The Muslim call to prayer went off twice this morning, once at about 3:30AM and then again at 4AM. The singer was talented with a very beautiful and melodic voice. In the Middle East they use the Hajaz scale which has some intervals of three semitones. It is an enchanting and exotic sound to our ear, not unpleasant except that I am thoroughly awake now and typing a blog.
Click the photos below to view them full-size…
It is a call to prayer, broadcast through a powerful PA system at 4AM so that all who can hear it (and believe me everyone can hear it) are awakened to the voice of prayer. And this voice is publicly broadcast every day several times a day from Mosques all over the city. I find this in fascinating contrast to our society in Canada. We are so much more discreet about our faith. In contrast to the Muslim, we do not wear clothing that gives any indication of what we believe about God. We find it a challenge to pray even once a day, let alone five times. Many here will actually go to a mosque if possible to pray. When they pray, they will pull out a prayer mat, kneel on the ground and face toward Mecca as they bow their face to the ground. It doesn’t matter where they are or what they are doing. Steve told me that he had seen a truck driver at night pull over to the side of the road, get out of the truck, and kneel on a mat in front of the headlights to pray.
It raises some questions in my mind. What does this say about our faith in the Western world? Can anyone look at us and know what we believe about God? We freely wear the name brands of all kinds of products but how do we visibly tell people about our life in God? And what about a public call to faith and to prayer?
We had an interesting conversation with a young Muslim named Husam. He trained as a lawyer in Syria but the war forced him to move to Jordan where he cannot practice law because Syrian law is based upon the French system and Jordanian upon the British. He now drives a car for a living and supports his family who are still in Aleppo (God help them). Husam told us that the majority of young people do not go to the mosque on any regular basis. They are more secular. Many Muslims do not pray five times a day and they will sleep through the call to prayer. So really, for them and for us, faith is not a matter of outward appearances but a matter of the heart. Faith and the call to prayer starts at a much deeper place in us, a place where we can discover and interact with God. Form and ritual alone will never hold a person to faith. They are tools to help us to feed and strengthen our faith as they can enrich a life of prayer. But without that inner life, that deep and personal connection with God through Jesus Christ, the form, the clothing, the ritual are tinkling gongs and clanging cymbals.
We do have a bell at St. Marks which we ring on Sunday mornings just ahead of the 10AM service (unlikely to wake anyone up). One Sunday Les rang that bell for every bit of five minutes. I want to say now, “Go Les! Ring that bell!”