Last night i went for Taraweeh prayers for the first time this Ramadan. For those not in the know, Taraweeh are special prayers conducted during the nights of fasting. i was supposed to go for dinner with some friends but plans got canned so i was driving home when i decided to stop by the Jaawatta mosque for evening prayers.
After parking in a convenient place so i wouldn’t be blocked by traffic when getting out, I went in and prayed, then decided to wait for the next set of prayers and leave. While i was waiting, i had a chance to look around the mosque.
There were some old men in the front reciting the Quran. They were either Pakistani or Arab i think. The Jawatta mosque is more wide than long and very airy and spacious. Right in front of me there were two more men on chairs with a water bottle on the ground between them, probably waiting for Taraweeh. They were on chairs because they weren’t fit enough to pray while standing.
Congregational prayer times sometimes differ between mosques even though the call to prayers happen at the same time. There are more benefits to be obtained through congregational prayers so i figured i’ll stay for Ishah, the last prayer for the night and then leave. But they were taking their time.
So after sitting around on the carpet for a bit i went over to the bookshelf and picked out a book. It was about the six pillars of Islamic belief. Now I’ve learned these pillars when i was young, and believe in them in daily life but if you had asked me to categorically state these six pillars out loud i may have got a bit stuck here and there. So it felt good to refresh my knowledge. The six pillars of Islamic belief are;
- Belief in Allah and belief that there is only one God.
- Belief in the angels
- Belief in the Holy Books
- Belief in His messengers or prophets
- Belief in the day of judgement
- Belief in devine decree, or destiny, fate or whatever you may call it.
The book stated that any one who does not believe in any of the above mentioned is simply not a muslim.
Personally i feel the whole concept of ‘making a religion your own’ and ‘choosing what you believe in’ is more a philosophy of life you adopt for yourself rather than a religion. If you are a part of a religion, then you simply must adhere to the fundamental truths that it lays out, the moment you belie those, you detract from that religion.
By this time the mosque was getting crowded, there were a lot of young boys especially who must have been from amadrasa or teaching centre. Seeing them reminded me of St. Fallen’s ‘contoversial’ story. They were a bit fidgety during prayers though they were disciplined enough.
After Ishah i decided to stay on for Taraweeh. The mosque and its tranquil environment had gotten a hold on me and i found it hard to leave. Taraweeh prayers commenced a little later. They are usually long and this time they lasted for a little more than an hour. Many people take breaks in between prayers and Imaams (or prayer leaders) switched about four times as well.
Afterwards they served some excellent tea. It was strong and refreshing. I think they’d put in some spices and possibly some ginger; kind of what Middle Eastern tea might taste like or so my imagination tells me.
While everyone was sitting around enjoying their tea, there was a sermon. It was on the concept of belief itself and to me, it stressed the importance of continuous personal checks to figure out exactly what one believes in. I have discovered for myself that beliefs are the first thing to take a hit without our knowledge as we go about our daily lives.
As i was heading home, the kids were gathering to recite the Quran, they were all very loud and were reciting different sections of it so mostly i could only hear a cacophony of voices. There was an instructor standing over them with a cane, although he seemed amicable enough. The came was probably more for direction rather than enforcement.
I wish i had taken a picture or two but strangely i felt a bit odd at appearing a foreigner in my own home; but looking back, i wish i had (I almost felt like these guys at that moment). So I’ll leave you with this one from the Big Picture (from Ramadan 2009) instead. Thanks to @MinahAC for the pointer.