One of my favorite and most moving Moroccan moments took place on the rooftop of the Hotel Dahlia shortly after our arrival. Amidst the confusion of room allocations, a few of us escaped to the roof with a glass of tea in hand. We waited eagerly, marveling at the sight of the dramatic mountains and white rooftops as the sun slowly slipped away, for our first taste of the ritual call to prayer. After witnessing one of the most gorgeous sunsets ever, the call came, broadcasted live from loudspeakers on the hundreds of minarets that surrounded us. The call to prayer is an essential part of the day in predominately Muslim countries; it takes one out of the events of everyday life and reminds one to take a moment for reflection and prayer. It is a beautiful, haunting sound.
Sunni and Shi’a Muslims debate over the origins and the wording of the call to prayer. Shi’a believe that it was instituted by the prophet Mohammed himself, while Sunnis believe that the words came to one of Mohammed’s followers in a dream. In any case the message of the call is the same; the words, known as adhan, remind the listener that God is the one and only God. Observers are supposed to mouth the words of the adhan as the muezzin recites it. It was fascinating to observe the differing reactions of people on the street during the times that the call was broadcasted. Some stopped what they were doing immediately and prayer mats appeared out of nowhere, while others continued on their daily lives without spiritual disruption.
The call to prayer brings religion into the public consciousness in Muslim countries. This reminder of the shared faith of the state and Muslim community facilitates the feeling of unity of the people who observe Islam despite the individuality of the daily prayer. This sense of the collective spirit of all people participating in the tradition serves to solidify solidarity within the community.
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