■ Story: First Salah of Jeffery Laing ■
I would like to read out an extract from Jeffery Laing’s book, “Even Angels Ask” in which he describes his first prayer.
On the day I converted to Islam the Imam of the Masjid gave me a manual on how to perform Salah. How hard could it be pray I wondered?
That night I decided to start perfroming the 5 prayers at their appointed time. Much of what I was saying was in Arabic so I had to memorize the Arabic transliteration and English interpretations. I poured over the manual of salah for a couple of hours before I felt confident enough to attempt my first prayer. I walked into the bathroom and opened to the section describing how to perform Wudhu, Like a cook trying a recipe for the first time, I followed the step-by-step instructions slowly and meticulously.
Standing in the center of the room I aimed myself in what I hoped was the direction of Makkah. I glanced back over my shoulder to make sure that I had locked the door to my apartment. Finding that it was locked, I looked straight ahead straightened my stance, took a deep breath and in a hushed voice I pronounced “Allah-o-Akbar” I felt a little anxious, I couldn’t rid myself of the feeling that someone might be spying on me so I stopped what I was doing and went to the window, I glanced around outside to make sure no one was there.
Then, I carefully pulled the curtains closed and returned to the middle of the room. Once again, I stood straight and whispered “Allah-u-Akbar” in a barely audible tone I slowly and clumsily recited the first surah of Quran and another short surah in Arabic. I then bowed with my back perpendicular to my legs. I had never bowed to anyone before and I felt embarrassed I was glad that I was alone. I stood up and recited “Sami’Allaahu liman Hamidah” and then I felt my heart pounding and anxiety mounting as I called out another “Allah-u-Akbar”.
I had arrived at the moment when I had to perfrom Sajdah. Petrified I stared at the area of the floor, I could not do it, I could not lower myself to the floor like a slave dropping before his Master. It was as if my legs had braces on them that would not let me bend. I felt too ashamed and humiliated. I could imagine my friends laughing & watching me make a fool of myself. Poor Jeff! I could hear them saying. ’Please, please help me do this’, I prayed. I took a deep breath and forced myself to the floor.Now on my hands and knees,I hesitated for a brief moment and then I pushed my face to the carpet, ridding my mind of all other thoughts. I mechanically pronounced three times “Subhaana Rabbi Al A’laa’,”ALLAH-U-AKBAR” I called and sat back on my heels and put my face again to the carpet. I was determined to finish this no matter what.”Allah-u-Akbar” I called and lifted myself from the floor and stood up straight, three cycles to go I told myself. I had to wrestle with my emotions and pride the rest of the prayer but this got easier with each cycle.
Finally, I recited the Tashahud and then I ended the prayer. Spent, I remained on the floor and reviewed the battle I had just been through. I felt embarassed for I had to struggle so hard to go through the prayer. With my head lowered in shame I prayed ‘Please forgive me my arrogance and stupidity, I have come from very far and have so very far to go’. At that moment I experienced something I had never felt before. A wave of coldness swept through me, which seemed to radiate from some point within my chest. It was much more than a physical sensation. It was as if mercy had taken on an objective form and it was now penetrating and enveloping me, I cannot say why but I began to cry. Tears began to run down my face and I found myself weeping uncontrollably. The harder I cried the more I felt the embrace of a powerful kindness and compassion. I remained on my knees crouched on the floor with my head on my hands, Sobbing for sometime.
When I finally stopped crying I was completely exhausted but one thing I realised I needed Allah and prayer desperately. Before getting up from my knees I made one last dua, ‘O God If I ever gravitate towards disbelief again then please kill me first,rid me of this life, it is hard enough living with my imperfections and weaknesses but I cannot live another day denying YOU’ Prophet Muhammad PBUH’s last exhortation was for Salah (Prayer). The last moments of his life when he was so ill, 3 times he got up and asked Ayesha(raa), ’Have the muslims prayed?’ Ayesha(raa) said, ‘No, they are waiting for you’. He kept trying, he would bathe and then faint, finally he (saw) appointed Abu Bakr (raa) to lead the prayer. He (pbuh) didn’t give up,with the support of two men he reached for his Zuhr prayer. When Abu Bakr (raa) saw him he started to move back but the Prophet (pbuh) indicated to him that he should not move. And he said to he two men, ‘make me sit at his side’. They sat him down beside Abu Bakr (raa) and Abu Bakr (raa) prayed standing and the people prayed following the prayer of Abu Bakr (raa) and amongst the last words of RasoolAllah (pbuh) were ‘As-Salah! As-Salah!’ The prayer, The prayer!’ He added, “Fear Allah with regards to the slaves what your right hands possess”.
This is Islam-Huquq-ullah and Huquq-ul-ibaad.
I would like to end this discussion with a Hadith Qudsi in which Allah (swt) said, “I accept the Salah of one who humbles himself during it to My Greatness and who does not perform the Salah just for show and who does not spend the night in disobdience to Me and who spends the day remembering Me and who is merciful to the poor, The traveller and the widows and who is merciful to one who is suffering from a disease. He has a light like the light of the sun. I protect him by My Glory and the Angels guard over him. I give him light in darkness and dignity in the presence of ignorance and his example in My creation is like Firdous in Jannah”.