at least the time that it takes for the bones to settle (Ibn Khuzaymah).

So while my knee may have survived thorn bushes and stair wells, I pray it will also aid me in seeking humility and gratitude.