“Look, it’s not like I’m not happy being a Muslim. I’m grateful that I have this beautiful religion. I just… I don’t feel it sometimes. And this time, none of my usual boosters are working,” Mariam confided in her friend, Atikah.

Unsure how to answer her friend as she experiences the same thing occasionally, she tried, “Okay listen. They always say go back to basics, right? And our basics is the prayer. Just focus on that and don’t overburden yourself with doing more.”

“Fine. I’ll try that,” Mariam replied, not entirely convinced this would give her that spiritual fulfilment she so missed. ‘How do people do it? How can they balance this life with all its busy-ness and distractions and obligations to family and career, and still stand on the prayer mat, focussed?’, she wondered. ‘What am I missing? I don’t miss my prayers, or at least I try very hard not to. Why does God seem so far?’

Not wanting to dwell on it further, she went back to the office to finish some work.

_

That night, she took her ablution deliberately. She’d heard somewhere that if you’re not focussed in your wudhu’, then your prayer won’t be focussed too. It didn’t sound that hard so she figured she’ll give it a shot.

“O Allah, I am taking ablution to prepare for prayer, for Your Sake.”

She took her time as she washed her hands and her face, asking for forgiveness for the sins that she’s committed with her limbs. At the end, she felt… clearer. Ready.

She put on her white prayer garment, a gift from her grandmother from Makkah when she went for Umrah a year ago. Mariam always liked knowing that this prayer garment had been in the blessed city even if she hasn’t stepped foot there. She always imagined that as she put on the prayer garment, she’s also enveloping herself in blessings she can’t see, like magical star dust.

She took a deep breath and made her intention for prayer.

“O Allah, I intend to pray 4 rakaat of isya’, for Your Sake.” Then she added in a whisper, “Please let me have khusyu’!”

For the first time in a long time, her prayer was not rushed, she felt calm and relaxed and when she closed her eyes in prostration, she could faintly see the Kaabah in the distance. Her throat constricted, finding it hard to believe Allah heard her prayer. She needed this so bad, and He heard her!

As she gave salaam at the end of prayer, she wept in gratitude. “Thank You Allah, thank You so much.” She opened her eyes and just as she was about take off her prayer garment, her eyes fell upon an old book: “Mari Sembahyang (Perempuan)”. It was a book written by the late Kiyai Ahmad Sonhadji Mohamad, something she had used in primary school to memorize the recitations in prayer.

Her heart was moved to take the book from the shelf so she did. She read the translations of the recitations in prayer and felt her heart melt. Such beautiful supplications that she had memorized for years and recited in prayer but never paid much attention to!

“Rabbighfir li warhamni, wajburni, warfa’ni, wahdini, wa’afini, wa’fu’anni.”

“O Allah forgive me, have mercy on me, support me, elevate me, guide me, protect me and erase for me my wrongdoings.”

‘This was what I’ve been asking for from God all these time between the 2 prostrations and I wasn’t even aware of it while I was asking?’, Mariam felt regret in her heart, but so thankful still that she was shown her way.

She realised that memorizing recitations in prayer as a child was different than truly understanding and internalising the meaning of them as a young adult. She took her phone and messaged Atikah: “You were right babe. Prayer is indeed our foundation. I felt it’s magic again today. Thank you!”


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