In today’s world where efficiency and competitiveness create a culture of racing to the bottom, there’s a temptation to view everything in our lives through the lens of performance. As Elisha and Stefanie Goldstein write,
“Your practice isn’t a performance. Judgment about whether a meditation session was ’good’ or ‘bad,’ or whether mindfulness is ‘working’ or not, isn’t helpful. In fact, this performance-based mindset misses the point entirely. If there is a goal to any of the practices it’s simply to learn. Bringing a learning mindset to this practice is the fastest route to growth and mastery”1.
Similarly, the prayer (or du’a, or dhikr) is not performance. That is not to say that the how-to of it is inconsequential (number of raka’at, the order in which things are said, the times in which they may be performed, etc.). This is where Islam departs from mindfulness, or any other philosophy, in that the how-to does matter but it still should not be mistaken for being all about a particular emotional experience (such as happiness, for example) or that if the salah is executed properly that this will guarantee us safety, protection, or our heart’s desire.
1. Goldstein, Elisha. “An Invitation To Mindfulness”. Mindful, 21 July 2017, pp. 2-3.