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I'm Muslim and Don't Pray. What Should I Do?
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 27 - 02 - 2015

Umm Zakiyyah

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.

For Muslims who believe in the fundamentals of Islam, 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.

Sometimes our spiritual crisis is a sign that we are in the wrong crowd. 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 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, in the Holy Qur'an, {Never will I allow to be lost the [good] work of any among you} (Chapter 3, verse 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. 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 disbelief —leaving Allah's religion.

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, fasting in Ramadan, paying the zakaah, and making the pilgrimage to the House.”

Just as a physical structure cannot stand without its foundational pillars, your Islamic faith cannot stand without the foundational pillar of prayer, salaah.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “What is between a person and committing shirk (associating partners with Allah) and kufr (disbelief) is abandoning the prayer.”

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.”

Thus, establishing prayer is the point.
Shouldn't I Work
On My Heart First?

A widespread—and spiritually destructive—myth amongst Muslims today is the idea that we should purify our hearts before reestablishing the prayer. Some Muslims go as far as to say that if our hearts are not filled with love of Allah, then we shouldn't pray until it is.

However, it is impossible to have a heart filled with love of Allah unless it first has emaan, true belief; and emaan cannot be established in the heart until we are fulfilling the duties of our religion, praying being the highest priority.

The spiritual state of the heart is not static. It is continuously changing. However, the prayer must be established regardless of these inevitable changes.

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.

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).

Reciting dhikr, getting to know Allah, and learning about Allah and His beautiful names will assist us in removing the emptiness and hollowness we often feel in prayer (and at other times). However, prayer is a foundational pillar of your faith and should not be abandoned, even if you are struggling with your heart, as we all are.

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