Saturday, July 25, 2009

Learning to Pray

Mu`adh (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:
The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) sent me as a governor to Yemen and he instructed me thus: "You will go to people of the Scripture (i.e., the Jews and the Christians). First of all invite them to testify that La ilaha ill Allah (There is no true god except Allah) and that Muhammad (PBUH) is His slave and Messenger; and if they accept this, then tell them that Allah has enjoined upon them five Salat (prayers) during the day and night; and if they accept it, then tell them that Allah has made the payment of Zakat obligatory upon them. It should be collected from their rich and distributed among their poor; and if they agree to it, don't take (as a share of Zakat) the best of their properties. Beware of the supplications of the oppressed, for there is no barrier between it and Allah.'' [Bukhari & Muslim]

This hadith is one of my favorite, as it illustrates a level of priority to the salah for those people who embrace Islam. The very first thing taught to the new Muslim after shahadah should be salah, as the Prophet (saws) commanded that salah be taught.

As a new Muslim, learning to pray was for me one of the greatest hurdles. And I think that as a Muslim community, we do not adhere to the teachings of our Prophet (saws) when we abandon our new brothers and sisters after their shahadahs, instead of teaching them to pray.

I was listening a few weeks back to a khutbah by Muhammad Alshareef as he discussed the plight of a new Muslim. The brother was told again and again the importance of eating halal meat. And then one brother actually gave him some halal meat or took him to the halal meat shop--and we listeners are supposed to learn the importance of putting words into actions. But I can't help asking... halal meat!?

The person just accepted Islam as his deen and the most important thing to tell him is about halal meat? No!

Teach him to pray. Teach new Muslims to pray. This is a new objective for me--I am greatly disappointed that any convert to Islam can leave the masjid without learning how to pray, and I will consider it to be a personal failure if I am present and the person misses the opportunity to learn this precious and supremely important act of worship.

For someone who learned how to pray by watching his or her parents, growing up, it might not seem a strange and foreign procedure. But for a new Muslim it can be wholly intimidating. And I know there are tons of videos, books, pamphlets, and other source material to learn, but they all pale in comparison to being taught in person.

Don't assume someone else is taking the responsibility--that is perhaps our biggest mistake. I don't think Muslims intend to abandon a new Muslim, or intend to neglect his education about the deen, I truly don't. But I think we might have the impression that someone else will teach them, maybe the imam or the da'wah committee, or the uncle who is always in the first row. But we should take that responsibility--and unless the convert already knows how to pray, or has someone else already to teach him (and he specifically declines your offer), do not leave until you've shown him.

And if your excuse is that you don't know how to teach someone to pray, then my answer is that if you know how to pray, then you can teach someone. But if you don't know yourself, then you should learn, and then you can teach. (Try AlMaghrib's Divine Link, for instance!)

If there are any sisters in the Raleigh area, even anywhere in the Triangle, and you don't know how to pray, or you haven't found someone to teach you, please contact me right away, and I will teach you inshaaAllaah. If you know someone who needs to learn how to pray, please direct them to me. For any brothers in the area, inshaaAllah I will find a brother to teach you.


Jawed Iqbal said...

JazakAllah sister, do admire your dedication and willingness to help other Muslims. I wanted your take on a situation I had with a new Muslim brother myself.

Now this guy had not proclaimed his Shahadah, but he considered himself a Muslim, so I decided to help him and tried to show him how to pray Salaat.

Initially, he was not very comfortable, so I didn't push too much and let him take his time, also sent him resources from time to time on Prayer.

Unfortunately, I recently learned that he had become interested in buddhism, b/c he liked their "meditative" way. He had mentioned to me in the past that he found 5 times of Salaah quite difficult and was convinced that he could show devotion to Allah without being so "strict" (in his opinion of course). make a long story short, he kinda drifted b/c he found something "easier". Since you're a convert yourself, what do you think would have been a better way to handle this issue of teaching Salaah, long should one wait before instructing a newbie?

Again, JazakAllah for all your efforts. Wasalaam.

Amy said...

Assalaamu alaykum

This is an interesting story--I've seen people before who "consider" themselves to be Muslim without ever taking shahadah. I think they have a slight misconception about Islam if they are in that position--but I'm not sure myself of the best approach.

On hearing about this brother you knew, it doesn't seem very surprising. He didn't want to commit to Islam by saying shahadah, nor take the bigger commitment of daily prayers.

Daily prayers are not about strictness, but I think if that was his opinion, then he never truly valued their benefit.

New Muslims after shahadah have a tremendous amount of energy for the deen--or so I have seen in my experience. They want to learn anything, everything they can get their hands on. Finding someone who says they don't want to learn would be an exception.

If he drifted to Buddhism and still thought he was showing devotion to Allah, then unfortunately he was misled, and Shaytan is truly an enemy to the believers.

We pray five times a day because that's what Allah commanded us to do. He specified how we are to worship Him, we can't just make up a way or do it however we like. And a Muslim who believes that Islam is based only on divine revelation (through the Qur'an and the prophet Muhammad saws), there won't be an issue. The person might not pray, but he will understand at least why prayer is a certain way.

But someone looking for another way to pray is not satisfied with Islam as his religion, so how can such a person be a Muslim?

I think it's more likely that this brother identified with the truth in Islam and its teachings, but was not ready to act on that, and so he was easily distracted from that faith since he never committed to it. So maybe he wasn't really a Muslim in the first place, though Allah knows best what is in people's hearts.

I think that if the person finds salah to be a burden or won't declare shahadah, then the focus should still be da'wah with an emphasis on tawheed, and the purpose of worship in the first place. And Allah knows best.

Muslima said...

Asalaamu 'alaykum,
An nice website that shows in detail the steps of prayer for our new brothers and sisters who want to practice at home can be found here (be sure to keep your volume on so you can hear the parts of prayer being recited as well):

- To see the basic steps of Prayer, go to:

- If you want to learn prayers additional Sunnah actions, go to: