Jan 28, 2013

Salah: All I need is a Q-TIP

By Sabina Giado


Some time ago, I read this article by Shaikh Abu Easa Niamatullah. To summarize the main thrust of his argument: Though the numbers of Muslims may well be increasing 235% a year, that is probably because we have more children than non-Muslims and it only takes into account the last 50 years, starting on an uneven footing anyway.

Moreover, so what if we are the fastest growing religion in the world? Just because there are more Muslims, does not mean that they are all good Muslims. In fact, the opposite is quite likely.

If the five pillars of Islam, specifically Salah (the five daily prayers) are considered to be the absolute minimum a Muslim has to do to be practising, then well, according to Shaikh Niamatullah, there are probably very few of those around. “With more people seen to be praying, there are many times over more Muslims not praying. As those who are practicing their religion properly increases, the numbers of Muslims not practicing properly dwarfs it.”

The only question ringing in my head after reading this article is, “Why aren’t Muslims praying? More specifically, why do I find hard to maintain my daily prayers?”

I started to pray regularly when I was 11 years old, around the same time I started wearing hijaab. I missed prayers often, for parties, exams, studying, even TV shows, making it up in Khalah. I became stricter with Salah as I got older. This was mostly because of fear of Allah , but not really love of Him. Hadith said that if I missed my Asr prayer, all my good deeds would be wiped out. Others that played frequently on my conscience was that a believer’s faith could be judged by the frequency of their Isha and Fajr prayer.

But let me get to love later.

Sheikh Niamutallah’s article got me thinking about what it was about the practice of Salah that provided challenges for me and my brothers and sisters.

The basic elements you need to comfortably pray are a quiet place free from distractions, adequate time to perform ablutions and your prayer and of course, a clear heart and mind. I tried to come up with a catchy acronym but the best I could do was another acronym – Q-TIP. Quietude, Time and Inner Peace.

I live in the UAE and by the Grace of God, there are prayer rooms in almost every building.

In Dubai Mall, there is a prayer room every hundred paces. Emaar Properties takes their prayer facilities quite seriously.

A friend of mine who had grown up in London once called prayer rooms in shopping malls “beautiful”. I admit I used to think it bizarre to suddenly come upon beautiful places of worship in a temple of consumerism. But still, they are blessings.

In my office building, the ladies’ prayer room is basically a converted janitor’s closet, but still, it qualifies as a quiet place free from distractions and I am grateful for it.

Even though sometimes there is a rather frazzled gentleman that uses it. I do not mind – I think we are the only two people in the whole building using the prayer room and I cannot think where the men’s prayer room must be and what it must be like.

What do people do in places where no such prayer rooms exist? Pray in car-parks? Changing rooms? I have heard it helps to have someone to keep watch and field any questions from onlookers so you can do your Salah without people freaking out. There have been some funny stories.

Ablution has traditionally presented some problems, even here in Dubai, where sometimes I have not had the luxury of Wudhu facilities. Try explaining to someone why you have your foot in the sink. The result? More funny stories.

Many of us have grueling work/study schedules. Work is not structured around sacral timings. In fact, I sometimes wonder if it is even structured around human timings. When I was studying global politics in university, a feminist lecturer suggested that the world of work, politics and power was built in man’s image. Therefore it is rigid, structured and exacting and does not allow for the unstructured gendered feminine chaos of family life and child-rearing.

The company I work for is thankfully far more flexible and VERY family-friendly, Mashallah. None of my female co-workers have lost their jobs because they have gotten pregnant. My co-worker once even brought her daughter into work because she did not have school that day.

Unfortunately, from what I have observed, they are the exception and not the rule.

Inner peace
For me, since living in an Islamic country takes care of the first two, this third requirement is my personal Jihad.

As I said before, I used to have serious anxiety issues. I focused on the future to the point that it made me physically ill. I could not find peace anywhere, not even in my prayers.

But even then, by the Grace of Allah, I somehow reached moments of great clarity. And in those moments of clarity, I felt humbled and powerful at the same time. Like I was connected to a power far larger than me. I felt like I did not care who was looking. Like I would welcome their questions. Because He was on my side.

In the moments of confusion though, I was really confused. My mind would run up and down and sideways on work, men, family, clothes, jokes. I would come to the prayer room looking for answers and would leave feeling more confused than ever.

I began looking for ways to focus my concentration and let go of some of my anxiety. So far, a few things have worked, the most powerful of which is meditation. All these years, I had not even been breathing. No wonder my brain scrambles around like a hamster on crack.

There is still however the tricky problem of motivation. Why am I praying? Why “should” I pray?

Do not get me wrong. Fear works.

There is any number of sayings of the Prophet Muhammed salallahu aleyhi wasallam telling you about the dire effects of missing your prayer. Imams (people leading the congregation in prayer) expound on these from the pulpit all the time.

However, not many of them talk about the flip side.

How many of us are looking for love? How many of us want the love of someone kind, true, loyal, patient and giving?

Allah is Al Latheef (Kind, Gentle).
Allah is As Sadiq (The Keeper of His Word)
Allah is As Sabur (The Patient)
Allah is Al Mujeeb (The Responder).
(And this is one of my favorites) Allah is Al Mumin (The Giver of tranquility)

Who in the universe could love us more than our Creator?

If you ask of Allah, He will surely answer. The sacred texts (Hadith and the Qur’an) say it over and over again. I cannot say it any better than this article, so I will not even try.

Truth be told, I have more questions than answers. I do know I want to try something out. I want to pray in strange places. Mountains, villages, truck stops, shopping malls (not in the prayer room), hospitals, anywhere a modern-day Muslim might find themselves. I want to see what the difficulties are and what tools we need as a community to make it less difficult.

As someone who meditates (arguably a Buddhist practice), I am really interested to see what the intersections and divergences in diverse spiritual practices are too. In short, I would like to make a documentary.

If you pray regularly or if you do not, I would really like to know why. I would greatly appreciate it if you would drop me a comment below.

And that goes for Muslims and for non-Muslims!

I am really not the Huffington Post (yet), but if you do not want the whole world reading your response, please do respond here on my About page.

And tell me all your funny awkward praying-in-not-so-private stories!!

May Allah respond to your deepest desires in the way that is best for you in this world and the next Ameen! I love you guys.

Update: Salams! Alhamdulillah just came across this incredible video by Br. Nouman Ali Khan as to how Shaitan tricks us into not praying.

I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please post in the comments section below! :)


MashaAllah a wonderful article. Pray is something I struggle with in terms of my consistency and khushoo. I can relate to what you have said. In my old workplace it took me nearly two years to pluck up the courage to ask for salah breaks at work. When I did I thought to myself why had I not done this earlier. I guess I was looking for excuses. Alhamdulilah in my new work place one of the first things I asked for was pray breaks and a place to pray so now I have no excuses. I pray because I know its a command from Allah. I pray to seek the pleasure of Allah.

AssalamuAlaykum dear sister,

I so enjoyed your story. As I was reading through I identified with many of my own thoughts and worries, thankyou for sharing with us. I will insha Allah send you some of my own thoughts and stories for your research project.

May the blessing of Allah be with you always.

Much love from one sister to another.

Rabina m3aky ukhti.

Saying Salas for any Muslim is so easy that whoever wants to perform them can. The prayer times are most of the time convenient and each of the Salas can take less than 5 minutes. Thank you for the post!


MASHALLAH. Nice read. The greatest motivation for me is the thought of dead. We all heading towards it and must give accountability for how we spent our lives.

I initially started praying regularly because of some Salah lectures and the famous hadith about salah being the difference between the Kafir and the Mu'min. A really powerful statement by a lecturer also hit me like a ton of bricks. He said, "The scholars differ over whether the person who does not pray is a Kafir or a Fasiq. Do you want your state to be that people have to decide whether you're a Kafir or a Fasiq?" (at time of death, bec Kuffar and Muslims have separate graveyards).
You're so lucky sis that you have that privilege of living in a Muslim country. I would say it is difficult to pray here in the U.S. depending on where you are (like a mall or stores or during travel), but in everyday life like work and school, usually every building has a prayer room, a meditation room, or an empty room that Muslims can use for prayer. The hardest for me lol is praying at the mall. My friends and I usually go into a big fitting room to pray or go to the parking lot, depending on the circumstances.
I would like to add that yes, praying out of love is better than praying out of fear, but a balanced approach is the best way to go, bec sometimes, if a person is not fearing Allah, but is not really "feeling the love" either, then they may not pray. You see how that can be dangerous? I think that whether you pray out of love or fear has to do with your level of Imam and your circumstances. For example, when in class, you aren't exactly feeling like "Oh, I miss Allah, lemme go pray" but you have to get up and go anyway because prayer time might be over by the time you leave. But I also do think that once you love prayer, once you taste its sweetness, then it's very easy to bring that feeling back if you're committed. lol, I just have so much to say.
I loved the article by the way, it was very enlightening and I hope Allah makes it easy for you! Ameen :)

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