Monday, March 5, 2012

What does your prayer mean?

Over a period of four Fridays I did an informal polling of people who came to the mosque for prayer. The question I asked everyone was:” What did you say in salaat today, and do you know what it means?” Out of the twenty people I interviewed, twelve had no idea about the meaning of their salaat. Four could say the meaning of parts of Al Fateha but not completely. Two others remembered the meaning of Al Fateha but nothing else. Two people remembered the meaning of at least one sura they had recited in the prayer.
But none could say what the words signify for their life.
How can prayer help us if we don’t even know what we are saying in it?

I think a mosque should make arrangements so people can learn and understand what they say in salaat and why? They should have an opportunity to think about the meaning and its relevance so they can feel connected to the words of prayer.


  1. This post provokes a piercing question that is at the heart of religious practice. Enhancing one's prayer experience requires practice. The foundation of effective prayer lies in its authenticity. If one does not understand the impact of the words she is uttering during prayer, it is virtually impossible to make progress and get to the next level which is to assign a positive meaning to each word that is uttered.

    1. While I can't imagine having a spiritual experience without connecting to the words uttered during prayer, it is easy & perhaps not too unusual to divorce spiritual prayer from the traditional, ritualistic prayer if you don't know the meaning of the verses you recite. While prayers are a requirement in Islamic faith, it is just as important to understand the verses in the Koran as uttered during Salat; as well as connect to God in our own way. I see it more of an individual endeavor, part of one's spiritual journey however. An external element (and a distant one for many women!) like a mosque can only do so much.

    2. The time has come to question Islam, question the hadith, question the Quran, question Islamic truth, even question the existence of Allah himself or herself or itself...Islamic civilization is going through mental retardation because of inability to question, inability to debate, inability to use the sophisticated brain that God has given Muslims.

      Anyone who prays blindly and accepts "Muhammad's" truth without asking questions is dead spiritually and intellectually.
      Wake up Arabs and Muslims. The truth is never absolute and what was descended 1400 years ago and created a great civilization is now creating the most unenlightened civilization on the planet. The Muslim world went from being the commercial and cultural center of the world to the intellectually inept center of the world.

      Asia is on the rise and will be dominating the planet and we are still discussing what the Rasool said and did 1400 years ago. We are still debating how we should cover our hair and what kind of "Islamic" clothes to wear, or whether we should eat pork or listen to music or analyze and over-analyze the hell out of hadith and the Quran.

      One who cannot adapt will die.

  2. Ibn Rushd begins with the contention that Law commands the study of philosophy. Many Quranic verses, such as “Reflect, you have a vision” (59.2) and “they give thought to the creation of heaven and earth” (3:191), command human intellectual reflection upon God and his creation. This is best done by demonstration, drawing inferences from accepted premises, which is what both lawyers and philosophers do. Since, therefore, such obligation exists in religion, then a person who has the capacity of “natural intelligence” and “religious integrity” must begin to study philosophy. If someone else has examined these subjects in the past, the believer should build upon their work, even if they did not share the same religion. For, just as in any subject of study, the creation of knowledge is built successively from one scholar to the next. This does not mean that the ancients’ teachings should be accepted uncritically, but if what is found within their teachings is true, then it should not be rejected because of religion. (Ibn Rushd illustrated this point by citing that when a sacrifice is performed with the prescribed instrument, it does not matter if the owner of the instrument shares the same religion as the one performing the sacrifice.)