As a toddler, watching my mom pray was fascinating. I remember trying to copy her actions and moving my lips silently, imitating her without knowing what she was saying or why. I remember how my parents would proudly claim that their child had learned to say Allah or Muhammad or the first kalma. Every night, after the usual bedtime stories, mom would recite an “Allahu Allahu” lullaby to make me sleep.
Then came junior classes. I was still fairly religious trying to say my prayers to win the appreciation of elders. I clearly recall this one day in Ramadan after Fajr prayers, I decided to recite the entire nineteenth para (juz) in one sitting, inspired by the elders who used to finish the Holy Quran in this blessed month every year. Dad was sitting close by and would interrupt me at every break and tell me to catch some sleep before school time. But to no avail. I wanted to act cool and complete the whole para in one sitting. In retrospect, I think it was more about getting praised from the elders that motivated me rather than Allah’s pleasure. I remember how my parents were pleasantly surprised when I succeeded and commended my efforts.
Fast forward to senior classes…
I began to lose all interest in Quran. While reciting it every Friday, I stopped reading it as a habit. More so, I began missing my prayers and lying to parents about how I had already prayed whenever they inquired. Quran was replaced by chick lit and fiction novels. Ramadan nights were spent reading and re-reading Harry Potter since it was relatively clean and hence qualified for ‘halal reading’.
Then came the O level years. Oh, how selfish is the human nature. I had more or less lost touch with Allah, but became a model Muslim during exam time. I was perfect with my prayers and would go out of my way and recite elaborate wazeefas to get good grades. Allah, however, is the All-Forgiving. He blessed me with straight As hence restoring my faith in his boundless mercy.
For A levels, I transferred from a tightly knit, protected girls school to the best A level school in Karachi, with a completely westernized culture. Calling it a cultural shock would be putting it mildly. However, I adjusted and Islam remained intact within me. Or at least I thought so. When you enter an environment so massively different from yours, it takes longer to adapt and some things are so out of your league that trying them never even crosses your mind. As far as I’m concerned that’s a relatively safe place.
The real trouble comes when you go to a place, which is different, but not alien. This is the kind of different that’s dangerous; the kind that doesn’t seem beyond you. The kind you are tempted to adapt to. This place for me was my university. It’s important to clarify that I’m not in any way calling my university anti-religion or disrespecting it in any way. On the contrary, it has actually brought about many positive changes in my personality and for them, I’ll be eternally grateful. However, it was in these four years that I began losing my religious conviction. I lost my touch with Allah. Oh, sure, I would always find my way back in Ramadan but then it became a tedious cycle; all year round: bad Muslim, during Ramadan: good Muslim. I began missing my prayers and generally became very forgetful in fulfilling my obligations. I did a lot of activities I’m not proud to be a part of, to the extent that I was scared that the way back was surely lost. Surely, even the Almighty Allah won’t forgive me for my transgressions. But then who else is there, right? So it was again Allah I went to. After four years of doing everything the heart told me to, I realized how internally lost I felt.
Fast forward to today…
Another Ramadan has come. I have been offering my prayers with due diligence and reciting the Quran too. However, these fasts are long and I’m currently at home the whole day with little to keep me occupied. I started off with ‘halal’ games like scrabble to kill time, but after a time they failed to keep me interested. I watched a bit of FIFA matches, stalked a whole lot of people on Facebook, cooked just to pass time and yet was feeling empty. It then struck me I could read the translation of the Quran and try getting something out of what I have been reciting for some 22 odd years.
So here I am, at 3 in the morning, having read through the tafseer of few of the chapters in the last para. Finally found some peace. And I was actually hooked! The beauty of this Holy Book is that it is not just teachings of what to do and what to not do; instead, it has all these beautiful stories to back up whatever is being said. If you feel the same disconnect with Allah, you could take a similar route. What would be a better way to reconnect with Him than by reading and understanding what He is directly saying to you.