Mosque Meditations

Written by current student Hope Zigterman (Gordon College, Massachusetts)


It was a giant eight-sided room with wall-to-wall carpeting. The room was lit with a giant circular chandelier and there were stained-glass windows all along the upper part of the wall. The “decorations” included no pictures or paintings, but only geometric designs and Arabic writing. It was a very beautiful and peaceful room.

Before the call to prayer, a few men trickled in and began their individual prayers. One man in a wheel chair came in and he was helped into a chair. A few others grabbed chairs as well – a demonstration of the principle of ease. Following the call to prayer, more men slowly began to enter. They remained pretty spread out, with only about twenty men in the room. However, once the group prayer began, being led by someone calling out a few words softly (all I heard/understood was “Allah”), all of the men gathered towards the front in two long rows. As more men entered, a third row was started. Altogether, there were probably about 250 men. Between 100 and 200 men were there when the group prayer began and the rest filed in as it continued. Afterwards, most of the men dispersed, but a decent amount stayed to complete individual prayers, again, spreading out throughout the room.

What struck me about the service/praying, was that all of the men came as they were. Some came in jeans, some in the traditional long garments, some had hats, some had their construction clothes on, and some wore business suits. The only uniformity was that everyone takes off their shoes before entering. The idea of people coming as they were reminded me of haj (pilgrimage to Mecca), when everyone wears a white robe so that they are all equal. I think it is also significant that on normal days they do not all wear the same thing, but come from wherever there walk of life has situated them. As they all prayed together, they are equal before God. I was impressed by the fact that it was not just older men. A lot of shebab (“young men”) were also praying. Islam is not just a religion for one type of people, but it is for all people, regardless of their race, age, or employment. I was also struck by the sense of peace available in the room. Maybe it was because the carpet made it cozy. However, as I watched the men praying, I thought to myself, that Islam is truly a religion of peace. The men in that room were taking time out of their day and their schedules to come and pray. This takes effort and commitment and suggests a deep belief in God.

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Allahu akbar?

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.

 

Allahu akbar.

 

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.