I promised that I would give some insights to my way into Islam and what I like about it. I thought that I should probably start with the prayer, since it is the topic, that might be the most repelling one when it comes to being a Muslim for Christians or other religious people. If you consider yourself an atheist who doesn't even feel able to believe in some kind of godlike entity: stay tuned. (And probably keep reading those articles, because I think they are interesting anyways :-P).
I will say this thing over and over again in every separate article: I am not an expert on this. I did not study Islam (or any other Religion for that matter) and I can only tell you, what I've been told. When in doubt: consider me wrong and correct me in the comments, but please remember to be polite. One of the people who where there, when I converted, told me: "Always remember, you are new to this religion and you will always make mistakes. I have been a muslim for 56 years now and I am still learning new things about it. When someone tells you that you're wrong, just tell them that you're new to the religion. You can even say this in 10 years from now."
Having said this, I want to talk about the prayer. People consider it some kind of brainwashing, if you pray 5 times a day and I agree that there is something to it. Other muslims I've been talking to, agree with that as well and openly told me: "Of course you are less likely to do something bad, if you are trying to talk to God ten minutes later, asking to go to Ghannah [Arabic Word for Paradise]." (I am paraphrasing). But I do not think that this is necessarily a bad thing. I believe that most rules which should be followed in Islam make every day life easier, if everyone follows them. And I believe, that they make it healthier. I will post more on that later, but I want to say: Putting up rules, which make life easier/better and then putting a system in place to make people follow the rules, is a good idea.
Another thing that I like about praying that often is the meditation that comes with it. I already put up some posts on how much I love meditation and I've been bragging about it on social media. It is great. Praying for me basically triggers the same effect. Starting with Wudu, the religious washing procedure before the prayer, you have a powerful ritual which helps you, to take a step back, relax and refocus. James Clear wrote tons of articles on creating rituals and processes in order to be more productive. During the washing process (I do it, if I can, in some bathtub), you clean up your hands, your face, your arms and your feet (plus some additional parts) in a particular order. I like to do it with warm water, because it feels like a big stress relief and it helps me free my mind, a practice you could also incorporate in you meditation.
For me it feels, like the idea of the whole thing is, to minimize all distractions. I think this is also the main reason, why men and woman are separated in the mosque. I have prayed with families, where men and women pray together and I don't think, that this rule is very sexist (even though it kind of neglects the existence of gays and lesbians or other genders, but that's something I still have to think about later). I think minimizing distractions would be a good idea for meditation too. Distractions that are taken care of in Islam:
- If you are using a carpet for praying, it's supposed to have as little ornaments as possible.
- The floor on which you are praying should be clean.
- You are supposed to clean yourself, I guess it will prevent itching and smelling xD. Especially the cleaning of mouth and nose is interesting to me, because I used to be pretty distracted by parts of my breakfast back in 7th grade, when I went to church.
- Men should cover everything from their shoulders down to their knees. Women should cover everything besides their feet, hands and faces.
- Every prayer follows the same order. Order helps the human brain to follow in certain patterns. Again: repetition means learning.
- If you can, you're supposed to pray in a group. This helps to create a feeling of community. Praying in the mosque creates a similar feeling of community for me that is similar to concerts I've been attending in the past. It feels nice to have the feeling of belonging to a group and I get goosebumps all over my body when everyone prays together (The same feeling of belonging also comes up when I see girls with a Hijab outside, but that's again another story).
So yes all in all I believe that the muslim prayer has some good things to it and I don't believe that the only reason for praying 5 times a day is to get control over the muslim. I believe it's supposed to help the muslim cope with the biggest challenges in life. The given timings force you to get a good rhythm into your life, which is helpful if you're depressed. Praying every few hours for the things which are important to you, helps you stay focused throughout the day. For example I was praying for my friend to find an apartment. Every day after one of the prayers I would call him and ask him if he had applied for some rooms, which forced him to eventually work on it, apply for rooms and eventually he got one. You don't even have to believe in god to realize that constantly pushing into the same direction will make you reach your goals.