The Call To Prayer wakes me up from my trance-like slumber. I enter the Masjid, and it seems that I’ve entered another world; a refuge, a safe and comforting place. I was a fish out of water, now I’m back in the ocean.
There are no more distractions and excuses, I leave my phone at home. For the phone call I’m about to make here is on another level.
I hear no talk of politics or of general gossip from the animalistic world of human nature. Instead, I hear the gentle whisperings of prayer and supplication – from people standing, sitting, and lying down. I begin a short prayer, to mark my entering and send salutations to the angels residing within.
Strands of light beam through the windows and gloriously shimmer on the carpets and walls; yet the place is spared from the oppressive saturation of artificial light or complete exposure to the sun. There is a graceful interplay of light-ray and shadow; as if I was couched in a sunlit wooded glade. The arch-ways still; remind me of those bowing and prostrating trees.
There are many people in here, but it appears so silent and so calming. This is not something I experienced before. The Imam enters, dressed in a dazzling white robe. An elderly but strongly dignified man with presence; his beard is short and white and his face and body language full of grace. He begins to lead the congregation, and we line-up and pray.
After the prayer the Imam makes vocal supplications in front of the congregation and we also each pray individually in our own chosen part of the mosque. Most of the people then depart – the women gathered at the back leave out of one door, and the men another. Yet, a few remain and sit in silent meditation with their rosary beads or with a book in their hands reading. As I sit here among the die-hards, I feel like I don’t want to leave. Yet, so many of us rush away so quickly after the obligatory prayers…….The Imam then opens a book and begins to read for the few who remain.
He reads the following passage from the Risale-i Nur:-
“One grain of truth wipes out a million lies. One grain of reality razes a castle of dreams. Honesty is a grand principle, a lustrous jewel.
If for the truth to be uttered it is damaging, it resigns its place to silence; lies have no place, even if they have some use.
Everything you say should be true, all your pronouncements right, but you have no right to say all that is true.
One should be well aware of this, and take as one’s principle: ‘Take what is clear and untroubled, leave what is turbid and distressing.’
See the good side of things; you will have good thoughts. Know things to be good and think of them as good; you will find the pleasure in life.
In life, hope and thinking favourably of things are life itself. While to think the worst is despair, the destroyer of happiness and slayer of life.”
– The Gleams.
This mosque, this masjid of my dream – it is not a place where voices are raised and passioned flared. The world is left at its door. This is a place of sobrierty, and sober reflection. Sober does not mean solemn, but it means that the state of joy in the heart is private and quiescent. It is not the place of singing and dancing, for that would disturb the silent orchestra that already reverberates around these walls and echoes in the stilled heart.
I feel….safe here. Is this just a building, does the beauty of its internal decorations solely give it such a power? Indeed, not. They are a beautiful part of the experience but what gives this masjid it’s power is the constant worship that is done inside it each day. Angels join each act of praise and their presence accumulates. The heart can feel their presence if it listens carefully enough.
In my dream, I attended Friday Prayers here – and each time the only concern of the Imam was whether we were maintaining our love for what is Higher or if we had slipped into loving a rival. In addition, every evening the Imam guided the community to enter the mosque and bring things that they wished to give away for free. Everybody was encouraged to bring something; some brought things that they made and others; things that they bought but no longer wished to own. At this time, the refuge of the mosque became even stronger. From the competitive slave-market of the world there was now a physical gift-economy in this place as well as an already existing spiritual gift-economy.
What civilization can truly survive, if it does not make beauty, unity, and community its goal? To worship is constant striving against the “self” which desires the material world and its constant jostling. This material world and its ideology either brings great suffering or great gluttony and laziness. If enough time was spent in the mosque; then inevitably mankind would be forced down the path of frugality. Complacency and laziness would be impossible because a constant balance would be sought between doing enough work to physically survive and doing enough prayer and supplication to spiritually survive. For the latter of course, there is never really enough. The more, the better – and the ego constantly fights it. We want to compete and to feel power; but yet we too often forget the One who enables us to achieve a single minor act.
This masjid may have been a dream, but like all myths it has a reality and a truth and somewhere it may even perhaps exist. Or perhaps not….
By Hossein Turner