Conversations with God: Why do we pray?
January 23rd, 2016
“Why do we pray the way we do in Islam?” “Why five times a day?” “Why don’t we just pray in our heads?” “Does God even need my prayer?” These are just a few examples of the questions that our Muslim youth have been asking about Salah (prayer). These questions are not the problem. We are naturally curious and constantly trying to understand what we do and why we do it. This is an important part of the way Allah (swt) designed us and it is indeed what makes us so special. Instead, the problem is in our unwillingness as a community to address these questions in a way that actually appeals to the bright minds of our youth today.
On Saturday, January 23rd, the Tarbiya Institute organized the second episode of a series titled “Conversations with God” in order to address such questions. The event was themed around the question “why do we pray?” and featured Imam Azeez and the well-loved Ustadh Alauddin Alauddin from Columbus, Ohio. They spoke to an audience of 160 brothers and sisters about Salah in an effort to alleviate the spiritual restlessness associated with questions about prayer in Islam. Ustadh Alauddin said that “there are no atheists on as sinking ship just as there are no atheists on a plane that’s about to crash land.” He observed that the one in need is not God, but it is His creation, us, and Salah serves that need. “Salah is an invitation from the Lord to converse with him”, said Imam Azeez. “When you make wudu and stand before Allah to pray, in essence you have accepted his invitation” added the Imam. Salah in that sense becomes a privilege, not an obligation. I was reminded by the Imam’s point that so often our perceptions on a matter such as Salah can completely shift whether we view it as a burden and neglect it or think of it as opportunity and seek to perfect it.
“Back home prayer, and Islam in general, was taken for granted,” said one sister who spoke with me after the event. “Everyone prayed, or at least no one thought twice about it.” The United States is different, not only because Islam is in the minority, but also because we live in a pluralistic society where we are exposed to all kinds of different faiths and traditions. In our circumstance, the community needs to be addressed in a way that helps them to see the value and beauty of Islamic teachings such as the five daily prayers. If we are to successfully bring the message of God and His final prophet to the people of this diverse nation, we cannot be dismissive of challenging questions that may be asked of us. At Tarbiya Institute, we believe that it is the responsibility of our Islamic organizations and Masajid to provide nuanced answers to those questions and to provide safe spaces for those questions to be asked.
This event was another opportunity for the Muslims of Sacramento to get busy revitalizing their faith and sense of community. On February 20th, they are inviting families to “Hike with Imam Azeez” and spend the day exploring nature, listening to spiritual reminders, and performing fun team building activities.