Our classroom is hot. It’s hard to focus. We’ve begun to notice the increasing temperatures outside that hint at the impending heat of summer. Our professor, Ustaadha Latifa, senses our drifting thoughts and makes her way across the whitewashed room and to the window. Her black abaya sways with each step, creating the illusion of floating, which, when paired with her petite frame, is easy to believe. She unlocks the window and allows fresh air into the room. As the breeze flows in, it brings with it the distant sound of the call for prayer, a welcome melody that has been too far from my hearing for too long. I close my eyes for a brief moment and simply listen. I feel the air involuntarily leave my lungs in a satisfied exhale, the kind that only happens in moments of deep contentment. This moment, hearing the call for prayer for the first time since I moved to Ibri, reminds me of our group’s week of prayer back in Muscat…
The sound of devoted believers raises me to consciousness. I don’t have to open my eyes to know it’s 5:30 am and dark outside. I am informed of these facts simply by listening to both my internal clock and the calls for prayer echoing throughout the city. What would it be like to be one of the devoted who wake up every day before 5:30 and make their way to the mosque; those who turn towards Mecca again at mid-morning, noon, mid-day, and sunset?
A couple of weeks ago our group decided to partake in this tradition for a week. We got up early for prayer and continued to pray throughout the day, meeting each time in a chapel across the street. It was fascinating to see how individuals, and collectively the group, responded to this practice.
The first thing I remember noticing was the discipline it took to pray 3-5 times a day. It’s not easy to roll out of bed so early, much less trek down the street to go sit in prayer. As the week progressed, I found myself going through the day with increased mindfulness, a greater awareness of myself, my community, and the divine. There was always some part of my mind that was thinking about these connections, and the moment those reflections left my mind it happened to be time for another prayer.
Towards the end of the week, this awareness slipped into the meaningless motions towards which we are so prone. Practicing this type of prayer forces a certain amount of structure, which, early in the week, provided comfort and stability to my day; but as the week went on, the structure lent itself to laziness. I began to check the boxes, do the motions. This tendency is never completely absent from our lives, but it was interesting to me how quickly the others and myself fell into this pattern.
Upon reflection, these hardly feel like discoveries. They are exactly what I would expect to happen. It makes sense that doing something multiple times a day throughout a week would keep it in your mind. Along the same lines, it is natural that when we followed the same pattern long enough we fell into a routine. The structure lost its novelty and became just another part of our day. It’s important to acknowledge that this reflection is based on a single week of trying something deeply ingrained in both a culture and its people, so I cannot speak for anyone else’s experiences with this practice other than my own. But, it is also important to recognize that we all do this. We all fall into a routine. It’s human.
If we accept this, the questions change. We begin asking questions like: How do we stay engaged in the important stuff? How do we continue to progress, challenge, explore, and find joy in the structure of life? Why do I choose this structure? What is its redeeming value? Social value? Philosophical value? What about a structure-less life? Where do we need structure? Where do we need change? Ultimately, why do you do what you do?
Heavenly Father, allow us to find stability in structure, excitement in change, and joy in the depth of the life we lead. And if we find we are no longer engaged in the structure of life, may we find the courage to go out and pursue that which makes our eyes light up and honors you. Amen.
Anna is a student majoring in Philosophy and Strategic Communications. In 2019, she studied abroad in Oman. CMEP is very thankful for the writers who contribute Spiritual Resources. However, CMEP does not necessarily agree with all the positions of our writers, and they do not speak on CMEP’s behalf.