Rasti Ranj –
As we grow up, we reach a point in our lives when we start to think about what it really means to be a Muslim. Some of us take a conscious decision to grow closer to our faith, and follow its teachings to the letter, while others choose to follow their own path towards enlightenment. But should we simply let ourselves be free to pick and choose our own ethical code as and when we like?
In my life, I generally encounter three types of Muslims. The first are committed believers who follow closely the teachings of the faith. The second, while calling themselves Muslims, do no more than pay lip-service to the basic demands of Islam. The third group, meanwhile, are only nominally Muslims. To them, religion is an outdated concept that is no longer relevant in the modern world.
I consider myself to belong to the first group. But what surprises me is that the other two types of people rarely seem to understand what I mean by the real Islam. How, for example, can you claim to be a Muslim just because you pray, fast and don’t kill or steal? And how, for that matter, can you attack the teachings of Islam if you have never read the Qur’an?
One of the most basic demands of Islam is prayer (salah), and praying not just once, but five times a day. Unfortunately, many people seem too see prayer as a burden to be performed and got over with as quickly as possible. When I go to the mosque, for example, I see worshippers finishing their prayers in about 30 seconds. Even worse, I see people finish their prayers, return to their shops, and try and rip their customers off with hugely inflated prices, or young men harassing girls in the street almost as soon as they leave the mosque.
But prayer should not be seen as a chore. For those struggling to fit in their five prayers a day, try to think of the call to prayer as an excellent time management tool! Prayer times in Islam correspond to five distinct parts of the day – fajr (dawn), thuhur (noon), asr (afternoon), maghrib (sunset) and isha (evening), and you can use this a great way to structure your working day.
So, have a go at following my handy schedule. Wake up for fajr – often around 4.30am – and then make the most of your early start by going for a workout, reading a book, or catching up on some work. You will already have achieved a lot from your day, and it’s not even breakfast time!
Next up is thuhur, which is a great time to take a break from work, and can be followed by lunch or a short midday walk, before asr in the late afternoon. Once you’ve got this far, you know that school or work is almost over, and you then have a few hours free to relax, meet up with friends, or play sport before the sun begins to set, and you return for maghrib. Now you’re free to go back home, and spend some quality time with your family, before rounding off your day with the final prayer, isha.
By approaching prayer in this way, you not only fulfil your obligations as a Muslim to salah, but you will have a useful and effective way of structuring your day. By being focussed, and fitting your prayers into regular breaks from work or study, you will find yourself becoming much more productive, and get more out of your day-to-day life!