Entering into the lobby, my friend and I are immediately greeted warmly by the women of the mosque, and they escort us to the room in the back part of the sanctuary. We wait patiently for the call to prayer, but the conversations around us never diminished as everyone catches up with one another about their week. There is an air of familiarity and comfort as both the men and women greets each other and the guest present at this Friday service. Looking across the room, the other guests are people running for political offices, sitting or standing around the rooms, as they engage in the conversations with members of the mosque. Men in women sit in separate rooms of the mosque, divided by glass doors. Friends and family all engaging in multiple discussions as others members are praying on their own.
The call to prayer begins with a man called the muezzin, covering his ears as if to cut out the outside sounds and focuses on his call. He seems unfazed by the conversations and noises all around him. The speakers amplify each cry throughout the entire building. Individual prayers are whispered, spoken, or cried out by the people. Everyone is in their own world, calling to Allah, and yet there are still people arriving late. A few members are still chatting with their neighbors, as if the service has not started yet. The loud speakers drown out all of the voices as the Imam’s clear voice rings throughout the building and begins to preach his sermon. He is a passionate speaker, sometimes stumbling over the words as he hastily preaches the word with vibrancy and heart. He is crying out for change, emphasizing how we as individuals need faith, shouting, “Allah does not need our prayers, we need it… Allah does not need our fasting, WE need it!” People are coming in and out as they please, constant sounds resonating all over the building. The loud speakers are absorbed by the carpeted floors of the separate rooms, but they are resonating loudly into the lobby behind the prayer hall as the sound heightens by bouncing across the marble floors.
People are in their own worlds, having peace with God in their own way. People from various backgrounds speaking to God in their native tongues. The Imam weaving back and forth effortlessly between Arabic and English, making me question the words that come out and really pay attention to his message. The sounds around me begin to increase, almost reaching the pinnacle of a crescendo, until the Imam stops and softly asks for all to join together in prayer. My friend and I are escorted out of the sanctuary and into the lobby as this is a moment of unity for the believers. I have notice that the sounds, like the call to prayer and the Imam’s words, called the people to congregate, but the very last prayer unifies each follower in as one. Watching them all chant the words which bring them together, I realize that in this moment, each individual person truly becomes one with each other as they unite together to praise God.
By Libby White