public piety ii: mornings with God
Posted by adiamondinsunlight on July 29, 2007
This morning at the gym I dressed to the sounds of an instrumental rendition of “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen”.
Its one of my favorite Christmas songs, and I do like the idea of Christmas in July, but as I hummed along I wondered how many other gym-goers recognized the piece, and what they thought of hearing such an explicitly religious Christian piece in a public setting.
When it comes to praising God with voice and instrument, Lebanon is an interesting place. On the one hand, church bells and the call to prayer ring out several times each day, and anyone wanting to catch a church service or mosque prayers can do so by turning on the television.
On the other hand, I have noticed that I never hear Quranic recitations during the daytime – not in taxis, shops, passing cars or any other common contributor to the aural picture of Beirut.
I have many memories of walking into shops and restaurants in Damascus, Amman and the Gulf, or of getting into a taxi and hearing the Quran recited on cassette, CD or the radio. For the most part, its not an off-putting experience, and I’ve seen no correlation between the sounds of Quranic recitation and the warmth or friendliness of the shopkeeper, waitstaff or driver.
Beirut by daylight is a fairly tajweed-free space. But I’m an early riser, and in that first hour after dawn I hear a different world.
The sounds of the Quran come from the snack shop that usually plays Arabic pop music as well as from the hospital doctor’s sporty red coupe. The snack shop is staffed by eighteen year old boys and the doctor in question is a beautifully coiffed woman in early middle age; and none of them seem to find their listening choice incongruous.
I love cities in the early mornings – I love watching the ways they come to life. But I also like seeing them in their just-waking-up state because they show such different faces to the world.
In this case, the face is an aural one, and it adds a note of quiet piety to the city – one that disappears by the time the morning heat sets in.