I have been wanting to post for a while now on the subject of prayer times. For Islamic culture, it is a defining and notable religious practice that Saudi Arabia as a country respectfully observes. Prayer calls echo in the early morning, afternoon, and evening hours – six times a day. With mosques practically around every corner in neighborhoods and stores, it is easy to hear the lulling melodic singing over the loudspeakers. The calls halt most activity, encouraging businesses to close, work to stop, and men to pray in the nearby mosques. It is quite a scene to witness.
Prayer times can no doubt be a frustrating inconvenience and, frankly, are the most difficult part of my adjustment to life over here. I use an app called Muslim Pro to try and help me coordinate my shopping better, but it is not as predictable or logical as one would expect. I have often been dejected and irritated left outside of a closed store because I underestimated a prayer time. This happens mostly on Fridays which is their holy day of the week and in the afternoons when some stores choose to remain closed between prayer times. Without yet understanding Islam and how it moves a country, I imagine there will be a few more mix-ups with prayer times and my own schedule.
Yet with all the chaos and confusion prayer time can wreck in me, the call has the power to calm me too. I can hear these calls from my home and even more clearly when I’m outside in the yard or walking Pigpen around the compound. They have become a reassuring presence in my days – a spiritual reminder of faith and hope for peace. During these times at home, I feel my world quiet a little. My breathing becomes more apparent and the breeze softens my edges. When I’m paying attention, the calls give me awareness, pulling me away from myself and towards something larger. Behind the walls, the entrancing voices are unseen – repetitive and reverberating with every mosque sending out the call on their own loudspeakers, sometimes resembling the sound of a loose fog horn being blown into a cave.
Inshallah means “God willing” and is a common expression used for most anything that happens/ has happened/ will happen among Saudis. It is used as a response when there is nothing left to offer a conversation, happy occurrence, or problem. This phrase not only punctuates sentiments passed between people, but marks the movement of a culture. Allah is God.
Prayer times might not have much significance in my life in general, but I respect what they represent and what they do for Muslims in particular. For now, they are a continuous reminder of humanity and what we seek in life.
My own prayer is that people find good in each other and peace on earth.