When you see someone pray, do you wonder what that person prays for?
When I travel, it’s thrilling to get the rare chance to have even just a tiny glimpse of various culture unfamiliar to me. Often, the difference with a certain culture is apparent through its spiritual belief and the deviation of its religious structure. While I’m always astonished by natural wonders, I also hugely admire man-made brilliance. I get entranced with the striking distinction of each spiritual dwelling, and more so with each level of awareness I believe I find whenever I learn and witness a few little things about the diverse beliefs and principles. I’m not in any way religious, but sometimes, having an understanding, no matter how little, about a nation’s way of faith imparts us a bit more empathy on its culture.
When I visited Dubai, we were fortunate that our tour guide extended our trip to this superb beauty in Abu Dhabi – Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
On all parts and corners of the Grand Mosque, you will see that each and every detail is exceptionally intricate, and you’ll know instantly that the time spent cultivating each piece was no joke. The place illuminates exquisiteness and elegance, but at the same time it radiates tranquility and reverence.
There’s a certain feel while walking around the place that made me have a quiet appreciation of what their faith is all about. My personal insight is that it’s rooted in remarkable devotion. I find it admirable how committed they are in ensuring that they solely dedicate specific hours in their day to solemnly pray. I personally find that inspiring, because we often get so lost and detached with all the things we have to accomplish in a day, that we forget to acknowledge and appreciate the real essence of life, and more crucially, to stop and offer even just a small part of our day to just be thankful.
Religion is a sensitive topic, I know. So I won’t pretend to be an expert about it, nor do I want to appear self-righteous. But this is what I wish people would remember. Religion is an insight; it’s a way of faith which is different for each and everyone, but it’s essential that respect is extended, as we expect people to respect ours. We may not always understand, and the truth is, we will never really fully understand. But I believe that there is beauty and genuine kindness in each one. If we take time to appreciate the benevolence of each religion, and not focus and generalise out of the delinquency of a few, I think we will all be in a better position to be as open and compassionate as we can be.
I’m from the Philippines, and it is almost by default that I am a Catholic. Though I have full respect for the religion I was brought into, like I said, I’m way far from being religious. I’m the type who used to pretend to be asleep when I was a kid, so my Mom won’t ask me to attend church. Still, it never ceases to amaze me whenever I see her pray the rosary every single night. The way it tugs my heart when I see people on their knees in a Catholic chapel, or when someone lights incense and offers a prayer in a Taoist and Buddhist temple. The way someone poignantly prays in a beautiful Mosque while his head, hands and knees are humbly down on the floor. We may all be different, but in the end we are all humans whose vulnerability compels us to ask and pray, however we were taught to call Him.
Diversity is wonderful. I mean, imagine if we all believe the same thing, speak and act in the same way, wouldn’t it be boring? How do you then make a distinction of your own brilliant exceptional being and principles? So celebrate your uniqueness, and be grateful and respectful for the divergence of the ones around you.
So… when you see someone pray, do you wonder what that person prays for, and to whom he prays to? No matter what it is, it comes from where any prayer comes from – a heart that recognises Omnipotence and humility. So, maybe the bigger question is – should it matter who prays and where prayers are made from? I dare answer with a resounding NO 🙂
Note: There are a number of ground rules in visiting the Grand Mosque to pay respect, such as women should be dressed in a modest and unexposed manner, no insolent poses aloud when taking photos, shoes should be taken off before entering, etc. Luckily, Ali has kindly brought beautiful Abayas for me and my friends.
Travel date: February 2015