For the first time in the West, the last few weeks I felt extremely overwhelmed by how inconvenient the way of life here is to the practice of Islam, especially prayer. No water in the toilets. No public call to prayer. There are so many easy excuses not to pray. The lack of regular azaan was the most disturbing aspect to me. Why, I wondered, would any practicing Muslim wish to live in an environment where the words "Rush to prayer" cause offense or disturbance? Where Islam is considered an inconvenience to life, rather than this way of life a hindrance to Islam? What kind of a society was this, that framed Muslims into being recognized one-dimensionally by only one identity, that of being Muslim? What kind of free country requires people to practice their religion (their way of life) within boundaries created to ‘contain’ it?
Not having the azaan remind me to pray at the right times, missed prayers became a burden, and kept piling up. Time seemed to stagnate. Being in a new environment, it became impossible to tell the time without looking at a watch. The prayer call would certainly serve not only as a reminder to pray, but also as a reminder of the passage of time, and a reminder that the Almighty exists, no matter how many vices one is surrounded by, or how desperate times seem to have become. Any prolonged sound sounded like an azaan, and still does. Listening to the sound of live azaan during a friend’s phone call from home was my sole respite.
Yesterday was the first day of class. I went to the studio for the very first time, and in looking around cursorily, the edge of a prayer mat, sticking out from underneath a model, caught my eye. It was easily recognizable, the velvety texture, the tassels… so used to seeing prayer mats anywhere, I did not give it a second thought. Until prayer time. When I took a break from my group discussion to pray, I realized that it was the image of the prayer mat in my subconscious memory that made me get up.
Here was a reminder to pray. Here was myazaan.
Blessed be the one who left that prayer mat lying around. For not only will they be rewarded for praying themselves, but also for having led a fellow Muslim to remember the Almighty.