INDONESIA – CALLS TO PRAYER

by Abellio

Beijing, 24 February 2014

I left us in the last post sitting on the hotel terrace sipping our welcoming drink. We were sitting there again as night drew in. And as night drew in, we began to hear a strange medley of sounds rising from the surrounding villages. It was the calls to evening prayer. The loudspeakers of every village mosque blared out the call – and there seemed to be a lot of mosques in the area …
local mosques 002

local mosques 001

I said it was a strange medley; actually, it was a disagreeable cacophony. Each muezzin started at a slightly different moment, and each chanted a different tune. The result grated on the ears. It was rather like the noise coming from an orchestra when the players are warming up and tuning their instruments before they start. A million miles from a magical moment which my wife and I once shared in Istanbul, in Sultan Ahmet square in front of the Blue Mosque. We were sitting down having a rest when the mosque’s muezzin suddenly started up. He chanted a line or two and paused. And behind us, faintly, we heard the muezzin of Süleymaniye Mosque respond with his couple of lines. To which the muezzin of the Blue Mosque in turn responded. And so they duetted back and forth for fully five minutes while we sat there holding our breath.

Back on the hotel terrace, my wife and I listened until the chanting died away, and then we turned in. After our adventures in getting here, we were glad to go to bed early. We slept like logs – until dawn, when we were awakened by the dawn call to prayer. As I have done so many times in darkened hotel rooms, from Morocco in the far west of the Muslim lands, to Java now in the far east, and at many points in between, I lay there letting the song flow over me:

God is great, God is great.
I bear witness that there is no god but God.
I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God.
Hasten to prayer.
Hasten to success.
Prayer is better than sleep.
God is great, God is great.
There is no god but God.

And as I always do before drifting back to sleep, I thought to myself what a pity it was that there is no God out there to receive their, or anyone else’s, prayers.

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