As cliche as Nike's "Just Do It" has become I find that it best describes my attitude towards the ritualistic aspects of Islam.
Faith, like everything else in life, is driven more by habit than by internal spiritual motivation. It's a matter of conscious commitment.
The problem is that puts me at odds with the popular religious rhetoric.
We pray our five daily prayers because we believe. We only come to miss praying when it becomes a habit. When I lived in the U.S. praying Isha'a in congregation at the mosque was something I did daily. I miss it when I don't go, not because of some spiritual calling but because it has become a habit. The sights, the sounds, the motions and even the people at the mosque made my night complete.
Yes there is a bond that develops eventually, at least I hope, but it doesn't happen instantly. News Flash: The minute you start praying your life won't change. Chances are NOTHING will happen. Eventually, it becomes part of who you are, you develop a stronger God-consciousness by habit.
This has always been my approach to religion, if something is prescribed and I believe it then I won't wait for a "calling" to at least attempt it.
I've always been bothered by preachers who make rituals romantic. "Fajer prayer will bring you peace and sakeena..." Riiiight. May be true for some BUT personal experience has taught me that in the immediate future fajer prayers will disrupt my sleep and annoy the crap out of me because I have to take it into account while trying to get to sleep the night before.*
Romantics say "hijab will feel right and you'll feel spiritual and protected." I say clearly that's a statement made by a man. Hijab is hot and it crimps your style (if you're doing it right) but that's all beside the point.
If you believe that hijab is right should it matter how it'll make you feel? Because regardless of the way you feel, if you start you'll get used to it and it'll be part of you soon enough. I'm not saying the practice is without challenges.
One of the tabiyeen, the generation after the companions, said something to the effect of "I struggled with myself to pray Qiyam ul-Lail for 20 years, then came to enjoy them 20 years after." If it took a tabi3i, who arguably had a stronger connection to the Prophet than we do and much less distractions, 20 full years to begin to enjoy the voluntary prayers why are preachers talking of instant gratification to my generation?
I guess like pretty much everything else, my approach to religion is practical and logical. And I think religious romantics are doing us all a disfavor with their rhetoric.
Earlier posts on faith here.