God is Great.

I bear witness that there is no God except the one God.

I bear witness that Muhammad is God’s messenger.

Come to prayer.

God is Great.

There is no God except the one God.

The Call to Prayer. Five times a day this call rings out from the minarets of  mosques all over Istanbul and five times a day I am reminded to pause, take a breath and just be.  This beautiful ritual is the thing about this city that I have come to grow the fondest of. Every time I hear it my hear it my heart fills and I am reminded of how blessed I am to be here, how blessed I am to have this experience, and how blessed I am to take a minute to relish in the beauty of devotion.

In the Islamic faith, the call to prayer calls muslims to the mosque for prayer. Each call to prayer is unique to the mosque it comes from and to the muezzin who sings it. From where I stay in Beşiktas, I can hear the calls of three different mosques. It seemed strange to me at first, but during my time here, I have come to love it. It has become a beautiful symbol, to me, of faith and devotion.

I know very little, practically nothing, of the Islamic faith but from what I do understand, the various calls offer up a comprehensible summary of the Islamic beliefs. The calls ring out close to the same times every day: first one around dawn, second one midday, third one around the middle of the afternoon, fourth one just after sunset and the last one at nightfall. Here in Istanbul, at this time of the year, that breaks down to: 4:30am, 11am, 5pm, 8pm, and 11:30pm (these are approximate times).

If you happen to be near a mosque at the time of the call, you can see devotees taking their shoes off, washing their feet and hands and entering the mosque for prayer. The men enter through one door and the women enter through another and from what I can tell they pray separately as well.

The call to prayer recites the first chapter – or sura – of the Qur’an, which is the oath that one has to recite in order to become a muslim (the first pillar). The other four pillars of Islam include Ramadan (a month of fasting from sunup to sundown), Zakat (charitable acts), 5 prayers a day, and a pilgrimage to Mecca. I was talking to a friend of mine who is an Islamic Studies major and it was interesting to hear her take on the Islamic faith because it bore distinct similarities to my own belief. According to her, the most important thing is your own personal relationship with God.  I am not a religious person at all. But I understand this because of my own relationship with some force that is greater than I. I just choose to not define my beliefs with a name.

It has been a truly enlightening experience being here. Coming from where I live, where I am surrounded by strong opinions about the Islamic faith, I can’t say that those ideas haven’t become my own thoughts to some extent. Being here has been an opportunity to open my eyes in a way that they may never have been opened.

My love for this city, and especially my love for the call, are things that I will always carry with me and are experiences that I will always be grateful for. Istanbul has opened my eyes, my mind and my heart.

Peace and Love.

http://www.islamcan.com/audio/adhan/index.shtml – Go to this link if you want to hear what I am talking about. Although, it won’t be the same as hearing it ring across the city, it will still be beautiful.


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