I’m standing about six rows back from the Imam, surrounded by mostly Afghan and Pakistani men, and during the very first cycle of the prayer, it hits me. Here I am, before my Creator, and the sudden awareness isn’t in my mind. It’s in my heart, where it should be, leaving me overawed and reduced. Each verse of the opening chapter of the Qur’an began to make that much more sense.
“All praise is due to God, Lord of all the Worlds”
Our eyes down in the presence of His Majesty, the opportunity of congregational prayer also a challenge: Can I live in the world—around other people, their fidgeting, their odors, their manners, their frustrations—and still put God first and foremost?
Because it is easy to pray alone. It would be very easy to be a good person if there were no other people. This, I think, is the wisdom of congregational prayer. I need to quiet my mind, ignore how annoying some of the other congregants are (for a while, the guy next to me is swinging around as if he’s a small child first learning how to dance), and think of God.
Ramadan is about God. About cutting out everything else in the way, and realizing our absolute and utter dependence on Him, and tasting the sweetness of solitude with Him. Nothing in creation compares, because even the greatest thing created is still a creation of His. And to get that in the midst of many, to be able to sit down and have a meal with close friends and family, and still put Him first…
I’m staring down where my head will touch the ground, and I realize that we begin our prayers speaking of God. Not to God. The humility must come first; the awesomeness of the Divine. We don’t yet have the right to address Him. And it occurs to me why we praise Him. Get in the mosque, and first you greet the mosque.
Then your obligatory prayers. Then your extra prayers. And then you address Him directly. Only then. You need to give Him the respect He deserves, and humble yourself till you are ready, till your self is out of your way. Only then can we feel the way we should during Ramadan, when we’re in the mosque, in prayer, and we wish we could stay in prayer forever, that the coolness and calmness of worship would last, and we didn’t have to go back out to the world.
It feels like realizing what it means to be fully and truly human.