Epiphanies

This Is the Best World Ever!

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The elevating focus of prayer

By Brian Doyle


 

A Muslim friend of mine explains his daily prayers. He was born in Lucknow, the city of perfume and pottery, he says with a smile, and he remembers learning his prayers at his grandfather’s knee. Fajr, first prayer, dawn prayer, at sunrise. The opening prayer. You open yourself to the day, to what will be given to you. Second prayer: zuhr, just after the meridian. The prayer by which you steer the day. Third: asr, anywhere between three and five or so. Remember what is important. Then maghrib, just after sunset. We are grateful for the gift of the day. Finally isha, just before bedtime. No, prayer rugs are not required, nor do you need to be in the mosque, although it’s moving to pray communally. Yes, you are reciting from the Koran, although at the end of each you can add your own private prayers. You take your shoes off, for cleanliness outside and in; think where your shoes have been! All told the five prayers are less than an hour every day; certainly you can spare an hour every day for reverence and contemplation, yes? If you miss them in order you pray qadha—you make them up later, as it were. If you oversleep or are very ill, sure you can miss the prayers. But you try to make the effort every day. It’s calming and elevating at once. Ritual is not a prison but a focus, a concentration, a discipline, yes? And much as in your faith, in mine you have prayed by desiring to do so with a genuine heart. If you are very ill or paralyzed or broken somehow, you pray in your heart. The prayers are inside you. I have known people who lost all memories of their loved ones but still they knew their prayers. Everyone prays in their own way, even people who are not religious. Prayers are much bigger than religions, yes? But religious prayers offer focus that I find elevating and calming. Would you like to hear a funny thing? There’s an app you can get for your phone called Muslim Pro that calls you to prayer five times a day. I think that is hilarious. Your phone calls you and tells you to turn it off and go pray! This is the best world ever!

 


Epiphanies will be on holiday next week. Brian Doyle’s posts will resume in January.

Brian Doyle is the editor of Portland magazine at the University of Portland, and the author most recently of the novel The Plover. He writes the weekly Epiphanies column at theamericanscholar.org.

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