As we fast, work, study, or perform any other duties all at the same time, it is often hard to taste the sweetness of prayer during Ramadan and truly acknowledge its importance and weight. Busy schedules can turn the month of spiritual purity and meditation into a month of complete exhaustion and depletion, yet this can change if we get into the depths of prayer, understand its meaning and purpose, and approach it with the right mindset.
For me, prayer should represent a circle of emotions. It does not matter at which level of emotion you are at, but what matters is that you are able to rearrange and dive into these emotions completely and entirely until you get into the heart of the circle – almost like you are drowning or losing yourself inside the hole of your heart.
To start with, prayer or ‘ibāda, implies humility or submissiveness, as theologian and spiritual writer Ibn Qayyim al-Jawzīyah explains that it is the highest level of love, wherein a person is powerless before their beloved. This is why prayer should be ultimately a feeling of powerlessness, as love is an emotion that transcends all power that you have within and takes complete control over you. In this case, it is love of God that should take power of you.
But who is God? Usually the main obstacle that blocks our path to spirituality is the failure of comprehending a divine power like God. Since human beings are finite and mortal creatures, they are incapable of fully understanding the reality of an eternal God, nor do they have the capability or imagination to construct a true mental image.
Knowing God is an individual experience that cannot be generalized for all. Though personally, I prefer to experience the joy of contemplating the signs of God rather than truly knowing Him straight away or directly.
In the Quran, when God speaks of attaining this precious knowledge of Him, there is always a mention of contemplating the signs around us, and for me, this is the beauty of the spiritual journey in itself – to be so persisted and dedicated in the search for the signs to ultimately reach Him, as one verse states:
“We shall show them Our signs in the universe and within themselves until it will be manifest unto them that it is the Truth.” (41:53).
“The creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the day and the night are evidence for people of reason. It is these who [commemorate God] while standing, sitting, or resting on their sides and who think about the creation of the heavens and the earth and say, ‘Lord, you have not created all this without reason.” (3:190-191).
To reach this emotion of love and humility before God in prayer, therefore, there also must be a drive to know Him, and to think about His creation in awe and wonder.
Yet to reach that level of depth is not easy, and this why I believe that prayer can be a circle of emotions, as shown in Robert Plutchik’s famous ‘Wheel of Emotions’, which shows how the interaction of certain emotions and feelings can develop into higher and more intense levels of emotion.
When we approach prayer, we are often inside a messy ball of emotions. We are both afraid and in awe of God, and we fail to connect with Him because we trap ourselves into these feelings of confusion and fear, and doubt of whether we can truly reach this knowledge of Him.
But this is completely normal, because ultimately emotions do not move in just one straight path, but are flexible, and can twirl, interact and change. Instead of feeling just fear, or disappointment, you can try to communicate with God and trust Him, whether it is trust that He will guide you, help you, or even merely trust yourself that you will reach Him. The strength of the rope of your spirituality really depends on this powerful and important emotion, which is trust.
There also must be a remembrance of God, and remembrance of all the joyful things in life that He bestowed on you and that give you joy. When I feel blessed or gifted, I always yearn to thank someone for it, like I yearn to thank my parents or friends for the love and joy they provide me. Similarly, during prayer, this yearning to thank God is also present, and it is one of the main drives to push me to pray: to express my joy and thanks to God.
At the end of the day, prayer should be liberating, as within every person is a craving for spiritual fulfillment. The reality is that we cannot always seek inner peace and self-actualization through materialism or the physical world, and Ramadan is a month for us to dig deeper and find that inner peace.
The most important thing is to enjoy the experience and move at your own pace, with no rush or hurry. As you pray, take time in connecting with God, in understanding the verses you recite, and in reaching the depths of this emotional circle.
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