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Assalaamu alaikum everyone! Today inshallah I'll be writing about falling in love with salaat and the surrounding purification rituals.
I'll never forget the first time I prayed salaat. I prayed it very poorly and it took me about thirty minutes, but it was incredibly meaningful and emotional for me. I actually used a video to follow along, and I spoke my prayer in English. I have since learned the Arabic of course, and now prayers take me about seven minutes or so, but I feel that learning the English translation and praying it a few times prepared me well for a lifetime of loving salaat. Why? Because since Arabic isn't a language that I actually speak, this allowed me to know what I was saying and connect with it. I learned the meaning of each word and phrase in the prayers, and this means that now when I recite in Arabic it holds meaning for me. As I pray I meditate on the meaning of what I'm saying.
I also read up on why we pray as we do. Did you know that salaat just as it is prayed today was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed? Salaat is prescribed by Allah (swt) in a very specific way and therefore when done correctly is a very powerful tool to connect us with the Divine. What could be better or more precious?
As I'm sure you know, we are told that we must pray salaat five times daily every day except when menstruating. For converts, there are so many huge lifestyle changes involved in the conversion process. Praying at least five prayers a day in a language you don't know can prove very daunting and even discouraging. I recommend that you start with one prayer a day – whichever one is most convenient to your schedule – and slowly work up to the five. Then once you've firmly established praying all five on time no matter what, think of adding dhikr after salaat, or reciting new surahs, or praying tahajjud or other sunnah prayers.
Of course all this is not to mention the purification rituals. When and how to perform ghusl had me tied up in knots for weeks! At first I didn't even know it was a thing. Of course there's wudu. That has a lot of steps and they must be performed in order. I personally love the sense of sacred ritual and preparing myself for a conversation with Allah so it was more the technical side that proved challenging for me.
The logic behind these rules for prayer is simple. If one were going to have a meeting with a great dignitary such as a king or president, one would take a shower. They would be nicely groomed, probably shave or trim their body hair, keep a neat beard, hair, and nails, dress modestly, and wear clean clothes. Well, five times a day we have an appointment with the One who is indescribably, infinitely, and immeasurably more important than any human dignitary. And He is with us always. So we must always be prepared.
Now, that's not all there is to it. There are many much deeper reasons behind it. But I am not qualified to get into such mysteries. I recommend that if you want to study the deeper spiritual meanings behind Islamic ablution, that you read some books on the matter or better yet speak to a sheikh or sheikha. Also make dua that Allah would provide you with a love of obedience to Him.
May Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala reward you in this life and the next for you efforts to love and worship Him. Ameen.