I was seeing photos of Ramadan around the world. One was where a big crowd of women in an East Asian country were all standing up for prayer. Another of a couple of women and kids in their home, praying inside a room. And then I recalled our mothers praying, sisters praying. Inside homes. A woman I know who re-started her full fledged prayers, forty days after her baby was born. I am not disciplined like that.
The one who prays is called a ‘prayer’?
One of my grandmothers was a quick ‘prayer’. She would go through her motions and words of prayer quickly and efficiently. In her narrow and dim lit room. Then she would don back her regular clothing and be off for her million chores of the day.
My other grandmother, she had a routine going on with grandfather. The details are unclear to me now, but they both would have space to spread out their two grass prayer mats in their room. And they would pray in tandem. For many years, during my school holidays, this is how I remember them praying.
The women who pray daily, their five mandatory prayers, and sometimes many more non mandatory ones. The women who remember auspicious dates and cook special meals for all and recite specific prayers for that day.
I have a dear friend whose family lodged me for a while. Her mother would wake up at four in the morning and clean the entire house, finish her bath. She would light the lamp and then pray to all of her deities, all before the rest of the house would even consider waking up.
Men pray too. But it is a very unique picture when women surrounded by domesticity are praying. The women fit in their faith within their homes. They often do not (or cannot) go to the mosque or temple to pray. I used to wonder at how they had any time to do everything at all.
But it is probably the presence, of a time and an opportunity to pray in the midst of domestic life, that the women find solace in. Nowadays, the concept of self care is a trendy one. But before the arrival of new age mantras, these women who prayed in their bedrooms and living rooms, they had probably found the ideal self care regime.
Today’s mothers are isolated from any sort of community. And they seek activities where they can go to without the children. I often think of taking a walk all by myself. But imagine the mother (after the children have passed the small age when they cry at the drop of a hat and cling to your skirts,) who can take 5 or 15 minutes to pray, often 5 times a day, knowing that the children will know enough not to disturb her for the duration.
That is about 25 minutes of self care at the minimum! And no one even noticed. Built into the daily domestic routine. Bonus for improving the general atmosphere of the home and its inhabitants, with the calm that usually prevades the prayer times. These praying women do know a thing or two about leading a more centered life.