Taken by: Serag Zwait

Today my mind stood stumped before words it had never experienced linking together before: actual, human, prayer.

What did the author mean by actual human prayer? Was there ever a prayer that was not actual? I know there are prayers that are not sincere, not well-thought out, or not heart-felt. I, myself, often repeat words like:

“Allah give me success [tawfiq].”

“Allah strengthen me in Your path [quwa].”

“Allah give me guidance [hidaya].”

“Allah help me serve You and Your servants [khidma].”

Without always feeling the meanings behind them. Yet I speak them– which to me, makes them actual.

I continue to read.

“…it is the result of man’s actual prayer, which is the search for and exploring of truths, generated from the pursuit of ideas.”

I look to the scholar teaching me still puzzled. “What does he mean by actual human prayer?” I ask.

He responds raising his palm up in excitement, “Ah yes! You see my sister, we sometimes pray with our tongues and we sometimes pray with our actions.”

He continues, “When I button my shirt and go out in pursuit of knowledge or achievement, with every action and every step I am praying to Allah for tawfiq [success] even if I don’t utter the words ‘Allah give me success’. When I write in a set time to read a few pages of the Quran into my schedule everyday, I am asking Allah (swt) for guidance [hidaya], even if I don’t move my tongue.”

My mind continues on its own, “And when I speak the truth strongly, with no regard for who or what I lose, I am asking Allah for strength in His path [quwa]. And when I stand up to let another sit in my place on a bus, I am asking Allah to allow me to serve [khidma].”

In the movement of our brain muscles, in our pursuit of linking thoughts to one another to create new ideas– we are asking Allah (swt) to bring us closer to truths. Truths of science, truths of art, truths of human behavior, truths of nature– all leading to the ultimate Truth of Him. I begin to realize, our every endeavor can become a prayer. Our lives, through action, can be filled with greater remembrance and reap greater reward than any repetitive movement of the tongue.

I repeat to myself: Actual. Human. Prayer. What a powerful endeavor.

Inspired by the letters of the Turkish scholar Said al-din Nawrasi, also known as Rasa’il al-Nur, which he wrote while imprisoned, and later, in exile.