Call to Prayers: The End of Ramadan
I wrote this piece in May 2011, as I watched Muslim faithfuls convene to pray in Abuja. It was inspiring to observe, be caught in the middle of, and document. The post has also been featured in Pamay Bassey’s My 52 Weeks of Worship Project. Every time I revisit this piece, I am aggressively attempting to edit it. I begin to, but I don’t. I wrote this in a very particular voice; it might be just what it is to keep it this way. Nevertheless –
There is something particularly beautiful about human nature and watching it respond to a higher calling. Spirituality is a mysterious beauty and watching people step outside the realm of natural human thought and common sense to surrender to God is just – beautiful. I think it’s the whole submission thing. Human nature doesn’t submit. Men don’t submit to women because women were created second and are somehow therefore inferior. Women don’t submit to men because men are somehow villainous creatures and the independent woman discovery seems so much more attractive. Children don’t submit to parents because parents are just out to control their offspring. Parents don’t submit to children cos, well, what do they know about life anyway? Leaders don’t submit to their followers because somehow leadership means overlord. Followers don’t submit cos rules suck generally anyway…
So everyone is on their grind, running the rat race and cutting everyone else down with a jagged-edged sword. It’s horrendous, pathetic. But when you watch a person stop and kneel in front of an altar or you watch a person bow in reverence to the Almighty, there must be something that moves in the realm outside the physical. That has got to be a beautiful moment. I was in the midst of that this Friday. I pride myself in not being the touristy-traveler-dweller; so I refrained from taking pictures, cooing about how cool this is to watch and being generally obnoxiously impolite. But the call to prayers rush Friday afternoon in the Banex Plaza area of Abuja was both confusing and riveting. The dusty heat exacerbated by the throng of bodies moving in a singular direction, responding to the sound of Arabic over a loudspeaker, was intriguing. Regardless people’s intentions for going to the mosque that afternoon, for I’m sure many were just as much spiritually led as they were religiously dutiful, there was a humbling there. It was as if God were calling and people had no choice but to answer. Interestingly enough, I was told that often what is being said over the loudspeakers is more practical instructions to the beloved than spiritual utterances: “turn off your cell phone” type messages, which I found lightly amusing. There I am thinking that God is being ushered and invited into the gathering and maybe what the spiritual leader was simply saying at the time was, “listen guys, I don told you before, turn OFF your phones! Vibrate ain’t good enough!”
Mats were strewn everywhere and cars were littered all over the place, causing the worst traffic! Groups of men, focused on internal meditation, were gathered in rows under trees on the side of the street, bowing forehead-to-ground. Women were discovered in less organised gatherings, as I often found one or two wedged between cars, beads in hands, praying away from her male counterparts. And the people. People were just everywhere. I will never imagine how Africans live on this continent’s soil sometimes. The sun, the bodies, the dust, the stale polluted air. Nothing about Friday afternoon at Banex Plaza spoke of comfort, yet the loudspeakers attracted enough people to make up a large village. I was there because I wanted to check out a jeans store and maybe grab some suya. And like clockwork, prayers were officially over. Almost as soon as it started, the crowds and the bodies and mats dissipated – back to cars, back to office buildings, back to classrooms, back to the rat race.
Boy I tell you, when God calls, He pulls. And for all those moments, it is intense and beautiful and humbling.