Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Piety

I have always considered myself a pretty religious guy. I take my church responsibilities seriously. I try to strengthen my testimony of the Savior daily by reading the scriptures (The Book of Mormon and the Bible) and by continual prayer. However, I have come to find that my piety, in many ways, is overshadowed by the people here. It has been an incredible opportunity to be here and to observe how many of these, our brethren, interact with God and how seriously they take their relationship with him. I would like to focus on some ways they have done it and see if I can apply anything they take from this to my life. These three things are prayer, reading the scriptures, and missionary work.

1. Prayer
Most everyone has heard about the Muslim and their 5 prayers. 5 times a day, ranging from 4 in the morning to 9 at night a man can be heard making the call to prayer. Not every Muslim prays at this specific time. Many make it up later, things like their job prohibit it. However, I have been immensely impressed as I have seen their fidelity in praying. I have seen men set aside their fishing poles, kneel down in their Shell Gas Station uniforms, and take a break from teaching all in order to prayer. During the call to prayer I have seen people turn down barely audible music, stop conversation and stop games in order to listen to the call. In order to perform these prayers, one must enter a state of ritual purity, thus, they will wash themselves and get mentally ready to perform this prayer. In addition to those 5 prayers, Muslims perform prayers in their head, much like we do. For example, I have seen men on the Metro reciting prayers as they hold their prayer beads. If only we as members of our church took prayer with more of a devoted frame of mind. How often do we say a quick, rushed prayer in the morning and before we go to bed and expect God to bring to pass all our fanciful imaginations? Maybe we can take this more seriously.

2. Scriptures
Muslims focus an incredible amount on the listening to and reading of their holy book, the Holy Qur'an. They listen to recitations of it, memorize it, play it in Taxi's, stores, loud speakers, on their cell phones out loud on the Metro and get so excited when you can recite it to them. Often you can find people reading while they ride on the Metro. Cars will have it in them, I found a copy of it in my teachers computer bag, it is everywhere. In order to read from it, you have to be clean and have declared your intention to follow God. The book cannot touch the ground, nor can it have any other book placed on top of it. They, in many ways, view this book to be the earthly representation of God, and accord it much more respect. How much more faithful of members would we be if we found occasion to read this book en route to our destinations, listen to the audio tapes, ect?

3: Missionary Work

They LOVE to talk about their faith. They have no qualms whatsoever about discussing Islam. They do not shy back, they do not feel shame. They know in what they believe and will share that with you. I often find myself nervous to bring up religion, but they have no such reservations. I often wish I had the capacity to share what I know to be true like they share their beliefs. It is an inspiring thing.

We have so much to learn about this faith. Often, and unfairly, they are negatively portrayed in the media. Granted, many crimes have been perpetuated in their name. Lest we forget the black marks on Christianity: the Crusades, Inquisition, Protestant revolution, treatment of Mormons, bombing of abortion centers, killing gays, and the KKK. The banner of Christianity has been stained with as much blood throughout the years. I have lived among Muslims, I have worshiped, eaten and laughed with them. I know that these people are good, honest, loving, generous, but above all, pious people. I stand with my enlightened Christians who will extend the hand of friendship to them to heal the many wounds that we have inflicted upon ourselves in the name of religion and politics. Only God can help us now.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Tuesday is now our adventure day

Our class schedule was rearranged a little bit, and as such, we now have Tuesday with no classes. So yesterday, myself and two friends undertook an adventure. We went to a house that survived from the Ottoman Empire, it was probably from around 16th or 17th century. It was kept in good shape and is now a fun little tourist spot. It was really cool to walk through it and see how the Cairene elite would have lived centuries ago. Very beautiful. It was also situated touching one wall of the Ibn Tulun Mosque. This mosque was awesome! It is a huge mosque! Something like 4 acres, and was built in the 9th century. It is the oldest surviving mosque in Cairo and is almost completely intact. We climbed the minaret (tower) and looked over Cairo, what a sight! Then we walked back to the Metro and stopped and got some juice. This was one of the biggest reasons for my excitement to be here, fresh juice! I drank a cup full of manjo juice and it cost me only 40 american cents! What an incredible price! I love the Middle East. Then before arriving at the metro we stepped inside the Sayyida Zeinab mosque. She was the granddaughter of the prophet Muhammed, and was buried in this mosque. This mosque was amazing! Whereas the Ibn Tulun was old and stone with no elaborate features, this one was carpeted and with chandeliers and fans and all sorts of nice decorations. We sat there in the air conditioned mosque soaking in the beauty of it and watching these pious people worship when the call to prayer went off. The muezzin (one who delivers the call) had a beautiful voice and it was so relaxing and spiritual to see the sons of Abraham worshiping the same God we do, albeit in a different way. Then we went home and started homework. What a fun day! I wonder what next Tuesday will hold?!?



Me on the end of a huge minaret








The mansion we toured










Inside the mansion









An accurate view of much of Cairo, sadly










Inside the Ibn Tulun mosque









Our tour group








The courtyard of the Ibn Tulun mosque, a hypostyle mosque featuring a minaret that wasn't originally intended for the call to prayer and was modeled after a Persian mosque




A view from the minaret, overlooking the massive city of Cairo, it is enormous.








Look at the detail put into this wall, the ceilings were equally detailed





I couldn't put a fraction of the pictures I wanted to up on the blog, I had too many as it was. So check out my facebook album which should be featuring them soon!