Taking a break from the daily routine of school and work, I am able to stop by the local mosque to view one of the five daily prayers of Islam. It is 1 o’clock in the afternoon, a tricky time for people to take off work or school to visit the mosque, however, some members take the time to journey over for the ten minutes dedicated to prayer and reflection facing east towards Mecca. The Imam begins with the Iqama, or call to Islamic prayer, given before the members. All twelve men stand shoulder to shoulder as they cover their ears and follow the calls instructed by the Imam.
He begins to recite the prayers, praising Allah through rhythmic diction. He uses a microphone to amplify his voice throughout the sanctuary, though he speaks softly with reverence. After he recites a phrase, he prostrates onto the carpeted floor as the men follow his guidance. In between each gesture, they share a moment of silent prayers, each person whispering their prayer in a personal moment, though the Imam’s whispers are picked up by the microphone, and each member seems to be speaking from a different language; a quiet chaos of many voices praying in their native tongue. The Imam later told me that there are about 72 different ethnicities represented in this particular mosque, so it is common to hear many languages worshipping. They continue this cycle of standing and prostrating four times; this is common for the afternoon prayer as each prayer has a different unit depending on the time of day.
There is no pitch in his calls, monotonous as if focusing on the emphasis of each syllable and rhythm of the prayer. I was curious to know if this is also common during the prayer, and so I ask the Imam afterwards if this is different for each person who performs the call to prayer. He politely jokes about how he is not much of a singer and chooses not to sing the pitches during the prayer and states how usually the call to prayer is done by another person, called a muezzin, who is wonderful at their job. He speaks about the importance of one’s presentation of the prayer as it should come from the heart. He calls it “khushu,” meaning “humbleness” in Arabic; or as he claims, the “serenity of the heart.” He refers to how it is like a passionate preacher in a church who speaks a fiery sermon instead of boring the audience or a singer who brings much heart into their praises. He is grateful to have a muezzin with a talented voice and a strong love for Allah to call the prayers for all to hear and is comfortable saying his prayers the rhythmic style that he was taught.
After the ten minutes of prayer were up, each member dismissed themselves as they all went their separate ways after, continuing their prayers in different parts of the room. The environment was calm and still with silent prayers still whispered by the men. It was admirable to see the devotion of their hearts displayed, taking a break from the outside world to sit in this stillness and peace, worshipping in whispers.
Photo taken by Brian Perlman