Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Call to Prayer

Just outside Abbey's bedroom window, across the street, there is a mosque. In fact, there are two mosques that can be seen from her window (look closely to the left in the photo below to see the second minaret). As I write this I am listening to the call to prayer that comes from the loud speaker mounted on the minaret (tower, or the literal translation is lighthouse). This call to prayer is sounded six times a day, and during Ramadan, not only are there LONGER calls to prayer, but also angry sounding sermons or readings of the Qurán that go on for over an hour. I'm sure if I understood Arabic it wouldn't sound like an anger-filled political speech, but until I master their language, the Muslim call to prayer is pretty grating on my nerves. I wonder if any Muslims are annoyed by the volume level and the tone of the continuous neighborhood moaning.

Even if I were part of Islam I think I would be saddened by the excruciating noise coming from an electronic device that seems to give the surrounding neighborhood no choice but to be force fed Islamic doctrine, and out of tune distorted chants. I would be embarrassed by the lack of dignity and respect. Being western, my worship has always been more private, more internal, more secluded from the eyes of the common man. Last night, though, as we were driving to an Iftar at sundown, there, next to a tire souq, was an indoor/outdoor mosque squished up against another souq. Just as we passed, men were taking their places on very dusty,filthy rugs and bowing down for prayer. It was all I could do to keep myself from snapping a photo to prove what I was seeing, but even that dirty area next to the busy street was someone's place to pray, and I couldn't disturb it, even if it was a starkly ironic setting.

I heard someone say that one reason many mosques have electronic loudspeakers is so that the women, who do not go to the mosques to pray like the men, can hear the service and be edified while staying in the seclusion of their homes. (Lucky them!) I also heard that the reason why women are not allowed in the mosques with men is because the men could not handle kneeling down behind a woman - it would be too distracting, too sensual for a man to concentrate on spiritual things when faced with a female backside. Hmmmmm . . . . . . I could think of some solutions to that, but I probably shouldn't share those here.

Well, I will continue to puzzle over the religion of this region and try to increase my respect and understanding for it. A few weeks ago, while in the very large "hypermarket" called Lu Lu's, a Muslim man presented me with my own English copy of the Qurán. I was surprised but thanked him for his gift. I have been interested to read a few passages and find that my interpretation of the written word is much different than what the modern practices are. I guess, to me, it only reinforces my gratitude for a true and living prophet on the earth today and continued revelation, both personal and global. I will continue to hear the loudspeaker outside our villa calling people to prayer, but what sends me to my knees each day is an internal, more powerful desire to speak and listen to my Heavenly Father. He is the reason I kneel each day, not a device on a tower.


ljanlyons94 said...

I am not well versed in Islam. I really need to take some classes. I have a hard time grasping their philosophies. I truly feel blessed to have been raised in my culture. I just don't know if I could be that subserviant.

ljanlyons94 said...

P.S. Happy Birthday!!!!!!!!!

Marinda said...

It is so interesting to think about the different experiences you're having. In Germany, a "Call to Prayer" is against the law, even in all Muslim neighborhoods. So I've always felt bad for the Muslims who can't fully practice their religion in many ways. It has been interesting to observe the Muslim women in my German language class this last month. I always felt weird eating in front of them during our break time, but have never thought how it would feel if I wasn't allowed to eat, because they were fasting. I especially felt bad the day my teacher brought grapes for the class and used them as an object lesson - even though half of the women didn't eat them. But we did all enjoy celebrating with them today and shared their baklavah!

Even though we fast differently from Muslims, I've had some good oppurtunities to use conversations about Ramadan to explain to some of my Muslim friends how much our religions have in common.