2021 June 13 – JJ – female age 33 – Are Prayer and Romantic Relationships Connected?
Are prayer and romantic relationships related? You might say Astaghfirullah! (God forgive me!) to see someone suggest such a thing. But read this essay and prepare to be surprised. At today’s class, I came in thinking that the focus would be learning our prayers in English and Arabic, and that was certainly the focus at the beginning of our lesson. Yet we also ended up spontaneously having a long and meaningful conversation about relationships. I think it is good this conversation happened because relationships are a fundamental part of how we Muslims interact with each other in our Ummah. It’s also important to discuss marriage and romantic relationships because it is said that one’s spouse is the other half of their deen. I will get to the part about how this is related to prayer later.
The people at the class were Sister N, Sister S, Brother C, Brother M, Brother H and a visitor, Brother B (a former student). We had a mixed group of ages in terms of the students, from late teens to late forties. We also had people who had lived in different places, like Greece, Yemen and Argentina. Most of the students were born Muslims simply trying to learn more about their faith. But Sister N, Brother C and I were the converts in the room. Suffice it to say, we had a mixed group, which is a good thing if you want to get different perspectives.
When I arrived, our teacher had us do two rakats (cycles) of prayer. Then he wanted us to meditate and think on nothing except the words la illah ila allah (there is no God but God). This is a type of dhikr, which means remembrance of God. I struggled with the meditation because I don’t normally meditate for fifteen whole minutes. I usually do like one or two minutes of meditation at a time. My teacher tickled my face with a tissue to see if I was focused. I was certainly not. I started laughing. I was also listening to the side conversations happening in the room. And sometimes I would get bored, open my eyes and peek at the names of the books on the shelves. So, meditation is something I need to practice more on my own.
Then our teacher gave us a sheet with all the prayers that are part of the salat (contact prayer). I have most of my salat memorized in Arabic and English. However, I do not have the content one says while they are sitting. This part of the prayer is called Tashahhud. I have used this term with several Muslims who did not know what I was talking about. It is also referred to as at-Tahiyyat. That is the term they are more familiar with. In this part of the prayer, one glorifies God and sends greetings and peace upon God’s messengers and the righteous people of God. The Arabic transliteration for the first part of the prayer is the following: Al-Tahiyyaatu Lillaahi wa’l-salawaatu wa’l-tayyibaat. Al-salaamu ‘alayka ayyuha’l-Nabiyyu wa rahmat-Allaahi wa barakaatuhu. Al-salaamu ‘alaynaa wa ‘ala ‘ibaad-illaah il-saaliheen. Ash-hadu an laa ilaaha ill-Allaah wa ash-hadu anna Muhammadan ‘abduhu wa rasooluh. The English for this is: All prayers and worship whether through words, action or good deeds are for God only. Peace be on you O Prophet, with all of God’s mercy and blessings. Peace be on all of us who are God’s righteous servants. I bear witness to the fact that there is no god but God. I bear witness that Muhammad is God’s slave and messenger.
The next part is, Allaahumma salli ‘ala Muhammad wa ‘ala aali Muhammad kama salayta ‘ala Ibraaheem wa ‘ala aali Ibraaheem, innaka hameedun majeed. Allaahumma baarika ‘ala Muhammad wa ‘ala aali Muhammad kama baarakta ‘ala Ibraaheem wa ‘ala aali Ibraaheem, innaka hameedun majeed. The English is as follows: Oh God, exalt Muhammad and his followers as you exalted Ibrahim and his followers. God you are the most praised, the Most Glorious. Oh God bless Muhammad and his followers as you blessed Ibrahim and his followers. God you are the praised, the Glorious.
The third part after these was something I did not know about. Rabbij Alni Muqeemas Salati Wa Min Dhurriyati Rabbana Wa Taqabbal Duaa, Rabbanagh Firli Wali Waali Dayya Wa Lil Mo’mineena Youma Yaqoomul Hisaab. This means, “Oh Lord! Make me and my children steadfast in payer, Our Lord! Accept the prayer, Our Lord! Forgive me, and my parents and the believers on the Day of Judgment.” After the third part, the fourth part is that one can say a short prayer of their choosing.
One thing I will say is that it was difficult for me to focus on memorizing the prayer because there were too many side conversations happening at the same time and too many people learning different things. I am the type of person who can’t focus when other people are talking or doing different things than I’m doing. So, I had to sit outside to memorize my prayer.
I got interrupted from the class because my ex called me multiple times. He said he needed my help for a matter that couldn’t wait. A couple months ago, I ended a relationship that was not healthy for my mind or moral development. It was a relationship I entered long before I converted to Islam. Focusing on the pure love of God through prayer, fellowship and service (things mentioned in Al-Tahiyyaatu) helped me understand what love really is and gave me the strength to walk away from something that wasn’t helping me. Thus, I have been avoiding my ex. But to make a long story short, he needed help with an urgent thing no one else could help him with because I had the keys to our old apartment, so I had to leave the class for an hour and a half to attend to the matter. I felt guilty for leaving the class, but then when I returned, my teacher said what I did was a good thing. Because the whole point of the class is to become better Muslims. And indeed, acts of service are what Muslims are supposed to be doing.
The reason I brought up my own relationship is because when I returned, the class was in the middle of an intense conversation about relationships. One of the girls in the class said she just left an unhealthy relationship. I won’t go into the details of her personal life, but her comments spurred a conversation about how men should treat women and how to recognize the red flags of a bad relationship. In Islam it is very important for us to be in healthy relationships, so we have a partner who can help keep us on the straight path, rather than dragging us off of it. 2:187 of the Quran states, “…approach your wives. They are your garments, and you are their garments.” Men and women are supposed to be a garment to one another. If they are both following the commands in the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)’s example, then inshallah, they will be a healthy couple. And they can work together to make the world a better place.
The additional homework our teacher gave us was to find the verse in the Quran that proves that God wants us to make the world a better place. I think it is verse 2:30. “And [mention, O Muhammad], when your Lord said to the angels, ‘Indeed, I will make upon the earth a successive authority.’ They said, ‘Will You place upon it one who causes corruption therein and sheds blood, while we declare Your praise and sanctify You?’ Allah said, ‘Indeed, I know that which you do not know.’” A viceregent according to dictionary.com is a type of ruler or sovereign. So we humans are rulers over the Earth, but we are also its caretakers. Those who have power over others must take care of them. Indeed God will judge us for how we treat those we have power over. See verse 6:165. “And it is He who has made you successors upon the earth and has raised some of you above others in degrees [of rank] that He may try you through what He has given you. Indeed, your Lord is swift in penalty; but indeed, He is Forgiving and Merciful.”
Today was a day to learn more about improving our worship of Allah and how to interact with our fellow human beings. As I mentioned above, the two things may seem different, but they are not. One who does not love themselves cannot properly love others. And since Allah, al rahman al raheem, (the most compassionate and most merciful), is the source of all love, one can only experience true love by praying and worshipping through