One of my favorite childhood memories is the time each summer I stayed with my Grandma in Reedsburg, a small town in Wisconsin. Every day, 4 times a day, one of the churches’ bells would ring out the time. Back then the town was small enough that you could hear the bell throughout the whole town. I’m pretty sure the bell that rang was from my Grandma’s church, where my family would attend when we were in town. In fact, I would go with my Grandma when she was on the Altar Guild and as they prepared the church for Sunday I would hang out in the Chancel. I sometimes wonder what part that played in my calling to become a pastor.
To this day, when I hear a church bell announcing the time of the day, I get a warm, fuzzy feeling. I’m sure it is, in part, left over from those idyllic days when I was young.
Yesterday was the beginning of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month similar to Lent. It is a time of prayer, good deeds, fasting, and spiritual reflection. It is a time for Muslims around the world to be more intentional than usual in living out their faith through loving others and showing mercy and kindness to others.
During Ramadan Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. This can be particularly challenging in the Northern Hemisphere during the summer months where fasting can last 18 hours. But even without that added challenge, Muslims find community and encouragement in knowing that others are fasting and praying at the same time. And, of course, the breaking of the fast each evening with an Iftar with family and friends is an especially joyful time for everyone.
This year with COVID-19 and social distancing, the mosques are closed and people are left with praying alone at home and eating at the end of the day without their family and friends. A time that should filled with joy will be much lonelier this year.
But in Minneapolis, Mayor Jacob Frey saw the wisdom of allowing Adhan to be broadcast out loud in Cedar-Riverside during Ramadan. Cedar-Riverside is home to the largest concentration of Somalis outside of Somalia. When he was asked by CAIR-MN and Dar Al-Hijrah to waive a city noise ordinance for this holy month, he agreed. For the first time in Minnesota history Adhan will be heard throughout Cedar-Riverside 5 times a day, this year April 24 through May 24.
Yesterday evening was the first Adhan of 2020. Imam Sharif had invited me to come. I had mixed feelings about going given social distancing and all. I also didn’t want to miss this for almost anything. It was an honor to be there.
People were milling around, visiting and waiting. Face masks were being handed out. People were reminding each other to stay apart. Different media outlets were interviewing and commenting on this historic moment. People in Somalia were seeing this moment live.
When the time for prayer came the speakers on the roof of Dar Al-Hijrah sent out Adhan. Silence immediately settled on all who had gathered. Cell phones were held up and recording. And we listened. I don’t know long it lasted, but the silence held. Imam Sharif said a few words and a short call and response kind of litany came from the people twice. And then everyone left, heading for home for prayers and a meal.
I felt those warm fuzzies again. I could only imagine what it was like for the people gathered. For some, this was the first time in decades they were able to hear Adhan outside since they left their home in Somalia.
It is hoped that hearing Adhan will relieve some of the loneliness that will be even more profound during this month of gatherings and Iftars. It is hoped it will make the social distancing easier to maintain.
One thing I know – I’ll be going back to the neighborhood from my makeshift office at home to hear Adhan more than once in the days to come. Not for the warm fuzzies. Warm fuzzies are nice, but too temporary. I’ll be going to hear, along with my Muslim brothers and sisters, a reminder of God’s greatness and bigness. A reminder that we are all created by God, that we are all in this, all of this life together.
Original Journal entry date: 4/24/20
©Jane Buckley-Farlee, 2020. All rights reserved.