Friday, October 27, 2006

The Day I Blundered into the Islamic Faculty

There are many sounds you become accustomed to in Sarajevo: tram bells, screeching tires, adhan...Where it was once fascinating to hear the calls to prayer (adhan), it has now become part of the background noise of my day. However. When you're delivering a belated Bajram gift to your husband's Arabic teacher, you really need to be more aware of your environment.

Carrying the obligatory Bajram pressie of Rahat lokum (Turkish delight), I toodled on over to the Islamic Faculty. After ringing the bell to the offices, I was kindly showed in by the secretary, who then took me to Z.'s office. Typical blunderbutt that I am, I flung open the door with a cheery, "Dobar dan. Kako si, Z.," only to find Z. methodically going through her salat (one of the five daily ritual prayers in Islam). She was totally absorbed and didn't hear me at all.

My brain froze. Then, it unfroze and unhelpfully thought the following things: 1) Wow, how can she be so into praying that she doesn't hear me? 2) Uh-oh. I don't know the rules here. Stay? Go? 3) Am I just a culturally insensitive asshole? Was there a call to prayer? When? When?

Playing it ever so casual, I backed out of the office, handed her secretary the gift, and hightailed it out of there.

Crazy girl.

Of course, she saw me. Her prayer rug was pointed toward Mecca, and her office door is right in front of the prayer rug. She called me, we went out to lunch, and we had a good laugh. I said something like, "I'm so sorry. I wasn't paying attention to the time. I didn't hear the call to prayer," yada, yada and so forth.

So, no hard feelings, but I find myself wondering why I was so flustered by the whole encounter. I spent four months at the Islamic Faculty learning about Islam. Salat should come as no surprise. And it doesn't. Yet...

Seeing her devotion transported me back fifteen years to my hometown and my church. On Sunday mornings, my mother would come into our pew and spend a few minutes on her knees praying. It was a generally understood rule that you did not bother her while she was praying, and that you did not ask her what she was praying about. As an agnostic, it's been a long time since I've been in church, and, maybe, an equally long time since I've been so near someone actually communing with God. Blundering into her office as I did...It was almost like I was intruding on her sacred space, and it felt weird, voyeuristic, and wrong.

So. There's no real ending or resolution to this story. I just thought I would just send it out as an offering to the blogosphere. File it under, "Religious Experiences Gone Awry."


Blogger montchan said...

Hi there!

Someone from your blog ended up on my blog, and I am visiting.

What you described sounds exactly like what happens at the university here. Or the hospital. It took me a while to get used to it, because after all, this is just a small town in northern Sweden!

2:34 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home