In a household that observes the holy month of Ramadan, it’s hard to escape the last-minute scurrying, just before it’s time to break the fast. In your enthusiasm, you committed yourself to making way too much food; there’s always a missing ingredient or a mishap; and the time goes by too fast.
I always knew when it was almost time for iftar (the meal that breaks the all-day fast) – I could hear the “final warning” from the TV: the sound of the prayer call in Mecca. The Jeddah prayer call lagged just a few minutes behind Mecca, so I was down to the wire.
And so the trips back and forth from the stove to the table, starting the coffee pot so it would be ready as soon as the meal was over. Final zapping of the soup in the microwave so it’s hot, but not too hot – after a long day of fasting, nobody wants to blow on every spoonful of soup to cool it off.
Then: TV off, window open to listen for the local prayer call – there are 2,300 in Jeddah alone, and they will all start the call (over loudspeakers) within seconds of each other. (This 3-minute video will give you a taste of the call and the dress and culture of traditional Saudis.) For a moment, the universe seems to hold its breath, and then “Allahu akbar.” “God is greater.” (Years ago, Jeddah would break the fast by firing a cannon – you could hear it across the city. In Mecca, this old tradition is still practiced.)
Subhanallah: a beautiful word
But I want to back up to about an hour before the prayer call. Each evening during Ramadan, just before iftar, we’d have the TV on in the background, tuned to a show that I think was out of Dubai, designed to calm viewers and turn their inner gaze toward the Creator.
Visually, it was beautiful nature settings – flowers, streams, animals, sunrises – moving at a leisurely pace to allow the viewer to take in the magnificence of creation. The audio was at times gentle music, at times a serene male voice speaking from the Qur’an.
I don’t know a lot of Arabic, and especially formal, Qur’anic recitation is hard to understand – but one word that I recall vividly from these shows was “Subhanallah” (sub-HAN-al-lah)– “Glory to God,” spoken over a closeup of rain falling gently on the leaves of a tree. This show, especially this moment, always transported me to a place of worship (even during the time in my life when I felt Islam was rather an inferior religion).
The only thing I can compare this moment to is, in the hymn “How Great Thou Art,” – when the melody leaps in the phrase, “then sings my soul…”
When I, in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed
How great Thou art…
I know I don’t slow down often enough to admire the beauty around me and praise God for it.
Thank you, Creator, for the beauty of your creation. Subhanallah.
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