Here I am, in the masjid at Sultan Qaboos University on a Thursday, at 1:00 in the afternoon, wanting to share how I spent the last couple hours, as a way to elucidate how an Islamic society is meant to offer a balance between the world of society and the needs of our spirits, minds, and bodies.
I made my way to this masjid from my office at around noon. I had been in the office from about 9:00, but had also done a good spell of reading and writing at home earlier that morning for a couple of hours, so by the time 11:30 came along there came that sort of slight and impending foggy ache in my head, the one which makes its’ way towards me on account of a few factors; like being sustained in a stationary position for a while, concentrating on tasks related to teaching, with the impeding hunger that makes its’ way as a result. A few chatty and professional interactions with colleagues opened up my senses and offered a pleasant break from the desk work.
By 11:30 I packed my things and headed out, not having a particular destination, but knowing that an intent to walk, in the pleasant weather and with a bit of meditative breathing added in, would be the perfect cure for the slight fog and ache in my head. I was headed toward the direction of home: should I go straight home and have some lunch, or stop by the botanical garden for a short meditation session first? (I know, how much of a decisional ordeal for a first worlder like me) Instead I made my way to the masjid and decided to pray, given that the call to prayer had just commenced as I approached the masjid. I washed myself and entered the masjid. Only a couple of people were there. The call to prayer happens around noon but the congregational prayer doesn’t start until 12:45. It was just passed noon when I prayed on my own in this quiet and serene space. I finished with plenty of time to go before the congregational prayer and more of those simple yet curiously agonizing life choices appeared: do I stay a while and join the congregation, or head home now that I’ve gotten the benefits of praying and spending some time in this sacred space of refuge? I decided to stay, attempting to follow the path of my breath as a way to further clear my mind and gain inner peace. As people started to trickle into the masjid I thought how wonderful it is that others have the same needs as me. The morning’s work may have also tired them out, or maybe they had acted in poor taste to a colleague, or perhaps they had an acute sense of how petty we can get in our daily strivings. The race to get ahead can appear to us at moments to be quite silly, and compromising of our ideal ethical ways to behave. Add onto this man’s general existential anguish and anxiety, and it only becomes clearer why the age old wisdom of a religion like Islam is viewed as a prized jewel among its’ adherents.
I got the chance this afternoon to gain peace of mind, spiritual nourishment, social bonding centered on goodwill and joy. And can you imagine: Muslims are given an opportunity to do this five times a day, on their own or in congregation.
I’m thankful to be living in a society that takes its’ religion so seriously. A society that gives plentiful refuge from the mad rush of the world to accumulate more wealth and junk; a world that too often rewards those who get ahead at the expense of better decency.