The Words of My Faith (a series)
I’m an English major so words hold a profoundly deep place in my heart. Lately (I guess in light of our holy month), I’ve been picking apart the words of my religion in hopes of gaining a stronger belief in God through the literature of Islam. And I don’t mean the Quran, though studying our Book is indeed important; I mean the everyday Arabic words we use to describe the rituals of being a Muslim.
Enter taraweeh, my favorite part of Ramadan. This word denotes nightly prayers specific to this month only. You can pray anywhere between eight to 20 of these and, because the tradition of Ramadan emphasizes brotherhood, it’s encouraged to pray them within a congregation. The service can last up to two hours. For those of us who don’t live within walking distance of a mosque, the commute there and back makes for an already late night becoming even later. After an entire day without food, water, and, transitively, energy, how are we able to stand painstakingly soldier straight for so long without toppling over?
This is where language comes in to play. The root of taraweeh is raha, a word that, with a few minor adjustments, can mean rest, relaxation, vacation, uplifting. Take a moment to think about that. A depleted body needs its respite and for Muslims who spend the day in a state of reverence via fasting, by sunset nothing is more appealing to us than our beds. So why make the trip out totaraweeh, why worship even more? The wisdom here is that enriching your spirit through supplication is enough to nourish you both mentally and physically. Prayer then becomes a well-deserved holiday, a peaceful break, a retreat to our Lord. A minute into taraweeh and already I can feel the miracle of God’s words replenishing every ounce of my being. It’s no wonder the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) spent his nights doing this.
Taraweeh is our chance to follow in his example, a chance to understand that prayer isn’t just a religious chore but rather a necessity our bodies need to thrive. Don’t starve yourself from it.