Do you remember the first time you had to make salah outside of your home or Masjid? How did you feel? Scared? Embarrassed? For someone like me who had previously lived in a muslim-majority country, I always had the privilege to go to the mosque for prayer. When I was suddenly thrown into a non-muslim majority country like the UK and had to pray in public for the first time, I felt both scared and embarrassed. The task became even more difficult when I started to imagine other people staring at me with weird or disapproving looks while I was trying to pray outside...
Flashback to a game day in one of the football stadiums in the UK. Obviously it had no prayer spaces around, so I had to look for empty space for few minutes to pray my Asr prayer. I finally found a suitable location under a staircase, Alhamdulillah! As soon as I found that empty space, I pulled out my portable prayer mat and started praying. It was my last rakah and I could hear the footsteps of someone coming down from the stairs. The thought of staring worried me so much, I finished my prayers as if I was facing a tornado storm and got up pretending that I was just there inspecting the staircase!
The other day, I was enjoying another exciting football match in the evening at a full gallery stadium when suddenly I realised it was Maghrib time. The guilt of missing the Maghrib prayer was very awful but the idea of getting up, crossing the spectators line to find a prayer space was very challenging. Can you imagine what I did in the end? I decided to pray while I was sitting in my spot! I pulled out my phone to check the Qibla, and started praying in sitting position. People were staring at me like I had gone mad and it was very awkward. It was not the best salah I ever prayed, but I hope the intention got counted for reward In shaa Allah.
I sincerely do hope that in the near future, every sports stadium will eventually have a dedicated prayer room or space for Muslim supporters. And I'm delighted to see some development in this area, such as the Muslim prayer space at a football stadium in England (Blackburn). Initiatives like this, where the official football organiser has announced that there will be a prayer room for Muslims to pray, makes us feel so glad and hopeful for the future.
Taking the very first step is always a challenge. However, once you take it, the rest is easy. A lot of us may find it very difficult to overlook all the tension and make the move to pray our salah. However, if you remind yourself the Hadith of our Prophet Muhammad (SAW) which says “Ihsan is to worship Allah as if you see Him” (Sahih al-Bukhari 4777) and put yourself into practicing it, your surroundings will not bother you at all no matter wherever you pray.
So, are you ready to make your Salah in public?