In the past four weeks, I skipped 3 Friday prayers. I haven’t missed any since I started ‘practicing’ back in college. Though I am a firm believer that practicing doesn’t only involve praying, or attending Friday, but rather involves a lifestyle. Of course, I am not saying non-believers follow a less morally-sound lifestyle. Not at all. I am equating myself with another believer, only who I didn’t attend the past 3 Fridays, but I don’t feel I have any less faith.
Friday prayers almost became like a chore. I am not talking about going to pray in the baking heat. You also don’t need to cite phrases of the Quran denouncing my faith, that it should not feel like a chore if I were a true believer.
It’s not the act of praying, or going to prayer, or attending it. It’s listening to the guy rambling on the podium.
I don’t know how they do it in other countries. I know how they do it in Syria, in the mosques I attended Fridays there. They were beautiful. In fact, and you can ask, I always went early. I was in the mosque two hours before the prayer, watching how the mosque slowly fills up, how people pray, or read Quran, or talk and converse, how the old men gather around the perimeter and pillars to rest their backs, how kids make noises and giggle outside or in the corner, and how the sun rays filter through the windows. There is an undeniable charm about attending prayer in a mosque, especially Fridays, in Damascus.
Then the preacher talks about important matters or tells an old story and the moral derived out of it, or why people reacted to a situation that way, or the reason behind a revelation of a certain phrase of the Quran. In one remarkable prayer the preacher was on the 86th lesson about the Prophet’s life.
Here, it’s different. It’s dictated, so you can’t escape to another mosque in hope of a better prayer. There used to be an African-American preacher who spoke in English, in a small mosque not too far from my place looking over a canal. I discovered him in the winter months, and I used to pray outside on the open grass. There were so many attendees there, almost 6 times as much as the mosque can handle, all praying outside under the gentle sun. He talked with passion and with respect. He didn’t make us feel guilty or obliged to things with cringed teeth. No. He made us feel happy. He made us feel loved, he made us feel that we would make a better future.
Then he was replaced and no one knew what happened to him.
Now, I go to Friday mass and attend a boring lecture on ludicrous topics, like Islam and Traffic. Traffic is all the rage in the UAE, and suddenly it became a grave sin to not wear a seatbelt, one which we might go to hell for, especially if we were speeding above the “well calculated speed limits by the God-blessed road and transport authority, may God bless their souls”.
The road and transport authority is responsible for the death of many people thanks to their unplanned, illplanned diversions, and their incompetence to remove debris and concrete blocks protruding halfway through the fast lane. God bless their souls.
I sit and listen to a guy talking in a monotonous tone, making a serious issue out of any laughable, trivial matter. Everything is suddenly forbidden, and no amount of praying will atone our sins. Really. None. Except if God happens to love us and have mercy on us. We should all do nothing all day but weep for mercy. One time I stopped listening, when the guy started selling religion through sex. He had the audacity to tell us of ‘a way that would definitely make our youth rethink religion’. What was that? He said “instead of you sleeping around, turn to God and you are promised so much sexual power in the after life, you will sleep with a woman dedicated to you for so and so years, and when you’re done, another woman comes!”. And the horny bastard starts crying, imagining himself with a year-old erection sleeping with a supermodel.
I couldn’t believe my ears. And he went on and on, describing sex in the afterlife. The guy next to me was snorting and giggling, mumbling curse words under his breath. I should have excused myself out.
And then he inevitably talks about how sinful we are, how hopeless we are, and how powerless we are, and how we have no future, and that we should all give up and weep and literally beg for forgiveness so we might have a chance. Or some other hideous topic, in monotony, like how we should respect our boss, get our salary and shut up, and how our boss should treat us nice as an extra feature.
Is this the God they were told to worship? Strange. The God I know from the Quran is different.
In the area I live in (Sharjah), there are over 700 mosques, I think I read somewhere 971 I don’t recall, and they are not enough. It’s almost a rule that every junction should have a mosque. And that’s not enough. People literally flood the mosques. It will take another 971 mosques to accommodate the surplus people who pray outside.
And to think how many preachers in mosques give crappy speeches.
If you’re in Sharjah of Dubai or Ajman PLEASE tell me of a good mosque where I can pray Friday.