Let’s Talk About Praying and How it’s Been Appropriated by Culture

By: Neda Ahmed

Growing up in an Arab society, I can give you this: haram and 3eib are interchangeable terms to Arabs. Should they be, though? Are they of the same meaning or are we mixing up religion and culture in a way that we should steer away from doing? What are religious boundaries and are they necessary?

Haram is not 3eib and 3eib is definitely not haram. Anything that’s considered to be 3eib is an action that deviates from the social norms of our society while an action that is haram is an action that does not follow religious instructions or one that is explicitly prohibited. Mixing those up ruins religion for us, it really does. Who are we worshipping, exactly? Are we worshipping the people who decided the values and norms of society or are worshipping a God, here?

Missing salah (prayer) is haram and not 3eib; it shouldn’t be 3eib. Parents nagged us to death, asking us 70 times a day if we’ve prayed and forced us to do so instead of talking us into it. From a time at which we connected with our God, it became a chore that we unconsciously or consciously dread doing.  The spiritual meaning it held was lost to the nagging and constant questions. Do you know what makes these questions worse? They treat prayer as though it is materialistic, that it should be ticked off as done in your to-do list.

Prayer should be a sanctuary: it should be how we talk to God and tell Him about everything that’s been weighing on us. Why did something that was supposed to be therapeutic become a heavy duty that we willingly abandon? This is a direct effect of applying social sanctions to what is supposed to be left to the divine power. The way we shame those who choose not to pray and how we think of them as people of less faith contribute to the idea that we’re praying for the people, and not God. This shouldn’t be farther from the truth. We need to understand that what people choose to do is none of our concern ー our opinion of what they do or not do is not requested. We shouldn’t even keep it to ourselves as we shouldn’t even formulate one.

Now, to the real question at hand: how do we find the will and power to reconnect with God after losing the connection to the wrong religious upbringing most of us have been subject to? A heart-to-heart with yourself is in order. You need to understand why you want to pray, and what sort of connection you want with those of the divine power. Is it for wholly religious reasons or somewhat therapeutic reasons as well? Is it because you need someone to talk to? Is it for an outlet? Why do you want to pray?

No answer is the right answer. Whatever answers you have, they are valid. They are valid and true. Take your time thinking and considering, maybe even researching. Your sources, especially in this research, are of utmost importance. Your school religion teacher is no credible source. If you want to know more on how our parents ruined religion for us and how they, click here.

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