Sunday, September 4, 2011

Call to Prayer

perceptions of religion

It is probably about four in the morning as I am writing this.   I should be in bed, but I can't sleep. A few minutes ago, the call to prayer sounded. Let's just say, it is very effective.
Yesterday, I also woke up for the first call at sunrise, but, not having a watch, I didn't realise how early it was. I went downstairs, waking up the entire family, who immediatley started attempting to figure out what was wrong, despite my limited language skills. Once I figured out it was 3:30 in the morning, I  sheepishly went back to sleep, realising that the first call to prayer does not necessarily mean that it is time to wake up.
The call to prayer sounds throughout Erdine five times a day. For muslims, it is a reminder to pray. For exchange students, it is a great way to get people talking about religion.
Most locals seem to not notice the call to prayer. they continue with what they are doing uninterupted, or might make small observances such as turning off other music. I, on the other hand, turn around looking for the source of the noise, and, invariably, someone notices and explains the call to prayer,  which can lead to explanations of other parts of Islam, or questions about my faith.
My first night in Erdine, I was at a cafe with Vahide and some of her friends when the call to prayer sounded.  As if I hadn't already heard it already twice that day, I jump and look around.
"That's the call to prayer." Someone explains (again) "It's part of our religion."
"Five pillars." Someone else chimes in. Immediately the whole table attempts to list off the five pillars of Islam. Eventually, I think I have a good idea of them.
"What is your religion?"  a boy sitting across from me asks, in Turkish . After Vahide translates, I tell him that I'm Christian. Everyone tries to decide what that is exactly. Finally Vahide asks me if I believe in God, and another boy makes a cross with his fingers.
"evet" I reply to both of them. meaning yes, I believe in God, and yes, the sign of the cross is part of my religion.
At home, if a relative stranger asked me such straightforward questions about my religion, I would certainly be surprised, if not shocked and perhaps offended; but here it seems very natural.
Everyone is very open about religion, and Vahide is always willing to explain how something I see fits into being muslim.
"Headscarves are part of our religion" Vahide explained yesteday, gesturing to the women around us who were wearign them. She continued to point out that not everyone wears one (in fact in Turkey it seems most people don't).  Although Vahide does not wear a headscarf she seems to respect the women who do.  She is certainly very pround of her religion, as is everyone I've interacted with here.
Last night, I was, yet again, at a cafe with Vahide and her friends when the call to prayer sounded. Somewehre nearby, the other music that was playing was turned off.
"They turn off the music for the call to prayer," Vahide explains
"I think the call to prayer is more beautiful," says a boy sitting next to me
Although I can't fully understand it's significance, I have to agree with him.  After all, you don't have to be muslim to appreciate the chant "Allah-u-Akbar" (God is great).

1 comment:

  1. I am loving this Kyle! We too hear the call to prayer, and it was my first time. Although we only hear it when we are in town, since we have ac and the windows closed in our condo, it always gets my attention.
    What an amazing experience and thanks for sharing with the rest of us.