The Call to Prayer

Any traveler will tell you that every place has a distinct essence to it, part smell, part sound, part people---it all wraps up into a ball of experience and existence unlike any other location.  Years after you've left a place, a particular sight or scent will immediately transport you back to the previous time and place.  Although its heard all over the world, The Call to Prayer will always bring me back to Bangladesh.

Muslims, as you may know, pray five times a day.  They are alerted to the times of prayer by a call being sung out from the mosque.  This was the original purpose of minarets. A man would climb to the top of the Minaret and alert the faithful that it was time to pray.  Today speakers and microphones are used and walking to the top of the tower is no longer required.

There must  be a mosque just around the corner from our apartment, although I’m not sure I’ve ever actually seen it.  There was a neighborhood mosque just around the corner from our apartment in Dhaka. While I was rarely ever up at the first call to prayer, I doubt a day went by when I didn't hear at least one of the calls, more often than not, the last three.

If there is one thing that I loved most about living in Bangladesh---besides the experience or the adventure, or trying new things, but one tangible thing that I can point to, it would probably be the call to prayer.  I love hearing it---broadcasting out from the speakers, the static and what I imagine to be rudimentary wiring making the noise crackle and sound distant-like an antique radio.

I’m not sure I can fully describe the sound, or the feeling that accompanies it.  It’s one of those things you just have to experience, that defies words.  The closest comparison I can think of is Gregorian Chant---it is undeniably mystic, there is an inner peace to the foreign words so that even without fully understanding their meaning, the spirit is clear. The voice carries over the neighborhood rooftops, hauntingly melodic, intoning a request.

For me, its a reminder to be zen, to pause and be in the moment, to listen, and to be grateful.