A rosy ray lit up the horizon, the stars paled, and a voice cried out in cadence, in the silence of dawn:
“Allah is the greatest! There is no God but Allah, and Mohammad is the Prophet of Allah! Come and pray! Come to salvation!”
High up above the flat housetops and the palm-tree of the oasis, the last notes of the Muazzin’s call, wafted from the balcony of the slender minaret, died away in the infinite space of the desert….
Muslims who were still slumbering, enwrapped in the white folds of their shroudlike mantles, sprung to their feet with a start, like dead men coming to life. They hurried to fountains where they performed their ablutions; and then, with clean skins and pure thoughts, they gathered together in long processions, elbow to elbow, all turned in one direction: that of the Holy Ka’bah of Makkah (Mecca).
Standing erect, heads slightly bent, eyes downcast, perfectly still in the long folds of their garments, they seemed as if metamorphosed into a crowd of statues. Following the example of the Immam, in front of them, but in the same direction, and announcing each phase of the prayer by Takbir: “Allah is the greatest!” they all lifted their open hands on a level with their foreheads, bearing witness to their ecstasy in the presence of the Almighty power of the Master of the Worlds. Then every man made the same movement, bending their backs and bowing low before the throne of His Supreme Majesty.
But this did not suffice to express all the humility of their souls, so they dropped to the ground and prostrated themselves, piously pressing their faces against the earth. For a few moments they remained in this supplicating posture, as if crushed by the weight of the entire firmament which might have been prostrated with them.
They held up their heads at last and rose to a sitting posture, both knees on the ground, their heads bowed under the burden of their fervour. The prayer, terminated by salutation, accompanied by the face being turned first to the left, was addressed to the two recording angels who unceasingly attend every true believer.
Generally, however, the Faithful who ask nothing from Allah, not even their daily bread, remain a little longer on their knees, and placing breast-high their open palms under their eyes, as if reading a book, they implore divine mercy for the salvation of their souls, for their relatives, and for Islam.
Only the few parts of the Prayer: the Takbir, the Fatihah and the final salutation are loudly intoned by the Imam. The congregation pray inwardly, the Takbir alone is murmured in whispers that are barely audible.
Such half-silence enhance the grandeur of their gestures, so expressive and simple, in which dignity is closely allied to humility, and being totally devoid of affection, constitutes the most poignant display of adoration imaginable.
Every day, each time the rays of the sun change color: at rosy dawn, flaming noon, during glided sunset, when it descends below the horizon in all the yellow sadness of its disappearance; and at the moment it is enshrouded in the blue veiling of night, not only in the Mosques, but also in the houses and streets, in cafes and market places, in the country or the desert, all Muslims, alone or grouped together, wherever they may be, without needing to be called by the Muazzin or lead by the Imam, are bound to stop short in their work and even interrupt their trend of thought, for a few minutes, thus glorifying the Benefactor.
For more than thirteen centuries, from the Atlantic’s African shore as far as the Chinese coast-line of the Pacific, more than two hundred millions of the Faithful turns five times daily in the direction of the Holy Ka’bah of Makkah (Mecca), their millions of prayers being garnered there to be offered up to the Most High, bearing witness to the undying gratitude of the souls of Islam.