“We’ll get into the store and get our vegetables weighed before the prayer,” informs our guide, DS. The welcoming committee member from the school is taking us grocery shopping for the first time in Jeddah. Sure enough, just as the store employee finishes off weighing our produce the loudspeaker echoes the call for prayer. Our produce man weighs the final bag of cucumbers, sets them on the counter for us and then turns and walks away. Soon it's clear to me that there isn’t a single worker to be seen. They’ve all gone to prayer,” DS explains. The cash registers are silent and a queue of customers is patiently waiting for the return of the check-out attendant. The roll-up doors have been pulled down preventing the exit of any shoppers. We’re essentially trapped inside the store. However, we continue our shopping and arrive at the registers just as check-out resumes. DS further explains that we’ll become accustomed to checking the prayer schedule before planning any outings.
It’s true, the prayer schedule is a determining factor in scheduling our day. We must always consider whether to arrive just before prayer in order to race to the produce section and get all the vegetables weighed before prayer or to wait until just after the prayer. Or do we go in-between and risk getting stuck at the counter just as prayers begin and then settle into a ½ hour of aisle cruising? Once in the store this call to prayer has become a signal to either get out of the store quickly or settle into another ½ of shopping.
The call to prayer can be heard at every location in the city as mosques resound the summons for all Muslims to prayer six times a day. You can’t escape it. The sounds seep into your home and blare at you on the street. While the sounds may diminish as you walk away from the mosque, other calls will greet you from another mosque. The call to prayer literally penetrates every corner of the city six times a day. I'll admit, I'm glad I don't live next door to a mosque, as the resounding interruptions would be vexatious to me.
Some men will make their way to a mosque while others will pull out their carpets and drop to their knees right on the concrete, offering up their oblations despite the flow of pedestrians.
A couple of weeks ago, as I was mid-way through my morning run the call for prayer reverberated through the empty street. I was headed in the direction of the Mosque that is situated on our compound and the call for prayer became increasingly louder. I don’t know if it was my meditative state of being 3.5 miles into a 7 mile run but I found the melodic call beautiful on that dark morning. It rang loud and clear inviting men to prayer. As I turned into the parking lot of the Mosque, I was surprised to see that not only was the lot packed with standing cars but there was a steady stream of young and older men arriving by foot. I was touched, especially by the sight of a myriad of young men approximately 18-24 years of age heading toward the mosque.
It didn’t seem like any one was forcing them to get out of bed and proceed to the Mosque at 5:20 in the morning to pray. Maybe there is social pressure for some but I would venture to say that many are going out of duty to their faith, in an effort to be favorable people.
Can we not all learn something from this dedication?
What if we all chunked our day into 2-3 hour segments and worked on being a better person in that time? What if all of us, regardless of beliefs, selected a personal mantra, value or quality to focus on in that time slot? What if we really tried to act in accordance with the chosen trait? I would start with seeking to have true patience in my heart for unmotivated students. Or working on expressing gratitude for my husband and all he does to work towards teamwork in our marriage.
What if all of humankind divided the day into six parts and each segment was dedicated to a higher purpose? Imagine how much better our world would be.