Allah u Akbar! It’s four thirty in the morning and these words start the five minute chant that resonates around the locality as the first Muslim call to prayer of the day. In Qatar the call to prayer can be heard five times a day from every Mosque in Doha. It is Muslim law that there is a Mosque within walking distance of every Muslim man, this law was honored with gusto, they obviously didn’t take into consideration that there’d be an Irish woman in the vicinity also, who would prefer to sleep. The first call to prayer can be heard booming loudly from the mosque loudspeakers at dawn, 4.30a.m. The following four calls are at 9.00 a.m. Noon, 2.30 p.m. and 5.30p.m., just before sundown.
The general philosophy behind the Odran the name of the call to prayer is that if you say these prayers every day at these times, then you are a good Muslim. The only requirement is that you repeat the chant word for word without making any mistake and hey presto, you’re in! Having a good mind for learning and remembering litanies, I still remember “Is Mise Raifteirí an file” word for word so this clean cut religion is something that could be worth taking up, when I have more time. Allah promises you a good life on earth and after. A lot cleaner cut than Christianity, every day having to make the right decisions on a wide range of different situations which life throws at you. The recital and guaranteed absolution is definitely my kind of religion and guaranteed absolution definitely appealed to me.
In Ireland the only experience I had with a “call to prayer” is when I was fifteen and my parents forced me to mass on Sunday because Orla Flaherty and Liz O’Brien were going, and unlike me, they didn’t have to be made go. I started to wonder what a call to prayer would sound like in Ireland, from the local Catholic Church and my mind conjured up an image of Fr. Liam calling out over the town tannoy, “Holy, Holy, Holy, God, God of Power and might…..” at half four in the morning what the effect would be. Would hundreds make their way to the church to join in prayer, only to find the door locked because otherwise it would be frequented by homeless, drunken stragglers or vandals. Would a few devout drop to their knees on the floor where they stood and join in the prayers? Would Fr. Liam be taken away as people tutted in the background, “he went stone mad in the end” or would we carry on regardless, happy in the knowledge that our God is a forgiving one and that he doesn’t mind if you don’t stick to the rules to rigidly and he understands if you haven’t always got the time for mass on Sunday. Does anyone else think our God is a little bit too good to be true?, because I’m beginning to. Maybe living in the Middle East and being exposed to such devotion day and night does leave one feeling like a phoney follower . I’ve started having visions of strutting up to the pearly gates, wearing a string top and mini skirt only to be greeted by some uptight PA, who delivers the news, “you were tried and you failed, you didn’t go to mass, you only prayed when you wanted something and you ate every apple that crossed your path”, meanwhile my Muslim counterparts would fling off their Abaya’s and revealing grass skirts and rosettes of flowers, do the conga through the gates.
Being more superstitious than religious, I’ve started to honor our God in small ways to alleviate my guilt and that maybe when God is looking down on my poor soul he’ll recognise my efforts and secure my place above. I’ve begun by sticking a plastic Jesus on the dashboard of my car and hanging a crucifix with a built-in thermometer up in the kitchen. These are where I spend most of my waking hours, so must be there too God f he’s with me all the time. Mind you, I wish he’d pick up the tea-towel an odd time.