I struggle to fulfill my commitment to five daily prayers.
It's not something that I'm proud to admit because praying brings out the best in me.
Like eating and drinking to nourish your body, praying five times a day feeds your soul, connects you to God and helps you stay on track.
The exact hour and minute of each prayer may vary, but in general, Muslims pray in the morning, around noon, in the afternoon, at sunset and in the evening. Each prayer is about five minutes or less.
For as long as I can remember, I prayed. Uncle Beautiful must have taught me back in Egypt, though I have to admit, I don't really remember because I was always surrounded by people in constant prostration to God.
In Egypt, you get up in the morning and there's someone praying. You decide to take a nap and when you get up, someone else is praying. You're in school or hanging out on the balcony and you hear the call to prayer and pray.
When I moved to the United States, I gave up praying.
But it wasn't long before I started to pray again. There was a boy I liked in high school. One day we were talking, and he asked what religion I practiced. When I told him, his response was that his Christian beliefs were the real and only way to God and heaven.
When our conversation ended, I went straight to pray.
That's exactly how it happened. I haven't stopped praying since, and I credit that boy for getting me to pray again. (There's a reason why schmucks come into your life.)
I think that part of me worried that I was outside my comfort zone in a new country, and praying reminded me of who I am and what I believe.
When I say I haven't stopped praying since, I should note that I sometimes did not meet all five prayers.
I prayed whenever it was convenient. So instead of five times a day, for years I prayed in the morning, when I got up, and in the evening, before I went to sleep.
I decided last summer that I couldn't pray just twice a day and that I needed to make the effort to do all five.
So I did. I would pray in the morning, as usual. Then I would pray the noon and afternoon prayers after I got home from work. Then I would pray the sunset and evening prayers at their regular times if I was home. But I would sometimes pray in the morning, then the rest all together at night, if I was working late or had plans after work.
Though I felt proud of fulfilling all five prayers, I was soon overwhelmed with praying all four together. I decided in December that to make it easier and correct, I would have to pray on time. I would get up early to fulfill the first prayer. I started keeping a rug, head cover and baggy sweat pants in my desk at work to wear while I pray. You must dress modestly while praying and women must cover their hair.
I told my editors that I would be praying at work and that it wouldn't take away from my work, and they had no problem with it.
I also stopped wearing makeup to work so that when I wash my face, I wouldn't look like such a hot mess.
Yeah. Washing your face with clean water is part of what you do before praying. It's called ablution, "wudou" in Arabic.
At the beginning, I would go to the restroom, do my wudou and wonder what people would think when they walked in and saw me drenching my face, neck, arms and feet with water.
I would go to one of our empty rooms in the office to pray, and while doing so, I wondered what someone would do or say if they walked in on me.
I haven't been caught yet.
Still, there are times when I miss my ritual because I'm busy with a story or simply because I don't want to stop what I'm doing to do something else.
I scold myself when I miss.
Praying is simple.
It makes me feel better and makes me a better person. It doesn't take long. So why can't I easily fulfill each prayer?
I'm not sure what the answer is.
But what I know is that I always return to praying. And I always will.
MONA SHADIA is a reporter for Times Community News. An Egyptian American, she was born and raised in Cairo and now lives in Orange County. Her column includes various questions and issues facing Muslims in America. Follow her on Twitter @MonaShadia.