As I knelt to pray Maghrib this evening, I heard a quiet shuffling behind me. In the library, I pray in a secluded hallway in which there are two vacant spaces- one in which females pray and one in which males pray. Of course, these aren’t clearly designated- the location is just convenient because often the males come with a friend or two to pray in congregation and the larger space is more appropriate for that. However, there’s been numerous times where we pray in the other’s space just for convenience. But this digression takes away from what inspired me to write this entry.
While I was completing my prayer, I felt someone pass me into the other vacant space and heard various sounds. Something being dropped, something being unzipped. I tried to clear my mind as I finished my prayer. When I said the final salams, I turned behind me to see who was in the other space. An unfamiliar face greeted me. She was consumed in her ritual of sorts. She was clothed just as an other ordinary person I would see in the library, but I was aware that the unzipping was the sound of her removing some articles from the bags she carried. As she laid out a prayer rug, I turned back around to begin my Sunna prayers. When I finally completed, I could not help but to turn around again. This female had put on a beautiful, luscious, black abaya and a hijab with different hues of gray. I wasn’t able to take my eyes off of her. Something about the sheer simplicity of her just drew me to her. And as she prayed, she looked like she was in complete serenity. The movements of prayer were beautifully executed, no rigidity in her movements, complete and fluid movements. It looked like a beautiful art form. And as I continued to sit on my prayer rug, it was me praying that I could as well be graced with some of that beauty. I long to pray as I mean it- with complete focus and uninterrupted by any sounds, movements or thoughts other than my focus on the One.
For some reason, her abaya was just so perfect. I wondered why people couldn’t see the beauty of the abaya. It looks so beautifully feminine. Compare it to my denim skirt and pink sweater, she- this unknown stranger- was the one who exuded confidence and beauty. She was the one giving up the conventional idea of beauty and while doing so looking even more radiant. And to think.. this girl brought in an extra bag with clothing in it specifically for her prayer, subhanAllah. Having been blessed to have started wearing hijab in my teenage years gives me an immense amount of respect for people that carry around these extra articles for prayer. It’s not easy- but they, too, are making a dedication to God. When she packs her bag, carrying in it items for prayer, she is consciously reminding herself that she needs to pray and to do so she needs to humble herself before her Lord. What do I do when I go to pray? I walk down the hallway and I pray in whatever I’m wearing. Jeans, a sweatshirt, fancy clothes or not– it doesn’t matter. It’s such a mindless act and when I dress in the morning, I don’t remind myself that my clothing and the way I dress is for the One who Created me. But I should- this hijab isn’t mindless. This is an active expression of my faith and it is up to me to determine how cognizant I am of it.
Someone once told me that when you make the opening takbir for prayer, there is beauty in the way you lift your arms up to your shoulders/ears. The back of your hands are brought up as if to throw all your cares and worries behind you- and as you say “Allahu Akbar” you are reiterating that God is indeed great(er) than anything else going on in your life at the moment. And this prayer, this ritual form of worship is a further acknowledgement of that fact and your utter dependency on God. It’s so utterly beautiful that I can’t adequately explain it. Seeing this person perform her prayer just instilled in me a greater feeling of love and desire to be closer to the Beloved.
May we be blessed with the ability to see our own deficiencies and blessed with the strength and determination to correct our inadequacies. May God accept it from us and bring us good in all that we do. May we appreciate Him and love Him. May our obligatory and non-obligatory acts of worship be accepted from Him and bring us closer to Him. May we be truly active in our acts of faith. Ameen.