30 Days of Ramadan, Day 13: Guest blogger shows off - or not

Sobia Siddiqui, our 30 Days of Ramadan blogger, is taking a break for today, so guest blogger (and CAIR-TX Communications Coordinator) Ruth Nasrullah is re-posting something she wrote for the Houston Chronicle several years ago.  Enjoy!

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I have tended toward laziness with my prayers over the last few months. I often pray them late, and rarely if ever add sunnah prayers (extra prayers performed following the tradition of the Prophet) to the fard (required prayers).

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I usually pray by myself, so my half-hearted attitude poses a personal challenge when I pray with a group in which the majority add the sunnah prayers. Should I pray those extra just because everyone else is? I might feel compelled to pray the extra because it’s awkward to just sit there, or even because I’m physically unable to leave the congregation without breaching etiquette (i.e., stepping in front of a praying person).

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Showing off, or riyaa in Arabic, is a major wrong in Islam, and was described by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as a form of shirk, or polytheism in direct contradiction to the fundamental Islamic belief in one God. If I don’t normally pray sunnah prayers when by myself, don’t I run the risk of riyaa if I pray them when I’m with a group?

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In the mosques on the evenings of Ramadan people will pray maghreb (evening prayer), followed by sunnah prayers, then isha (nighttime) prayer, followed by sunnah prayers, then witr (extra nighttime prayers), then taraweeh (extra prayers performed during Ramadan). If I routinely don’t even bother praying the sunnah after maghreb, does it make me a hypocrite to do all those extra prayers just because I’m at the mosque and everyone else is doing them?

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I suppose the answer depends on what’s in my heart. I can do extra because everybody else is, or I can do extra because it’s Ramadan and this is the month of “extras” – extra fasting, extra courtesy, extra charity, extra Qur’an reading, and extra prayer. The key to success in prayer this Ramadan will be to keep myself focused on my own motivation for the additional worship.

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