By Ahmed M. Rehab
Earlier this year, I moved from my longtime bachelor pad into a house in order to accommodate my expanding family. While a blessing, I quickly learned that being a homeowner was not all sunshine and roses.
Sure there is the comfort of having more space, a backyard, and the ability to host large groups of family and friends. There is the joy of designing your own little castle and basking in your personally customized zone with your loved ones.
But there is also the shoveling of snow, the raking of leaves, the mowing of lawns, the hopping on the roof to clean the gutters, the backbreaking yard work.
And then there is the sump pump.
The Sump Pump
As a new home owner, you learn about things you never knew existed. And you often learn the hard way.
When my basement flooded, I began to pay attention to that sump pump thing, whereas before it was a mere dubious technicality. I learned that groundwater from the rain collects into tiles around the house and from there into a reservoir in the basement; a special motorized water pump called the sump pump is then triggered to basically pump out the water through a tube that empties into the yard away from the house.
In addition, there is the basement sink and the basement laundry appliances. They are below ground level, yet are supposed to drain into the public sewage system at ground level. That presents an obvious problem since it defies the laws of gravity wherein water naturally collects at the lowest, not highest point. The solution is therefore to first drain into a second reservoir in the floor of the basement, where a second motorized sump pump then pumps up the collected water against the pull of gravity and into the sewage pipes at ground level.
That fateful day, both sump pumps failed, and the water overflowed from the reservoir pits and flooded into the basement, causing damage that was a massive headache to fix.
Water is the greatest gift. It is the source of life. It cleans and purifies. But unwanted water can be your worst enemy, as it is a force like no other. Unruly waves can drown you. Tsunamis can knock down concrete buildings like dominoes. And basement flooding can get everywhere causing mold and damage to your floors, walls, furniture and equipment. Nothing gets in the way of water if you allow it to overpower you.
While I made sure my home had working sump pumps when I bought it, that day I learned that my sump pumps were cheap, that they were plastic and that their horsepower was below code and therefore inadequate and more likely to fail. In addition to paying for a service to thoroughly clean up the mess, I realized I had to invest in iron cast, high horsepower sump pumps ASAP or risk this happening again the next day.
Now I know better. It is not enough to have a sump pump. I need to audit it, to manage it and make sure it is not just dead weight. Now, I can hear the sump pumps going again at regular intervals. I feel protected when I do, and I know to start worrying when I don’t.
After all, while you simply can’t stop groundwater from building up, you can certainly beat it before it beats you.
All this caused me to think.
Why do We Pray 5 Times a Day?
For many reasons, but one simple reason is this: prayer is the sump pump to our sins. Since the sins are invariably guaranteed to keep coming, so must the sump pumps keep working. Groundwater is a consequence of rain, and sin is a consequence of life. Regulated sump pumps protect, and so does regular prayer. God states that when you perform your prayer, it erases all sins accumulated since your last prayer. Kind of like how the sump pump eliminates the dirty water, your sins are erased.
Our first precaution against sin is to try our best to shelter ourselves from it, no doubt. My home’s first line of defense against rain damaging its valuable contents is the roof and walls that provide shelter. I could not have a roof-less, wall-less house and then expect the sump pumps to keep my home nice and dry. That’s just basic logic. I need both strategies. But since even the best of roofs and the sturdiest of walls won’t change the laws of physics, I need the sump pumps if I wish to avoid groundwater accumulating and flooding my foundations.
Regular prayer, which contains istighfar (or repentance) pumps out that harmful, unavoidable seepage which, if left to its own devices, will trickle slowly but surely into a flood that will, in time, leave you struggling to breathe under water.
Life, like rain, is good. You can’t and shouldn’t turn against it. How else will the grass grow? But like rain, life comes with liabilities. It can sustain and purify you, and it can leave you breathing mold toxins, or even drown you. The difference is whether you control it, or you do nothing – and thus be controlled by it. Sin is the tax of life much like groundwater is the tax of rain. It can threaten your spiritual foundation if left unchecked much like groundwater can threaten your home’s foundation. Your nafs is the lowest point, the basement. It needs to come armed with prayer, with sump pumps.
Sump pumps must work at regular intervals in order to guarantee a dry basement. Once a week won’t cut it. Why do you pray at night, they might ask? Well, why do sump pumps work at night? Why do you pray at dawn? Well, why do sump pumps work at dawn? Is my nafs less valuable – less worthy of protection – than my basement?
Sometimes when it rains, it pours. At such times of higher risk, sump pumps are triggered to work extra hard to keep up with the need. And so, while we have the regular prayers 5 times a day, we also have the nawafel, or voluntary prayers, as a tool for us to trigger as needed.
But remember, you can have sump pumps, and still get flooded — as I did. Until you realize that low horsepower plastic sump pumps offer a false sense of protection. Such is the case with distracted, mindless prayer that might as well be aerobics. Make sure your sump pumps are cast iron and of a high horsepower: that is, keep your prayers sincere, focused, meditative, and contemplative.
Stay dry my friends.
“Recite, [O Muhammad], what has been revealed to you of the Book and establish prayer. Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing, and the remembrance of Allah is greater. And Allah knows that which you do.” Quran 29:45
Ahmed Rehab is an American Muslim activist and writer with a focus on contemporary social issues including civil rights, media relations, and Islam-West relations. Ahmed Rehab is currently the Executive Director of CAIR-Chicago, a Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization which under Rehab’s tenure has developed from a start-up into one of the most notable not-for-profit civil rights offices of its kind anywhere in the United States.