I was thrown into this experience suddenly when I was in my early teenage years, around thirteen. Looking back at it now, I suppose didn’t know any better. Especially regarding how I initially felt about the whole thing.
My parents dragged me to do tarawih prayers with them at a nearby mosque.
And so I thought, “Alright, how bad could it be?”
First of all, I had no idea what tarawih was, or how it was conducted, or what I was supposed to do. I had no expectations. The only thought I had in my mind was that it was just going to be a normal four rakaat prayer after Isya’ prayers, or something.
Secondly, I didn’t think my parents had any clue either. I had asked my mother at that time on what I should do and the only thing she told me was to “follow the Imam”. It took me a while to realize that, at that moment, it was probably my mum’s first time for tarawih too.
Thus, we went to the mosque together as a family on the third day of Ramadan. I had never seen such a warm and bustling crowd at the mosque before until that very night. I hadn’t regretted my decision. My mother and I went to the first floor of the mosque, seeing that the ground floor of the women’s section was full.
We started off with the usual Isya’ prayer and as that was done, the Imam began briefly introducing the concept of tarawih prayers. He mentioned that altogether there would be 20 rakaat to follow. I remember flinching at the sudden information that we were doing a whopping 20 rakaat prayer in just one night.
That definitely threw away my initial concept that it was going to be ‘an average four rakaat’ prayer that I had thought earlier on.
What made it even more interesting as I prayed and absorbed the new knowledge of tarawih prayers was that after 4 rakaat, we were given a small break. At thirteen years of age, I looked forward to the breaks in between more than I did with the prayers.
At that moment, I knew I kept looking at my watch constantly. We had started our prayers at around 8:30pm and by the time it was 9:45pm, we were almost done, reaching the 18th rakaat.
Once we had reached the last rakaat, I was yawning. My mum gave me a stern look and I quickly tried to stifle it. Regardless, we had finished our first ever tarawih prayers and I felt exhausted, but slightly pleased with myself.
A few years after that, I had practiced the tarawih prayers each Ramadan, until I was around sixteen. I remembered that I had stopped doing so at that time because I had to tackle a huge exam that very year. So I spent my nights studying, rather than going to tarawih.
For some strange reason, because of that break, I never went again for a while. Not even my mum.
One night, I was in my second year of university, it was in the middle of Ramadan and my mother had asked me if we could go to tarawih for that night. I looked at the pile of assignments that were due in a couple of weeks on my study desk and I was about to reject her offer.
But as I looked back at my mother, there was just something about the way she said it that made me compelled to go. Truth be told, I had missed it and I rarely had the chance to pray next to her in recent times. So I nodded.
Arriving at the mosque after 6 years in hiatus made me feel a couple of emotions I didn’t think I would have had. I had felt nostalgic; the mosque was still the same, the crowd wasn’t the same, but the dynamic was still there. I had also felt a pang of sadness, as I sat in the middle of the women’s prayer room of the mosque. It was 6 years of dormancy and I couldn’t for the life of me, remember any good, valid reasons to why I skipped it for that long.
I had grown lazy and that was the only truth, no matter how hard I try to come up with a better reason. The assignments I had on my desk? They were just a useless excuse to bring up if I ever needed to escape from it. Sadly enough, I had nearly intended to use it.
As I prayed the tarawih prayers as an adult, it definitely felt slightly different from when I was thirteen. Spiritually, I felt more awakened and by the time we had reached the 20th rakaat, I was energized.
I thanked my mum for suggesting to go to the mosque that night.
And as we descended the stairs of the mosque, she said something which surprised me even more.
She said to me, “I felt compelled, somehow.”