When young Muslims meet others for the first time and find out that they are Muslim, often one of the very first questions they ask each other is, “Do you pray?” It’s as if this is their touchstone to see if the person they have met is a real Muslim or not. Calling yourself Muslim is one thing, being a Muslim is something else.
Praying five times a day is at the heart of Islam. It is one of the things that distinguishes a Muslim from everyone else in the world; that all the activities of life can be made significant by the cycle of prayer and praise which we offer to Almighty Allah. So why, then, do we have such a problem being faithful to prayer?
My first Umrah was one of the most important experiences of my life and it had its effects on me. Being so close to the Kaaba was a deeply moving experience. Being at the very place where our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him), like all the prophets before him, had walked and prayed, was amazing.
One of the things that hit me most about being in Makkah, among so many others, was when the call to prayer sounded for Fajr, the Dawn prayer. Thousands of people appeared from every direction and headed toward the Kaaba for prayer.
Getting up in the middle of the night wasn’t difficult at all, because the experience of praying at the Kaaba was so moving. At the time, moving with the vast crowd, I couldn’t help thinking about what it is usually like back home.
Those getting up and going to the mosque for the dawn prayer are certainly a minority, aren’t they? Away from Makkah, it is all too easy to ignore the Adhan completely and stay in the comfort of one’s bed.
At special times like Ramadan, or when we go on pilgrimage, it seems so much easier to be faithful to prayer and to take Islam so much more seriously. How many of us, for example, attended Tarawih Prayers in the mosque during Ramadan, even though we might occasionally miss one or two of the obligatory prayers?
It’s one of life’s paradoxes that we want so much to be good, and yet we find ourselves falling into the same old traps and doing things we later regret. How odd we are as human beings! We can quite happily sit in front of the television for hours or sit idly chatting on the Internet to no one in particular, yet we can’t manage to set aside 10 minutes to pray.