I’m Muslim and Don’t Pray. What Should I Do?

I’m Muslim and Don’t Pray. What Should I Do?

I think most of us know how it feels to struggle in our faith. We know from personal experience the ups and downs in spirituality, so it comes as no surprise that a characteristic of emaan itself is that it increases and decreases. But the problem is, for many of us, our faith decreases more than it increases. Or more precisely, it keeps plummeting, and we feel powerless to stop it. For many of us, this problem has reached the point that our daily prayers are suffering. So we rarely pray with concentration, we rarely pray on time, and we often miss prayers.

Or we no longer pray at all.

What’s the Solution?

Most likely, you’ll hear a lot of conflicting advice on what to do if you’re Muslim and no longer praying— some Muslims going as far as to tell you to not pray until you’ve worked on “more important things” first. But the reality is that, when it comes to one who has abandoned the prayer, there’s nothing more crucial than reestablishing the prayer itself.

The only exception to this is regarding the one who has abandoned the prayer due to shirk (associating partners with Allah) or kufr (disbelief in Islam). Naturally, if a person is worshipping other than Allah or disbelieves in Him or any other article of faith (His angels, His books, His messengers, the Last Day, or predestination), then there is no benefit to reestablishing the second pillar of Islam (prayer) until the first pillar (belief) is once again in place.

However, for Muslims who still believe in the fundamentals of Islam, then there’s absolutely nothing to work on before praying again—except to start praying again.

Nevertheless, as you resume your prayers, you definitely must address what led you to abandon the prayer in the first place. This requires spending time in sincere du’aa through supplicating to Allah and asking Him to help you overcome this spiritual trial. It requires engaging in honest self-reflection such that you identify those aspects of your lifestyle (and mindset) that are pulling you away from Allah. It requires reacquainting yourself with the fundamentals of Tawheed (the Oneness of Allah). It requires reflecting on the magnificence and greatness of Allah and learning His beautiful names. It requires setting aside time—alone—to reinvigorate your heart with heartfelt dhikr (remembrance of Allah). It requires reading and reflecting on the Qur’an such that Allah’s words become divine guidance with practical implications specific to your life. It requires educating (and reeducating) yourself about your purpose in life and the reality of your affair in the Hereafter.

And it also requires taking an honest, objective assessment of from where and from whom you are learning your faith and of what you are being taught about Allah’s religion. Because sometimes our spiritual crisis is a sign that we are in the wrong crowd, literally.

But regardless of the source of your spiritual crisis, if you’ve abandoned the prayer, then your first priority must be to reestablish it again.

What’s the Point?

“I stopped praying because, I mean, what’s the point?” someone said to me. “I wasn’t getting anything out of it.”

This was the first time that I realized that some Muslims see the benefit and purpose of prayer as rooted in human feeling. Have we strayed so far that we no longer believe in the Unseen? I asked myself. Do we really imagine that we can determine spiritual reality based on human perception? And if you’re Muslim, is it even possible to get absolutely nothing out of prayer? I wondered.

The truth is this: If the only thing we gain from standing in prayer is that the angels have recorded that we stood in prayer, then that’s something. And no matter how “pointless” you imagine those perfunctory movements to be, they are quite monumental to Allah—even if you’re not always focused or in a state of concentration during prayer. Allah says,

“Never will I allow to be lost the [good] work of any among you…”

Ali’Imraan (3:195)

And what good work is more important than doing what is minimally required in worshiping your Creator?

Prayer Is the Point

All good deeds are not equal, and when it comes to our faith, the importance of prayer cannot be overemphasized. After declaring the Oneness of Allah and His sole right to worship, prayer is the single most important act of a Muslim. However, prayer is not only the second pillar of the Islamic faith, it is also the second pillar of your faith.

In other words, unlike the vast majority of good deeds (i.e. wearing hijab, not drinking alcohol, or avoiding adultery and fornication) without prayer, you are treading the path to kufr—leaving Allah’s religion.

Allah says,

“And they were not commanded except to worship Allah, [being] sincere to Him in religion, and to establish Salaah [five daily prayers], and to give zakaah [obligatory charity]. And that is the correct religion.”

Al-Bayyinah (98:5)

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him said), “Islam is built on five [pillars], testifying that nothing has the right to be worshipped except Allah alone and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, performing the [five daily] prayers, paying the zakaah, making the pilgrimage to the House, and fasting in Ramadan” (Bukhari and Muslim).

Just as a physical structure cannot stand without its foundational pillars, your Islamic faith cannot stand without the foundational pillar of Salaah. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Between us [the believers] and them [the disbelievers] is the prayer, and whoever leaves it falls into kufr (Al-Tirmidhi, saheeh). The Prophet also said, “What is between a person and committing shirk (associating partners with Allah) and kufr (disbelief) is abandoning the prayer” (Sahih Muslim). He said further, “The first matter that the servant [of Allah] will be brought to account for on the Day of Judgment is the prayer. If it is sound, then the rest of his deeds will be sound. And if it is bad, then the rest of his deeds will be bad” (Al-Tabarani; saheeh, Sahih al-Jami).

Thus, establishing prayer is the point.

Shouldn’t I Work On My Heart First?

One of the most widely spread—and spiritually destructive—myths amongst Muslims today is the idea that we should purify our hearts before reestablishing the prayer or doing any good deed. Some Muslims go as far as to say that the only spiritual motivation for prayer is love of Allah; thus (they say), if our hearts are not filled with love of Allah, then we shouldn’t pray until it is.

However, our Creator tells us that submission comes before even emaan (true faith) itself; and certainly, it is impossible—logically or spiritually—to have a heart filled with love of Allah unless it first has true emaan.

Allah says,

“The bedouins say, ‘We have believed.’ Say [to them], ‘You have not [yet] believed; but say [instead], “We have submitted,” for faith has not yet entered your hearts.’ And if you obey Allah and His Messenger, He will not deprive you from your deeds of anything. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.”

Al-Hujuraat (49:14)

Thus, a Muslim can never know, let alone declare, that true faith has entered his or her heart. The most we can hope for as Muslims is that, through our submission and obedience to His commands, Allah will love us, forgive us, and have mercy on us—in this life and in the Hereafter. But the only way to attain this love is through fulfilling our religious obligations, the first of which is establishing the prayer. This method (and only this method) is the means of drawing closer to Allah.

In a famous Qudsi hadith, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said that Allah says, “My servant draws not near to Me with anything more loved by Me than the [obligatory] religious duties I have enjoined upon him, and My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory works so that I shall love him…” (Bukhari).

“Work on Your Heart” Myth

Recently, Saudi Beauty Blog posted a moving piece entitled Are You a Muslim Who Doesn’t Pray? Read On[i] by an author who ascribes to the “work on your heart first” myth. The author says,

“The problem with most advice on salah is that it looks at things from a reactive point of view instead of a proactive point of view. Not praying? Well, just start. Or better yet, take one salah at a time and keep building until you reach five. Good advice, no? No. It doesn’t address what leads a person towards salah to begin with…We pray because of one simple reason: We love Allah.”

The author goes on to tell us what we should do instead of prayer so that we can put this love of Allah in our hearts: “I always tell people who aren’t praying to begin first with dhikr. Say SubhanAllah 100 times each day.

From a literal standpoint, it is unclear how saying specific dhikr as a response to abandoning the prayer is any less reactive—or any more proactive—than saying prayer in response to abandoning the prayer. Both the recitation of dhikr and the reestablishment of prayer are responses (i.e. reactions) to the crisis at hand, yet both offer something proactive (i.e. doing an actual good deed) as a solution. But what is clear is the major difference between the reactive/proactive deed of dhikr and the reactive/proactive deed of prayer: Only the reestablishment of prayer actually addresses and solves the problem at hand.

However, it remains unclear why an optional deed should ever take precedence over an obligatory deed, especially given that our Creator tells us the exact opposite (“My servant draws not near to Me with anything more loved by Me than the [obligatory] religious duties I have enjoined upon him…”). But the author assures us that inversing the order of Allah’s commands will give us the same result. She says, “You’re not praying (yet) but be mindful that you are getting closer.”

But aren’t you also getting closer to death? I thought to myself. And what if you die during this pre-prayer dhikr stage? Is this really okay?

After sharing a series of moving stories from the past, inspirational hadith, and heart-touching quotes, the author assures us that this is definitely okay. She says,

“So begin by walking towards Him. And be mindful that when you do your dhikr, you are taking a step. Another good step is to begin learning His Names. When you KNOW Him, really know Him, you can’t help but attach your heart onto Him. Knowing Allah’s Names will draw your heart closer to Him. And as it does so, you will remember Him more… Over time, your desire to please Him and turn back to Him will increase.. And this, my friends, is what will fill you up. This is what will take away the hollowness.. THIS is what will make salah easy. THIS is where the advice, ‘take it one salah at a time’ will be beneficial. When you get to this place, it won’t be such a giant leap to contemplate standing up for one prayer. And slowly, one will become two.. And so on.”

When I read this, I was moved by the power and truth of these words because reciting dhikr, getting to know Allah, and learning about Allah and His beautiful names will certainly assist us in removing the emptiness and hollowness we often feel in prayer (and at other times). However, again, I couldn’t understand why the one act that brings together all of these things (Salaah, prayer itself)—and represents the most basic and most proactive form of dhikr and getting to know Allah—should be put on hold in an effort to engage in the very things that prayer establishes for us.

But the author says that “before you begin building your prayers, take the time to build your foundations, just as they early Muslims did. Start with baby steps, like doing dhikr or learning His Names.”

She also says, “Allow yourself to be in a state where you know you aren’t doing what you’re supposed to, but you’re taking steps to get there. One of the tactics of Shaitan [Satan] is that he leads you to believe that it’s all or nothing. Either you’re praying, or you’re sinfully not. So when we’re not, a dark cloud of guilt hovers over us, leaving us in darkness, unable to move forward.

Myth vs. Truth

The “work on your heart first” myth is rooted in several erroneous beliefs about emaan (Islamic faith) and numerous misunderstandings of the prophetic message and Islamic history. Below is a list of some of the more serious errors and misunderstandings connected to this myth, followed by the correct Islamic point of view:

Myth: The good condition of the heart (emaan) is separate from the performance of obligatory deeds (hence the requirement to fill the heart with love of Allah before praying).

Truth: In Islam, the good condition of the heart is dependent upon the performance of obligatory deeds. In other words, your heart will never be filled with love of Allah (as defined by Allah) except after or during doing what He has commanded.

Myth: Purification of the heart is a static, sustained reality (hence, again, the requirement to have a pure heart before praying or doing other good deeds).

Truth: Purification of the heart is an ever-changing, action-based struggle that forms the very essence of jihaad al-nafs (the soul’s ongoing battle against the self for the purpose of obeying Allah). Just as the physical purification of the body requires daily cleansing and consistent good hygiene; the spiritual purification of the soul requires daily prayer and consistent good deeds. Thus, it is impossible for your heart to be in the static state of sustained purification such that you can now move on to something else. This is because your heart is always in need of purification, so you can never move on to something else. In fact, why would you need to when that “something else” (i.e. prayer) is purification itself?

Myth: The human being has accurate, measurable knowledge of the spiritual state of his or her own heart (hence the alleged ability to know when your heart is spiritually pure or full of Allah’s love enough to start praying).

Truth: Only Allah knows the state of our hearts, so we can never declare that we know or love Allah on any meaningful level except to the extent that we know we are Muslims and not disbelievers. However, Allah does give us signs regarding the state of our hearts, but those signs are primarily external rather than internal. In other words, the closest we can get to having an accurate idea of what is going on in our hearts is through looking at how we live our lives, especially regarding our religious obligations. But even then, the only spiritual state that we can conclude with any level of certainty is our heart’s spiritual corruption, not its purity. For example, if we believe in Allah and know how to pray, yet we are not fulfilling this basic Islamic obligation, then we can be almost 100% sure that our heart is in one of the most spiritually corrupt, diseased states possible—even if we are engaging in dhikr, reflecting on Allah and His names, and taking the other “baby steps” the author listed in her article. However, if we are praying all our prayers, and to the best of our knowledge and ability, we are fulfilling every religious obligation Allah has required for us, then we can hope that our heart is in a state of spiritual purity and love of Allah, but we must bear in mind that these good deeds might be rooted in arrogance (the belief that we are better than other Muslims) or riyaa (doing good deeds for a purpose other than pleasing Allah).

Myth: Except for the first pillar of Islam (testifying to the Oneness of Allah), the pillars of Islam are not foundational to a Muslim’s emaan, (hence the advice, “before you begin building your prayers, take the time to build your foundations”).

Truth: The five pillars of Islam are not only foundational to your emaan; along with the six articles of faith, they form the very essence of your emaan. Without them, you have no faith. This is because in Islam, emaan is both belief and action. Although some obligatory deeds are not foundational to our faith (i.e. wearing hijab, not drinking alcohol, or avoiding adultery and fornication), the five pillars of Islam most certainly are. In fact, the very meaning of the Arabic term arkaan (pillars) indicates something that is so foundational that, without it, whatever is built will collapse and be of no use or benefit.

Myth: It is obligatory to know and declare (to yourself) the pure state of your heart (hence the requirement to fill your heart with Allah’s love before praying, thus necessitating both knowledge and declaration of spiritual purity).

Truth: It goes against the guidance of Allah to express knowledge of the Unseen or to ascribe purity to yourself. Allah says, “…So ascribe not purity to yourselves. He knows best him who fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him” (Al-Najm, 53:32).

Myth: Intentionally disobeying Allah is an acceptable path to ultimately obeying Him and drawing closer to Him (hence the instruction to continuously abandon the prayer as you takes “steps” to pray one day).

Truth: Obeying Allah and constantly repenting for our sins is the only acceptable path to obeying Allah and drawing closer to Him. Just as shirk can never be an acceptable path to Tawheed or worshiping Allah alone, disobeying Allah can never be an acceptable path to drawing closer to religious obedience. In Islam, the path to worshiping Allah is worshiping Allah. The path to obeying Allah is obeying Allah. The path to Tawheed is Tawheed. The path to following the Sunnah is following the Sunnah. Nevertheless, this does not negate the fact that a person might commit shirk then ultimately repent and live a life of Tawheed and worshiping Allah; and a person might consistently disobey Allah then ultimately repent and live a life striving upon obedience to Him. However, these are not human-initiated realties, they are Allah-initiated realities; and that is no small distinction. As a human being, you must focus on the only reality that Allah has asked you to initiate: striving your level best to worship and obey Him at all times, most especially regarding the foundations of your faith, of which Salaah is one.

Myth: You can sin without being guilty of sin (hence: “One of the tactics of Shaitan [Satan] is that he leads you to believe that it’s all or nothing. Either you’re praying, or you’re sinfully not).

Truth: Sin is sin, so if you are knowingly not doing what you were commanded to do, then you are in sin. Unless you have a circumstance in which you are no longer held accountable for your deeds (i.e. total loss of your mental health or full possession by jinn), then there is no way to abandon prayer and not do it “sinfully.” However, Allah is All-Forgiving and Merciful to believers who turn to Him in repentance; but in order to repent, we must first recognize that we are in sin in the first place, and then leave the sin (i.e. return to prayer) in order for our repentance to be accepted. But it is true that one of the tactics of Satan is leading you to believe that it’s all or nothing—and this is precisely why it is important to always pray, even when you feel hollow or empty inside. It’s okay if you don’t feel the love of Allah in your heart during Salaah. It’s okay to work on building your love and knowledge of Allah as you continue to pray. In fact, in Islam, this is the only correct way to address this spiritual crisis. However, Shaytaan will lead you to believe that the best remedy for your hollowness and emptiness during prayer is to continue to not pray. He’ll lead you to believe that it’s okay to allow yourself to be in a state of continual disobedience as long as you are “taking steps” to fix problem. And while it’s true that we must be patient with ourselves as we work to fix our spiritual deficiencies (i.e. We must continue to pray as we work on addressing the hollowness and emptiness we feel during worship), Shaytaan will have us believe that fixing the problem involves a method that, quite literally, turns Allah’s instruction on its head: optional before obligatory vs. obligatory before optional (or vs. obligatory and optional). Meanwhile, Shaytaan keeps encouraging you in this “taking steps” stage as he eagerly awaits Allah seizing your soul while you are in a state of major sin (and perhaps disbelief).

Myth: But this is the same step-by-step method used by Allah and His Messenger during the early stages of his prophetic mission. Rules and regulations like prayer and hijab were mandated much later.

Truth: No, this is not the same method. Under no circumstance—in the early or late stages of the prophetic mission—did Allah or His Messenger permit or condone intentional disobedience of Allah, let alone the continuous abandonment of a foundational pillar of Islam for the purpose of instilling in the early Muslims’ hearts knowledge and love of Allah. In fact, formal prayer was one of the first “rules” established during this “instilling in their hearts knowledge and love of Allah” stage of the prophetic mission; but it involved the night prayer, as the establishment of the five daily prayers came later (during Israa’ and Mi’raaj). However, it is true that most rules and regulations were revealed during the latter stages of the prophetic mission, but it is also true that whoever accepted Islam during this latter stage was expected and required to follow all of the rules and regulations of Islam revealed up to that point. Thus, the lesson we draw from the prophetic mission’s step-by-step approach is that we must learn (and teach) Islam based on spiritual priorities—and without a doubt, the foundational issues of Tawheed and prayer must always be our highest and most urgent priorities.

Myth: Actions are by intention, so if I intend to pray one day then Allah will record that for me.

Truth: Actions are by intention, so if you know you are supposed to pray and you intentionally don’t pray, then Allah has recorded that for you.

FINAL NOTES
You Won’t Always Want What’s Good For You

Allah says,

“But as for him who feared standing before his Lord, and restrained himself from impure, evil desires or unlawful inclinations, then Paradise will be his abode.”

Al-Naazi’aat (79:40-41)

It is true that a good deed is only counted as a good deed if it is done for the sake of Allah, but it is not true that a good deed can’t be for the sake of Allah if you don’t want to do it in the first place. In fact, one of the distinguishing traits of the people of Paradise, as we see in the above ayah, is their tendency to do good deeds even though their hearts are inclined toward something else.

Yes, we should love praying. Yes, we should derive joy, peace, and satisfaction from prayer. And, yes, we should want to pray. But the reality of the human condition is that, more often than not, what should be and what is are two very different things. This why the greatest gift that Allah gives believers is His mercy and forgiveness, despite how we continuously transgress against our souls through continuously falling into sin.

Allah says,

“Say, ‘O My servants who have transgressed against their souls, do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.”

Al-Zumar, 39:53

But don’t let Shaytaan rob you of this magnificent opportunity for Allah’s mercy and forgiveness by leading you to believe that a foundational pillar of your faith (i.e. prayer) can be abandoned, even if only short-term, as a path of obedience and drawing closer to Allah. 

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Copyright © 2015 by Al-Walaa Publications. All Rights Reserved.

[i] http://saudibeautyblog.com/are-you-a-muslim-who-doesnt-pray-read-on/

 

18 Comments

  • Mimi Posted 2015-02-10 7:37 am

    Umm Zakiyyah’s perspective is the traditional perspective that we are surrounded with.

    Sometime during my childhood around 8 years old, I turned away from Islam because of the rigid rules. I often thought of myself as a good person but not a good muslim. The fear and the rigid rules were just not motivation enough. In my mid 20’s I yo-yo’d back to Islam, matriculated into an Intensive Islamic Studies program, studied 10 hours a day, prayed all 5, wore hijab, etc but that only lasted 6-9 months. I went back to not praying or thinking about Allah. Then again a few years later, I decided to come back with more will power and I continue to fight myself at every salah to get to the prayer mat. I absolutely don’t want to go pray and I force myself to do it, 5 salahs daily and it has been 7 years and it only feels like its getting worse. Procrastinating to get to the prayer mat. And fear still remains as motivation and not just research but personal experience shows me that forcing myself to pray is not working for me. I have been the disciple of a rigid Sheikh for the last 5 or 6 years and this mentality of just do it because you’re supposed to just doesn’t jive with my values. I read the Saudi Beauty article and that resonates far greater than your perspective, Umm Zakiyyah.

    As human beings, we have limited experience and limited understanding. What works for one, doesn’t work for all. If you haven’t struggled with Faith beyond the occasional dip, as much as you try to empathize, you won’t be able to understand the struggles of someone who has struggled being Muslim from the get go. Don’t judge nor condemn. Who are we after all? It is Allah who is the final judge.

    • Umm Zakiyyah Posted 2015-02-10 1:10 pm

      Thank you for your honest comment. Some “traditional perspectives” are correct perspectives, even though we might think of them as “rigid.” If you think of the definition of the word “pillar,” it is by definition something “rigid,” in that it must remain in place at all times. Some people think the requirement of Tawheed to get to Paradise is rigid, and maybe it is. But it’s still an inflexible requirement to enter Paradise. As a general rule the foundations of any faith are “rigid.” This is because they form the very definition and foundations of the faith itself. It might appeal to our hearts and weaknesses to read articles that effectively tell you that the foundations of our faith aren’t really the foundations of our faith, but that doesn’t make them true. Personally, I’d rather risk sounded “rigid” than risk speaking falsehood about Islam because it “sounds better.”

      Salaah is a foundational pillar of Islam, so it is not subject to an opinion that says anything differently. As such, Salaah can never be about “What works for one, doesn’t work for all.” However, if you what you mean by this is that one author’s method of explaining the truth may be more appealing or more inspirational than another author’s way of explaining the truth, then I agree with you wholeheartedly. I claim no perfection in my ability to explain the truth and beauty of Allah’s religion. Like all humans I am deeply flawed and will certainly say or write something in a way that another believer can do a much better job. And for that, I ask Allah’s mercy and forgiveness; and I pray more believers will help me and each other upon the lofty goal of speaking the truth in the most beautiful manner.

      In any case, what we share with each other must be truth, and what was spoken about in the other article, from an Islamic standpoint, was not correct, even though it was beautifully written and heart-moving. My prayer is that the sister can rewrite the article to reflect the Islamic point of view so that we can inspire more people upon truth, as opposed to making them feel comfortable about a state that Allah has warned us against.

      But Allah is Merciful and my hope is that those who read her (or my) post will be able to overlook our human faults and derive the higher and more crucial lesson of the necessity to reestablish the Salaah.

      It’s true that “If you haven’t struggled with Faith beyond the occasional dip, as much as you try to empathize, you won’t be able to understand the struggles of someone who has struggled being Muslim from the get go. Don’t judge nor condemn.” This is very true, but remember, this goes both ways. A part of not judging and condemning is recognizing that you have absolutely no idea of anyone’s struggles, even people who appear to have it all together. Personally, I definitely know how it feels to struggle with my faith far beyond the “occasional dip” (hence my video http://ummzakiyyah.com/i-never-thought-it-would-be-me/ in which I talk about thinking I could no longer be Muslim). And one of the things that consistently made my spiritual struggles worse was hearing false information about my faith, like what I read in the sister’s article. Her article reminded me of my weakest points in which my nafs and Shaytaan were pulling me away from being Muslim by using “step by step” methods that sound nice at first but ultimately lead me to trivialize important parts of Islam.

      Also, I find that filling the heart with love of Allah before praying (or doing good) is one of the most impossible and stressful pieces of advice I’ve ever heard. Personally, hearing this only makes me feel worse, like I’m a bad Muslim since I don’t feel that all the time and certainly not every time it’s time to pray. But knowing that Allah doesn’t require me to be perfect when I stand in front of Him in Salaah is a much more merciful perspective. And, alhamdulillaah, it also happens to be the true, Islamic perspective. So that’s what I prefer to hold on to, the merciful truth, instead of an impossible, stressful standard I could never uphold.

      May Allah forgive us and guide us upon His religion and make our words and lives inspiration to others.

    • Naa’Sirah Amadi Parker Posted 2016-11-22 10:10 am

      I agree… I’m somewhat in that same place… I needed this article because I needed to see things from a different perspective.

  • Safia Wissal Posted 2015-03-03 10:20 pm

    Assalamu alaikum sister,

    I read your article and I enjoyed it very much. Jazakallah khair for writing it. First of all I want to apologize in advance if I do not make sense or if I sound judgmental, it is not my intention. But I do have a few comments…

    I read both your article and the other article mentioned here. Actually I had read the other one first before yours. When I read that one, it resonated with me because I am the type of person that I need that I love to seek knowledge and understand why do the things we are commanded. (Most probably is at times my own doing in the sense that I am wanting to be lazy or not ready to make commitments on doing mandatory things.) (((I am a revert of 6 years, FYI))) For instance, I had a lot of problems praying. So I started doing 1 prayer at a time… and of course that helped me. So that article resonated with me cause of the “step by step method”. It did not make it overwhelming. At times I also prayed sitting down, even tho I knew it was not correct, but I was being lazy but I was just trying to get in a routine on doing it. Then I felt I needed to love Allah and know who HE was in order to be able to do His commandment.

    Or for instance, hijab. Hijab is my greatest greatest trial. I wear conservative clothes but the scarf part of it, it is hard. So I started doing baby steps to getting me there. Which again is the “step by step method”. And in my reasoning of this, was that: “Allah intends for you ease, and does not want to make things difficult for you” [2:185]; and “Allah does not want to place you in difficulty” [5:6].

    HOWEVER, when I read your article it made sense. It actually made me think a lot of people trying to help make people even MORE lazy and sin without even realizing it. You are stating that Prayer is the second pillar and it needs to be followed no matter what. Then after that you start then you can think about why you have left it, or why you not concentrating, ect ect. That SUBMISSION comes before EMAAN then IHSAN. I get it.

    BUT again, we have to ponder on this a little more and here is the advice I am seeking which I am still contemplating.

    1. Prayer is mandatory, i get it.
    2. Do it 5 times a day, BUT what if you are not there yet and dont make it on time, I know it is not correct, but can in the beginning you add them up? Or make them up? Meaning, what I did was for instance if I missed Isha, I knew I had to make it up the next day… AGAIN I know it is NOT CORRECT, but is this an OKAY step method for prayer?
    3. Do 5 times prayer, but then perfect it…. thats what I mean by the times, and concentration, and maybe even the prayer clothing..??? what do you think??

    Cause again your intention is to obey Allah swt, but again one can build up from this… It is different than the other advice in the other article cause the other one says to do other acts, but what I mention here, which I believe is what you mean, is to DO the 5 prayers, but HOW you do it, is the part one can improve and work on…

    anyway, awaiting for your reply… jazakallah khair again… i hope I make sense… just seeking advice and wanting to hear back from you.

    • Umm Zakiyyah Posted 2015-03-04 3:16 am

      Wa’alaiku mus salaam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh, ukhti

      May Allah bless you and preserve you for your desire to do what is pleasing to Him. I’ll try to answer your questions as best I can, and please let me know if I’ve overlooked or missed anything, or if anything I say needs clarification. Here are the points that came to mind when I read your comment:

      1. My blog, like the original blog, was not addressing new Muslims or people who are just learning to pray. It was addressing Muslims who know how to pray but are not praying due to a conscious choice (whether this is laziness or a faulty belief that prayer is not crucial to one’s faith). For those who do not know how to pray, they of course must learn the prayer before establishing the prayer.

      2. When we are struggling in our faith and practice (as we all do at times), we should strive our level best to at least fulfill the minimal requirements of being Muslim, such as holding on to our faith in Allah and praying our five prayers. We are human and full of faults and sins (may Allah forgive us) so we might miss a prayer now and then or delay it from its proper time, and in this case, we should make up the prayer as soon as possible (if we missed it) and strive to be better about praying on time (if we delay the prayer).

      3. Though in general, we should take things one step at a time, there are some matters that must be in place no matter what else we are struggling with; and prayer is one of those. So for any step-by-step approach we adopt in rededicating our practice, prayer must be the first step (along with reacquainting ourselves with Allah and His right to be worshipped). As I mentioned in my blog, prayer is not like hijab or other commandments. It is a pillar of our faith. Wearing hijab is obligatory, but not wearing it does not put a person’s very Islam in jeopardy; but abandoning the prayer does. So we should never advise someone toward laziness or complacency in matters that literally are the dividing line between emaan (faith) and kufr (disbelief). However, we can do advise someone to make things easy by doing only what is minimally required in prayer, such as reciting only Al-Faatihah while standing (and no surah after it) and keeping the rest of the prayer as brief as possible (and praying no Sunnah prayers) so as to finish quickly.

      4. Allah is so Merciful to us, and He requires so little of us to remain within the fold of Islam; so though it may at times feel overwhelming to pray 5 times a day, it’s important to be honest with ourselves about what’s really going on in our lives and hearts. I think we all know how it feels to want to stay in bed or keep doing something else other than prayer, but in truth, prayer doesn’t take much time at all. We can literally be done with both wudhoo’ and prayer is five minutes. So my suggestion for anyone who isn’t “there” yet is to take a moment and make du’aa when it’s time for prayer, asking Allah to make it easy for them and to also seek His forgiveness…then stand up and prayer even though it may feel difficult. Over time, it will likely become easier, with the help of Allah; and even if it remains difficult until death, it is definitely a struggle that leads to Paradise.

      5. When the period of spiritual difficult has passed, I suggest doing all we can to protect ourselves from falling into that struggle with Salaah again. And one way to do this is by praying the Sunnah or naafil (voluntary) that are easy for us and doing this consistently. That way, if we ever get lazy again, the prayers that suffer will be the voluntary ones, not the obligatory ones inshaaAllah.

      And a final note: Though we don’t always realize it, having these minimal requirements are a form of ease and mercy from Allah (swt), just like our requirement to keep a certain level of physical purity is a form of easy and mercy from Allah (swt) though this daily hygiene takes some time from our schedule. Imagine if someone says they feel too lazy to clean themselves or take a bath? What advice would you give them? No matter what step-by-step approach you suggest, the first step will involve a minimal level of physical purity and good hygiene each day. And for spiritual purity, that minimal level (along with proper belief in Allah) is Salaah (the obligatory prayer) itself.

      And Allah knows best.

  • Abu Julia Posted 2015-04-03 2:12 pm

    Assalamu alailum shayka,

    I am someone who was not very regular in my salah. In fact I’ve probably spent most of my life not praying than actually praying (due to various reasons). Alhamdulillah it has been a bout 2 and a half years now since I have been disciplined with my salah and this was due to a turning point in my life. Alhamdulillah.

    But as someone who has missed years and years of salah, do I have to make up for all those missed salahs? Just the thought of having to make up all those missed salahs make me feel overwhelmed 🙁

    What am I to do? I have repented, and I thought that would suffice but I read recently in a fatwa, that I am supposed to make up for all the missed salahs.

    Please advice what I should do?

    • noorunnisa ibrahim kutty Posted 2016-05-21 11:09 pm

      You do not have to make up for the missed prayers of the past. Alhamdulillah, on praying regularly now, in syaa’ Allah, your past sins have already been forgiven. Better for you to focus on now then get overwhelmed by the past. God bless you, sis, and may He give us all the strength to strive on 🙂

  • Sarah Posted 2015-07-01 10:10 am

    This didn’t help me at all. I was trying to look for advice on the Internet because I have been lazy and missed so many of my prayers and I was reading this post hoping it will motivate me to pray but it really doesn’t work on me. I agree with the girl in the other article, I guess we all have different methods. For me, if my heart is not with something, I just can’t do it. If I’m forced to do something constantly like my mum forces me to pray it just makes me not want to pray and when she tells me to pray, I finishel my prayers fast just so I can be done with them. And sometimes I even fake my prayers (Astaghfirullah). I think for me, I need to feel connected to Allah at first, I don’t want to do something because I HAVE TO, I know I have to and it’s obligatory but it just makes me miss my prayers because my heart is not with it. Also, if I just pray because I HAVE TO without actually being connected to Allah it’s just like being a robot and I’m not actually concentrating on my prayer, I’m just trying to finish my prayer you get what I mean? Btw I just turned 17 in March, sorry for my informal language.

    • Umm Zakiyyah Posted 2015-07-01 6:14 pm

      BarakAllaahufeeki, Sarah. Thank you for stopping by my blog and commenting. One thing I’ve learned in life, especially about matters of the Unseen, whether in the hidden workings of our physical bodies or in the hidden workings of our souls, is that we don’t always know what is helpful to us. When nourishing the body with good or bad foods, we don’t always feel right away what is helping or hurting our bodies. Most often we can only detect what foods we like and what foods we dislike, and that we don’t feel hungry anymore. But just because food is tasteless or bitter doesn’t mean it’s not helping us, and just because food is delicious doesn’t mean it IS helping us. If this is the case with our physical health, how much more our spiritual health?

      However, I do understand not wanting to do something because you HAVE TO. That’s a natural human feeling. We all have it from time to time (myself included). But having to do what we don’t want to do is a part of life; and accepting this reality with humility and grace is a part of maturity. There are people who do not feel like taking a bath or cleaning themselves everyday, but they still have to. So if someone were to write an article telling them to avoid bathing or cleaning themselves until they LOVE the idea, this would not be the most helpful advice, though it would certainly make them feel better about themselves despite their obviously bad hygiene and potentially ailing health due to physical diseases.

      But thank you for your comment. It was a beautiful reminder to me that, as Muslims, we should strive to inspire others to love obeying Allah. However, sometimes we fall short and end up making this beautiful faith sound really strict and full of misery. May Allah forgive us and make us better.

      But I’m happy to hear you understand the obligation of Salaah. Please use this blessed month to supplicate to Allah that He helps you love prayer and fulfill this obligation with ease. May Allah put love of Salaah in your heart such that it becomes the “coolness of your eye” and your heart’s joy. And may Allah write you down amongst those whom He loves, and may you enter Paradise through the Gate of Prayer.

  • mohammed Posted 2015-09-22 7:25 pm

    I prayed for as long as I can remember. I loved praying, I loved reading and memorizing the Quran.I was always struggling financially but I didn’t care. Praying and worshipping Allah was the most important accomplishment for me. At 39 I lost a tooth. It was very expensive to repair it. I had saved up a small amount of cash but not enough to fix the tooth. I used the cash in an investment and lost it all. Then it hit me like lightning, everything I do returns bad on me. Now, not only do I not have any savings, I am in debt over my head with lots of interest to pay. You may say it’s a test, be patient…etc. How long, it’s been over 40 years and it’s only gotten worse and still getting worse. I reached the situation where I said to myself what’s the point. My love for Allah and eeman started turning to hate and bitterness. Now I’m a bitter angry person. Needless to say, I started skipping some prayers as I started to feel down and perhaps a little bit depressed. You can hit a person so many times before that person’s bones brake. Similarly, Allah has hit my spirituality so many times that it eventually broke. You may say it’s shaitan playing games on me…well then where exactly is Allah in all of that to stop shitan or slow him down? Allah has given me so much but has taken away even more. What happens when someone take more from you than gives you? you end up in the negative. How can I decide to pray and commit to prayer if this anger and bitterness towards Allah is only getting stronger? What do you advise?

    • Umm Zakiyyah Posted 2015-09-23 3:35 pm

      I’m sorry to hear about your struggles. May Allah make your affairs easy and make these trials a cause for you to draw closer to Him in this world and in the Hereafter.

      I cannot make any assumptions or claims about your life and spirituality because everyone’s life is different. And as a general rule, having a positive or negative relationship with Allah and your worship has no guaranteed effect on your worldly situation. A person can love praying and studying Qur’an and be very healthy, rich, and happy; and a person in the exact same spiritual state can be very ill, stricken with poverty, and struggling with depression. The same possibilities apply to a person with no love of prayer or Qur’an, and to a disbeliever. In most cases, every human goes through various worldly and spiritual states throughout life. Emaan increases and decreases and is never static. Trials are a part of everyone’s life, as are blessings and times of ease.

      The purpose of following the true religion (Islam) is to nurture our souls at all times in preparation for the Hereafter. Following truth guarantees nothing with regards to how your life will pan out before you die. The only guarantee Allah grants us through believing in Him and worshipping Him everyday is that we will enter Paradise when we die.

      Thus, my only advice to you is to look deep within yourself and ask yourself what you would like your Hereafter to look like. If you would like to enter the grave and avoid further tribulations and suffering there and on the Day of Judgment, then hold on to your faith in Allah and keep up your prayers and other spiritual obligations. This is what believing in and worshipping Allah is all about.

      As we know from the Qur’an, Shaytaan has been granted respite until the Day of Judgment, so there is nothing mysterious about Shaytaan not being “stopped” or “slowed down” in this life. He won’t be stopped until the Day of Judgment. However, we have the ability to protect our souls from Shaytaan’s corruption. Nevertheless, there will inevitably be some aspects of our lives that are affected by his work because that is the reality of this world for everyone.

      I don’t know what you mean by someone taking more from you than they give because if you enter Paradise, it isn’t possible that anything that has been taken from you can compare to the endless goodness Paradise will bring. In any case, Allah does not owe us anything, so whatever good we experience is a mercy from Him, not something we deserve.

      Regarding your continuous pain and struggles, the Prophet, sallallaahu’alayhi wa sallam, was asked: “O Messenger of Allah, who are the people who are most severely tried?” He replied, “The people who are tested the most severely are the Prophets, then the righteous, then the next best and the next best, and a man will be tested in accordance with his level of faith; the stronger his faith, the more severe will be his test” (Ahmad).

      Allah also says what has been translated to mean, “And when My servants ask you concerning Me, then [tell them], I am indeed near.I respond to the prayer of every suppliant when he calls on Me.Let them also, with a will, listen to My call, and believe in Me,
      That they may be [rightly] guided.”
      Al-Baqarah (2:186)

      Regarding the trials of your life that continue, the Prophet, sallallaahu’alayhi wa sallam said: “Remember Allah in times of ease, and He will remember you in times of difficulty. Understand that whatever misses you would have never befallen you, and whatever befalls you would have never missed you. Understand that a good outcome comes with patience, that relief follows distress and that with hardship comes ease.”

      Regarding your anger and bitterness, I suggest sincerely supplicating to Allah in du’aa (by raising your hands at any time, and in prayer while in sajdah), asking Him to remove this from you. Because He is the only One with the power to remove that deep pain from your heart.

  • iman Posted 2015-10-01 5:58 pm

    Alsalamu Aliekum,

    I carry out the obligatory prayers and fast Ramadan to the best I could. I don’t wake up for Fajir and just pray it anytime before duhur. Sometimes, rarely, I’m too lazy or tired at night, go to sleep and make up isha’a the next day. The not praying Isha before going to bed makes me feel guilty and that I will burn in hell fire for it but sometimes I’m just not motivated enough. May Allah forgive me for that. I don’t pray Sunnah, I don’t fast other than Ramadan. I will NOT do more than the obligatory worships and one raka witer. I rarely make dua’ (I don’t think Allah answers them anyways). Allah ta’ala has giving me many blessing, materialistically speaking such as job, house…etc, wlahamdullah but I feel that I have earned them. I work very very hard and Allah’s messenger (SAW) said” pay who you hire before his sweat dries off” so I do expect a return for my hard work as well and alhamdullah I get that but nothing extra. At work, I do my job to the best I can but I do not volunteer to do any extra. Similarly, I consider praying and fasting to be a job. If Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is going to pay me then the least I can do are the obligatory worships he commanded. Comparing myself to all of my co-workers and the people I know who have similar position and jobs, I realize that I’m always having to work extra hard and extra hours to have the same life status and pay as they do. It could be a discrimination issue but it’s not the point. The point is that Allah always makes me have to work a little harder than others to earn the same as others do. I believe, by comparison to others, that he absolutely does not give me any extra. I don’t do extra worships and therefore I do not expect extra reward from him Ta’ala. Of course it could have been worse but it wouldn’t be fair of him to make things worse considering all of the effort I put in life. He could have made me stupid, or physically unfit to work at all and that’s fine because then no matter what my physical or mental condition would be, I would have worked to the best of my capabilities and still expected a return on that work just like every other human on earth. If I receive less than what I work for than that would be as if I hire someone and pay him/her less than what he/she worked for and that would be unfair and unjust. My question is, am I consider as a very bad muslim, or even a monafiq for my thoughts? Will I no doubtedly burn in hell fire for these thoughts and actions? I would really like an honest opinion because if the answer is yes then what’s the point of doing my religious duties. By the way, I am nearly 50 years old and this has been the way I’ve lived so far and it’s not going to change anytime soon.
    Jazaka Allahu khieran for your advise, guidance, and honesty

    • Umm Zakiyyah Posted 2015-10-01 11:08 pm

      Wa’alaiku mus salaam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh, Iman

      May Allah make your affairs easy; may He put tranquility and love of emaan in your heart, and may He take your soul as a believer and upon ihsaan, the highest level of faith and closeness to Allah.

      No one can look at another believer and declare with certainty that this person is a “bad Muslim” or a “munaafiq.” We all have incorrect and sinful thoughts from time to time, as well as wrong and sinful behavior and even hypocrisy. So we ask Allah to forgive us for this. I, nor anyone else, have any idea what is written for you with regards to your Hereafter, whether in Paradise or Hellfire, may Allah protect you and all of us from His torment. So it is impossible for me to offer an opinion on this, as this is delving into an area to which Allah has sole right.

      However, we can look at our spirituality and religious practice as signs for our need for self-improvement. For surely, if Allah has blessed us to wake another day, there is room for improvement in both our worldly and religious affairs. From this, I would say that your thoughts and feelings are definitely not ones that are beneficial to continue. As I mentioned to a previous commenter, at its core, our relationship with Allah and our fulfilling our duty to Him is about salvation in the Hereafter, not about any guarantee with regards to our worldly provision and blessings, though Allah certainly answers prayers. However, His job is not to give us everything we want, however we want, and in the manner we think we deserve. For surely, we deserve nothing of the blessings we are given. Allah created us from nothing, and He owes us nothing. Our prayers and fasts are for our own salvation, not a favor to Allah or Islam.

      Allah says what has been translated to mean, “They regard as a favor upon you [O Muhammad] that they have embraced Islam. Say, ‘Count not your Islam as a favor upon me. Nay, but Allah has conferred a favor upon you that He has guided you to the Faith, if you are indeed from the truthful'” (49:17).

      So my advice to you is to, from this moment forward, seek refuge in Allah from Shaytaan whenever you are afflicted with these thoughts and feelings and to daily make du’aa to Allah (by raising your hands or in sajdah or as you go about your day), beseeching and begging Allah to purify your heart and put love and gratitude for Him and His faith in your heart until you meet Him. Ask Him to help you love emaan, prayer, fasting, and any other duties. And ask Him to write you down amongst those who are the most humble and grateful amongst His servants and of those who live in constant repentance and in hope of His forgiveness. For only Allah has the power to help you through this spiritual trial.

      May Allah grant you the best in this world and the best in the Hereafter.
      BarakAllaahufeek.

  • shehla Posted 2016-04-22 10:55 am

    Assalamalaikum sister
    I read your article thoroughly and it was enough to put my spirit weak by observing your judging attribute about the other girl who wrote an article not to discourage anyone to pray or to substitute pray with something inferior rather she is trying to increase the feeling of taqwa step by step and I am sure that if somebody places Allah zikr in his or her heart automatically he or she will feel like praying
    Whatever you have written is absolutely true but the way you have communicated to us is discouraging
    Regarding your perspective on the unseen it’s Allah who knows the best and even he has indicated that the prayers of some of you will be thrown back on your face. When you pray namaz with all khushoo, taqwa and humility it automatically gives you the feeling of being subservient and submissive to your Allah SWT and also helps you to grow morally spiritually . Only Allah will decide with the fate of our deeds and actions which include namaz.
    Allah o Akbar

    • Umm Zakiyyah Posted 2016-04-22 2:24 pm

      Wa’alaiku mus salaam, Shehla

      Thank you for your honest comment. As I mentioned to another commenter, I claim no perfection in conveying the truth. However, I do encourage you and others to sincerely reflect on the fact that your reactions and opinions do not reflect reality. They reflect only your personal feelings, emotions, and opinions. Thus, to use terms like “judgmental attitude” and “the way you have communicated to us is discouraging” [using the plural pronoun] indicate a very faulty path in communication and perception, as they imply that your internal world reflects the reality of the world around you.

      Your reaction to my article (feeling weak and discouraged) was very similar to my and many, many others’ reactions to the sisters’ article. So whose feelings and emotions matter more? Yours or ours? Or are all of our feelings valid? If so, then exactly what do the terms “judgmental attitude” and “discouraging” mean to you?

      But more importantly, what do they mean to ALLAH?

      So Shehla, I caution you to be very careful with your words, especially when they are casting wide nets of judgments on someone for no crime other than conveying the truth of Islam in a way you don’t like.

      Except in cases of obvious verbal abuse and harm, feelings of discouragement or being judged are merely signs of internal personal struggles and emotionalism, nothing more. And we all have internal personal struggles and emotionalism, as this is a trait of being human.

      Yes, it is helpful to share our personal struggles and emotionalism from time to time, as this allows us to be more aware and sensitive to those around us. However, the problem is when we process our personal struggles and emotions as an external problem in someone else (i.e. judgmental attitude, etc.) instead of an internal human experience that has no definite reality outside our own experience.

      May Allah guide us and help us such that we react to reminders about our souls with the inspiration to correct ourselves instead of the one conveying the reminder.

      Regards,
      Umm Zakiyyah

  • shehla Posted 2016-04-23 10:34 am

    Dear umm zakiyyah emotionalism is an integral part of Islam and all our intentions are governed on the basis of emotion only. You have misunderstood the feelings which I am trying to convey and I certainly do not except any perfectionism from your side. My point of objection was something which you have not understood
    May Allah give you rewards for everything you are doing and places you among the people of paradise.
    InshaAllah
    Be happy always

  • Reham Harrati Posted 2016-12-14 8:55 pm

    Asalaam Alaykum Sister,
    I haven’t prayed in a very long time, and I don’t think I even know how to pray correctly, but I’m too embarrassed to ask anyone how to pray. I often get lazy and don’t pray, or when I do pray, it’s rushed and doesn’t have much taqua behind it. Any tips on how to be a better Muslim/how to pray correctly? JazzakaAllahukharan

    • Umm Zakiyyah Posted 2016-12-15 6:45 am

      Wa’alaiku mus salaam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh, Reham

      I’m sorry to hear about your struggles with prayer. May Allah make it easy for you to establish the prayer, and may you enter Jannah through the door of Salaah.

      My first suggestion is to make du’aa each day for Allah to help you through this. Also do lots of istighfar (asking Allah’s forgiveness).

      Secondly, do not worry about your level of concentration and feeling lazy. Allah is in charge of hearts. Feelings of disconnection, distraction, and laziness are normal, even for those who pray regularly. Prayer is like a spiritual bath. And like a physical bath, we don’t clean ourselves because we always enjoy doing it. We clean ourselves because it’s necessary.

      So show up to pray no matter how lazy or distracted you feel. Over time, Allah will place the feeling of concentration and connection in your heart. But for now, your only job is to pray, irrespective of how you feel inside at the moment. Naturally, you should strive to concentrate in prayer, but do not be too hard on yourself. No one has perfect concentration in prayer. It’s simply not possible.

      For re-learning to pray, there’s a book (which sometimes comes with a CD) called “Salaat from A to Z” http://www.islamicbookstore.com/b7650.html

      If you one day feel comfortable asking for help from someone, this is also good. But this book as well as other How-to resources can help you for now, bi’idhnillaah.

      Wa iyyaki wa barakAllahufeek.

      May Allah write you down amongst those who establish the Salaah with khushoo’ until the Day of Judgment.

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