Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Faith first, but then what?

Last night was the weekly Da'wah Class--the final class, though we haven't finished the book. During Ramadan there will be no class of course, and I doubt that it will resume thereafter. But alhamdulillah, and it turned out to be an interesting night.

There was a sister who came for maghrib that I'd never seen before, and she came to the Imam's class after the salaat. After the class though, and before isha, she started telling me about one of her relative's wives who had converted to Islam. The new sister lived in a town distant from Muslims and was having a difficult time beginning to practice. She was already covering, but didn't know how to pray. The sister in front of me was asking what she should tell the new sister--to cover or uncover or what to do next, how to learn, etc.

It's interesting that she asked after the class--because the imam discussed the importance of hikmah in da'wah, and putting everything in its right place. He talked about prioritizing when teaching people Islam, and gave the example as he often does of Mu'adh who went to the Christians in Yemen to give them da'wah. And the Prophet (saaws) instructed him to first call them to laa ilaha illAllaah, Muhammad ar-rasoolullaah. And then if they accept that, to call them to the prayers, and so on.

This idea has come up a lot, that faith, iman, aqeedah--this should all be the first focus when calling people to Islam, or teaching the Muslims. If a person has the faith, then what comes next is the salaat. Just like that. In part three of my story about coming to Islam, I briefly mentioned the importance that the salaat had for me, and how my Islam really started to turn around once I first started seeking to learn to pray, and even more once I finally started praying. It is absolutely crucial. Now of course, if it becomes just a ritual it might be next to useless and hard to maintain, but to someone who believes the words he says it is the very beginning of learning the relationship between our Lord and His slave. There is a reason that salaat is called the 'emad of the deen, the central pillar of Islam.

So I suggested to the sister that she help her relative learn to pray. There are so many resources online available now that make this task even simpler. I explained what I needed, personally--someone to literally show me the actions. I had to see and practice them once and then I was able to continue them on my own. I needed a resource with information on the order of the movements (in case I forgot), timings of the prayer, and what things to say in the prayer. It is possible to learn the prayer without learning to read Qur'an first... and I'd actually recommend it, as learning Qur'an can take weeks or months while the salaat can be learned quicker. So for me a book with that information in it was helpful, along with transliterations (and translations) of the Arabic. This is best when used in addition to an audio(and/or video) recording of the basic Arabic used in salaat (including Surat al-Fatihah and another short surah like Surat al-Ikhlaas).

I provided the sister with such a book (I had one in my purse) and some internet resources I had found beneficial. I also gave her some tips for learning the salat which helped me--and these I will share. The book became cumbersome for me to hold during prayer so I opted for creating a sheet of paper, with all the recitation portions written in English on one side and transliterated Arabic on the other side. When learning smaller sections, I would memorize the English first and write the Arabic on notecards which I would hold during the prayer, or leave beside me for reference, in case I needed them.

The best way to learn is by doing. Surat al-Fatihah is read 17 times a day by a Muslim who prays, and throughout the day. Just repeating the prayer will teach the person how to pray, and everytime it can get easier with greater concentration.

May Allah increase us all in khushoo' in our salaat and make us among the musalleen.


Anonymous said...

Asalaamu alaykum -
Now that I'm finally praying, I finally understand why people say that it should be the very next step for after you take shahada. Before I didn't get it, but now I do because I feel like every single day my faith is strengthened more and more the more I pray and learn about the prayer. It is such a blessing Allah has given us, it is sad that it has taken me so long. But when you don't know how to pray - you need alot of help, I think. It's one thing to find it online and stuff, but it is another thing for someone to physically show you. That's why I encourage new muslims to go to the masjid, cause that's the first time I really saw what the prayer looks like and feels like, to understand how important it is. But I guess everyone has different experiences, so it just depends...

Anonymous said...

i also think that prayer should be the next step after shahada,cause it guides you to the Right path,but i also know people who started fasting in Ramadan first,and (i guess) fasting strengthened their iman and then they started praying regularly

Amy said...

lonlon: Wa alaikum assalaam,

I totally agree with what you said. One sister gave me some advice shortly after I had converted, she told me to stay near the masjid. And for months it was really a place of refuge for me, and it enabled me to find out about all kinds of classes and activities and meet other sisters.

But it's really important I think for a new Muslim to start to spend time (not all his/her time, but definitely some) with other Muslims--in this way, following Islam begins to feel less foreign and more practical, and less of a burden.