Thursday, April 28, 2016

Islamic Call to Prayer

Prayer is the second of the Five Pillars of Islam. Five times each day a muezzen, through a speaker on a mosque minaret, calls Muslims to prayer (the adhan). Following is an English translation of the call to prayer, which must be spoken in Arabic:

          God is most great  (Allah Akbar) - [said 4 times in succession] 
          I witness that there is no god but Allah - [said 2 times in succession]
          I witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God - [said 2 times in succession]
          Come to prayer - [said 2 times in succession]
          Come to prosperity - [said 2 times in succession]
          God is most great - [said 2 times in succession]
          There is no god but Allah. 

Here is the call to prayer with English sub-titles, although the translation is different than the above (I find the translations vary a lot). The dawn prayer also adds the line, "Prayer is better than sleep."

The first line and the sixth line of the adhan recite the Takbir (Allah Akbar), that God is greater than everything. Lines two and three recite the shahada, the profession of faith, the first of the Five Pillars of Islam ("There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of God"), and line 7 recites half of it. It affirms Islam's absolute monotheism and that Muhammad is the final prophet and model for Muslims.

The  adhan came about when Muhammad and his companions were discussing how to get people to gather for prayer. It was suggested that a bell be used, like the Christians, or a ram's horn, like the Jews. Then Umar (later the third caliph) suggested having one person call others to prayer. Muhammad agreed and called his ex-slave, Bilal, as the first muezzin, to recite the call to prayer.

The muezzin is the person appointed at the mosque to lead and recite the adhan. The recitation of the adhan is an art form. The muezzin is chosen for his ability to recite the adhan beautifully, melodiously and loudly. When reciting the adhan, the muezzin faces the direction of Mecca.  

Each of the five prayers must be said during the appropriate interval of the day. The intervals are determined by the position of the sun in the sky, so the beginning and end of each interval varies, depending on the geographic location of the individual and by certain astronomical measures. The first interval, fajr, begins at dawn (when the morning light appears across the full width of the sky) and ends at sunrise. The second interval, dhuhr, begins at midday (after the sun passes its zenith) and ends at mid-afternoon (when the shadow of an object is the same length as the object itself). The third interval, asr, begins at mid-afternoon and ends at sunset. The fourth interval, maghrib, begins at sunset and ends at early evening (when the red light has left the sky in the west). The fifth interval, isha, begins at early evening and ends at daybreak, although the preferred time is before midnight. The adhan starts at the beginning of each interval.
The intervals for the call to prayer are listed on this electronic board in the Abu Darwish Mosque in Amman, Jordan. 
This is an electronic board at the Mehmet Pasha Mosque in Prizren, Kosovo.
Ritual Purity:

Before a Muslim can pray, he or she must be ritually pure. If one has a major impurity, because of menstruation, childbirth, sexual intercourse or emission, the impurity is removed by ritual bathing. If one has a minor impurity, because of bleeding, vomiting, sleeping or going to the bathroom, the impurity is removed by ritual ablution, that is by washing the face, hands up to the elbows, lightly rubbing the head and washing the feet up to the ankles. The water used must be pure, free of all contamination. Clothing must be clean and shoes are removed before the prayer because of their tendency to retain impurities.
This water outside the Sinan Pasha Mosque in Prizren, Kosovo is used for ritual ablution. 
How Muslims Pray:

Muslims are encouraged to go to the mosque for prayers, but mosque attendance is only mandatory for the Friday noon prayer. Most of the time Muslims can pray wherever they are. 

While standing, they recite the first chapter of the Koran in Arabic:
In the name of God, the Merciful and Compassionate. Praise belongs to God, the Lord of all Being, the all-Merciful, the all-Compassionate, the master of the day of judgment. You alone we worship, you alone we ask for help. Guide us in the straight path, the path of those whom you have favored, those with whom you are not angry, who have not gone astray.
After reciting the first chapter, any other passage from the Koran may be recited. 
These men are bowing in prayer outside a mosque in Jemaa el-Fna in Marrakech, Morocco. It is during the Friday noon call to prayer and I assume there was not enough room in the mosque to fit them all.
Then they bow and say, "Glory be to my Lord, the Almighty." 

Then they prostrate and place their foreheads on the ground. This expresses complete submission and humility to God. They recite, "Glory be to my Lord, the most high." They might also ask God for forgiveness, mercy or blessings. Then they sit for a few seconds and prostrate one more time before standing up again. Depending on the time of prayer, this can be repeated multiple times (there are anywhere from two to four prostrations).  
Men prostrating in prayer in Marrakech.
At the end, and in the middle of some prayers, they sit on their legs, hands on their knees, and recite the following:
All service is for Allah and all acts of worship and good deeds are for him. Peace and mercy and blessings of Allah be upon you O prophet. Peace be upon us and all of Allah's righteous slaves. I bear witness that none has the right to be worshiped except Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is his slave and messenger. O Allah, exalt Muhammad and the followers of Muhammad, just as you exalted Abraham and the followers of Abraham. Verily you are full of praise and majesty. O Allah, send blessings on Muhammad and the family of Muhammad, just as you sent blessings on Abraham and upon the followers of Abraham. Verily, you are full of praise and majesty.
At the end, they turn their face to the right and the left, sending God's peace on those surrounding them, as follows: "Peace be upon all of you and the mercy and blessings of God" (repeated twice). This ends the obligatory prayer.

As indicated earlier, on Friday the noon [dhuhr] prayer is a congregational prayer and should be recited at the mosque designated for Friday prayer. Friday was not traditionally a day of rest in Muslim countries, like Saturday or Sunday is for Jews or Christians, but in many Muslim countries it now serves the same purpose. Friday noon prayer is usually just for men. Women, who can attend, either stand at the back, behind a curtain, or in a separate side room. The imam faces the mihrab and the congregation lines up in straight rows behind him, side by side. The imam then gives a sermon from the minbar (pulpit), beginning with a verse from the Koran, and finished by an exhortation.
This woman is in the womens' section of Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina.
This mihrab is found in Mustafa Pasha Mosque in Skopje, Macedonia.
This minbar (pulpit) is found in Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque in Sarajevo.
The first time we heard the call to prayer we were in a small hotel in Istanbul, Turkey, just down the street from the Blue Mosque. A wailing, surreal voice shattered the quiet outside our room window from a loudspeaker on a cliff across the street. Judy captured part of it on video.

The next video was taken by Judy in Luxor, Egypt. It was a call to prayer while we were out on a carriage ride.
This final video was my first, taken while we were on the roof of a madrasa in Meknes, Morocco. The adhan was being recited from three mosques. I turned the camera sideways twice (beginners mistake), so gird up with some motion sickness pills. It is nice because it gives the sense of hearing multiple adhans at once.  

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Idris and the Mausoleum of Moulay Idriss

Moulay Idriss was the first Arab ruler of Morocco and founder of the Idrisid dynasty which resulted in the Islamization of Morocco. His tomb, located in a town named after him, Moulay Idriss, is considered the holiest Islamic site in Morocco. 

Descendant of the Prophet Muhammad.  

Muhammad ibn Abdullah (the son of Abd Allah) was born in 570 CE, orphaned at an early age and then raised by his paternal uncle, Abu Talib. Muhammad's wife, Khadija, was the first to believe he was a prophet, followed shortly thereafter by his ten year old cousin, Ali ibn Abi Talib ("Ali"), who was the son of Abu Talib and grew up with Muhammad and was his closest male relative. Muhammad and Khadija had at least six children, but only four daughters survived. One of those daughters, Fatima, married Ali. Muhammad died in 632. Following his death, his friend Abu Bakr was named as his successor, the first caliph. There is some controversy about this - some believe that Ali had been designated as Muhammad's successor, by Muhammad himself, and that Ali was strong-armed by Abu Bakr and his companions. For those with that belief, Ali did not contest it out of concern for the unity of Islam. Abu Baker died only two years later and was succeeded by Umar (also spelled Omar) as the second caliph. In 644, after ten years as caliph, Umar was assassinated by a Persian prisoner of war after the Muslim conquest of Persia and he was succeeded by Uthman ibn Affan, a companion of Muhammad, as the third caliph. Uthman was a member of the powerful Umayyad family and he created some resentment against him in Medina by naming members of his Umayyad family to most of the prestigious posts. One of his appointments was Muawiyyah, the son of one of Muhammad's old enemies and a cousin of Uthman. After twelve years as caliph, Uthman was assassinated in 656 by some discontented soldiers who then proclaimed Ali, Muhammad's cousin, as the fourth caliph. This resulted in a five year civil war, from 656 to 661, during which Ali was caliph. Muhammad's favorite wife, Aisha, and others, attacked Ali for not punishing Uthman's murderers. Ultimately Muawiyyah, who initially supported Ali as caliph, withdrew his support and the two met in combat and put the issue up for arbitration. Ali was outmaneuvered and lost in arbitration - Muawiyyah was determined to be the new caliph. Ali contested the verdict and the civil war continued. Ali was finally assassinated in 661 by one of the supporters of Muawiyyah. Ali's oldest son, Hasan ibn Ali ("Hasan"), a grandson of Muhammed, succeeded him and battles between him and Muawiyyah followed. Muawiyyah gradually bribed Hasan's generals and commanders with large sums of money and deceiving promises until Hasan's army rebelled against him. Hasan yielded to Muawiyyah and retired to Medina. Muawiyyah thereafter moved the capitol from Medina to Damascus and the Umayyad Dynasty was born. The split between the Sunni and Shia Muslims begins here. The Sunnis consider Ali the fourth and final of the Rashidun (rightly guided) caliphs, while the Shiites consider Ali, the closest relative of Muhammad, the first Imam after Muhammad and all Imam successors must come through his line as they are direct descendants of Muhammed through Ali's wife, Fatima, Muhammed's daughter. 

Hasan, son of Ali and Fatima, was the second Shiite Imam, and he was killed in 670. It is believed that his wife poisoned him, instigated by Muawiyyah, the Umayyad caliph. Hasan's brother, Husayn (also spelled Hussein or Hussain) succeeded him as the third Shiite Imam. 

Now we jump ahead to the Abbasid caliphate, the third Islamic caliphate (the first was the Rashidun and the second was the Umayyad). Abu al-Abbas al-Saffa, caliph from 750 to 754, the first Abbasid caliph, won support by presenting himself in a Shii light, then massacred as many Umayyads as he could find. He moved the capital from Damascus to Kufah in Iraq. Then Abu Jafar al-Ansur, the second Abbasid caliph, from 754 to 775, in turn murdered any Shii leaders he considered a danger to his rule and moved the capital from Kufah to Baghdad. He was followed by al-Mahdi, from 775 to 785, and Harun al-Rashid, from 786 to 809. 

Father of Islam in Morocco

Now we turn to Morocco. In what is known as the Alid Revolt (after Ali), two brothers, Muhammad and Ibrahim, great grandchildren of Hasan (son of Ali), rejected the Abbasid claim to power. In 762 Muhammad created an uprising in Medina and Ibrahim one in Basra. Both were killed by forces of al-Ansur and the uprising squashed. The brother of Muhammad and Ibrahim, Idris ibn Abdullah, later known as Moulay Idriss, took part in another uprising, the Battle of Fakhkh, in 786, another Alid uprising. Husayn ibn Ali, a grandson of Hasan, led a rebellion at Fakhkh near Mecca. Husayn and many other Alids were executed by the forces of al-Ansur, but Idris fled the battlefield and moved to the Maghreb, which was also known as the Barbary Coast.

In 787 Idris arrived in Walila, the site of the old Roman city of Volubilis, the main town in northern Morocco. He built his capital city in the foothills, about 5 kilometers away, a place more easily defended, which was later named Moulay Idriss after him. "Moulay" is a form of the Arabic title "Mulay," a prince of the blood, referring to a person descended in a dynastic line of a hereditary monarch (in this case apparently referring to Muhammad).  
From the Roman site of Volubilis, Moulay Idriss is visible in the foothills just to the left of the left-most standing pillar. 
It was an area of Berber tribes and Idris married Kenza, a daughter of the king of the Berber tribe, who became the mother of Idris II (born after the death of Idris). He conquered most of northern Morocco and also founded the city of Fes. This was the birth of the Idrisid dynasty and the birth of Morocco, the second Muslim state after Al-Andalus to become independent of the Abbasid caliphate of Baghdad. After word of the success of Idris reached Baghdad, emissaries of the Abbasid caliph, Harun al-Rashid, poisoned Idris in 791 and he died in Walila (Volubilis). After his death, his servant Rashid took over as regent until 807 when Idris II was old enough to take charge.
This is as far as a non-Muslim can go to the tomb of Idris. The tomb is in the building at the end of the corridor.
A little bit of the splendor inside can be seen from a distance.
This sign informs non-Muslims that they have no access.
The gate which bars non-Muslims does have some nice decoration. These beautiful tiles are on the walls.
And these beautiful decorations are above the tiles on the walls.
This lamp hangs from the intricately designed ceiling.
Moulay Idris is buried in the town of Moulay Idriss, in the Mausoleum of Moulay Idriss, rebuilt by Moulay Ismail sometime between 1672 and 1727. It is a sacred site only open to Muslims. In fact, until 1912, only Muslims could visit the town of Moulay Idriss. It is said that six visits to Moulay Idriss is the equivalent of taking the Haj to Mecca.
The town of Moulay Idriss has neighborhoods that are in different colors. These cats inhabit turquoise blue steps. 
Yellow upper walls and greenish lower walls.
Steps with yellow, red and blue ends, sided by purple walls that turn turquoise further up the alley. 
Red and blue step-ends with red, yellow and blue squares on a lavender background on one side and a bluish green on the other side. 
Colorful doors off the main alley with pink upper side-walls.
A very unusual door.
Moulay Idriss was a city of cats. An unusually painted sidewalk is in the distance.
I would've taken this one home with me.
Don't these cats just seem like they belong here.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Bahia Palace - Marrakech, Morocco

The Bahia Palace in Marrakech was built between 1859 and 1873 for Si Moussa, grand vizier of Sultan Sidi Mohammed ben Abd Al Rahman. Then a second phase of construction occurred during the lifetime of Si Moussa's son, Ba Ahmed, who was Grand Vizier of Sultan Moulay Abd al-Aziz, between 1894 and 1900.

For me, it is probably the most beautiful example of Islamic art and architecture I've seen. Islamic art is not restricted to religious art, but includes all art of the cultures of Islamic societies. It covers many lands over a period of 1,400 years  and is not restricted to any particular medium, as it includes painting, calligraphy, glass, pottery, textiles, architecture and others. It has been influenced by Roman, early Christian, Byzantine and pre-Islamic Persian art, with Chinese influences in painting, pottery and textiles. John Esposito, in Islam: The Straight Path says, the "concern not to compromise the unity and transcendence of God led to an absolute ban on any image or representation of God or Muhammad. Many Arab Muslims extended this ban to any representations in art of the human form for fear that such statues and paintings might lead to idol worship. This attitude resulted in the use of calligraphy (Arabic script) and arabesque (geometric and floral design) as dominant forms in Islamic art." Islamic art is characterized by abstract decoration, curved and interlaced lines, brilliant colors and greatly varied styles. Even animal representation is eschewed and floral designs tend not to be highly realistic. 

Following I share some of the wonderful scenes from this incredible building. First, I start with the flooring. 
These colors occur a lot: orange, red, blue, green and orange-ish yellow. 

A pattern similar to the one above, but using different colors and different sizes of squares.
I really loved this floor, dominated by varying shades of orange and brown, interspersed with white, then green, then black and then gold square tiles. 
These can be viewed as white hexagons or stars with six green rays. 
This looks similar to many above, but adds some interlocking lines and odd shapes at the very top. 
Next are pictures showing doors and courtyards. No one does courtyards like the Moroccans.
The outer edge of a scalloped arch with an orange tree in an inner courtyard.
The lush greenery really adds to the beauty.
A bougainvillea above a blue tiled roof visible through an arch. I thought this was stunning. 
Two doorways in succession with so many different materials. And Moroccans always add wonderful light.
Judy's colorful shirt fits in here. Beautiful, colorful wood on the sides of the door way. 
I'm not sure if any of this has gold leaf, but it looks like it may.
A similar door opening, but different materials and styles.
Varying shades of green and other color in the courtyard.
I loved this banana in a courtyard.

The top of the doorway is just visible at the bottom. Above are lacy patterns in the middle, sided by two protruding door supports scalloped in many different colors.
Colorful wood door lintel above this open door.
The walls are next and offer more wonderful variety:

The year 1316 (under the Islamic calendar) is centered between the tile below and the scalloped plaster above. 
Tiles inset in a wall.
An inset quarter-circle in a wall, either above a window or an alcove.
This inset quarter-circle is a above a window with beautiful yellow grill and ornate wood shutters. 
I am not sure if this is plaster, or wood, a combination, or something else, But it is beautiful. 
A corner piece.
Tile incorporated into a fire place. 
A corner and two side-sections. 

Colored glass in a window.
So many different types of tiles and pattern.
Here, the lacy white patterns are now infused with color.
Incredibly, the most beautiful part of the palace may be the ceilings, and they are often not readily apparent unless you force yourself to look up. Ceilings varied greatly. They were sometimes flat, but often had recessed elements and wooden slats.
This ceiling has wood slats, like 2x4s running vertically through it (from the vantage of this photo) and each slat is painted on the sides as well. 
More wooden slats seen from a different perspective, catching much more of the painting on the side of each slat. 
I love the purple elements in this ceiling.
This one has a little more yellow in it.
Here the wood slats are not on the top of the ceiling, but angled down from the top (the hanging lamp is anchored in the very top). So the wooden slats are acting more like ribs here.
Here the wooden slats are acting like ribs, but fan out at the end.
I adore this ceiling.
Hard to believe this is hidden on the ceiling.
A very detailed and intricate patterned ceiling with varied shapes.
A recessed ceiling without slats.
A recessed star pattern holds a hanging light and has smaller recessed star patterns on each side.

This looks quite plain after the ones above it, but the rich, reddish wood is striking.
I also loved this ceiling - very bold with solid colors accented by the window grills to the side.
I am hard-pressed to think of any more beautiful building in the world.