Written by current student Abigail Prichard (Trinity Western Unversity, BC, Canada)
The last three months in Jordan have not been my first time living in a Muslim nation. The first time was three years ago when I spent three months in Turkey with an organization called Youth With A Mission (YWAM). However, when I compare my perception of Islam and Muslims from then to now, I see radical change.
Three years ago, during my first sleep in my new home in Gaziantep, Turkey, I was jolted awake by the eerie sound of muezzins’ voice. These Arabic words rang through the air. Multiple muezzins sang at once, it seemed to me they were all competing for the airspace. Their songs staggered so there was never a moment of silence. At first I was fearful of what the multiple voices were, coming from every direction, calling out in a language completely foreign to me. It lasted hours, or so it felt. I lay in bed, frozen, waiting for it to end. The experience gave me my first taste of culture shock and one of my first polarizing experiences with Islam.
During my time in Turkey, I never really got used to the sound of the call to prayer. I woke up almost every morning at 5:00 am, without fail, to hear the sunrise call. I came to associate the call to prayer with the dominance of Islam in the region. Because of the evangelical Christian community of YWAM I was a part of leading up to my time in Turkey and while I was there, this made me incredibly sad. It broke my heart that everyday, five times a day, Allah was being declared sovereign over these people, and they were missing the truth and redemption that I had received through Jesus. The call to prayer unsettled my spirit and led me to pray for revival in Turkey, a now Muslim nation that had previously been the footstool of the Gospel.
Since being in Jordan, I have become a little confused as to how I am supposed to view the call to prayer, and Islam as a whole. The more I learn about Muslims and Islam, the more similarities I see between my faith and theirs. I now understand that Allah is merely the Arabic word for God and I have been opened to the possibility that maybe we’re all calling out to the same God, just in our own different ways. The call to prayer does not unsettle my spirit in the same way that it used to. I’m not sure if that is a good or a bad thing.
I think the anecdote of my changing perception of the call to prayer illustrates my journey with understanding Islam well. It’s slowly transitioning from polarization and assumptions to uncertainty and discomfort. Maybe uncertainty and discomfort weren’t the words you were expecting. I can’t lie and pretend I understand it all now and I know how I feel about Muslims and Islam. That’s just not true. “The more you learn, the less you know,” this has sort of been my motto throughout the semester. The more I learn about Islam the less I know for sure, learning breeds discomfort, but the good kind.