The Best Part of the Day

I have always longed to have magical powers so that I could erase those lazy, unproductive hours that are bunched up in the middle of hot summer days when lethargy always get the better of me. I love early mornings just before and after dawn when there is a hint of coolness in the air, and the time around dusk when the day unravels as the sun dips beyond the horizon.

I mostly struggle to shed the bondage of sleep and, as a result, tend to miss the delights of early mornings. This morning was different when I awoke with the first call to prayer. Having just gone four o’clock, the day was slowly dawning and a lovely breeze blew through the apartment. I felt refreshed and happy to be alive. Slowly sipping a cup of aromatic coffee, I gazed out the window towards the mountains where the sky was shedding the black cloak of night. My thoughts drifted lazily between my night and day dreams, and as I lingered over my cup of coffee to watch the sun rise, I said a prayer of gratitude for the rich and blessed life I have.

The dawn prayer for Muslims is the first of a total of five scheduled prayers throughout the day that call the faithful to devotion. The exact times for the different prayers drift through time and seasons tied to the sun, and depending on where you find yourself in the world, can be dramatically different from season to season. The prayers cannot be performed before the stipulated times, but there is flexibility in the time they should be completed in.

Fajr starts with fajar sadiq or the rise of the ‘white light’ in the east and lasts until sunrise when the sun can be seen rising above the horizon. Dhuhr or noon prayer comes just after noon when the sun has passed its zenith and lasts until Asr. On a Friday, which is the Muslim holy day and first day of the weekend, Dhuhr is replaced by Jumu’ah, which is a congregational prayer when devout Muslims above puberty gather at the mosque. Asr or afternoon prayer starts when the shadow of an object is the same length as the object and lasts until sunset. Maghrib or evening prayer comes a short while after sunset and lasts till the red light in the west has disappeared. The last one for the day is Isha’ or night prayer, which starts when the red light from the setting sun is completely gone and lasts until the ‘white light’ appears again in the east. It is preferable that the night prayer should be said before midnight though.

To me, the call to prayer (adhan/azan) is hauntingly beautiful. As the muezzin’s voice calls “Allahu Akbar . . .” (God is Great), it dips and rises musically, bouncing from mosque to mosque, echoing into space. It provides a soundtrack to daily life. A way in which to tell the time without looking at a clock. It infuses my days with a rhythm that is different to what I am used to and serves as a constant reminder that I am but a guest in a foreign country.

* To listen to the call to prayer simply click on the link in the above paragraph.

** If you are mathematically minded and would like to see exactly how the different prayer times are calculated, you can click here.

*** To take a look at the prayer times for the UAE, click here.