So, everyone, today’s post is based on not only my own personal experience but something that I have seen some other friends going through as well.
One of the things that can be very overwhelming during the time right after someone converts to Islam is learning the salah, or ritual prayer that is performed five times a day.
Not only do you have to learn a whole new way to pray that probably has never entered your mind before, but you also have to learn a bunch of words to recite in another, often very foreign, language-Arabic.
I can remember when I first started out, learning to do the ritual prayer. I was not aware back then that it is actually permissible for a new Muslim to recite the prayer in English (or whatever language they are most comfortable in) for the purpose of learning.
Before anyone starts throwing Islamic laws at me- yes, it is obligatory to recite the five daily prayers in Arabic as soon as you are able to. But, it was only recently that I found out while doing some research for a friend that was really struggling with the Arabic, that it is permissible to bend a few rules for the purposes of teaching or learning.
At any rate-that is new information to me, so when I started learning to pray, it was a slow and almost painful process. First, I had to write down all of the Arabic transliterations, then I had to memorise what they all meant so that I didn’t feel like I was praying empty words.
For the longest time, I prayed with that little piece of paper in front of me, to remind me whenever I forgot the words, or forgot what I was supposed to be doing with my hands and body.
But gradually, I used it less and less. And today, I am so grateful to God, praying in Arabic and even remembering the meaning is almost second nature.
There is one thing I still do in English though: supplications, or the non-ritual kind of prayer, where you are just talking to God.
I always hear that there are so many benefits of saying the words of the supplications that the Prophet (pbuh) himself used, and I really wish I could attain that blessing.
But for me, when I am talking to God on such a personal level, I don’t want to be worried about my pronunciation, or stumbling over words. And the fact of the matter is, I just don’t know enough Arabic. The words mean nothing to me.
And what is the point in spending your one-on-one time with God, the time that you thank Him for all you have and ask Him for what you need, the time that you can lay it all out in front of Him, the time when you can cry to the One who can fix your problems, what is the point of spending that time reciting empty words that will get you a lot of blessing, but don’t actually come from your heart?
Just as a post-script: I have been praying the ritual prayer regularly for almost two years now, and I still pull out the old sticky notes when I am trying to memorise some new verses to use in my prayer!