The Conversation

“There is so much inspiration in the world and I can’t seem to write a single word.” lamented the man with exasperation piled up inside him for years.

“ You are a mad man,” came a reply as if unveiling a piece of art.

“No…I’m not…,” said the man taken aback at the bluntness.

With confidence dripping like Nutella the second man said, “Yes, indeed you are.”

Clearly vexed at the coldness of the stranger’s tone he exclaimed, “NO! I M NOT.”

“Sigh,” nodding his head the second man reinforced, “I’m afraid you are…”

The exasperated man trying to hide his anticipation said, “Okay, then why don’t you prove it?.”

Second man’s cold reply came, “Well, you are talking to a mirror.”

Spiritual retreat project part 4

There is a little story from my childhood related to today’s post; not too significant but usually comes back to me. I was around 4 or 5 living in the Middle East. Those were the mobile free days. Steve Jobs was perhaps still in the making. Other geniuses like him and the companies like Sony, Nokia and LG and Samsung were keeping us occupied with other electronics. In short talking to a person especially in an office required one to first talk to the secretary. Likewise if someone from the office wanted to contact their employee/boss they used a ‘pager’ or land line number instead of bothering them directly via email or mobile phones.

On days that my father came home for lunch break or got off early from work, his secretary would sometimes give him a work related call. As a child I was always eager to answer the phone and do something ‘adult’ and ‘important’. Children haven’t changed. My niece sprints when the phone rings. One day my father was offering his salat and I answered the office call for him. When the person on the other end asked for my father, I went ‘eer..uuhh’ trying to use my limited English vocabulary acquired over the 5 years of my existence to explain what exactly my father was doing, unable to attend the call.

Later my father told me that I could have said ‘he is offering his prayer’. So whenever there was a call from the office, I would repeat the line whether it fit the situation or not because I had to flaunt the new English words I had learnt. I was a funny kid.

You must have guessed I plan to talk about prayer/salat but very briefly as there is already plenty of good information available on the internet.

Offering prayer/ salat is one of the pillars of Islam and all (Muslims) are well acquainted with this. Right from the beginning we learn the importance of it in classes and homes, especially that prayer is the key to heaven. Despite early education on praying, we still fall short on giving our best. We either don’t pray at all. Some of us pray but end up skipping a few prayers like fajr and isha or when we are out shopping or entertaining guests (as if the the guests are not Muslims). While those of us who claim to be proper ‘namazi’ with beards or hijabs flowing, elements of laziness or delay in prayers confront us. We are on the internet, talking to a friend, watching television, we hear a call for prayer and what do we do? Most of the time we think, I will catch up on it. Or I will do my wudu /ablution during the commercial break and pray during the second commercial break. Then there is also the element of showing off while praying which is very explicitly mentioned in Quran especially in Surah Ma’un where Allah addresses prayer performers who are either heedless or make a show of their prayers. Happens with most of us, even if we have no intention of showing off about our prayers; the minute someone enters the room, our yawn stops midway, we prolong our rakat or slow down a little between our prostrations. There is something so engraved in us that we become cautious of others around while we pray. Following are the Ayaats from Surah Ma’un:

4.Then woe to those prayer performers.

5.Who are heedless of their prayers.

6.Those who make a Show of it.

I don’t mean to generalise or form judgments for Allah knows best what is in our hearts. This is mere observation and also because I see myself in the above examples too.

Fortunately or unfortunately when Ramadan starts, the Muslims rush to the masajid/mosques. It seems like everyone has left their homes on the call to prayer. It is beautiful. However, sadly right after Eid, the number of namazis start to disappear from the masajids. Like I talked in my previous post, as we move away from Ramadan, we also move away from prayers. There are five obligatory prayers in Islam, famously known to have been reduced in number from 50 to 5 times a day; when Hazrat Musa/Moses kept sending Holy Prophet (pbuh) back to Allah. The interesting part is that we still get the reward for praying 50 times. Beautiful isn’t it?

No matter how beautiful our religion is, it will lose its meaning for us when we stop praying. Offering this ritual holds the key to Paradise. One of the questions asked after our death will be about our prayers that we take so lightly.

Another problem that arises from one of our most important practices is that we are required to pray in Arabic. And if you happen to be a Muslim but not an Arab, whatever we say in our prayers leaves little impact on us. As a result we stand, bow, prostrate and blindly finish our prayers everyday little pondering over the meaning of the words we repeat day in and day out. Again, little benefit for us. At the end of day we are only wasting our time, making a halfhearted effort and justifying it with numerous reasons.

There are many Ahadith* on the importance of prayer/salat that I personally think we should keep reflecting upon in order to understand why is it so important in Islam that we are expected to pray whether ill or in a state of war. One Hadith states that prayers is the extinguisher of hell fire. According to another Hadith, praying is better than performing Hajj 20 times. One Hadith sheds light on not missing the Fajr amd Asr prayers. One of the Ahadith that I came across during Aitekaf is quoted below. It highlights the importance of prayers for the companions of Holy Prophet (pbuh) who were told to rush for prayers even if they were engaged in conversation with the Messenger.

Hazrat Aishah (RA) narrates: “We would be engaged in conversation with the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his progeny), but with the arrival of the time of prayers it would appear as if he neither knew us nor we knew him.”

While it was easy to pray on time during Ramadan, the real test is to rush past all the hurdles and respond to the call of prayer.

prayer/salat is a vast topic that I cannot cover in one post firstly and secondly, my knowledge is limited.The above is only my personal reflection, thoughts.

Ahadith are the teachings and sayings of of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) to his companions when questions were asked from Him (pbuh) on different occasions and later compiled as Hadith literature.