Two miles outside of my hometown, there is a small church. Just after that church is an old gravel road, leading to other similar gravel roads. These are meant to be used by the farmers who farm the fields that run along each side of the road.
Sometimes there is corn, sometimes beans, alternating every year to give the soil some respite and a chance to replenish the necessary nutrients to fuel the crops each year. I can mark the progression of my life through the years by the height of the corn when it happened.
On warm summer nights, I used to drive my car down that gravel road and choose a spot. I’d park my car in the ditch on the side of the road and I’d sit on top of that beat-up 1985 Oldsmobile Delta ’88. Sometimes I’d bring paint and a canvas, or a pencil and a sketchbook, sometimes my guitar.
My Previous Connection with God
I went there to meet God. I have always found God in the sunset, in the trees, in the rain, in the hum of humid nights.
I’d sit there on my car, looking out at the vast fields to sunset beyond, laughing, crying, singing, and calling out to God. Sometimes I’d be in deep sorrow, other times in rapturous joy. Still other times, I cried to God in anger; I didn’t understand why this or that terrible thing afflicted me or my loved ones.
In those days, I was a devout Evangelical Christian, of the Nazarene denomination. I only knew God through a connection with Jesus (peace and blessings be upon him); I believing that I simply had to accept the free grace of God because of the blood spilt by Jesus when he chose to die for my sins.
Because I was born in America to American parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, I only spoke English, so all my songs for God and my pain were expressed in English. Though, the deepest conversations I had with God were entirely speechless, my heart calling out to my maker.
Looking for a Deeper Connection with God
Later, as a new Muslim, although I felt peace in my heart, my understanding of God changed drastically; it’s because of the people I was surrounded with. Gone were the days of deep connection with my God. Now my focus was directed to my deeds and gaining blessing and reward for the Afterlife and Paradise.
But contrary to the understanding of many, I chose Islam not to avoid Hellfire, not to attain Paradise; but purely because I wanted, more than anything, to be near to God. Here and now, and later in Paradise if He chose. If I could be near to my God, my heart will be content with whatever that meant.
The Challenge of Understanding
But slowly, my innocence and pure love for God was tainted, just as a child’s faith often becomes callous as they come into their adulthood. I resented God for demanding I address Him in Arabic in the prayers everyday.
And I was told by my companions I was required to even speak to Him in my private du’as using prescribed (Arabic) words, issued by Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). Even when I understood the words I was saying, they were not from my heart, not in my heart language.
I felt a wall stood between me and God, or a great chasm. I no longer looked forward to the chances I would get to have a personal connection with Him. The 5 prayers became dull and rote, mere ritual I had to do to maintain my status as a new Muslim. I longed for the days where I could address my Creator from my heart, in my own language.
An Ongoing Journey
But as often happens in the life of a Sojourner, I came to a crossroads finally and had a choice to make: Allow this feeling to overwhelm me and stop my prayers altogether, both ritual and otherwise, or find a way to connect my heart to my words, in whatever language.
I began to intentionally talk with God again, in English, in my everyday life. I would thank Him for this or that; and I’d ask Him for help in this or that, and seek His comfort in various ways. I still prayed the required five prayers a day in Arabic, but my connection with God began to mend the more I allowed myself to come near to God in the way I felt comfortable.
I won’t act as if the situation is resolved. As a new Muslim, I am a searcher on a journey to my Lord, always climbing and falling, moving and resting.
Getting Nearer to Him
God wants you to draw near to Him. God opens the door and beckons you. He is nearer to you than your jugular vein. He knows the secrets you conceal in the depths of your heart, and He loves you all the same.
God is the creator of all people and all tongues, and He understands your words before you speak them. Arabic is simply the language He chose to communicate the Quran in because it was given to Prophet Muhammad, who was an Arab. Because of this, the five ritual prayers are required to be said in Arabic, as they are a mere reciting of the words of the Quran.
In a famous hadith qudsi, Allah tells us that if we come to Him walking, He comes to us running.
We cannot allow anything to come between us and our Maker. We cannot remain Muslim in name alone, performing countless rituals with no depth of meaning to ourselves. Islam is meant to revolutionize your life and your world, our world.
Come to Him anyway you can, in any language you can, as soon as you can. The door is open, the invitation stands.
(From Discovering Islam’s archive)