Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Friday, July 29, 2005

Every day, five times a day, comes the cry of the muezzin from the mineret tower, calling the faithful to prayer. And in that cry is the often repeated affirmation of Islam:

"There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is His prophet."
"There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is His prophet."
"There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is His prophet."

Over and over it is repeated. But times have changed. The muezzin doesn't climb to the minaret anymore. His voice is heard over the loudspeaker. I couldn't follow it myself, because the audio was a bit muffled, but mostly because I don't know Arabic. The mosque is open for prayer (and closed to tourists) five times a day. But it is on Friday that the crowds really come. The other days, most Muslims tend to go to a mosque in their own neighborhoods. Kashgar is a city with almost literally a mosque on every street corner.

It is hard for me to convey to you the importance of the mosque in a Muslim community such as this. Everything in "old town" Kashgar seems to be built around it. And even though some prefer to pray at home, a local Muslim told me that it is 27 times better to pray in the mosque than to pray at home.

The Id Kah mosque, built in the 15th Century, is the largest mosque in China. It is open to tourists, but the tourists are shut out during prayer times, which makes me wonder how this religion is propagated. This, of course, is one of the major differences between Islam in Christianity. A big part of Christianity consists of inviting others to worship services.

In some ways, I think the mosque is even more important than the religion itself, although that may be a contradictory statement, becuase the mosque is part of the religion. But I guess what I mean by that is that the mosque is a tangible representation of identity for both the "true believers," and those who really don't seem to be that religious, but still consider themselves Muslims.

Islam is definitely a man's religion. This is most noticeable on Friday, when you can see all the men streaming toward the Mosque for the mid day prayer time, and a group of women sitting outside the mosque. I have been told several times, in answer to my queries, that the women "pray at home." But I cannot help but wonder how many of them actually go through the process of bowing and praying at the same time as their men are praying at the mosque. I don't know.

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