I will never know what it is like to grow up in a Muslim majority country, where the call to prayer is broadcast for all to hear… where all the faithful stop what they are doing, as a community, to perform the daily prayers at a mosque within walking distance. Is that how it is in those places? This is what I envision.
Things sure are different than that in the United States. There are no minarets broadcasting the call to prayer – not where I live, anyway. The closest mosque is a 20-25 minute drive from my home and workplace. When it’s time to pray, there is no general commotion, no stoppage of the world around me. It’s typically a subtle smartphone alarm signaling the appointed times, making wudu at the nearest sink, grabbing a prayer mat, and finding a quiet spot to face the Qibla. For me, the early morning prayer and the evening prayers are able to be done in the comfort of home, the afternoon prayers are more challenging as far as location, often performed in the back room of an office or some such place.
For Muslims like me who do not have a mosque nearby, the vast majority of the five daily prayers are performed alone or with one other family member. And that is fine, I understand that prayers do not have to be congregational to be valid or to be valuable. Many times that alone time with the Creator is a blessing, and can foster an intimacy that is elusive in a large group setting.
But I do find myself wondering what it would be like to be part of a society who embraced the faith and built their daily schedule around the prayers. Maybe some day I will have the privilege to live in such a place, if Allah wills it.
Nevertheless, praying five times a day, at the appointed times, requires incredible discipline. It does not come easy. But it is so very much worth the effort, and one who does so reaps benefits that are physical, emotional, and spiritual.
A writer and Muslim revert I really respect, Dr. Jeffrey Lang, once said that the daily prayer routine is the believer’s way of regularly gauging the health of his/her relationship with the Creator. He is so right. I would add that the frequency of the prayers is perfectly sized to what a human being needs to keep a continual remembrance of Allah. It is said that at one time the Prophet (Peach Be Upon Him) partook in a negotiation with God regarding the number of prayers to be required each day of believers, mercifully reduced through that negotiation from fifty to a mere five.
Even five can be challenging. But it’s doable. And it’s worth it.