I am naturally not the most verbose person. I’m rarely very verbal, so verbose is pretty much off the table. And that’s just with English, so throw another language at me and I’m screwed. Growing up with a practicing Sephardic grandmother, prayers were a chore to me in a foreign tongue rather than moments between God and me.
My troubles with spoken words worried me as a sort-of-religious, definately believing child. Grandma would scold me for my poor attempts at Hebrew, and she led me to believe that praying in English just wouldn’t do. I worried that God wasn’t hearing my prayers. I worried that if God wasn’t hearing my praises, then He would feel no need to answer any of my prayers.
When I came to Islam, I had to learn new prayers in another language. I struggled with that prayer, not with getting up and doing them, but simply reciting them. I began to wonder why I had to speak out loud for God to hear me.
Religious scholars spoke about those who are deaf or mute and how they could write or sign prayers, but I’m neither deaf nor am I typically mute, so I felt that didn’t apply to me. A number of autistic people with speech problems learn sign language to communicate, and I know basic signing, but I’m not deaf or mute.
I no longer believe in Islam, but I see now that with all of my recitation troubles, I could have signed or written my prayers – that would have been a hundred times easier than stumbling around in spoken Arabic. I also see now that I probably could have done my Hebrew prayers in English as I see people now doing just that.
Now, though, I want to explore other forms of devotion while I explore my personal spirituality. As a quiet autistic person that stays mostly in their head, simply thinking of certain prayers and hymns gives me time to really meditate on the words. Reciting prayers in my head feels more powerful than trying to say them aloud. Thinking of certain hymns makes me rock with joy, when trying to recite them just feels dry and disjointed.
Perhaps that’s another way I can show my devotion to Divinity – the stimming my body does out of the calming happiness spirituality gives me. When meditating on thoughts of the Divine, I sometimes start rocking, I flap, and my fists clench together in happiness. Maybe that alone may one day become a part of my devotional practice. Because of my neurology, I experience this universe a little differently, so I think it’s important that I find ways to explore it a little differently too.