I remember the first time I was taught to make dua (supplication.) It was at Sunday school and I was 6 years old. The sheik told us that we could ask Allah (swt) for whatever we wanted, and I thought of it as a genie that never ran out of wishes. It just seemed like magic to me, to pray for something and have it appear.
As I’ve gotten older, I started to believe a little bit less in the power of dua. It wasn’t a conscious decision – it just didn’t seem realistic to me that I could pray for something and it just happen. I believed in hard work, and of course, prayer – but I think dua had lost its magic to me. I didn’t understand the concept of praying for something and leaving it to Allah (swt.)
When I was 22, I went through the most challenging year of my life. I couldn’t get out of bed most days and it seemed like I was always losing everything that had mattered to me. I was heartbroken in a way that I can’t explain through words. In hindsight 22 was one of the most important years of my life because it was also the year that I learned what it meant to pray.
Growing up Muslim, you are taught to pray five times daily. If you didn’t, you were not only a bad Muslim, but destined for hell. Weird right? I’ll never understand why anyone thinks that’s an effective method of sharing a religion that is meant to be a holistic lifestyle based on peace and love. We are taught to worship out of fear, as opposed to worship out of love – and fear runs out sometimes. I was tired of moving through motions that had lost meaning for me.
I couldn’t muster the courage to pray, out of guilt and so many other emotions I am still processing, but I needed something for my heart. So I turned to the Qur’an. Every morning when I would wake up, and every night before I went to bed, I would listen to Surah Rehman on repeat. And then I started reading Qur’an in the middle of the day, and eventually picked up Reclaim Your Heart by Yasmin Mogahed. I remember reading how prayer is something we did for ourselves. We pray because we need it, not because Allah (swt) needs us to.
So for the first time in months, I made wudu (ablution) and prayed. But still I didn’t feel anything. Nevertheless, I kept praying and listening to Qur’an and praying more. And then one day, in the middle of Ramadan, everything just hit me in the middle of sujood.
I was Muslim, but there was never a point in my life where I chose Islam – I was just born into it. I had never made the decision to pray or read Qur’an, I was just taught to. And so for all those years, I was going through these motions without any sincerity and I felt like I did not understand my own lifestyle… Until that day in sujood, where it felt like I was leaving everything that had ever hurt my heart to Allah (swt.) I prayed for everything in that moment. For peace, for happiness, to forget so many mistakes… and for forgiveness. I can’t explain the relief that came after that moment. I felt like I was breathing again. My heart still felt unbearably heavy, but I had so many more answers.
I realized I didn’t know what it meant to be Muslim anymore, or pray, or love. And I wanted to teach myself. So I read everything I could by Ghazali, and re-read countless articles by Yasmin Mogahed. And then this year, I came across a book that taught me so much about my own heart. The Dua Journal is a book I wish someone had gifted my 22 year old self. Rarely are we asked to sit down with ourselves and write down our thoughts and feelings. We are taught to make dua and pray, but we are not taught how.
The Dua Journal is changing that. Think of it as a gratitude journal, each page comes with a dua and then has you write three of your own. It also asks you to highlight what your imaan goals are and what you are grateful for.
I’ve been using mine for the last few months, and it’s taught me so much about the state of my heart and what it is I crave when I am having days where I feel like my heart is unhappy. The Dua Journal has helped me understand myself and keep track of my growth. And for days that my anxiety is crippling, it teaches me patience and shows me how far I have come to be who I am. It’s a blessing, and especially for those who feel like they need to emotionally recharge and understand the inner workings of their heart.
This year for Ramadan, Muslim Girl wants to help you learn how to make dua and find peace in your heart. So we’ll be dedicating Facebook lives to voices, like the one behind The Dua Journal, on how to create that peace for yourself.