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personal essay

Experience, Prayer, Dice

“Writing is good, thinking is better. Cleverness is good, patience is better.”

–Herman Hesse, Siddhartha

I meant to update this over Spring Break, but it just didn’t happen somehow, even with all that free time. But here we go. Starting next week, I might post creative writing works-in-progress, just because, y’know, what/who am I saving them for?

Yesterday, I attended my first Salat al-Jumu’ah (Friday prayer) at the mosque of Islamic Cultural Center of Tempe. Anyone who goes to ASU Tempe campus has probably seen it:

more after the jump.

Working on a group project called “Role of the Mosque” for a PolySci class I’m in right now (American Islam).

After interviewing the Imam at ICC last week, I realized how little context I had for understanding our conversation, because I have never participated in an Islamic religious ceremony. 

My motto: If you’ve never had a particular experience, that’s reason
enough to experience it. So, the next Friday afternoon, I attended Salat al-Jumu’ah.

After some brief internet research, I followed some traditions to get ready for the prayer: washing beforehand, walking to the mosque, clearing your mind and putting yourself in a state of uncluttered mental preparedness.

Upon arrival, I sought out the Imam after removing my shoes. He greeted me warmly and asked his college-aged son to guide me through the service. It was hardly necessary, though; I felt basically natural and unjudged throughout the service and prayer.

Admittedly, it was strange to “fake” my way through the prayers. Their physicality and meditative effects reminded me more of yoga than the prayer of my Presbyterian upbringing. The khutba (sermon), however, was familiar to me, as was the idea of congregation/community. All in all, the experience didn’t remind me of one thing in particular — in fact, it reminded me of several different past experiences at different moments. Really, attending mosque just served as a reminder of the interconnectedness of things.

I walked out 45 minutes later, feeling clear-headed and satisfied (though not spiritual). Oddly, I wanted to high-five everyone fraternizing in the parking lot.

 

obviously, not during the Salah. Hundreds of people were gathered in this room on Friday afternoon.

Contrast this with the buzzed conversations my roommate and I had on our patio that night, if you want a bit of a mind trip. We were talking about how everything and everyone around us is changing. Not in a good way or a bad way, but in a natural way. We’re getting older. We’re leaving college, going to different parts of the world for different reasons. Yet, we’re all still here, together, in Tempe, for the same reasons. It’s scary, but exciting too: We’re creating ourselves right now. Look around the world: Everything’s changing, y’all…

This conversation at home, and my experience at the mosque that same day, definitely seem interconnected in a way I haven’t teased out yet.

Even later that night, I selected (with the help of a couple friends) the names of six countries I want to visit after graduation. I randomly assigned each of them a number, grabbed a die, and rolled it. The number of my dice-roll, I announced (admittedly, after some drinking), will be the country I move to next year. I rolled a “3“.

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