This might be your story. It starts with missing Fajr (too early) or Isha (too tired). Zhur, Asr, and Magrib (too busy) also get lost. Maybe you make salat once at night and try to make all five prayers at once, but then that becomes too difficult. Itâ€™s okay, though, because you make it at least sometimes, when youâ€™re around other Muslims. Then you find that youâ€™re not around Muslims who pray, youâ€™re only around Muslims who donâ€™t pray either. Maybe you donâ€™t really see any other Muslims at all. Your whole world has become that of the non-Muslims, and salat has become pretty much a thing of the past. Forget Ramadan.
Perhaps your life has been like this only a short while. Perhaps itâ€™s been like this for years. Have you begun to feel it yet? That edge of fear that always hovers around you, slicing into you with itâ€™s sharp edges from time to timeâ€”suddenly, unexpectedly? You donâ€™t know why itâ€™s there, but it always is, isnâ€™t it?
Then thereâ€™s the scream. You can almost hear it. Itâ€™s the kind of scream that comes when terror sends the voice running for cover, leaving the mouth open, screaming, soundless. That scream. And itâ€™s in your head, isnâ€™t?
Do you know why theyâ€™re there? That fear and that scream? You will find out, if you havenâ€™t already, that no amount of drugs, sex or alcoholâ€”no amount of work or play or money will make that fear and that scream go away.
You know what they are now, donâ€™t you? That fear is your soul. That scream is your soul. That terror is what your soul sees before itâ€”the grave, the unimaginable pain it must experience there and is powerless to stop. The Day of Judgment. The hellfire. That terror is your soul pounding against its cage of your body. And despite all of your efforts to numb itâ€”with the drugs or the sex or the work or the moneyâ€“your body still feels the fear and still hears the scream.
The instinct for self-preservation is an amazing thing. It is not just your body that experiences the fight-or-flight response when faced with danger, your soul does it too. So here is your soul, incapable of fighting Allahâ€™s wrathâ€”now in flight for its own safety, desperate to get your attention the only way it can.
At this point, maybe, it might be ok to let a little Islam back into your life. But itâ€™s been so long. Where to start? If youâ€™re not ready for big changes, then start with small things. Skim a book on Islam. Try making salat again. Just sometimes. You might want to start with just one salat. One sister started with making Asr sitting on the side of her bed because she was too tired after work to stand. One sister started with a book of the 99 names of Allah. She read a few at a time, in the mornings at the beginning of her day. Maybe some Muslim songs on the iPod or the old CD player? Perhaps going to a lecture or Jumaah prayer?
It may be fear, not repentence that causes those first steps. But one small step may lead to another. There may be steps forward and steps backward. There is the Bukhari hadith about the murderer:
Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri:
The Prophet said, â€œAmongst the men of Bani Israel there was a man who had murdered ninety-nine persons. Then he set out asking (whether his repentance could be accepted or not). He came upon a monk and asked him if his repentance could be accepted. The monk replied in the negative and so the man killed him. He kept on asking till a man advised to go to such and such village. (So he left for it) but death overtook him on the way. While dying, he turned his chest towards that village (where he had hoped his repentance would be accepted), and so the angels of mercy and the angels of punishment quarreled amongst themselves regarding him. Allah ordered the village (towards which he was going) to come closer to him, and ordered the village (whence he had come), to go far away, and then He ordered the angels to measure the distances between his body and the two villages. So he was found to be one span closer to the village (he was going to). So he was forgiven.â€
The man never made it to where he was going (and letâ€™s not forget he committed one more murder), yet he was forgiven because of the literal steps he had taken in that direction. We do not know, but can always have hope that the steps we take in changing our lives will meet with the same Mercy.
But seek the forgiveness of God, for God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.