As I became more convinced that Islam is the truth, I began trying out the new lifestyle to see if I could make it work. (In retrospect this seems a bit unnecessary, as it is perfectly acceptable to learn as one goes, but it felt like a serious matter for me at the time.) Inshallah I will share some of my first impressions of Islam in the next few posts.
As a Christian, I prayed regularly, so I had a natural curiosity about the way in which my Muslim sisters and brothers pray. Seeing as there’s certainly no harm in choosing pray at five specific times each day, late one evening I downloaded an application to send my phone notifications for the five daily Islamic prayers.
I got the shock of my life roughly three hours later, when my alarm woke me for Fajr, the morning prayer, before dawn the next morning. It was still dark out. My husband was terribly confused. (I mumbled something about yoga, and he went back to sleep.)
And establish prayer at the two ends of the day and at the approach of the night. Indeed, good deeds do away with misdeeds. This is a reminder for those who remember.Quran 11:114
Since Salah is done in Arabic, I followed a video, which had me constantly leaning over to read the subtitles. It involved quite a lot of movement, changing positions between standing, bowing, prostrating, and sitting. (I never thought I’d say this, but sitting is hard.) Since women cover their hair during Salah, I even tried this as well. A headscarf fell down onto my face right in the middle of it all.
In short, it was awkward.
I also mistakenly believed that the five prayers had to be prayed exactly on time. This left me wondering why the Muslim sisters I happened to see in a store about ten minutes before the daytime prayer looked so calm. (Maybe they knew about a secret prayer room?)
A quick internet search showed me that although there was likely no prayer room in that particular area, there are in fact a shockingly large number of prayer rooms and mosques in Japan. Alhamdulillah.
Over time, prayer did begin to feel more natural, and as I learned and memorized a bit of Arabic it became less time-consuming as well. Salah became a much-needed mental break, a chance to recharge and reconnect with God throughout the day. Waking up early was difficult at first, but once my body adjusted I began to enjoy that too.
O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.Quran 2:153
Salah had a surprising amount of physical benefits. Within the span of a few days I found that my blood pressure had dropped significantly, I was sleeping better, and I had more energy. Stopping to remember God throughout the day also helped me feel calm, relaxed, and grounded. I now firmly believe that praying Salah daily leads to a very healthy lifestyle.
Which brings me to the next topic: wudu. I didn’t realize it was necessary at first, which is why this is probably the only blog on the internet to introduce wudu after salah. (Awkward.)
O you who have believed, when you rise to [perform] prayer, wash your faces and your forearms to the elbows and wipe over your heads and wash your feet to the ankles.Quran 5:6
First impression: Muslims must have very clean feet.
The first time I tried to make wudu I nearly drowned myself by taking too much water into my nose. It’s also nothing short of a miracle that I didn’t fall over while balancing on one foot while washing the other in the sink. (In retrospect, I could have just used the shower.) It took a bit more work than I expected, but when it was all said and done, my heart and body were clean. Close enough.
Abu Malik at-Ash’ari reported: “The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: Cleanliness is half of faith and alhamdulillah (Praise be to Allah) fills the scale.” (Sahih Muslim)
If you have never done Salah before, I would strongly encourage you to try it, even if it’s just once a day. There are many aspects of prayer which simply cannot be described in words. If you take the time to pray Salah, you will experience this for yourself inshallah.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) reported that Allah said about the one who comes near to Him: “If he comes to me walking, I go to him running.” (Sahih Bukhari)
May Allah help us to wake up early, keep a healthy and clean lifestyle, and remember to always be grateful to Him. Amen.