After my first day at the university a few weeks ago, I jumped into a cab with a friend at dusk, stressed and tired from the long day. My mind was reeling with the new situation and setting, preoccupied with the computer problems I was having.
But as I settled into the back seat, the cabby changed the radio station, and long, throaty vowels began to emanate from the speakers and fill the cab. It wasn’t music, but a recitation of the Qur’an.
I quickly noticed that it was maghrib, sunset—one of the five times Muslims pray every day. In the same way that the verses vibrated inside the car, the call to prayer, or azan, was echoing throughout the limestone hills of Amman.
As we drove into the increasing darkness, I felt a sense of calm settle in. The seat seemed to cradle me as the recitation told me to rest and reflect. Through the Arabic verses that I rarely understood, and through the peace I felt as I listened, God remind me of his presence in my life, and his increased closeness as I navigate my life in Amman.
I am in a new and different place here, and sometimes that newness and difference can wedge a feeling of nervousness in my stomach. But during that taxi ride, God reminded me that as my life becomes new and different, God will also present himself to me in new and different ways. God won’t—can’t—reach me in the same way he does at home or at Georgetown, because Amman isn’t Indianapolis or D.C.
The key is that I must be able to recognize these new and different manifestations, even if they exist outside my usual experience, or even outside the practices of my own religious tradition. This ability to recognize requires courage and a deep trust in the limitless and mystery of God.
Maghrib has become my favorite time of day here, not simply because of the pink light that rests over the hills, but also because of the azan that calls me to remembrance. It calls me to complete an Ignatian “daily examen” of sorts, to recognize the new ways God reveals himself to me in the laughs of my Arabic professor and the big blue eyes of my 2-year-old host sister.
My experience of maghrib reminds me of the end of a poem by the 13th century Muslim Sufi mystic, Rumi:
Sunlight looks slightly different on this wall
than it does on that wall
and a lot different on this other one,
but it is still one light.
We have borrowed these clothes,
these time-and-space personalities, from a light,
and when we praise, we pour them back in.