Recite what has been revealed to you of the Book and establish salat. Salat precludes indecency and wrongdoing. And remembrance of Allah is greater still. Allah knows what you do.” (Quran 29:45)
As we all know, Muslims are obligated to pray five times a day and there are very few exceptions to this obligation. To not perform all prayers during their prescribed time is a grave sin that you will have to answer for on the Day of Judgement. Along with our five mandatory prayers, the Prophet(SAW) was known to also pray extra prayers which we have come to know as "Sunnah salah" these prayers are in addition to the five that we already have to do and more blessings are earned for praying them.
Whenever I'm engaging in a conversation with someone about the importance of prayer a common question is "why is the prayer so formatted? Why can't someone just sit down and pray to God?" I think this questions stems mainly from our understanding of what prayer is. In Islam, the prayers that we engage in five times a day are called "salah" which are referred to as ritualistic prayers. These prayers come with their prescribed sayings and movements and must be done in the proper manner. In Islam, we also have the concept of "dua" which is most often referred to as "supplications". This is when we simply sit down and ask/tell Allah what we want.
Salah has been ordained upon us for numerous reasons. This first and foremost reason is that it is a sort of test, a way to gauge our obedience and submission to our creator. Allah(SWT) is asking us to wake up from our sleep, pause whatever work we're doing, turn off our favorite tv show to worship him. He's testing us by seeing if we will truly disengage from our worldly affairs and worship him. Salah also gives us a chance to connect with Him and His word. During our busy day, He is giving us an opportunity to stop at least five times to just remember Him, to talk to Him, to connect with Him. The Prophet(SAW) tells us that “When any one of you stands to pray, he is communicating with his Lord, so let him pay attention to how he speaks to Him.” as well as that “The closest a person is to His Lord is when he is in prostration” Observing our salah helps to build a closer and better relationship with our creator.
By enjoining the act of salah upon us, Allah(SWT) is also giving us the opportunity to remember him and remember his guidance and mercy. Seventeen times a day(the amount of rakat total in the 5 prayers) we recite Surah Al-Fatiha. That means that 17 times every day, we remember through our recitations that Allah is merciful, that He is The Master of the Day of Judgement, that He is The most compassionate. Seventeen times a day we make dua to Him to help us stay on the straight path. Simply by stopping what we are doing five times a day for no more than 10-15 minutes, we are able to engage in such a rewarding practice.
Salah is also important because it guards us from evil and helps us stay away from sins. When we make salah we are seeking Allah’s help and protection. We are asking him to protect us from the temptations of Shaytan and assist us in remaining steadfast. Observing salah protects us from committing sins because if one is sincere in their salah, they will most likely not finish their salah and then go engage in haraam activities. Alongside this, if one is engaging in haraam behaviour and still values their salah, stopping to pray removes them from sinful situations.
There are many of us who identify as Muslim simply because we were born into the faith. There are also many who identify as Muslim because they consciously decided to accept the idea that there is no deity but Allah and Muhammad(SAW) is His messenger. Being able to say you accept and agree with the Shahada is definitely the first step in becoming Muslim but BEING a Muslim involves a lot more than that. The term “practicing Muslim” is often thrown around to indicate someone who not only claims to be a Muslim but also actively practices the tenets of the faith. I honestly do not like this term because the label “Muslim” on its own should mean that you are actively engaging in the tenets of Islam. Being a Muslim is not just about abstaining from pork, attending Jummah salah or praying all the rakat of taraweeh during the nights of Ramadan. As Muslims, we should always strive to be the best we can be for our creator. The word “Islam” means submission but also stems from peace, so in essence, Islam means the attainment of peace through submission. If Islam means peace through submission then a Muslim is one who attains peace through their submission to the will of Allah. Allah(SWT) says to us “I have created the jinn and humankind only for My worship.” (Qur'an 51:56). We worship Him through our ultimate submission to his commands. We submit to Him, our creator, by doing what He and His Messenger(SAW) have told us to do and staying away from what they have told us to stay away from. The point that I am getting at is that before we can proudly say “I am Muslim”, we should ask ourselves, “Am I honestly trying my best to submit to the will of Allah?”, “Am I staying away from all that is forbidden and adhering to all that is obligatory?”. If you can honestly say yes to these questions, without any hesitation or buts, then yes, you are truly BEING Muslim.
This is not say that being Muslim means you're perfect, that you don't struggle. Instead, what I mean is that if we are really trying to Muslim in every meaning of the world, we are always seeking to submit ourselves to the will of Allah. Yes, you might have hard time remembering to pray your salah, yes you might be struggling with refraining from the haram but are you sincerely trying? If so, then you are submitting yourself to the will of Allah, you are being Muslim.
That thing is sooo ugly, I want to be fashionable. Islam is in my heart, it doesn’t matter how I’m dressed.”
If you haven’t realized it yet, this post is about the observance of external hijab. Being that this site is geared towards sisters, I will not be addressing the external hijab of men but please note, that before Allah told women to cover and lower their gaze, he first addressed men.
Honestly, this is not my favourite topic to discuss at all. I think people, Muslims as well as non-Muslims, have made the observance of hijab into such a big deal when at the end of the day, it’s just another instruction from Allah. Part of the reason why it’s been made into such a majour issue as well as why it’s so hard for people to observe it stems from the way that it is often taught. For those who are born into the deen, you’ll most likely remember being taught about the importance of salah, sawm, obeying your parents, not lying, etc but rarely about hijab. Many sisters decided to begin observing hijab after learning about it through friends or other sources while others remember their father handing them a scarf once they reached puberty without an explanation of what exactly hijab is. The observance of hijab has also been made hard due to the increasing emergence of “interpretations”. The one thing that I have learned from the Qur’an is that many things, especially those in regards to day-to-day life are expressly clear and leave absolutely no room for ambiguity. The ayat that commands hijab and the Ahadith that corroborate these ayat are also very clear. Alongside this, it is important to note, that prior to 50-60 years ago, before Muslims decided that the deen needed to be revamped to please the West, there was very little mention of things that were already clear in the Qur’an, hijab included, being able to be interpreted or manifested in different ways. Are we now saying, that those Muslims from the time of the prophet(SAW) till the 1950s, were not practicing Islam correctly? That they were observing hijab incorrectly? Of course not, these earlier generations of Muslims did not feel the need to put their deen aside for the sake of man. While not all followed Islam correctly, they did not attempt to revamp religious obligations.
As humans in this dunya we are inundated by many distractions, misguidance, and falsehoods therefore making life much more confusing and difficult. What are we thinking, saying, observing, and experiencing in our lives? Are we truly living by Islamic ideals? This is where we can choose to actively “Strive For Clarity.”