The imam bellows the blessing into the grainy microphone as I dutifully turn my head to my shoulders, greeting the two angels that would reside with me until my grave. I shut my eyes and hold my hands up to the sky, envisioning a heavenly presence lifting my conscience and guiding me. I pray for my wary parents. I pray for my God-given siblings. I pray for the suffering in China, and the misery in Palestine. I pray for peace, and I pray for health. One tear glides down my face as I kiss the calloused fingers of my hands and pray for the world.
I immediately break from a trance. Prayer has ended.
The first time I was taught by my mother to pray was when my sister was born. At the tender, yet progressive age of 11, I paid minimal attention to the world around me as I dwelled over candy-flavored glosses and the divulging cartoon programs. I vividly recall how mother would sit beside me and gently instruct me to imitate the delicate movements of prayer as my conscience revolved around trivial matters. I was an inattentive being, lost in her own world of pink skies and soft clouds. Even as my parents struggled with life, I dwelled sweetly on mine. It was only after I noticed our struggles that I began to realize.
It began with the smallest of changes. My father coming home later. My mother, behind closed doors, weeping. Our house, cluttered with disarray as I tripped over unused boxes and broken crayons. My siblings, continually agitated and confused. The laughter being silenced only by silence itself. Our world had become solemn, like a barren land abandoned by those who loved it most. It was at this time that abandonment and negativity creeped into our souls, attaching to our thoughts and our conscience. The days became stormy as our hearts became perturbed. And then, my mother began to pray.
The human brain is an amazing creation. We as humans are gifted with the ability of perception and belief. We are able to consult with others for comfort, and connect on emotional levels, all because of a grooved organ located in our head. When my mother prayed, she was in her own world. Later, she would describe the feeling as ‘indescribable’, something I would begin to understand very soon.
I would watch, mesmerized, as she begged for blessings, for mercy, for health, and for us. Countless days and nights were spent by her on a worn prayer mat, drenched by her tears and her sorrows. I would watch as she whispered her prayers into the dead of night, her hijab glowing in the night sky, as if it were its own being.
Slowly, everything began to change. Again, the changes were minute, yet served as a signal. My parents smiling. My family emotionally adjusting and connecting with each other. And me. When I first began to pray with my mother, I failed to understand the significance of putting my conscience forth in prayer. I had understood the motions we were to convey, but only after the hardships did I realize that it is the intention, not the action, that is counted.
Now I am grateful to be able to lay down my worn mat, face Mecca, and pray for my heart’s desire. I am grateful to be able to pray for those who can’t, such as those in China, who are suffering only because they believe in peace. I am grateful to pray for those whose hands are tied from asking, whose voices are stripped from preaching, and whose souls are pillaged from believing.
Prayer has given me the comfort and confidence that one needs in order to survive in this world.