On a recent Friday here in Peshawar I joined a friend for the regular Jumma Prayers at a local mosque. It happened to be Eid Meelad al-Nabi, the Day of the Birth of the Holy Prophet, a public holiday – Jan. 25 this year in Pakistan.
This particular mosque is a small neighborhood mosque, or masjid, not a large, fancy or prestigious place of worship. Inside it can accommodate only about 30 people in its several connected chambers, so for Friday prayers most of the men assemble along lines of mats laid in the street.
There were probably about 125 of us altogether, folks having come from their places of work. We shed our footwear at the mats and stepped onto them barefoot or with stocking feet. As the prayers proceeded over the outside speaker system from inside the mosque we went through the customary prostrations and positions of prayer and attentiveness.
Despite the solemnity of the day, there was no sermon at this mosque on this day, though later I could hear sermons emanating from various other mosques. So this occasion of Jumma Prayers lasted 15 or 20 minutes at most, though some men continued praying on their own inside the mosque. As a Christian I found the exercise edifying.
Beyond the weekly Jumma Prayers, Muslims habituate prayer in a way that can be a model for other religious people. I think of this often when listening to the calls to prayer from nearby mosques first thing in the morning and at the other four times during day and night,
Christian monastic communities use or adapt the traditional monastic offices, of course, but the practice is limited to such communities. Anglicans and especially Episcopalians have adapted the offices in current prayerbooks. The USAmerican BCP not only provides full offices for Morning, Noonday, Early Evening, Evening and Compline, but also provides one-page Devotions for Individuals and Families for morning, noonday, evening and the close of day. For years Morehouse has included these devotions in its annual Christian Pocket Diary that fits easily into a shirt or jacket pocket. Any of these forms of prayer can be downloaded to a PDA or smartphone.
Using the resources and developing the habit is another matter, though, and here we have much to learn from our Muslim brothers and sisters.
Here is an excerpt from Sura 62 of the Quran, titled “The Day of Congregation” in the translation by M. A. S. Abdel Haleem (Oxford 2004):
“Believers! When the call to prayer is made on the day of congregation, hurry towards the reminder of God and leave off your trading – that is better for you, if only you knew – then when the prayer has ended, disperse in the land and seek out God’s bounty. Remember God often so that you may prosper.”
Remember God often also simply because God is God.