A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

Archive for the ‘Qur’an’ Category

becoming a bab

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on March 2, 2009

Yesterday morning I found myself in another animated online discussion with my friend H, about assorted religious issues. We often disagree, but we are usually able to do so – as negotiators suggest – without being disagreeable. Yesterday we covered a wide range of topics, most swirling around the tension between ecumenicalism (which accepts other faiths as they are) and conversion (which does not).

We had been chatting for at least half an hour, and our conversation  while friendly – after all, we have several years invested in one another, not to mention assorted family connections – had grown fairly heated. It – and we – needed a little leavening.

So when H Arabicized a Christian sacrament, I couldn’t help but laugh.

You’ve been babtised, diamond, haven’t you? H wrote.

I mean babtized, he wrote in the next line, changing his spelling from British to American.

As many of you know, Arabic does not use the letter “p”. And as many of you also know, the word “bab” in Arabic means “door”, in both the literal and metaphoric senses.

And, of course, in the US, people jokingly ask someone to move out of the way by saying: “You make a better door than a window”.

I don’t like to think of myself as an obstructing force, so I’ll focus on the other aspect of the word bab: that like all doors, it opens onto something else – a home, an adventure, a new thought.

In that sense, I would like to think that yes, I have been babtized. I would like to be a door for others 🙂 .


Posted in Americans, Arabic, church, friends, Islam, Qur'an, religion, words | Leave a Comment »

Syria: where the sisters will soon be doin’ it for themselves :)

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on July 3, 2008

Several summers ago, a network of women brought me new friends in Damascus. My aunt had made a Palestinian friend while living in one Gulf country, and that woman in turn had made a Syrian friend while living in another Gulf country years before. And she in turn introduced me to her friends – a group of devout, deeply conservative but also deeply modern women of varying ages.

I remember one pair of women in particular, a mother in her mid-forties and her daughter, a very articulate college student: two fair-haired women dressed in white scarves and beige manteaux, the full-length double-breasted raincoat-style outer garment that many modern-but-pious women wear in the Levant.

When I asked the daughter what she studied, I expected that the answer would be business or medicine – one of the practical, professional status, you’ll-always-have-a-job degrees that parents favor in the Middle East (well, not only in the Middle East – think of all the humorous groaning in the US about children who decide to major in English Literature!).

I’m studying law, she told me.

Ah, I thought. Right. Law is another preferred degree, along with engineering.

What kind of law? I asked, making conversation but doubting that she would have settled on a specialty already.

Sharia, she told me, smiling confidently. And when I finish, I will become a lawyer in the religious courts.

Wow. This was not the answer I was expecting – but I loved the passion and the confidence that came through in her answer. She explained that while in Syria’s secular courts men and women lawyers could represent clients of either gender, in the religious courts women could only represent women clients.

But she saw this restriction not as a limitation, but as an opportunity. She felt that as a woman she could provide better representation to women and children in the court system.

We met three years ago, and I’m sure she has graduated by now. I bet she’s a terrific lawyer, and I bet that one of these days she will become a mufti – a member of the legal system empowered to issue rulings on religious legal matters.

A mufti isn’t exactly the same as a judge (qadi in Arabic), since his or her decisions are not as binding – but its a respected position, one that only those with a deep and judicious understanding of religious law can hold.

Why do I think she will become a mufti? Because Syria is now allowing women to hold this position – a very liberal step that not all Muslim countries accept.

Here’s the article I found, thanks as always to Google’s news alerts:

Syrian women have largely welcomed the news that female muftis are to be trained up to fill a role that has generally been monopolised by men.

Several local and foreign Arabic-language news sites reported earlier this month that Grand Mufti Ahmed Badr Hasun, the top Muslim cleric in Syria, announced that female graduates of Islamic law colleges are being trained to become muftis who will counsel women on religious matters.

Hasun also made it clear that some female muftis would be appointed to the Iftaa Council, a body which he chairs and which oversees the issuing of fatwas, or religious edicts.

Muftis are Islamic scholars who are empowered to provide religious guidance on personal and political matters. Until now, women in Syria, as in many countries, have had to turn to male muftis even when their concerns are gender-specific or personal.

“Iftaa [the giving of counsel] is a difficult task and a huge responsibility that men are barely able to hardly shoulder,” said a 41-year-old devoutly Muslim woman from Damascus countryside.

“Iftaa for women’s matters is a good thing. It saves women being embarrassed about issues such as marital relations and other things that they are sensitive about, like menstruation.”

Hasun made the comments during a visit by American academics to Damascus, but it was not the first time he has discussed the programme for women muftis. According to a February 2006 report by the United Nations Development Programme, Hasun told representatives of this UN agency of plans to appoint two female members of the Iftaa Council, and said women had served as muftis in earlier times. The news was not widely reported in Syria or abroad.

Hasun repeated the case for female muftis when he met the US scholars, and reportedly said dozens of women were being trained.

A male teacher of Sharia or Islamic law at a Damascus high school, speaking on condition of anonymity, welcomed the decision.

“Women are permitted to be appointed muftis under Sharia,” he said. “In Islamic history there have been a large number of female muftis and jurists.”

He said that female muftis must fulfil the same requirements as men by demonstrating the right level of knowledge of Islam, having a reputation as a pious individual, and receiving official permission to issue fatwas.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Posted in Islam, Qur'an, Syria, women | 2 Comments »

Deus ex machina: pious mobile phones

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on April 30, 2007

Succumbing to the same spring-time phone buying fever that I fell prey to (and victim of a similar yikes-my-phone-no-longer-works incident), a colleague of mine bought a new phone this morning.

H chose the new i-mate, a hugely impressive phone/PDA/wireless handheld that comes with an equally impressive price.


Wow, I thought. I hope that phone comes with some amazing bells and whistles.

To be honest, I was somewhat hoping that the new phone would get up and dance – or at the very least, offer to make tea. What it did instead was equally entertaining.

The first hint should have come from its preferred language. This d*** thing is all in Arabic, H said. We’re in Beirut – why not have English as the default language?

Good point – and one that puzzles me whenever I dial a mobile number only to hear the phone company’s recorded message that the phone is off, or hear “Laddaykum dollarain” – “you have two dollars” (or one, or 24 cents – whatever remains of my pre-paid phone credit).

In Lebanon, where a significant percentage of the population speaks a second and/or third language all the digital mobile phone company messages are in Arabic – and only in Arabic.

In Syria, where a small minority of the population speaks a second and/or third language, all the digital mobile phone company messages are in Arabic and English. What’s more, you as an individual user can choose the language in which you wish to receive messages relating specifically to your account.

Not to mention that calling and sms rates in Syria are a fraction of what they are in Lebanon. Oh, and the internet is better there, too.

Back to H and the new i-mate. A helpful Arabic-speaking IT-inclined soul was pressed into service to change the phone’s language to English.

Well, you can lead a phone to water, but … you can’t make it drink (and certainly not vodka, as I learned).

Fifteen or twenty minutes after the i-mate “learned” English, a sonorous – and loud – rendition of the call to prayer began filling the room.

Yes, indeed. It turns out that the new i-mate is Muslim – and very devout. H’s efforts to stop the adhan were in vain: the i-mate continued with the full adhan before retreating into pious silence.

What is this? H asked. Just because I give my location as Beirut, the phone assumes I’m Muslim?

Ten minutes or so later, we had the answer, as the i-mate came to life once more.

This time, it began reciting from the Qur’an.

What am I going to do with this? H asked.

Mmmmm, I said. Perhaps you could call the shop and ask about exchanging it for the secular version?

Posted in Americans, Arab world, Arabic, Beirut, friends, humor, Islam, Lebanon, media, music, neighbors, Qur'an, religion | 4 Comments »

heartbreak and shattered illusions

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on March 31, 2007

This is a difficult post to write, because it deals with the shattering of a very fondly held illusion of mine.

My neighborhood mosque, the one I love for the sonorous clarity of its muezzin’s voice, uses a … recording.

I had started to suspect this some time ago, but had been unwilling to face my suspicions head on and actually ask one of the groundskeepers.

Two Fridays evenings ago, on my way home from a coffee at Bardo, I heard the call to prayer – my favorite one – broadcasting from my mosque. Oh, how beautiful, I thought.

The call ended, and … suddenly began again – this time coming not from my mosque but from one further south.

I tried telling myself that the muezzin had somehow run from one mosque to the next, or that the second mosque was using a relay system to rebroadcast the call, but … in my heart I knew the truth.

To borrow a metaphor that switches from Islam to Christianity, and from the spiritual to the material register, it was like a child discovering that there is no Santa Claus.

At least the spirit of the call lives on, I told myself sadly, remembering a similar meant-to-be-comforting argument my mother had used about St. Nick as the spirit of Christmas.

Any remaining possibility of retaining my illusions about my mosque and “its” muezzin was destroyed during my shop through the Mall of the Emirates on Tuesday. As I hopped my way into a particularly tight pair of Levi’s,


the Levistore, like the others, turned off its music so shoppers could hear the call to prayer being broadcast over the mall loudspeakers.

It was the same call to prayer: same voice, same intonation, same piercingly beautiful pitch.

I was heartbroken (though still composed enough to notice how well the new jeans fit). Apparently the spirit of Christmas … errr … the adhaan is not only not live, it is also not uniquely Lebanese.

The international character of Islam can be so disilllusioning sometimes.

Posted in Americans, Arab world, Arabic, Beirut, Dubai, Islam, Lebanon, mosque, music, neighbors, Qur'an, religion, travel, tune, words | 1 Comment »

From Beirut to the Burj: Diamond in Dubai

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on March 28, 2007

I have been spending the past few days in Dubai, one of the few Gulf cities I have never visited before. The city is fascinating – and in many ways I think I find it more intriguing coming from Beirut than coming from anywhere else.

Dubai to me is what Beirut could have been – the dynamic hub linking the Middle East to the rest of the world. Certainly it has a number of boondoggle projects, but on the whole … the energy is different here.

And so is the shopping. Yesterday afternoon I took a few hours off to visit the Mall of the Emirates, Dubai’s most famous mall. There are some big diamonds there.

I wasn’t interested in skiing – what I really needed were bath towels, which I found at the Carrefour – a massive, Wal-mart like shop with a full grocery store.

As I walked through Carrefour’s aisles, I began feeling rather … Syrian.

I love Syria, and I love Syrians. However, I also recognize the classic Syrian-in-Lebanon experience: big eyed, open-mouthed wandering through Beirut’s magic streets, marveling at the glamorous people and the incredible array of things to buy.

I’m American – I grew up with malls. However, after a few months in Beirut, coming to Dubai made me equally big eyed and open-mouthed. It wasn’t merely the variety of brands and styles of things available – it was the prices.

In Beirut, everything normal (including bath towels) is unnecessarily expensive – or of lesser quality – than in the US. Although the Mall of the Emirates certainly had fewer sale items than American malls, it did have a very American feel – and very American pricing.

As I shopped my shami way through the mall’s stores, a few Middle Eastern moments did keep me grounded enough to remember that I was in Dubai and not downtown Seattle.

I finally bought the launch copy of Harper’s Bazaar. When the cashier ran it through the scanner, it came up as Harper’s Bizarre. Well, fashion is a little bizarre sometimes – and so is Arabic English.

I also stopped at a pharmacy to pick up another over-the-counter prescription medication. (It may sound like I am quite the sickly one but these two pharmacy visits are total anomalies. Usually I am in embarrassingly good health.)

Would you like the three capsule option or the ten? the pharmacist asked me.

Oh, the three, I replied, thinking: better to get it over with quickly.

We do not have the three capsule option, he told me firmly.

Right, I thought. So why offer it then?

Posted in Americans, Arab world, Beirut, Dubai, economics, fashion, health, Islam, media, Qur'an, tourism, travel, women, words | 1 Comment »

Little Mosque on the Prairie V: praising God

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on February 17, 2007

Episode five of Little Mosque on the Prairie is available on YouTube (and again, with thanks to Asifnana for the prompt uploading.

This episode has a rather painfully funny addition: a white Canadian convert. He exemplifies the by-the-book rigidity that converts to any religion can exhibit, running around shouting Allahu Akbar and criticizing the community’s Muslims for their various lapses in correct practice.

A sub-plot involves Sarah and her daughter Rayyan’s pinkie-swear that Sarah can keep up with the five daily prayers for a month. The rigor of doing so is exaggerated for comic effect, which I find less than funny. I know many people who pray the required 9salat without falling prey to such total exhaustion.

One bit did make me laugh. After Sarah agrees, Rayyan brings her something to help her keep track of the prayer times: a mosque clock! I’ve never seen one that keeps track of the five prayer times, as the television show’s clock is meant to, but it could be possible.


Posted in Arabic, Canada, Canadians, clothing, family, food, Islam, mosque, music, politics, Qur'an, religion, television, time, women, words | 1 Comment »

Little Mosque on the Prairie: Pools & Pirates

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on February 15, 2007

Last Saturday I watched episode four of Little Mosque on the Prairie, which was excellent. It covered two very common daily-life issues for Muslims – one a universal issue for today’s world, and the other more specifically related to life in North America: swimming and Halloween.

Rayyan advises Fatima, who has sprained her leg, that she needs exercise, and suggests the ladies’ fitness classes at the local pool. The class instructor, however, turns out to be a man. There is a long plot line revolving around the solution to this problem, which ends with Fatima dressed in an “Islamically appropriate” swimsuit – which appears to be a modified fireman’s costume.

I used to swim at the state pool in Damascus during its weekly women’s hours. My fellow swimmers came dressed in all kinds of bathing costumes, from bikinis to loose, vaguely wet-suit like costumes that covered them from neck to wrist to ankle.

More recently, the Australian government has launched an all-Muslim lifeguard program, with really slick looking modests swimming costumes for women.

I understand that Little Mosque chose the swimming costume designed to make the biggest visual “splash”, but I wish they had chosen to highlight a less risible, more likely-to-appear-at-a-pool-near-you outfit.

The community’s discussion of Halloween begins with an argument between Fatima and Babur over whether their children should be allowed to participate. I know several Muslims (and know of many born again Christians) who have debated this same issue: is anything centered around devilish revelry truly harmless?

The imam comes to the rescue and suggests an Islamic Halloween: Halaloween, with Arab-world costumes. Not the stereotypical ones of oil barons and their shrouded wives (several years ago an old friend, just returned from a stint in the Emirates, went to a Halloween party dressed as a “chic sheikh”, complete with stylish mobile and watch. none of the American guests got the joke.) – he suggests that the two pre-teens go as a fig and an olive.

Babur is nominated, much against his will, to accompany them. The children’s costumes draw puzzled looks, but his “costume” is a great hit. One child compliments him on his “Osama costume”, while a parent says approvingly: oh, the Taliban – how topical!

Seeing the Halloween issue brought to life in Little Mosque reminded me of my aunt’s post on the difficulties she has faced in explaining the holiday to friends in the Gulf: some things just don’t translate.


(a photo M took last January of a left over Halloween pumpkin slowly returning to the earth from whence it came)

Posted in Canada, Canadians, childhood, holidays, Islam, media, mosque, politics, Qur'an, religion, swimming, television, women | 2 Comments »

God is News.

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on February 8, 2007

Argh. I just saw it again – my most, and least, favorite mis-spelled Arabic word.

As I wrote in Takbir: Praising God,”Allahu Akbar” has several possible translations:

God is great

(which though linguistically incorrect removes the troubling suggestion of comparison between God and other gods)

God is greater

God is greatest

All are acceptable, except when described as “the Muslim war cry”. The point of saying that God is great/er/est is the same as Christians’ saying “Thy Will be done” or “The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away; Blessed be the Lord”: that whatever God wills for us in life, good or ill, it is still our duty as His creatures to praise Him.

What the phrase is not is

Allahu Akhbar.

This phrase does not mean “God is great”, “God is greater”, or even “God is greatest”.

It means:

God is news.

Christians refer to the coming of Christ and the Gospels as the Good News. There is nothing similar in the Muslim tradition.

Spelling akbar with an extra h is poor journalism, poor scholarship, poor fact-checking, and poor editing.

It does, however, make for some funny mental images.

Posted in Americans, Arabic, Islam, media, news, Qur'an, religion, words | Leave a Comment »

strange bedfellows: FOX on “Little Mosque on the Prairie”

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on February 8, 2007

It pains me to admit this, but I have just read an editorial on FOXnews.com that I not only agreed with, but found thoughtful to boot.

Wendy McElroy’s Culture Connection: Your New Muslim Neighbors is a reflective analysis of the impact and significance of two recent “events” in Canada: the laudable broadcasting initiative that is Little Mosque on the Prairie, and the town of Herouxville’s deeply distressing publication of “standards” (the English version of which is available as a pdf from the town’s website).

Both have excited commentary on all sides – as a simple Google search (web or news) will indicate – including much criticism of Little Mosque and some praise for Herouxville.

(The standards are a mixture, and well worth reading for an understanding of the variety and depth of nativist anxieties at play today. They reflect general issues  – “The history of Quebec is taught in our schools.” “In many of our schools no prayer is allowed.” “We wear safety helmets on worksites, when required by law.” They also exhibit an appallingly patronizing view of Muslim (and all non-Christian) immigrants as uncivilized and backwards – “You would see men and women skiing together on the same hill at the same time, don’t be surprised, this is normal for us.” “If our children eat meat for example, they don’t need to know where it came from or who killed it.” and, of course, the most quoted one: “we consider that killing women in public beatings, or burning them alive are not part of our standards of life.”)

Elroy’s take is thoughtful and realistic. No specter of a “Muslim wave” taking over the United States; no hot rhetoric about traditional values. I suspect from her website‘s self-description (“a site for individualist feminism and individualist anarchism”) that I would not agree with all her views; but then again, I imagine that FOX doesn’t either.

I read her essay cautiously, expecting at any moment to be hit by a sarcastic, FOX-like jibe at Islam, Muslims, or immigrants in general. It never came.

Must an observant Muslim woman wear a hijab, a traditional headscarf, in the presence of a cross-dressing gay man? The assimilation of North America’s Muslim population will involve wrestling with some odd questions.

The answers from Muslims and non-Muslims may well be foreshadowed by two recent events in Canada, which represent polar opposite reactions.

The first event was the television debut of “The Little Mosque on the Prairie” in early January. The sitcom from the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. explores questions raised by a clash of culture between Muslims and secular North America.

Despite incendiary possibilities, the humor is “soft” because, as the show’s creator, Zarqa Nawaz, states, “I simply want people to laugh with Muslims like they would laugh with anyone else and feel comfortable doing so.”

In short, the hijab-wearing Nawaz wants to put a human face on “the stranger.”

She does so through depicting a fictional Muslim community in the rural Prairie town of Mercy into which walks the young and assimilated Amaar Rashid, the new imam, or religious leader.

The community is varied and ranges from traditionalists who speak stumbling English to a woman who converted from Anglicanism, presumably when she married her Muslim husband.

The other Mercy residents are equally varied; they include a Muslim-baiting radio host and a benevolent Anglican minister who rents Rashid space in his church. His basement becomes the mosque.

“Little Mosque’s” debut drew 2.1 million viewers, which is unprecedented for a Canadian sitcom. It also drew international media attention from The New York Times to Arab News and the Jerusalem Post.

Clearly, people are eager to understand the Muslim families who are (or may become) their neighbors, the youngsters who are playing with their children and the Muslims who could become in-laws.

Many people also are afraid.

The second event also occurred in January in Herouxville, Quebec, a small town outside Montreal with a population of 1,300. The town’s mayor and councilors passed a “publication of standards” — that is, a declaration of norms to inform would-be immigrants of the behavior required of them.

The prohibitions, most of which clearly target Muslims, are stirring ferocious debate in Canada and have been condemned as anti-immigrant by a diverse spectrum of organizations including the Jewish ‘B’nai Brith Quebec’ and the Muslim Council of Montreal. And, yet, the standards have also drawn international media attention from England to New Zealand. Like the 2.1 million viewers of “Little Mosque,” the international interest speaks to the high level of concern caused by Muslim immigrants.

The prohibitions are a bizarre mix. For example, Herouxville explicitly forbids “new arrivals” from stoning women to death or burning them alive. Since these dubious activities already are quite illegal, their prominent inclusion seems to be both unnecessary and a “perpetuation of negative stereotypes,” as Muslim groups have claimed.

Other prohibitions probably are illegal themselves. For example, one outlaws “the covering of faces other than on Halloween,” an obvious reference to the Muslim face veil.

Canadian Muslim groups have stated their intention to file a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission on the grounds that the “publication of standards” violates Section 27 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Section reads: “This Charter shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians.”

Given that Herouxville’s “publication of standards” admonished “new arrivals” not to re-create “the way of life which they abandoned when they left their countries,” the challenge is likely to succeed.

I hope so. It seems driven by fear.

Both the fear and the curiosity will grow as Muslims move into neighborhoods. But the best way to create a good neighbor remains the same: Be a good neighbor yourself, not a person who dictates what others may wear.

The odds of Muslims moving into a Canadian neighborhood are high.

The country’s population is slightly less than 33 million; an estimated 600,000 to 650,000 are Muslim.

America’s population is approximately 300 million but the number of Muslims included is a matter of considerable debate. Estimates reach from a low of 1.1 million (2001) to a high of 7 million (2002), with the American Society of Muslims estimating 2 to 3 (2006). As the Muslim population increases (as it seems to be doing), many of the same dynamics playing out in Canada will occur Stateside.

It would be preferable if the dynamics were non-violent and aimed at understanding; it would be best if curiosity won over fear.

“Little Mosque” moves in the right direction by using one of the few things that can defuse cultural differences: humor.

It is hilarious. My favorite scene so far: Local feminists picket the mosque because it is considering a barricade behind which women would pray. A black woman is a loud advocate for the segregation and quarrels furiously with the Anglican convert (a white woman).

The white Muslim says she agrees with the pickets. But she adds that, as a white woman “of privilege,” she doesn’t feel able to tell a black woman how to worship.

The feminist looks aghast and blurts out in horror, “I didn’t mean to offend anyone” before fleeing the scene.

How is the barricade resolved? In much the same manner I suspect the “Muslim immigrant” problem will be.

Rashid erects a barricade across only half of the mosque so that women can choose to be segregated or not. The men are not satisfied; each faction of women grumble. But everyone can live with it.


Posted in Americans, Canada, Canadians, clothing, home, Islam, media, neighbors, news, politics, Qur'an, religion, television, women, words | Leave a Comment »

Takbir: praising God.

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on February 4, 2007

One of my favorite Beirut signs is a small two-way neon light box perched atop the guard stand for an underground parking lot near Hamra. Deep pink letters on a plain white background spell out “takbir”. I love this sign: quietly pious, the expression of some unnamed donor’s devotion.

Takbir means “Praise God”, to which believers respond by saying “Allahu akbar” (which, despite NPR’s obstinate resistance to linguistic accuracy, is not the “Muslim war cry”.). Praising God is the purpose of the five daily prayers – not because He needs praise, but because praise is due Him from His creation. (Other types of prayers exist, but the five daily prayers are about God, not about human life and the requests for help that it engenders.)

To me the phrase itself is interesting – “God is the greatest” (not great, as it is often mistranslated).

The superlative (which in Arabic is grammatically the same as the comparative, so it could be equally well translated “God is greater”)
implies comparison. But for a monotheistic religion, God is beyond comparison; there are no others.

The expression reminds me of the first commandment: Thou shalt have no other gods before [also translated “besides”] me. To me both reflect the ambiguity of a monotheistic religion in a multi-religious world. The presence of other humans worshipping other gods introduces comparison. God may be sui generis in absolute terms, but on this earth His grandeur is expressed comparatively.

Such are the things I contemplate in my free time.

This morning’s gym reading brought a (relevant) smile to my face. Conde Nast Traveler‘s November 2006 issue included a “word of mouth” feature on the least and most expensive time-oriented keepsakes from Dubai:


The top-of-the-line suggested buy is a limited edition Tiret watch whose face reproduces the layout of Dubai’s “The World” luxury created-island living project.  As limited edition watches that reproduce well-known vanity housing projects go, its quite lovely.

The low-end keepsake is one that … I own! As do many people in my family – Intlxpatr gave them out as stocking stuffers one year, shortly after she and the khalo had moved to Doha. (They come in white and green, and sometimes blue – not only pink.) Seeing the mosque clock in a US travel magazine was a total hoot. I love my mosque clocks – to me they express a lovely synthesis between religious practice and daily life.

What I do not like about my clock, though, is the harsh azzan. Conde Nast says that these clocks come from Malaysia, but I believe mine was imported from Pakistan by a Saudi holding company.

Regardless, the call to prayer (which sadly is the standard and not the early morning “al-9salat khayri min al-nawm”) is nothing like the melodious Levantine calls that I love. Flat, nasal, un-decorated – a far cry from the rich timbre and deep passion of “my” neighborhood muezzin. I love the clock, but I never use the alarm.

On the other hand, perhaps the Gulf state style call to prayer does prevent muezzins from focusing more on the musicality of the azzan than its devotion.

I have begun to wonder whether “my” muezzin isn’t a bit of a prima donna; he usually waits until the calls from all the other area mosques are almost completed before starting his own.

I love hearing his voice call into the silence, but … much like believers are enjoined to stand as closely as possible next to one another in the mosque, my understanding is that the collective call to prayer reaffirms the community aspect of Muslim prayers.  After all, everyone is equal before God – even those with the most glorious voices.

Posted in advertising, Arabic, art, Beirut, family, Islam, Lebanon, media, mosque, photography, Qatar, Qur'an, religion, time, tourism, travel, women, words | 5 Comments »