Mommy, Do You Pray?

Mommy, Do You Pray? December 30, 2010

When Khaled and I were dating, the subject of children inevitably came up.  We discussed how many and what names we would like, and what religion we would raise them.  From the very beginning, I was set on them being raised with his religion.  Did I have a clear idea of what that religion encompassed?  No.  Did I know any more than the 5 pillars?  – in all honesty, I only knew 1 or 2.  What I did know, is that my husband grew up in a formally religious environment, where every day was met with meaningful ritual, and when the sh*it hit the fan, Khaled would buckle down and pray, and come back to the issue more centered, calm and confidant.

As I mentioned in the last post, growing up we went to church sporadically.  But from the time I can remember, we were taught to pray before we went to sleep, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”  And at dinner time we would always say this blessing that my Grandmother wrote, “Father thanks to Thee we give, for this world in which we live, for Blessings past and those to be, Father thanks we give to Thee.” I also remember that when going to my maternal Grandmother’s house, she would always cross herself before eating, because my mother’s family is Catholic.

We went to church for spurts of time, becoming somewhat active members and then drifting away.  Usually it centered on one of us performing some sort of religious milestone, like First Communion or being Confirmed.  It always seemed to me that there was a struggle to maintain a religious presence in our home.  In my memory, I have always attributed it to my mother converting from Catholicism to the Lutheran Church when she and my father married.  It seemed to me that she missed the church and religion that was a comfort to her.  Now, I realize that it was entirely possible that this gut feeling that I had was just one of the many reasons, or maybe it had nothing to do with anything at all.

When I was in high school, I had 2 friends that I was quite close with that would attend church regularly and I would spend the night as often as I could so that I would be able to go with them.  They were in the youth group and they often invited me to go to events with them.  My teen years were filled with rebellion and angst, as almost all teenagers. My friends were the youngest in their families so they pushed and rebelled more extremely than I did (being the oldest, the ‘Mommy’ of the group) and even when they were in the most trouble, they fell back to center.  They came back to that place where they would pray, and take comfort from their internal struggle and the struggle against their parents and just be at peace.  I so wanted that.

My spiritual journey began.  It was a quest of sorts.  One that I am still on, searching for that way to come back to center.

I want that for my children.  I want them to have that structure, that safe harbor, the framework to be engrained in them.  I want them to have the ritual to take comfort in, so that when they are rebelling and lashing out at the world they will have peace somewhere inside of their soul.  I want them to know and feel that they are part of something bigger than the daily struggles that challenge them.  I want them to have a strong religious foundation.

So, I signed on to raising my children Muslim before I even knew what being Muslim meant.  I trusted my husband because even without him  telling me, I felt that inner peace that he has deep in his core and I wanted that for my children.  I have tried to perform the Salah with my children at various times throughout the last eleven years and it always feels wrong to me.  It doesn’t speak to my soul, and I cannot hear God.  I watch my children pray with Khaled and it brings me to tears because I know that they hear God when they pray.

My daughter asked me the other day, “Mommy, Do you Pray?”  and I answered her honestly, of course I pray.  But what I left unspoken is that I pray in the mismatched way that I’ve pieced together bits from one religion and words from another.  I pray in a way that works for me.  I talk to God, I say the Lords Prayer, I recite the Fatihah, I give thanks and praise for everything I have and for what is to come.  I ask for guidance and wisdom.  The closest way that I can answer my baby without overburdening her with the baggage that comes with my quest with God is that I make Dua’a.  To my children, that makes sense.

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  • Rachael Salahat

    I praise you for being able to talk about, what I’m sure is, a sensitive subject. I’m glad I have someone to follow that is going through the same things as I or will be in the future. I just want thank you!

  • thanks you nice very good

  • Jennifer

    Yep, you pretty much summed it up. I desire the same crucial tool for my children. I’m not convinced at this point though that my children hear God when they make a formal prayer. I take every opportunity to show them by example and by instruction, that God wants us to speak to Him from our hearts. I feel the same as you when I’ve tried praying with them. I think if I didn’t have to “think” about the process it would make an enormous difference. Why do I find that the most important aspect of practicing Islam, prayer, is the most challenging? Maybe as you mentioned, it doesn’t “speak” to my heart at this point and therefore I don’t feel drawn to keep struggling to learn. Another thought…maybe it doesn’t speak to me because my mind is too busy on the words and movements. I wonder how many times I’d have to practice to be able to pray without thinking about each movement…bent over, on the floor, what to say next, where to place my hands, how many rakat was that?, I think I missed one, let me do another, etc.? This past Ramadan, I was determined I would teach myself with the help of a book. I’ve never felt so foolish and defeated in my life. I felt deep in my heart, that this was not what God wanted from me. I know we receive blessings for our efforts but I feel God is merciful and just wants us to come to Him with our hearts and minds. For now, I pray the only way I know how and this is, I’m sure, pleasing to God and He hears and accepts me. I may not be able to pray with my girls or be by example, the reminder they need to pray five X a day. However, I can show them that I pray to God with humility, thanking Him every day, asking for His help and guidance daily. This is the tool that has never let me down and that has pulled me from MANY a dark hole so I will pass it on. May God bless us and help us in our efforts to lead our children to Him.

  • Muslimah78

    I love this topic! I first want to say that I love you Kris and i pray your guidance in your journey. As i know its not easy to “reporgram” yourself when it comes to the ritual side of salat. I have been Muslim for 4 years now, Alhumdullilah, and as i continue to learn more and more about islam the more peace i feel within.

    I was raised Christian. Went to baptist and Catholic schools. Spent nearly every waking moment in church or at church functions so i totally understand your dilemma. I have always been taught that prayer is the gateway to God, your time with Him to seek forgiveness or guidance.

    Once I became Muslim I panicked. There was so much i didnt know and i nearly x’d the whole idea of being Muslim altogether. I was worried that because i didnt know Salat, that God wouldnt hear my prayers. I was worried that because i didnt know Arabic God wouldnt accept my prayers .. and a whole bunch of other freakish nonesense that i can laugh about now. But as ive learned the Salat, or ritual form of prayer is different from Du’aa. Its a time to give praise to Allah and bring your focus back to Him. The prayer that you are seeking, that alone time you feel that is missing, I found after Salat.

    When I’m sitting and meditating on nothing but Allah and his awesomeness, is when i make my personal du’aa for my children or whatever may be on my heart.

    Now dont get me wrong, It was about a year before i got to this point in my prayer. When i first started doing Salat i felt disconnected and a bit silly. I would sit at home and go through the motions and felt nothing.

    Going for Salatual Jummah definitely helped. Being among others praying, I no longer worried that I was the odd one out. I was more at ease. Now that may not be true for everyone. But the support i got from others put me at ease and I was able to see my Salat as a preparation for my “quiet time” time with God.

    Its all a personal journey, yours isnt the same as mine or anyone elses. Its tough to change whats comfortable to you, even harder to let go of reservations that stem from years of opposing ideas (I speak from experience) It literally seems foreign.

    You are on the right track hon, and being surrounded by amazing people like me will help you over this hump 🙂

  • I agree with you there Jennifer. I feel like if I’m praying, no matter how I’m praying, I am praising God and in conference with him. Everything I do is with this in mind. I am helping my children to be in communication and act with God always in their mind and hearts. That has to count for something.

  • I am so blessed to have friends like you in my life. It is my hope, that in someway, maybe this blog will help people who don’t have a group of friends like you and they won’t feel so alone in their journey.

  • Pingback: Exploring ‘Spiritually Religious’ and ‘Mommy, Do You Pray?’ | My Islamic Life()

  • Pingback: Exploring ‘Spiritually Religious’ and ‘Mommy, Do You Pray?’ | My Islamic Life()

  • I’m Jewish. I grew up Jewish- but without a ritual prayer life outside of Friday night Shabbat services. When I began to become observant, prayer was my way in- but it also has stayed a struggle. Beginning to pray is often very difficult for me. There are definitely days when my ritual prayer is just fulfilling an obligation, and my real connection to God comes in utterly unexpected moments, or not at all. But I think that my friends who have been praying regularly since childhood feel the same way, although I don’t know it for sure. Somehow, prayer always seems like it ought to be simple and basic- and yet, I find it one of the most spiritually complex parts of my life, both for better and for worse.

  • I’m Jewish. I grew up Jewish- but without a ritual prayer life outside of Friday night Shabbat services. When I began to become observant, prayer was my way in- but it also has stayed a struggle. Beginning to pray is often very difficult for me. There are definitely days when my ritual prayer is just fulfilling an obligation, and my real connection to God comes in utterly unexpected moments, or not at all. But I think that my friends who have been praying regularly since childhood feel the same way, although I don’t know it for sure. Somehow, prayer always seems like it ought to be simple and basic- and yet, I find it one of the most spiritually complex parts of my life, both for better and for worse.

  • Wow. I just discovered your blog today, and I’m incredibly touched by all that I’ve read so far. I feel like I’m going to learn a lot from you. 🙂 This post in particular really spoke to me. Just about 3 months ago, I married my wonderful, loving, and devoted Muslim husband. I’m Christian, but have been trying to learn more about Islam. I find all forms of prayer comforting and peaceful, and try to pray with him when I can. I know that if we have children, it is very important to my husband that they be raised Muslim. I have no problem with this, as it is most important to me that they be raised to love God and all of creation, whether that be through Islam or Christianity. I’m looking forward to reading more of your experience.

  • Welcome Sarah! I’m so glad you are here.