From Chapter 2 of “Struggling to Surrender” by Jeffrey Lang:
“After the first euphoria of conversion, there comes a stage where the rituals become routine and burdensome. As I said earlier, new believers will report that they find them to be a powerful test and strengthener of will. Later, they will say, the rituals become less of a discipline and more of an experience of peace, and this becomes their primary motivator in praying, fasting, and observing other aspects. At a further stage, and this is in conjunction with their persistent daily striving to better themselves, they will say that the rituals, especially the prayers, have become a very powerful emotional and spritual encounter – a time during which they are acutely alert to God’s presence, wherein the ritual is more an act of love, a divine embrace, and it is that love that comes to dominate their lives. For Muslims, the rituals are a door to a breath of life, a life more real and meaningful than anything here on earth, and eventually this thirst for divine life and love conquers them.”
I don’t often see people discussing their experience of worship. It is much more common to focus on discussing external matters such as rules and morals.
So I thought I’d open up that door with this encouraging quote. Do you agree with it? Have you ever struggled with the feelings side of worship, and with motivation? How do you deal?
Personally it took me a little while to take on the salaah ritual and really use it as a medium to express myself. It was a bit of a “culture shock” at first. Then I started to get into it. Having had a different tradition in the past, it’s interesting to compare. I miss singing as part of worship, in a way. But then I see nothing wrong with singing to God as the Sufis do, so I think I could do that as a Muslim if I wanted. Also I could learn proper tajweed (recitation) which is quite melodic. Something that is new for me is the movements – bowing and prostrating. And I love that. I really didn’t realise physical movements and postures could be so powerful.
I like the refreshing feeling of wudu (ablution) but honestly it can be annoying when the weather is cold and I’m all bundled up in winter clothes. I can never do it without getting part of my clothing wet. I think as well that there is a deeper spiritual significance to it that I haven’t grasped emotionally. I just do it without being very mindful of what I’m doing or why.
It was when I had started to pray with so much force and khushoo that it all went down the tube for me and I was in a panic of doubt all of a sudden. Some would say this was shaytan, and I don’t know what to think. Questions came thick and fast and I felt unsure of religion, and hence, unsure of God. Praying has been more of a struggle since then.
I think convictions are important and when we have them, we should hold onto them, because feelings are fickle things that are just inclined to make us unstable. I am still forming my convictions, looking for them in amongst the mess of history and tradition. That takes as long as it takes. But I feel so vulnerable, and I am trying to hold onto God. I just pray God holds onto me.
So we force ourselves to be sensible and rational, and not get sidetracked by petty issues just because they make us feel anxious. Over time and with worship rituals we train our emotions to support what we believe. We reinforce our beliefs and we challenge our hearts, nudging them five times a day towards consciousness of God. That’s what I think it is about.