I am in the mosque of the Crusaders castle and a preteen boy is calling the azaan. The call to prayer resounds in the empty hall. There are no responders. A handful of European tourists listen and then turn away as the last echoes die away.
The Krak de Chevalier, the Crusaders Castle in Syria is a fort that seems impossible to penetrate and yet even the mighty and impenetrable fall. The Krak was penetrated and finally taken over from the Crusaders by the Muslims…………and yet in this Muslim land the abandoned mosque with its stone minbar remains a sentinel to the ascetic soldiers who guarded their salaat here, or was it the household of the Emir who frequented this mosque five times a day. I do not know.
I step out of the mosque and climb several steps up. The sensuous sounds of Arabic music seep into the atmosphere, beckoning all those who pass by. The deep mysterious promise of love, sex, beauty and innocence all wrapped into the veils of an unknown feminine form or the glimpse of a man in a white robe turning towards you with the all the male beauty of an Arab warrior. I am rooted to the spot.
I stand on the fine dividing line of ascetic Islam, with no music except that of the Quran, which when recited raises the spirit into elation and spirituality. The recitation of the Quran unfurling the cells of the heart one by one releasing the fragrance of deep happiness with the music of the divine word embedded in it.
On the other side of the dividing line is this sensuous Arabic music laden with nostalgia of times of affluence, comfort, safety, beauty and grace.
Looking out at the lush countryside, I can sense the crusaders sworn to celibacy feel the waves of the Arabic rhythms warming their hearts. Setting free in them a yearning for the dark beauty that sways to this rhythm.
Down yonder in the village are many blue eyed blond adults and children. The Crusaders may be sworn to celibacy by their order, but the blue eyes and blonde hair of the villagers are silent proof of those moments when a Crusader from Europe laid aside not only his celibacy but his faith and succumbed to this unremitting Arabic sensuousness of the atmosphere, the music, and the hidden beauty of innocence. The walls of the Krak bear witness to the many springs where love blossomed and foe changed to friend.
I stand on the dividing line. The call of prayer which speaks to my heart and raises me to the entity which is the source and destination of all Love, or the swaying waves of the nostalgic notes of Arabic music beckoning me to the sensuous passion of the moment.
Whom do I answer to?