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Feeling Anxious When Praying in Public? These Tips Can Help
Sep 17, 2021
Danah Shuli
contributing writer
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Danah Shuli
contributing writer
Our salah (prayer)is the second pillar of Islam after the shahda (testament of faith), signifying it’s importance in the life of a Muslim. It is also the first deed we will be asked about on the Day of Judgement as was narrated by the Prophet Muhamad (saw):
“The first matter that the slave will be brought to account for on the Day of Judgment is the prayer. If it is sound, then the rest of his deeds will be sound. And if it is bad, then the rest of his deeds will be bad.”
Al-Tabarani. Sahih al-Jami, vol.1, p. 503
I grew up in a sheltered Islamic community and attended an Islamic school my entire life, and so I took finding a suitable place to perform my daily prayers for granted. Once I started university and stepped out into the real world, I encountered the reality of not always finding the right place to pray, let alone making the time for it between classes.
I vividly remember opting to pray in my car because I had never prayed in a public space before and was too anxious to do so. It took several years for me to feel confident praying in public, although there are times even now when I feel nervous rolling out my portable prayer mat and performing my salah. (This article gives all sorts of great hacks for praying in public.)
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If this sounds all too familiar, your feelings are valid. Having these feelings does not make you a bad or weak Muslim or any less than those who are confident in their salah in open spaces. Having these feelings is simply the byproduct of how we, as Muslims, are portrayed in Western media and the aggressive political climate that has always surrounded us, more so in recent years. This has made many of us feel threatened to practice our faith freely and safely in society. (Check out this great article on facing personal & political challenges with tawakkul, or trusting in God.)
Something I have picked up from my mother and now practice with my own children is to recite a du’a of protection and tawakkul while leaving the house. Putting our trust in Allah (S) and doing our part is an integral part of our faith. When needing to pray in public, before ensuring my surroundings are safe and looking for a suitable place to pray, I make du’a that Allah (S) protects me while doing so, and I put my full trust in him as I submit to His will and fulfill this pillar of Islam.
I have personally made it a habit to schedule my outings and appointments around prayer times in order to minimize praying in public. However, there will be times when I am outside the comfort of my home or masjid and will need to offer my prayers. In those instances, when I find my anxiety around praying in public gets the best of me, I remember the story of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (saw) and his dearest companion, Abu Bakr (ra), hiding in a cave during their hijrah to Madinah.
The disbelievers of Quraysh were at the footsteps of the cave only inches away, The Prophet (saw) comforted a terrified Abu Bakr by saying “Don’t worry, Allah is with us.” [9:40] Such a powerful reminder! Truly, we are the carriers of truth and should find strength, protection and pride knowing that Allah (S) is with us and on our side.
Photographer: Sana Ullah
We are also reminded from the Prophet (saw) that Allah (S) has made the whole Earth a masjid for us, a place for prayer. Performing our obligation is not limited to the comfort of our homes and mosques. Rather, we should make every suitable space, a place for prostration. (Check out this beautiful series of photos of Muslims praying in public, for which photographer Sana Ullah won an award!)
The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“The entire earth has been made a place of prayer, except for graveyards and washrooms.”
Sunan al-Tirmidhī 317
I recognize that this form of worship in an unfamiliar space is a type of sacrifice, a sacrifice of my comfort for the sake of Allah (S). In that I am able to find a source of peace and tranquility to help me carry out my obligation. I recognize that there will be stares, even some whispers, pointing or racial slurs. I also recognize that as a visible Muslim woman, I am putting myself at the forefront and feel vulnerable doing so.
I recognize that my act of worship, both in wearing hijab and performing my salah in a public space is a form of dawah (inviting people to Islam) and ibadah (worship). It is an opportunity to answer questions, start a conversation with others about Islam and educate. I recognize that this temporary life we are given is not meant for us to feel comfortable all of the time. We were created to worship Him: “And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.”[51:56]
In that worship there will be times of inconvenience, hardship, vulnerability and fear. Renewing my intentions before stepping out the door and making du’a that Allah (S) accepts my ibadah and efforts keeps my trust in Allah (S) strong and my anxiety at bay.
Tips & Reminders for Praying In Public
Image source: Pexels
1. Make wudu before leaving your home. (Being physically ready to perform your salah will help you find one less thing to stress about when it is time to pray.)
2. Say your du’a of protection and tawakkul while exiting your home.
3. If possible, have someone watch your surroundings while you pray.
4. Make sure you feel safe in the space you are in. (Find a secluded/quiet area, but be mindful of your surroundings.)
5. Keep a clean towel, blanket or portable prayer mat in your car.
6. If you don’t wear hijab on the regular, keep your prayer scarf or any hijab handy in your car, backpack or purse so that you are prepared for salah.7.
7. Renew your intentions before beginning your salah: “Oh Allah, you are the one who gives Eman and security (Al-Mu’min), you are the guardian, the witness, and the overseer (Al-Muhaymin), I am performing this obligatory act of worship for your sake alone, and I seek your guidance, refuge and protection while doing so.”
What are your experiences praying in public, and what tips do you have for making salah in public an enjoyable and stress-free obligation? Share with us in the comments below!
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