Monday, April 16, 2007

The trick of Shaytaan

How does he get you when you're praying?

Reminds you that you left the oven on? Your car unlocked? Haven't paid your taxes yet?

I get all these senseless reminders and it's a struggle of course to put them out of my mind. But lately I've had a different kind of distraction. Not that the distraction is recent, I can remember it from the very first time I wore a scarf in my prayer at home (you see, I didn't always know that it was necessary to wear a scarf in salat and I sort of rebelled against the idea.) So it goes like this, I make wudhu, the water is somewhat cool, I dry my face and arms but they are still cool from the water. Then I don a scarf--sometimes I tie on a scarf and sometimes I put on the top piece (or in some instances the bottom as well) of a prayer outfit. I take position, raise my hands, "Allahu Akbar." Then it starts.

It's getting warm. Maybe I should've opened a window. Maybe I should turn the fan more this way. Maybe I should turn on the a/c. Maybe I should get a glass of water. Boy this scarf is really hot. Why am I wearing this sweatshirt? Maybe I should take off the shirt and just wear the prayer outfit. Was it this hot earlier? My temperature rises, I start sweating--ah yes, sweat, the proof that I was feeling hot when I am finally finished and take off the scarf.

As it starts to warm up, this bothers me more and more--the heat. I genuinely have trouble concentrating in the salat because I am uncomfortably warm. Does the scarf have something to do with it? Probably. (This is, by the way, why I didn't at first and still don't like having to wear it while praying at home, but nobody asked me.) There are days in this time of the year that are obscenely humid (yes, obscenely). It happens when first it rains, saturating everything, and then the sun comes out. What I find bizarre now is that I can sit perfectly comfortable in my chair at my computer, on the floor, on the sofa, stand in front of the oven even, and still can am less effected by the heat than I seem to be in my salat.

Is that just the fate of a woman? To always be hot like that, never to enjoy the breeze? I've had the fan running in my room non-stop for a few days now but it doesn't help much--practically none at all in salat. But now it's simply annoying, now I realize it's something to work on. As I try to improve my concentration in salat, this persistent complaint surfaces now in hopes that I can overcome it. It's hot. I'm going to be hot no matter what I'm wearing and no matter what the temperature is.

But I start to feel my skin getting red--I can feel it!--and more pores starting to sweat. All over my entire body, really. It starts on my arms and face, quickly spreading down my torso and legs. Once I've made it through salat I try to stay still and make dhikr or du'a but then what? I just want to take this thing off!! And the relief I feel at stripping it off, oh, a cool breeze in the heat of day, like finally taking a fresh breath of air.

Unfortunately, the entire experience makes me want to avoid extra salat, sunnah or just nafl salat voluntarily because of my discomfort. It's a shame, really. I'm doing better about ignoring the reminders (keys and taxes, etc.) that come with the opening takbir, but now I'm set to conquer this. Why? The best reason is this hadith:

Abu Hurairah related that Rasulullah (saws) said:

Almighty Allah says: No slave of Mine can seek nearness to Me with things better than what I made obligatory on him. My slave then continues to seek My nearness with extra Salat until I start loving him. When I love him, I become his ears with which he hears, his eyes with which he sees, his hands with which he holds and his legs with which he walks, and if he prays for something I grant it to him, and if he seeks My protection, I give it to him.

And that's enough of a reason--nearness to Allah by means of extra Salat.

And when do I notice the heat troubling me most? When I have thought ahead that I want to perform extra salat. When I've gone to the masjid sometimes in the mornings. Most especially on praying Qiyam before fajr in Ramadan. And that was the worst. It would be cold outside and morbidly humid inside--no air circulation, for one thing, and to make it worse, the sisters confined to a small portion in the back of the musallah. Let me repeat--no air circulation! Any fans and airflow in the rest of the musallah were kept by the stupid partition from reaching the sisters. And then, standing in a line, with a line in front or maybe one behind, the warmth of other bodies on each side and still, no free air. Prostrating was like suffocating--with the temperature, the humidity, then an enclosed space often with fabric covering key external respiratory organs... so I'd go anyway. Wear the thinnest scarf, drop my coat at the door, spread my legs apart, stand at the end of the line... but it's interesting isn't it? That's a more extreme case, but even on nights when I think before starting isha that I would like to pray a few extra before going to sleep... then as soon as I start that isha prayer I notice the heat, and want more than anything to remove my scarf and throw it across the room (happens sometimes).

So the more rewarding a prayer would be... the more difficult it becomes to pray it. I'm getting the feeling that Shaytaan is trying harder and harder to keep me from praying extra prayers, whether Tahajjud in the masjid in Ramadan or merely Istikhara in my bedroom, I notice the heat as more of a problem.


Now that I've noticed and simply refuse to blame the weather any longer, I have a challenge. When I start wanting to turn the fan and shed layers of fabric during my salat, I can remember what a reward the prayer is in the first place, and how badly Shaytaan wants to keep me from it. All the more reason to beat Shaytaan then, and keep praying.

1 comment:

Aliocha said...

Now, here is some topic for a good sharing of experience.

The exact same thing has happened to me in the past, difficulties with prayer - not so much the heat, since I am not very heat-sensitive, but the distractions, or the sudden appeareance of "obstacles" just the day you have decided to pray more. I guess Satan (or Shaytaan, or Satanás in my home language - did I mention I am portuguese?) will try to keep you from praying pretty much the same way regardless of whether one is Muslim or Christian.

He is our common enemy. We may tend to forget that. Just as Allah is our common God. I am not here just speaking about how all religions in the end always refer to the same "Supreme Being" (I don't believe that, by the way). What I mean is that both Jews, Christians and Muslims worship the same God, the God who has made Himself known to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob and to Ismael.

It is easy for us to fall to the temptation of wanting to convert the whole world to our religion. Depending on what you believe, you may want to make the whole world Christian or Islamic. But I realise more and more that this is not the true goal.

The true goal is that each of us, each of the souls God (Allah, if you prefer) has created out of love can be in Heaven with Him forever. The true goal is not that all of us become Christians or Muslims, but that we all become holy. That we love Him with all our heart. That we all try with all our heart to know and follow His will.

And we should not look at each other as if the other religion is the enemy. Shaytaan is the enemy. And another of his favorite ways to get us is to turn us against each other.

I have one question for you. Would I be allowed in a mosque? I mean, I don't believe in Islam, I cannot honestly say that I believe Muhammed to be a true prophet, but I recognize muslims as true brothers, as worshippers of God, and I would like to know more about their way of prayer. Would I be allowed in a mosque? If so, what should I avoid doing, what would be offensive?

May Allah bless you, my sister.

Que o Senhor te abençoe e te guarde.
Que Ele faça resplandecer o teu rosto!
Que o Senhor Deus te mostre a Sua face,
Te dê a Sua graça e a Sua paz!

(blessing prayer in portuguese, I don't think I am able to translate it without assassinating the meaning)