Friday, July 28

Praying Unreligiously

Some people struggle with the whole five-times-a-day-prayer thing, and some don't. I think I fall into the latter group, but I only mention that 'cos it's relevant to this article. I don't wear it on my sleeve and I certainly do not expect the same from everyone. I mean I'm not bragging or anything.

But is someone who prays regularly a good Muslim? I only ask because it seems to be the main way people decide that I might be (and although I'm referring to introductions and arranged marriages here, this isn't really specific to those situations). That is, if they haven't seen my facial hair already. Or noticed that I happen to be wearing shalwar kameez. But let's forget those factors and get back to salah.

The thing is that since it's a habit for me now it doesn't really require the effort or struggle that it may do for others. It's like having to eat three meals a day, or shower, or any other regular domestic activity. Some people think that's a lucky place to be in, but I think anyone can get there if they wanted to. Should they though?

Maybe an example will help me explain. Who's more religious: someone who prays five times a day without fail at home, or someone who might not be that regular but goes off to help their brothers and sisters in a Middle Eastern refugee camp? Who's the better Muslim? Who's made the bigger sacrifice, or demonstration of faith to God?

You can't say really. No one can, except That One Being upstairs. But then that's what I'm saying. I just don't think that prayer, on its own, is an accurate barometer of faith. Not now, anyway. Sure, I may be a better Muslim than I would have been if I didn't pray, but that doesn't necessarily mean I'm a good one in either case. So faith is relative and not absolute, then.

Oh, and I'm NOT saying that prayer isn't obligatory or not superficial or that it's excusable to miss it even once every few months or that everyone shouldn't try their utmost best to establish regular prayer. However, being a Muslim is more than just practicing (including beards and hijabs and the rest of it) and as I grow older I think I'm understanding this more and more. In fact, you could argue that all of the obligatory stuff is trivial for a reason.

All those seemingly weak cliches I heard when I was younger, about it being personal and more about treatment of others, begin to make sense. And then more advanced ideas like how it's also about community and social issues and politics all fall into place too. And quite possibly above all, the importance of spirit becomes apparent and so easier to recognise and express.

So yeh. Don't assume that someone is religious or a good Muslim just 'cos they pray. That part is relatively easy and there's a long way to go after that, even for someone who had established it before they had reached their teens[1].

IANAS

[1] Alright, that last bit might be bragging a little.