Perhaps, one of the most striking things for an Westerner in Turkey (and maybe any Muslim country) are the calls to prayer. Each mosque (Camii (pronounced Jam-ē)) has a minaret. From each minaret, five times a day, a call to prayer is sounded.
It is interesting to me that when the call to prayer sounds nothing changes. People don’t stop to pray. The hustle and bustle keeps hustling and bustling. Only on Friday afternoons, will you see people stopped, and then only a few.
Turkey is a very moderate society. While the nation is officially not a religious nation (it has been said that the religion of Turkey was nationalism), the nation is about 99% Muslim. Yet, as one Kurdish Muslim told us “in İstanbul only about 10% practice even one of the five pillars”. This is not consistent across the nation as areas in the East and South (bordering Syria, Iran, and Iraq) are more conservative Islamic.
And herein lies the opportunity–and the challenge–within Turkey. Many of the younger people struggle to understand religion. They view the Mosque with disregard. It’s just a building with tall tower that plays a catchy tune five times a day. Yet, to remove this from their nation would be to remove a piece of the national identity. Meanwhile, even though the Mosque holds no answers about God for them, to leave the Muslim faith they were born into would be to step on their heritage–worse yet, it would be to step on their nation.
So, the calls to prayer ring out. Five times a day you hear the Muezzin call out: “Allah Akbar (God is the greatest). Ash-Hadi an-la illaha illa llah (I bear witness that there is no deity except God). Ash-hadu anna Muhammadan-Rasulullah (I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God). Hayya ‘ala s-salah (Come to prayer). Hayya ‘ala ‘l-falah (Come to success). Allahu Akbar (God is the greatest). La ilaha illa-Akbar (There is no diety except God).” And five times a day, you see life go on as if nothing had happened.
All this to bring me to this point. If there were five calls to prayer every day where you live, would you stop to pray? Or, do you live such a moderate lifestyle that the call to prayer would be nothing more than background noise in an already noisy day?
And, yet, in his letter to the church at Thessalonika, the Apostle Paul admonishes us to pray continually. Not just five times a day, but rather all day every day. Continually. So, the call to prayer is–right now–ringing out.
Will you answer it?