** Have you listened to Episode 3, yet? Download on iTunes or listen here **
In our last episode “Ignorant Americans, Blood Money and Grossed Out By Glee?”, we touched on the topic of negotiating our respective faiths in the context of modernity. When I was listening to the episode this morning, I realized that Mike had asked me to cite specific examples of how I address my faith within the context of modernity. I also realized that I didn’t answer the question. Good thing we have a blog.
I don’t think that Islam, or for that matter most religions, are in opposition with modernity. In fact, there are loads of academic and emotional arguments (that I won’t make here for the sake of brevity) that Islam, among others, is malleable and adjustable to modernity. The very fact they endure is perhaps proof of that.
I also will not discuss the hijab (head covering of women) here in order to make a point about Islam and modernity, because my feelings on the subject are far too complicated to expound upon in this blog post, and, frankly, I don’t feel like being that trite right now.
I think the simplest example of how American Muslims balance faith and modernity is prayer.
Muslims have to pray five times a day. Have to. As in basic obligation.
While a Muslim can pray any time and anywhere they like as outlined in Islam (except in a cemetery or a bathroom), there are five times when we must pray: dawn (Fajr), midmorning (Zuhr), afternoon (Asr), evening (Maghrib) and night (Ishaa). The way that an average Muslim, in say, Pakistan would know that it’s time to pray is the Adhaan, or call to prayer.
Five times a day in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia or any other “Muslim” country, an imam who may have once climbed a minaret, now sings into an amplifier of some sort (hello, modernity!) and calls to Muslims in Arabic:
God is Greater
I bear witness that there is no god but the One God
I bear witness that Muhammad is God’s Messenger
Come to prayer
Come to success
Prayer is better than sleep (only said in the dawn prayer)
There is no God except the One God
Suffice to say, here in central Florida, the calls from the masjid over ten miles away do not reach my house. So, how do I know when it’s time to pray?
A smartphone app.
I downloaded Yusuf Islam singing the Adhaan because, frankly, the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens may very well soften the potential panic attack that someone who has been watching way too much CNN may have as a result of hearing “Allahu Akbar” coming from a brown woman’s purse in the middle of the mall.
While it may seem like the concept of modernity plays into my choice to use a smartphone app, that’s not really where I was going with that.
Modernity and my faith are being negotiated in this instance in a far more granular way.
My app has a setting that allows the prayer notification to be set to a “beep.” Specifically, three beeps.
I have conscientiously chosen to disable the beeps at the prayer times that I am most likely to skip. For me, that’s Zuhr and Asr, the ones that come right in the middle of the day. That’s when I get busy, go grocery shopping or to the park, get tired, or am just not feeling up to all that bowing and kneeling.
That’s when I need to hear someone remind me that it’s time to step away from life and remember God the most.
Every day somewhere around 1:30 and 5:00, I need to hear someone sing to me that God is greater than whatever it is I’m doing right then, so that I am moved to remember him in the way in which I was commanded. I believe that the command to call people to pray in this manner has spiritual power, and so I avail myself of the technology available to me and I make it happen.
There are all kinds of ways that I have allowed and conscientiously accepted the conditions of modernity or being modern. I know that my religion predates many of the daily situations I take for granted. Still, I don’t view trying to fit Islam and the modern world together as a struggle, but more of trying to make the pieces of an elaborate jigsaw puzzle fit together neatly. Some people enjoy putting puzzles together, others get frustrated with them.
I obviously fit into the former category of individuals.
If you’re curious as to what the Adhaan sounds like on my smartphone, here you go: