As I was learning to pray these past few days, I noticed little things about the prayer that made me think about the perfection of Allah and the perfect way in which the prayer is designed. Often when I bow down to go into the position of prostration (called “sujud”), it takes me a moment or two before I realize that the tops of my feet are laying flat on the ground. The proper way (or so I have learned thus far) is to place the feet in an upright position with only the tips of the toes touching the ground. At first, before I was sure of the correct position, I was leaving my feet on the ground. Once I learned of my error and would correct myself as soon as I remembered (usually during the middle of “sujud,”) I quickly learned that when you place the tips of the toes on the ground, immediately your weight shifts and transfers to the place where your forehead is touching the ground.
The Imam of my masjid has mentioned before the importance of this area of the body. The way he described it is that the area of the forehead directly between the eyebrows has been known to be the center of the consciousness. He added that often when we are trying to remember something, we will close our eyes and press a finger or a thumb up against our forehead on this spot while trying to remember something we can’t seem to recall. Other cultures also place importance on this area; Hindus wear the bindi – the ornamental mark centered in this spot on the forehead and it is well-known as being the sixth chakra, the center of concealed wisdom.
So I believe that the feeling I get when in sujud is also related to the positioning of my body. When I stand up from sujud, often times I feel a relief of pressure, a calmness or coolness in the front of my mind. I am able to start anew into my next rakat.
IWhile researching the different positions of salat online, I found multiple sites connecting salat to yoga positions. They describe the way that carrying out the different movements of salat is like practicing yoga, in terms of making specific movements, holding the correct position of a posture for a designated amount of time, and also making careful and concentrated “mantras” as they call them in yoga, or for muslims, the recitation of the prayer. The benefits of all of these together is an increase in health through the meditation and concentration involved both physically and spiritually.
Each time I pray I feel more grounded. I feel refreshed from performing wudu (ritual cleaning before prayer) when I enter the prayer. Always I have thoughts and worries that float around in my mind, and at the beginning, these things try to take over and distract me. But as I continue, I find these things start to drift farther and farther away from my consciousness, until soon they are far enough away that I no longer feel the weight of them. Instead it is replaced with the weight of knowing I am in Allah’s presence, and He hears me. I am in a state of purity, clean of body and clean of mind, honored to be in the presence of Allah.
Sometimes I can hear things in the other room: the TV is on, music is playing somewhere in the apartment above me, or my cat is scratching at the door waiting to be fed. At these times, when I struggle to stay focused on my recitation and its meaning, I remember that I am not alone. At this point in time, at this moment of prescribed prayer, other muslims all over the world have stopped what they are doing also, set down their work, purified themselves, and have come to worship Allah as he has asked us to. So even though I am alone in my room, there is an entire community that is performing the same motions, speaking the same words, and leaving the things of this world to focus instead on Allah and the day of Judgment, all at the same moment as me. This thought reassures me, and I am able to quickly shut out the noise.
I can’t tell you how relieved I am to finally be learning my prayers. Each time I pray, I recognize that I have learned one more thing. I am closer to memorizing the Arabic words and remembering their meanings. I feel assured that I am finally living as I should be living as a Muslim, following the guidance that Allah has laid out for us in the Qur’an. I have finally taken my first step on the straight path after so many years of wavering. I used to think praying was this impossible task – that I would never be good enough to carry it out, that it would be too difficult and complicated to incorporate into my daily life. I used to pray to Allah to make it easy for me, to change my life so that I would have a safe, easy, comfortable space from which to learn my prayers. Allah has provided all of that for me and much more, and I am so glad that I am finally growing to become the muslim that I desire to be for the sake of Allah. Alhumdulilla!