Sunday, September 30, 2007


At the dargah of Nizamuddin Auliya, I saw this young woman in prayer. She was not a fast reader. Her finger moved slowly, right to left, tracing the Arabic script. Her lips moved silently. In the five minutes that I stood there, she didn't look up even once.

Her copy of the Koran seemed new. I wondered what passage she was reading, and how much of the Arabic she understood. Perhaps it wasn't important to understand, perhaps the sound and rhythm were themselves compelling.

Have you seen the opening lines of the Koran? Even in an English translation, without any rhyme to it, I can sense the powerful cadence of the words:
In the name of the merciful and compassionate God!

Praise belongs to God, the Lord of the worlds,

He the merciful, the compassionate,
He, the ruler of the day of judgment!

Thee we serve and Thee we ask for aid.

Guide us in the right path.

The path of those Thou art gracious to;

Not of those Thou art wroth with; nor of those who err.

When I hear the muezzin's call in the evenings, although I don't understand a word of Arabic, it still resonates inside my body, and I am drawn to the sound. I feel the same way when I hear truly inspiring choir music in a church, or the deep chanting of Sanskrit.

I'm not religious, yet there is something fundamentally appealing in the sound of all prayer.


Movie Mazaa said...

I dunno why, but I simply loved this post. The real awesome lines with which u have painted ur emotions and the stunning pic that adds that extra little bit to the effect. Thx!

Anonymous said...

Lets say I pick a language, one I can assume you might not understand a word of,ok for shits and grins lets pick suomi or svenska and chant a bunch of crap in a very low steady hum, I wonder if it would still be the sound of prayer or just the deep, low frequncy sound that really sounds appealing.

Deepa said...

Yes of course, it is the cadence and tempo. We react powerfully to sound. All religions understand this pretty well. That's why singing and chanting and drums and music are a part of all world cultures, from tribal to modern.

rajiv said...