I’m not a birthday person but I’m a person who celebrates and appreciates growth. If I read a book and the main character doesn’t grow up at the end. I declare there’s a problem with the book. A character must always grow. In strength, in success, in wisdom, in love, in awareness, in anything. As long as there’s something about you that has improved compared to before.
See the way Arya grew up to a bad ass No One and Sansa grew up to a strong Lady. See Jamie, from an heartless character to a character capable of showing empathy to someone other than his sister. Ok, I’m a GOT addict. Sorry. You get what growth is.
I didn’t know what to talk about on my birthday but I wanted to write something. Should I write a love letter to myself? Should I write 22 important lessons I’ve learned at 22, should I write 22 facts about me. When I couldn’t come to a conclusion. I decided to write 22 lies I told Myself before 22 and to write about the aspect of my life that had the most incredible growth. My Faith.
I didn’t care about Salah. It was a task for me. A difficult task. I grew up missing my Salah, and not feeling an ounce of guilt about it. Now, I’m someone who is terribly sad whenever I don’t pray on time or whenever I go out and I can’t find a mosque.
If that’s not the most important growth in the last 21 years. I don’t know what is.
Note: Praying/ Pray/ Prayers is used interchangeably with Salah ( The 5 daily prayers Muslims observe every day)
In The Beginning.
I was born to Muslim Parents. My mom reminded us of prayers every time. I prayed especially when she was watching. When she wasn’t, I skipped it. I prayed not because of the love or fear for Allah. I prayed because I knew mom would be upset, she may punish me if she found out I hadn’t prayed.
I went to an Islamic secondary school. Ustaz always came to class to ensure everyone had gone to the Mosque during the time for prayer. I had to go to mosque, I didn’t want to be a scapegoat. Sometimes I missed prayers when no one was watching.
In secondary school, our school uniform was a blue short sleeved shirt and a royal blue skirt, just a little below the knee. I was 17 or 18 before I learned that as a woman, I was to pray with my whole body covered except for my face and hands. In my 6 years in a secondary school filled with Muslims, I didn’t learn that.
The link between those two stories is that I prayed because I was being watched. By my Mom at home. By the Ustaz in school. Prayer wasn’t in my heart. I didn’t enjoy praying. It was a job. It was one of those things a kid had to do because of the fear of punishment.
University: Home of Freedom.
When I got to the University. No one was watching me. It was easy to tell a lie to my mom over the phone that I had prayed. That in fact, I had just finished praying. University gave me the chance to miss prayers without fear, without fear of punishment. University also gave me the chance to meet incredible people who knowingly or unknowingly have helped tremendously with my journey back to Allah.
The Problem I had With Praying.
Apart from not enjoying Salah. I became defensive. I started telling myself I have a better character and manners than some people who pray. Some people pray 5 times and sleep with Alhajis and pay for sex and drink alcohol and steal and backbite and shout at their parents and it doesn’t make them better than me. Perhaps I’m even better than them, I thought. How ignorant I was.
I didn’t like anyone who reminded me of prayer and I smirked whenever someone excused himself during a lecture to pray. When non Muslims say stuff like is this not Zee, isn’t she a Muslim too. Some Muslims like to do too much. What will cost them to wait till lecture ends before going to pray? I don’t defend my Muslim family. I don’t. And I wish I did. I regret keeping mute.
My Nafs was hard to fight.
I love colours on my hair. If you knew me then. You know I never wear my hair in normal black or colour 33. I loved my hair in purple and gold and maroon. Sometimes I mixed all colours together on my hair.
When I learned that attachment and weave are bad for prayers. That they make your prayers invalid because water won’t reach your hair when you perform ablution and that the Prophet SAW said there’s no Salah without ablution.
I had more reasons to defend why I didn’t pray. Oh, you see. I’m wearing box braids. I can’t pray. You see. I have fixed nails, I can’t pray. You see I spent an hour to get my eye brow right, I can’t just clean them off because of prayers.
Two events changed me. Not completely but a beginning of change.
1. In 2016. 300 level Second semester. I was home for the compulsory 6 months industrial training.
During that time, some armed robbers started to raid our neighborhood. It went on for almost 3 weeks. They went to houses. They stole. Beat the occupants and the worse, they raped. Every morning, almost every morning then, we woke up to news that they had gone to Mr and Mrs Somebody’s house.
Once, we heard that they had gone to a church during a night vigil and they raped some of the young women. That was the straw for me. I’m sad that it took something that terrible to instill in me the knowledge that I’m just a helpless, powerless being. That I was nothing. That armed robbers could come to our home and there was nothing I could do.
I prayed then. I begged Allah to protect my home, to protect the neighborhood, to help the police get these armed robbers. I said Allah, please protect my house and family from anyone with an evil intention, I promise I will pray from now on.
I started observing my Salah since then. When the armed robbers were caught. I didn’t stop observing my Salah. But it wasn’t consistent. Sometimes, I joined prayers. Zuhr + Asr. Magrib + Isha.
, I prayed in fixed nails and fixed hair. But I prayed. This time I was scared Allah would be angry if I broke my promise to him. Prayer became me trying to hold on to the promise I made Allah. It was stupid but it was something.
When I started praying. I became curious. I’m a curious person naturally. I love asking questions, I love understanding something. I Google the most ridiculous stuff every day.
So I started to ask questions then. Why is Salah so important in Islam? Why is it the gateway to Jannah? There’s an Hadith that says without prayers, you’ve lost everything on the Day of Judgement. Why is Salah the second most important pillar in Islam? Can’t I just believe in Allah without bowing down?
I started googling my questions. I started watching a program on Islam Channel/ DSTV. Islamic Q & A and I was certain someone was going to ask the questions I wanted to ask. I started watching YouTube videos by Islamic speakers. I started following Muslims on Instagram.
One day. I went to a bookstore and for the first time, I got 2 books on Islam. I downloaded PDF copies of books by Muslim scholars online and I started reading. It was like I was meeting Islam for the first time. No indoctrination. Just my own will finding and knowing Allah. No one forcing opinions on me.
With a better understanding of Islam, of my stubborn nafs, I was able to convince myself to stop wearing weave. To stop wearing fixed nails. For the sake of my Salah. To clean off my makeup when it is time for prayers. It was difficult. Painfully difficult.
Ramadan is about recharging your Iman. I didn’t know what that meant until I experienced the Ramadan of 2017. I was determined to improve my connection with Allah. I got a journal, to write my duas, to write the new things I learned about Islam. I downloaded apps that could help me. The Quran, the Prayer times. The Tafsir and Alhamdulilah, I am glad to say that since then I haven’t looked back. Salah became easy.
The thing I’ve learned about connections is that it has to be recharged. There need to be communication and introspection. And that is what I try to do always. I recharge by learning more about Allah and Islam, by reading and listening to Muslim Speakers. I communicate by communicating, lol.
I have conversations with Him. And I introspect. Did I rush my prayer? Did I observe my Salah correctly?
My Salah isn’t perfect yet. I still struggle with khushoor and total submission during prayers. Sometimes my mind wander. Sometimes I don’t concentrate completely.
But I’m trying to work on that. May Allah make it easy for me.
Thanks for reading my journey on Salah 💜💜.
I pray that Allah accepts our Salah and guide us to pray correctly. I pray that Allah makes it easy for every Muslim struggling with Salah. I pray He, Allah, the Most High makes it easy for every Muslim struggling with Salah.
Hi there. I’m Azeeza.
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Thank You 💜🖤💜