Remona AlyWednesday 08 February 2017 Pause for Thought, BBC Radio 2
It’s the time of year again that fills me with a sense of dread… yes D-day is coming, my birthday looms like a dark nimbus at the month’s end. You know, the one where I turn… 28, and a bit – a rather significant bit, but we won’t dwell on that right now.
When I was born my dad took me, his pruney-faced baby into his arms, and gently recited the Islamic call to prayer in my tiny ear. It’s a call I’ve heard again and again throughout my life, in all its varied melodic tones – and volume levels. I’ve heard some deafening ones in mosques, when the muezzin has belted it out on an unsuspecting PA system, clearly not understanding the physics of a microphone. But of course I’ve also listened to harmonious ones that fell like feathers caressing my soul.
My dad told me that when a baby is born to Muslim parents, there is a call but no prayer, but at their funeral, there is a prayer but no call. When I asked why that was, Dad said, “Because your entire life is the sacred time that exists between the two.”
This notion has always stayed with me, it encapsulates the brevity of my life, but also offers many windows of worship. Because in Islam, worship is far broader than standing and bowing in prayer. Beyond that, worship lies in every aspect of life – in the giving and in the receiving. I praise God when I can serve others, from smiling at a stranger to being a shoulder to someone in need. I praise God when I enjoy the gifts of this world, from marvelling at the wonders of Planet Earth, to indulging in the blessings of a big fat birthday cake.
The Persian Muslim poet, Hafez said in the 14th century: “Now is the time to know that all that you do is sacred… Now is the time for you to deeply compute the impossibility that there is anything but grace.”
From the moment I was born, there’s been a constant sacred rhythm telling me to make every moment count, and not miss a beat. To live, to serve, to enjoy, to love, to worship. A birthday is a good reminder that this is my calling.