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.