My two older daughters Zaynab and Tazkiyah both participated in their school poetry competition. They had to memorise a poem and then recite it by heart in front of a packed hall of parents and teachers.
The students were then judged on the basis of the accuracy of their memorisation but more importantly the quality of expression. Prizes were given to the top three performers in each year group.
Since you’re probably wondering, I’m pleased to say that they both won prizes. I was so full of parental joy that I became tearful and spontaneously prostrated to God out of gratitude. But that’s not the main point of this message!
The thing that hit me from the whole experience was what happened before the competition and how it relates to the way we pursue excellence in our Salat.
My girls knew there was an important occasion coming up. They knew it involved reciting words that weren’t their own. But they also knew that they would only be successful if they could say the words as if they were their own.
The process began with rote learning which, as we know, children can manage at an astonishing pace. But stopping there wouldn’t have distinguished them from anyone else. After all, in the competition itself, the vast majority of students knew their words just as the vast majority of us know what to say in our Salat.
To recite their poems by heart in the main event, they had to spend quality time with the words beforehand. It wasn’t just a question of saying them over and over again, but starting to feel them. They had to let their imagination fly to see things that would best reflect their words and emotions.
This may not be the first time that you’re hearing me make this point in relation to prayer. But I really can’t stress it enough.
You will never improve your Salat just by doing more units of Salat. You see, Salat is the main event... for which we will be judged on what are surprisingly similar criteria to a poetry competition: clarity and quality of expression.
The practice needs to take place beforehand and in between the actual occasions. You need to take the time to memorise the meanings of the words you say and reflect deeply on what they mean to you. If the One for whom we are practising is limitless, then by definition this process needs to go on for as long as we live and breathe and pray.
If all this makes sense to you but you’re not sure what this really means in practice, then let me show you precisely what I mean in a live session this Sunday from 11am to 12pm GMT.
I plan to give the clearest demonstration that I have given to date to show you how you can make a radically positive change in your prayer with appropriate practice.
When you join the session, you will receive a complimentary eBook. You'll also be the first to hear about a special bonus for early bird enrolment onto Transform My Prayer: Ramadan Edition. It’s starting in just three weeks and doors open this weekend, God willing!
I began the Friday sermon at my local mosque today by sharing how I often feel the burden of sin and transgression most acutely in the weeks just before Ramadan. I then spoke about how these powerful verses from my favourite chapter in the Qur’an are both a source of hope but also determination to do better:
Say, ‘[God says], My servants who have harmed yourselves by your own excess, do not despair of God’s mercy. God forgives all sins: He is truly the Most Forgiving, the Most Merciful.
Turn to your Lord. Submit to Him before the punishment overtakes you and you can no longer be helped. Follow the best teaching sent down to you from your Lord, before the punishment suddenly takes you, unawares, and your soul says, “Woe is me for having neglected what is due to God, and having been one of those who scoffed!”
Or it says, “If God had guided me, I would have joined the righteous!”
Or, faced by punishment, it says, “If only I could have another chance, I would join those who do good!”
No indeed! My messages came to you and you rejected them: you were arrogant and rejected the truth.’
On the Day of Resurrection, you will see those who told lies against God, their faces darkened. Is there not ample punishment for the arrogant in Hell?
But God will deliver those who took heed of Him to their place of safety: no harm will touch them, nor will they grieve.
(Chapter 39, The Throngs, Verses 53-61).
I’ll be sharing the recording to the sermon on my Telegram channel as soon as it’s ready. If you haven’t subscribed, you can do so here.
Earlier today I was speaking to a dear friend about his leadership challenges and opportunities. When it comes to any discussion about visions and plans and strategies that actually matter, I become very animated and probably talk far too much.
But after a long back and forth, the learning for me all boiled down to the importance of having and developing three qualities:
- Being supremely confident in what one can achieve.
- Being absolutely clear in one's communication.
- Being unashamedly meticulous in execution and evaluation.
In what areas of your life can you benefit from being either more confident or more clear or more meticulous?
Don’t forget to sign up for this Sunday’s live webinar here.
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Have a blessed fortnight. I'll see you in two Fridays, God willing
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