“Ugh! I forgot which Rakat I was at. Let’s start again.”
“Oh! Did I say that dua before I finished my Salah?”
“Salah is gonna take fifteen minutes. But I have to leave for work in ten. Should’ve woken up sooner. Nothing to do now. Gotta start driving now”.
“Salah is so long at masjid. I’ll just say it at home. Women don’t have to mandatorily be at the masjid”.
“I didn’t get to say any Salah today. InshAllah tomorrow will be a better day”.
Ever had those thoughts rush through your head?
They’ve occupied my mind on most days since I’ve started saying Salah. My Salah lacks so many things. Punctuality, regularity, concentration, focus, commitment, time set aside, love for Salah and most of all, the responsibility towards Salah and the knowledge that it’s compulsory.
I mean I know Salah is mandatory but have I given it the time that a mandatory thing requires? Probably not. But I want to.
The good thing is that Allah reserves points for trying. There is always an A for effort in His book.
It’s not that I’m always bad. There are days when I’m excellent. I don’t miss any prayers, my focus is spot on, and my preparation for the Salah starts before the actual Salah time comes around.
But there are those days too. You know what I’m talking about. Days when you procrastinate Salah, you figure you can just say it the next time, you think you probably aren’t clean to say it, you are distracted by mundane details of your life.
And even when you finally stand for Salah your mind is all over the place. Did I turn the stove off? Where’s Minha? Where’s Raahim? Did I close the bathroom door? Oh is this time for the UPS guy to come? My shoes are due today. Okay let’s quickly say Salah and get to the chores.
When actually chores can wait. The UPS guy will drop my package off and leave. My kids are with the nanny. My nanny can turn off the stove if it’s on.
Slowly I realized that my deficient Salah practices didn’t have much to do with time or energy or focus or my love for my religion. They had, however, something to do with the lazy guy in me.
The lazy guy in me? So after the rude guy, sarcastic guy, unreasonable guy and so many others, a lazy guy lives in me too? But I’m not a lazy person. I work and take care of my family. I take care of myself. I perform as much Ibadah as I can. I’m actually a very efficient person who’s always on the go. Lazy guy? Really?
Really! Yes, really! The bad guy for every good quality that we have is always in us. We don’t give ourselves enough credit for our good side winning over our bad side most of the time. We take it for granted that we are good people who care for others. Actually, there is always a subliminal battle with the bad guy in us. And the fact that the good guy wins is testimony to Allah’s presence. He makes us win and He gives us the tools to make the victory last.
I’m sure every Muslim has a different reason for not completely acing our Salah. I’m sure my laziness is an individual problem. I’m sure Salah is a work in progress for everyone. Perfection is hard to attain with Salah.
I had no other reference except my husband. It is actually because of my husband that I’ve even started saying Salah as much as I do. He makes a point of mentioning when it’s Salah time. When we didn’t have kids he would insist that we kept each other honest about Salah and it became something we bonded over. Kids made that difficult. We are usually lucky to get away from them long enough to engage in a mindful Salah.
So I started observing Adnan. And the first thing that stood out was how he looked forward to Salah. I mean to him it’s not another chore. He actually has dedicated time set aside for it. He enjoys it.
I built a habit of making myself free for a few minutes before Salah time. It didn’t work perfectly but it changed my approach to the hasty business that I considered Salah. It became more organic. It became enjoyable.
I noticed that Adnan prayed to Allah very dedicatedly after Salah. He never left the mat without saying a prayer for everyone. I didn’t make praying for my family a mandatory component of my Salah. I was usually of the mind that I would be praying at night anyway. I didn’t think I had to pray five times a day. I asked Adnan and he said that this was his time when he felt the closest to Allah because he was kneeling in front of Him.
I was quick to adopt this habit. It actually became my favorite part of Salah.
But I still had major trouble with regularity. How to say all five prayers and not miss any? Sometimes I knew I’d miss Salah if I went for a walk or if I started cooking and I’d still throw caution to the winds. This was the toughest challenge. Try as I might I couldn’t make regularity a way of my life with Salah.
Someone suggested setting a timer. Someone suggested an app. A few friends volunteered to call or text. But the most valuable piece of advice came by observing my mom.
I noticed that my mom’s day revolved around Salah. Everything that she does, every single thing, has an association with Salah. Because my mom and I spend a lot of time every year together Alhamdulillah I get to notice and be inspired by her a lot. When Mama wakes up in the morning she quickly announces lunch prep before Duhr. After lunch she dedicates most of the time to meditation and dua recital. Of course I can’t do it because of kids but she also uses this time to chat with my sisters and play with my kids. She sometimes even convinces me to go for a walk with her. The amount of organization that my mom has for this time is fascinating. While she’s doing all of the above, she is constantly anticipating for Asr to start anytime. She keeps reminding me that we have to be home on time or the kids have to go down for a nap soon or she has to get off of the phone soon because Asr time is due to begin. This is how she anticipates every Salah. I have sometimes wondered why my mom doesn’t get tired of arranging her schedule around Salah but I think I have understood her familiarity and ritualism with Salah a little more.
See for her Salah is her clock. Salah is how she schedules her meal times. It’s how she sets her sleep times. This is how she determines everything. And nothing deters her. If she is shopping and Salah time happens, she says Salah wherever she is. Her Salah is sometimes short and sometimes very long. She says the mandatory Rakaat always. She chooses when she’d say the longer version. She performs Salah like a Farz. And sometimes she sits at Salah like she’s meditating.
Life for a woman like me who works is of course different. There are times when I’m with patients and Salah time comes and goes. The next Salah comes and goes too. And the next.
One of my friends who is a surgeon once told me that he says whatever Salah is due next whenever he gets a moment. That became another way to accomplish more without the regimentation that I lack so much.
I’m much better now. Perfection is something I know I’ll never attain with Salah. Something will always be missing. But I’ve made regularity and punctuality my first goal. I know that focus and attention will come. I hope dedication and planning will come too. What encourages me a little about my Salah progress is that I’ve not given up completely or haven’t accepted my less than ideal practices as what I’m going to be able to do. I’ve accepted that my Salah is a work in progress. Just accepting that helps me work on it daily.