I started off writing a post about how people are all on different spiritual levels, and I wanted to point that out in reference to praying Sunnah. However, because I’m sleepy and hungry and can’t seem to put things down intelligently, I’m just gonna sez things like they is. Yeah.
I’ve had a problem with praying my Sunnah, the problem being that I don’t always do it. It’s usually always laziness, or perhaps it’s spiritual procrastination. I have always felt guilty about it, but any time someone asked me about it or reminded me about it, I felt as if I couldn’t possibly pray my Sunnah then because I was doing it just to please them, and it would be hypocrisy on my part.
(Smarter people don’t get into these dilemmas, but Abez is not smarter people.)
It wasn’t a conscious decision on my part to skip Sunnah prayers, it was just a highly-evolved form of ‘pray and get off rug before you remember and feel guilty,’ because praying out of guilt or embarrassment didn’t seem like a proper intention.
It took me a long time to figure things out, but here’s what I finally discovered. People on different spiritual levels respond to different things. A person on a very low spiritual level may go and do something good only because they would feel guilty or embarrassed for not doing it. A person with a higher level may do that same thing out of fear of Allah’s displeasure, and guilt towards other people or embarrassment in front of them doesn’t even figure. A person on a higher level will do something good because of the reason mentioned before (not wanting to incur displeasure) in addition to a sincere desire to be grateful and obedient to the Lord who created them and sustains their very existence. Check it out:
Level One: Prays Sunnah because will feel guilt leaving the rug before other people do.
Level Two: Prays Sunnah because of fear of appearing ungrateful to their Lord.
Level Three: Pray Sunnah because they really, really want to.
Don’t quote me on these levels, and please note that people can be on a certain level for one thing (maybe their prayer is level three) but on a different level for another (maybe their hijab is just level one). To our imperfect human judgement, faith cannot be measured. You can’t look a person and know whether they’re a ‘good’ Muslim or a ‘bad’ Muslim simply by virtue of their deeds, and since only Allah knows our intentions, He alone can say who’s been good or bad.
So how does a Level 1 Sunnah worshipper get to a better level without doing their Sunnah just to please other people? Two ways:
1. Pray Sunnah in secret. There have been times when I have sat on the prayer rug while others have prayed their Sunnah, and then left when the Jamaat was over, only to go and pray my Sunnah somewhere else. Why do that? Why not just pray Sunnah there with everyone else? Because those were times when I did not feel solid enough, or sure enough that my intention for Sunnah would not be tainted with the desire to pray Sunnah before other people just so they know I’m doing it.
2. The reset button. I’ve also learned the value of re-evaluating my intentions, revising them if necessary by pushing the reset button. If I stand up to pray Sunnah and find, in the back of my mind, the whisper of level one, I very firmly tell myself that I don’t give a hibbity-dibbity about what others think of me, and I’m here to pray to God, for the sake of pleasing Him, and being Grateful to him, and I will pray my Sunnah with concentration, no matter how long it takes me, even if that means I’m the last one left on the prayer rug when everyone else is gone.
A sincere intention to do something always negates hypocrisy, no matter how you think things might appear to other people. People could look at a person who’s praying with obvious concentration, who is last to leave the prayer rug, as trying to show off, but if a person isn’t, then it really doesn’t matter. The person’s intentions are between them and their Lord.
What was my point? Oh yes, me not praying Sunnah when other people told me to was foolish. My fear of appearing like a hypocrite was, in fact, a lesser form of hypocrisy, in that what and how much I prayed was still subject to what people thought of it. A sincere desire can take a reminder to pray Sunnah, and then just reiterate the sincere intention, remake it if necessary, and pray their Sunnah then and there.
My way of getting to praying Sunnah was long and circuitous. It was a private argument that went on in my head for fear of embarrassment. It’s still kind of embarrassing actually, because considering the blessings I have in my life, and all the reasons I have to be thankful, I have all the more reason to be praying some extra prayers. I’m writing about this now because I figure that other people in the same dilemma might benefit from seeing how a foolish person goes about wasting time and blessings, and they might take the shorter route to sincerity.
If anyone has any suggestions or recommendations for helping someone out who’s struggling with extra prayers, feel free to leave them in the comments box. 🙂
It is stated in a hadith that whenever a Muslim prostrates to Allah, He will elevate him one degree and forgive him one bad deed. Reported by At-Tirmidhi