I have childhood memories of the late night praying routine towards the end of the holy month of Ramadan, especially the last three sacred nights. I may have been a teenager at the time but the memories from the distant past are crystal clear even to date. I have replayed those memories and flashbacks in my head every Ramadan for so many years …going to do the same now…
You know after fasting the whole day it is incredibly hard to stay up all night in prayer, it takes strength we don’t have and determination that easily wears off!! After about an hour or so, you are done!
it is *only* by the grace of God that one is given the desire and the strength to actually withstand the difficulty of going through the day hungry and thirsty. There’s simply no other way one would be functioning without His help and mercy. And the idea that this kind of prayer was modelled by our beloved Prophet was what kept us going big time then and does the same as of now.
I distinctly remember the dimly lit area outside our bedrooms, a wall to wall carpeted square space having a wooden buffet sitting under the kitchen window adorned by many items; of which I lovingly recall an offwhite telephone set, which must be totally obsolete now! I remember how so instantly our velvety, deep-coloured prayer mats brightened up the rather dull looking brown carpet. I have no trouble recalling the sweet scent akin to that place, the upright long standing in prayer shoulder to shoulder, staring upon silence and reciting small prayers under our breath- floating peace that occasionally got interrupted by tiny barking sound of a lone dog. This and many other details are but a blink away from my mind’s eye…
A sheet of paper would be tucked under our prayer rugs. A neatly cut out square piece of paper that religiously collected our glances every 10 min. This sheet was undoubtedly the highlight of the night. So there were a few untiring attempts at things like;
1- that the table we drew on the paper was designed with 100 checkboxes.. not one more not one less! .Strictly. One. Hundred. Which were meant to be checked off one by one with each unit of prayer. So basically we’d challenge ourselves to read up 100 raka’ts/units of prayer in a few hours..
2- that the pen used for marking and ticking off was *the best* among its pencil box companions. As if the poor stationary too was going to engage in some sorta competition where it’s dexterity and swiftness was to be tested! *chuckle*
3- a half filled jug of water that we shared to keep hydrated in between our sometimes mutually-agreed and sometimes just-like-that prayer intervals. Mostly it would be predetermined as in every 30 minutes or after a certain number of boxes being checked off.
4- and my favourite was the invisible [unannounced & random] slots of mini breaks; chatting about stuff whilst seated on our prayer mats and the very visible patches of light that windowed through from the lamp in the kitchen onto the somber designs of our mats.
The first two hours of praying, the momentum stayed on track although internally we’d be struggling to stay alert! Strangely each time a brief exchange of concern to complete 100 nafls (prayer) would improve our motivation dramatically as if the chat had served as chicken soup for the very tired body and soul. And immediately we would go back to our knees in awe and praise of the holy night …
It makes me smile to recall how after finishing every unit of prayer, when I sat down, I had the urge to pray for my academic success ..to secure top position/s and all that. How very simple and only-academic life used to be! I don’t remember praying for anything else but generally and genuinely for my family. And I’m grateful to God for keeping me obediently prompted to pray for their well being even to date.
Looking back into the light of my memory, I fondly recall that almost always we’d managed to tick off the last box that read 100. With our bodies sore to the core, hearts filled with relief & eyes soaked in sleep, we would then wait for sehree (early morning breakfast ritual for the next day/fast).
Recollection of those nights leads to some nugget of wisdom that I hope holds meaning and truth for you guys.
1- When we hold someone/something dear to us, we praise it. But mere verbal praise means nothing. As they say, ‘actions speak louder than words’. God requires us to actually *live our claim* of Love for Him through *actions*, it cannot be contained in our hearts alone. The most wonderful opening chapter of the holy Quran starts off with Praising God. Hence, praise and acknowledgement being the theme of the whole prayer. And not just God but it applies to worldly relationships. Praise. Acknowledge. Sacrifice.
2- Praise involves sacrifice. Giving up something you love for someone you love. Giving up your ego. Giving up sleep to stay up nights. Giving up time to reach out and be there for someone in need. Giving up money for the sake of charity. Anything that costs us time, effort & energy is a sacrifice in and of itself. The amount of sacrifice we are ready to do is reciprocal to our love for that very entity.
3- Prayer is not limited to box-checked or a to-do list accomplished sort of a phenomenon. It is a process that requires consistency and intention. It is just like sowing a seed, watering and caring for it regularly and watching it grow, bear fruit & benefit not just oneself but those around us.
We may be thousands of miles apart geographically and belong to altogether different religions and cultures, the reasons and routines of prayer might not match, perhaps some of us pray by crying out loud or some of us pour our heart out only through a soft whisper emerging from the deepest core of our heart. Despite our differences and distances, we got this one thing in common. And it is ..the *language* & the *sound* of prayer. It is Universal. It is One.
However, wherever and whenever a prayer is made, it makes one feel grounded and anchored in the belief that God, Glorified and Exalted is He, is capable of answering it. Once we internalise this, rest assured we will be given what we want or something much much better than what we asked for and He will most likely give it to us in a way that we never would have imagined..
I wish we’d had given the ability to once in a while take a step back into our past and relive some days if not all of it….but that’s asking too much .. is it?!