The True Prayer
We all suffer. We all have our challenges. Our problems are extremely subjective, and we often find that others never truly understand, despite endearing words in the form of, often, impractical advice. No one can understand your heart-break, because they’re not you.
Your heart will only ever beat in your chest, so how can we expect others to comprehend its rhythm?
But God’s an exception. He knows, and He understands. And He won’t compare you to anyone else – but judge you according to you. He sees, He hears. And He responds. Just don’t expect responses according to your, uniformed, man-made schedule.
I remember the night with extreme clarity. The day my father had a heart attack. His heart had entered abnormal rhythms several times, such that on one occasion – he had to be shocked out of it. The day he was due for surgery, he suffered a stroke, rendering half of his body paralysed, his speech and vision compromised. I was in my final years of university and I had to step up to the plate. As the only son, it rested upon my shoulders. My father hadn’t left the hospital yet and the girl I was in talks with to get married to, said she couldn’t do it and bailed. My mother had a car accident, and the car was written off. Someone blew up my car (literally). I failed my finals. A lot more happened, but perhaps these will accompany me to my grave.
Believe it or not, this occurred all within several months. I tried so hard to wake up, and expected my eyes to open any second having risen from the deepest sleep they had experienced. But it was reality, and these days have become infamously amongst the darkest of my life.
When you are in complete darkness, and light is but a myth, you have no choice but to shout, hoping that God hears your cries. Your vocal cords may eventually be rendered useless, but you still shout in hope of a squeal. You walk blindly, and you cry out in hopelessness like you have never done before. Your hands are agitated, in a state of panic, patting the darkness looking for any kind of support. Something to hold on to. Anything, please God, that will lead the way. See, it’s during these times you realise how much you need God. How feeble we are as a species. Unable to change the one thing we are most in control of – our own lives and destinies.
It’s during these times your heart cries the true prayer. Sincere, relinquishing everything to God. When you are SO focused on your Lord, that your senses are oblivious to anything but Him.
I had just met the Year Head, and was walking home dejected. My university life was under threat. I could not afford repeating years, and certainly could not afford dropping out. No one suffers more than they can bear, and I felt my quota was up. This was it. It was at this moment I cried my true prayer. It didn’t matter that I was standing in the middle of a street, and that the prayer mat was a gritty, cemented floor – I cried my true prayer. I could relate to the prayer Yunus (AS) cried in the belly of the whale, the prayer Maryam (AS) cried under the palm tree, or the prayer Yusuf (AS) cried in prison. For me, it’s that moment when your soul truly connects with The Heavens and there’s no force in the world that could interrupt it. When you surrender to God. I asked God for some relief. Give me something to hang on to here. It wasn’t Tahajjud, but that prayer was like an arrow that shot straight up to the heavens.
I had barely dropped my hands, that I received a phone call from a friend.
‘Faraz, did you hear?’
‘The university computers messed up. They re-calculated all the scores. Many people who failed, have now passed. Have you checked?’
That had never happened before. I hung up and ran. Could’ve been a few miles, but I ran. Perhaps anxiety superseded exercise to get the heart pumping. I got home and logged on the net to see if my marks had changed and… I had passed. I HAD PASSED. Alhamdulillah!
You know those moments when you lose control of your body and it falls in prostration because… there is simply nowhere else it could go? Those moments when you’re not even sure if your feet are still touching the ground? Those moments where it feels that the world is no longer walking on you, but rather your feet have regained control over it? That moment when the impossible breathes its last breath, giving life to the most unexpected beautiful reality? THAT.
That was the moment my faith was re-kindled. Till date, for me, it’s a proof of God. That inexplicable feeling of certainty and connection that I will forever be grateful I experienced. In time, Alhamdulillah, my father recovered slowly. Material damage was undone. The criminals who burnt my car were caught. I have a degree, a wife and two children. All praise is to God. And I hope there is nothing but reward for those tests, knowing that God tests those whom He loves. True to His words, hardship is indeed followed by ease. In so many more ways than one – mark my words. I wasn’t as patient as I could’ve been, and I often complained. I can only advise you to be patient through whatever you’re going through now – so the regret of weak faith doesn’t haunt you when happiness is at your feet, InshaAllah.
This is not an exercise in sympathy arousal. Far from it. It’s a reflective lesson. What I went through over 6 months still pales in comparison to the trials of people worldwide. It still pales in comparison to the sufferings of nations gone, and probably nations to come. But that doesn’t mean my problems are suddenly irrelevant. One of the beautiful attributes of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was that he understood human nature better than anyone. He knew that people suffer and he would give importance to that suffering regardless of how small it was in context to the world. He ﷺ, went out of his way to console a little boy who’s pet bird had died. This was despite being in the midst of a religious upheaval that resulted in the torture and prosecution of many of his people.
My problems are big for me, and your problems are big for you – whatever they are. Yes we, individually, should aim to contextualise these with those worse off because it develops our gratitude and provides strength. But contextualising the suffering of others can sometimes serve to lower morale whilst not providing any practical solutions. The Prophets (AS) always had true prayers – not just in stormy weather. Their level of assiduousness is unrivaled. Their connection to God was constant. I am still a weak human that sins openly and privately, repeatedly. My heart still floats in the wind, flipping between evil and good. As the perfect human, I forget to be grateful regularly. I get distracted by the world when things are good, and turn to God when things are bad. The true prayers are far and few in between, and it shouldn’t be limited to times of desperation. Only if I were stronger in my faith. Only if I were to learn how to become oblivious to my senses whenever I want, so that my connection to The Heavens would never get disrupted.
Imagine that. Imagine the arrows I’d be firing.