23 August 2009


A lady spoke up in church today and reminded our little congregation that Ramadan is here and that we should be sensitive to their month of fasting. And that got me thinking to the parts of my life where I lived with my Muslim neighbors.

The first time I heard a call to prayer after sundown (which broke the day of fasting) was in a little town called Garkida in the northeast of Nigeria. I went there to stay in an old missionary house for a weekend with a few of my colleagues. (What I'm really trying to say was the house had a waterbed and everyone wanted a chance to sleep on it) We had gotten to the house in the early evening and fixed a quick dinner so everyone (2 Swiss and me) could hang out and rest. After everyone had rested we headed down the hill to the main road that ran parallel to the Hawul River (did I mention it's really humid in Garkida due to the fact that the town is plopped down next to this huge river) So imagine 3 sunburned people walking down this long main road with shacks, and roadside stands frying up dough and meat and potatoes and yams and beans, and stray dogs, and chickens, and old men sitting on worn out logs, and well you get the idea I guess. And then we heard it.
Tap tap tap like someone checking a microphone to see if it's on.
Tap tap tap. And then a man's voice comes on the system.
And he sings in the most upbeat voice, "Allah akbar!" (Which in my translation means God's the best!!! God really is the best!!!!) And the Imam's voice isn't the normal flatlined voice that everyone always hears. This voice is completely transformed! This guy is happy to be singing the call to prayer! And you know what, everyone in the streets was in total agreement. The Imam sang the call to prayer over and over and just got more excited to be singing it! This call to prayer was a rejoiceful one. It was clear why he was so elated. The fast of the day was done, and after prayers were finished everyone was going home for a huge feast. It's pretty amazing that one man's voice can change the mood of a public space in such a short amount of time.
In my life I don't use Allah in my everyday conversations. But when I see or sing or read the word Hallelujah or Alleluia I know I'm connected to my neighbors in a deep sense of understanding!

Allah Akbar!

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