The afternoon is misty; I am unexpectedly home before dhuhr Salah. The ferries gracefully move diagonally crossing over to their destination to the European side of Istanbul. The sound of the vendors on the street and the shout out from the tin man to pick up used electronics fills the early afternoon air.
The construction folks have paused their drilling upstairs to break for lunch. In the midst of the hurry to complete work as assigned, people scurry across the street into the shops, restaurants and businesses.
Suddenly but gently the melody of The Call, coordinated like a fine orchestra choir floats across the Bosphorus. Like the beginning of an orchestra, the opening notes silence the crowds and a moment of relief hangs in the air, hands still and hearts find comfort.
The soft melodious grouping of Adhaans coming from across the Bosphorus is like a balm soothing every nerve cell in my body.
As I enter the kitchen, the baritone sound of the beautiful Call for prayer succinct yet gentle floats in to the apartment from the open window and fills the room with the fragrance and freshness of a Turkish Lale (tulip).
This call is from the little mosque next door. In the background of the melodious sounds coming across the water, the clarity of this adhaan is like that of the lead soloist. The Call enters my apartment and floats an invitation into it like a lotus gliding into a pond.
I see in my minds eye the girls in the clothing store turning off the music, the man demonstrating pottery in the iznik ceramic store excusing himself from the tour to go to the mosque for prayers……….and like a well practiced ballet, the men and women flow into the mosques or prayer places in their businesses and restaurants. Peace settles in the street. There is no underlying compulsion but The Call is impelling in its essence.
The Call here is unlike that of any other in the world. It is neither judgmental not demanding, it is neither guilt provoking nor complacent…………its intonation is that of an invitation: “Please come ………….” it seems to say, with no strings attached.
For a few minutes the Ferryboats seem to leave the Bosphorus free as if to give it rest to also pray. The shore of the Bosphorus on the European side laps against the Sultanahmet mosque region (the blue mosque) it then borders the Ayaa Sofia and the Topkapi palace and further down the shore line kisses the outer precincts of the Yeni mosque .Turning at the Galata bridge the Bosphorus sends salaams to the underground mosque where the two Sahabas sleep in a foreign land as their last resting place.
The Bosphorus in all its elegance and serenity unifies the two Istanbul’s: the European and the Asian, each is worlds apart in culture from each other and yet five times a day they send the loving invitation to each other across the water.
The Bosphorus in rain and shine seems always to be swaying with the adhaan and in prayer. It is almost like a floating mosque in itself. Allah says in the Quran that all my creation is in tasbeeh (remembrance of Allah) but you (humans) understand it not.
Is it my imagination or is it the serenity of the scene that makes me believe that the adhaans in Istanbul have an unparelled beauty unlike anywhere in the Muslim world. The tone and rendition of The Call is so fine tuned as to convey the peace and beauty of an invitation that promises unlimited peace, love and the tantalizing possibility of a rendezvous with The Beloved.
It is much later that I come across the Turkish movie “Muezzin” which puts a face and rigorous training behind those voices that call for prayer.
It turns out that the Muezzin or the one who calls for prayer in Turkey is carefully chosen on the merits of what he can convey with his voice using the same words which are repeated five times daily all over the world.
Dhuhr Salah is over and the boats reappear on the Bosphorus, moving gracefully across the water, doing what they are supposed to do, while remaining in tasbeeh and dhikr of their Creator.
People pour out of the mosques enroute to work and play, and the Bosphorus goes back into meditation waiting to float the melodies of the next Adhaan……..