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Poem and Reflection on Banning Prayer in Public Places | Ammar AlShukry

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By Ammar AlShukry
www.facebook.com/ammarpoetry

I was recently in the company of a friend who had gotten into photography with something of a vengeance.  As we were walking through the streets of New York on a cold winter morning, he would stop at every few minutes to take a picture of a tree, or a building, or myself.  He wouldn’t take pictures the way a normal mortal would of course, he was an artist after all; even the way that he would stop walking if he anticipated a beautiful shot wasn’t a normal stop, it was a passionate stop, a don’t you dare take another step forward stop.  The next thing I know, he would be twisting his body over a railing, or getting on one knee with his expensive new toy of a camera covering his face as he snapped dozens of shots.  While all of this was happening, I noticed the crowd of people who would walk around him.  Most people side stepped around him without even so much as a glance.  I thought how strange it is that a man is on his knees on the sidewalk, blocking pedestrian traffic and no one gives him a second look.

This has always been the case in this city though.  Eight million people, eight million characters.  I’ve walked into parks to see men in the twilights of their lives, with no shirts and pants hanging dangerously in need of a belt, dancing to no music that could be heard outside of their heads, while seemingly reaching up for the sun that beat down fiercely on them.  All of that, with no one paying them any mind, and the examples of this type are too many to count.  So as my friend continued to find new ways to twist and turn to get the angle that he desired, my mind wandered to the one action that seemingly was too provocative for even the most liberal of cities: salah.  In my mind at that moment the following poem was being formed;

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I’ve seen photographers get on their knees to capture an angle
And painters lay on their backs to cover a canvas
A lover gets on one knee with ring and heart in hand
And a farmer may bow his back as he tills the land,

Then why is it considered strange,
For a man to fall in prostration in view plain
of all, in the middle of that street you know
Is he not an artist, or a lover, with seeds to sow?

And upon hearing this past week of France intending to ban the prayer in public places due to it being offensive to the sensibilities of its citizens, one cannot help but wonder, in these liberal democracies, what is it about salah that makes it so offensive?

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Abdul Quader

    September 28, 2011 at 1:48 AM

    Alhamdulilah this weekend we just had an almaghrib seminar at my university, and close to a hundred brothers prayed dhuhr, asr and maghrib on the jagged stoned walkway in front of the building. Alhamdulillah it was in Canada and us Canadians arent the confrontational type, but knowing my university, we were subject to a few snide comments, gawks and awes and a few people waiting for us to break into synchronized dance.

    May Allah give us the strength to pray in public more often

  2. Shahrazad

    September 28, 2011 at 2:04 AM

    Salah & hijab (on women) are the outward symbols of Islam. The Islamophobes leap on them whenever possible.

    • shiney

      September 28, 2011 at 7:22 AM

      yep…i agree with you

  3. Halima

    September 28, 2011 at 2:42 AM

    They see it as offensive for people to “get down on all floor on the floor’ or maybe they feel public prayer is vanity as I heard once. Or maybe they just can’t seem to get over the fact that not everyone is living solely in this world if you know what I mean…they see life and death. Nothing else. So for them this life isn’t something they want to stop worshipping…

    I remember this one athiest guy saying that praying 5x a day was a waste of time and that you could do more with your time instead of praying….Sigh

  4. Zari

    September 28, 2011 at 2:50 AM

    Assalamualaikum…

    I just came across this news through Muslimmatters. I’m disgusted with the French government and I really can’t imagine how Muslims in France are feeling. Isn’t this oppression too?

    I’m wondering how much of an issue there is in people praying on the streets. One article I read said that the praying people are blocking the streets and inconveniencing other people. The same article said that the sound of the adhan through loudspeakers is bothering the residents too. If these are true, I can understand the ban to some extent. But when I think about the ban on hijab, I wonder who is that inconveniencing? Why does this rabid opposition exist?

    May Allah ta’ala make things easier for those who are being denied their rights — including women in Saudi Arabia who cannot vote or drive.

    Many thanks to the author for using a striking analogy; I wish we could circulate this among a wider non-Muslim audience.

  5. shiney

    September 28, 2011 at 7:21 AM

    JZK for sharing this…when I first read the title, I thought it was referring to the U.S. but thank Allah that’s not the case…May Allah help Muslims all over the world to practice Islam correctly ad openly. Ameen.

    • ajay singh

      October 10, 2011 at 8:24 PM

      Yes may he be there to correct you and help you know dont play with people life. in the world and also tell you that you are less a human if you cant accept another human without converting him to islam.

  6. Sakina

    September 28, 2011 at 10:16 AM

    Salah is offensive because you choose to live your life the way you want to. People try to make those who “practice” their religion feel like they are brainwashed or following the crowd and taking the easy way out. In reality, it takes way more strength to get down and pray your 5 daily prayers where you may be then to be one of those folks just walking on by.

    • ajay singh

      October 10, 2011 at 8:29 PM

      You people only speak about your prayers & never speak about anything else it sounds like prayer is the only way to see love of god.

      Try this for a change. Just sit near the mosque and know how many people come here everyday to pray but why do they pray do they have so many issues and what are they, mental isuues, financial issues or domestic issues they pray or what is it that they thank god for ?? is it the good life of the western country, and if you think they thank god then know it that your god is asking the wesntern countries to have that good life protected, including the beauty of the nature and their culture which they dont want to see converting to islam.

  7. Cartoon Muslim

    September 28, 2011 at 11:16 AM

    That’s pretty messed up. Some of my most memorable prayers were in public. The proposed law is obviously after Muslims, because which other religion has set times to pray and are physically noticeable?

  8. Yasmin

    September 28, 2011 at 2:24 PM

    Mashallah, this was a beautiful post and the poem was very eloquently written! I had no idea that France wants to ban prayer in public places that is so sad to hear.

  9. anonymouse

    September 28, 2011 at 5:45 PM

    That was cool
    Your articles are always awesome and i like your method of thinking as well

    Keep it up inshAllah

  10. Wael Abdelgawad

    September 28, 2011 at 7:01 PM

    Insightful observation and wonderful poem. The line breaks in the second stanza were a bit odd, though.

    I was recently on my way to L.A. and stopped to eat at a little migrant town in the Valley. I did my salat on a small bit of grass in front of McDonald’s, beside the drive through. A pickup truck that was going through the drive-through stopped to watch, holding up the drive-through.

    But, ma-sha-Allah. It’s da’wah. Let people open their eyes, let them see.

    Thanks for a great article.

  11. Abu Sumaiyah

    September 29, 2011 at 5:33 AM

    As far as I am aware, after reading articles on this subject, prayer was banned on streets. Never did I read that they banned prayer out right in public rather just on the streets. Maybe I missed something, so please share it with me.

  12. Nimco Mohammed

    September 29, 2011 at 10:37 AM

    The Republic of France are so liberal they have resorted to banning things, how amazingly quick they get rid of their liberal values (which supposedly sit on the immovable bedrocks of freedom and democracy), just shows much they value them really if they can be discarded with so easily. Banning things doesn’t work, it just makes the banned object more attractive to people. I feel sorry for my brothers, and sisters in France who have deal with such overt prejudice from their own state. Are they not as French citizens valued, what about their rights to freedom of religion?

  13. Umm Ousama

    September 29, 2011 at 4:44 PM

    Assalamu alaikum,

    When one chooses to write an article or a poem on a piece of news, I think that one should study the piece of news and not act on just a headline.

    The cultural divide between America and France is huge! Yes, even though they are both Western Countries, the differences are huge. The way of thinking is quite different.

    I don’t think you can compare somebody taking a photograph and somebody praying. Why? Because this law came into force because the mosques are too small, so the Muslims sit in the street for Friday prayer and block the streets for the whole time of the prayer. Can I ask you what would New York do if this was the case? Shouldn’t a compromise be reached? The problem with Jumu’ah prayer is every Friday while you see the photographer maybe once in your lifetime.

    I know that Sarkozy is a Jew (his family died in the holocaust), I know that France doesn’t like Islam and that there is a huge problem with Algerians; yet, there was a problem and the Muslims didn’t solve it. We have to use wisdom and, if people complain of a problem, then we have to find solutions. My local mosque in London left only a tiny space for women on Friday prayer because there was no place for men. Although I don’t like that solution in principle, I recognise that it is fardh for men to pray Jumu’ah and it is not for women. So, if I, a woman, forbid a man to pray Jumu’ah prayer at the mosque because I insisted to go and have the whole women musalla for 20 sisters while it can hold 200 brothers, then, wouldn’t I be sinful?

    Let’s support our Muslim brothers in France but let’s be fair and just, even if it against ourselves.

  14. Umm Sulaim

    September 29, 2011 at 6:01 PM

    I chose silence thus far because I actually researched the issue on seeing this poem.

    An alternative was provided for a period of one year (or perhaps three, I’m too busy to redo the research).

    The french government provided a warehouse of sorts and has asked Imams to pray there and not to pray in their regular Masjids to encourage Muslims to use the new arrangement.

    If the photo I saw was of the new alternative masjid, it was neat.

    Muslims in france may tell us more on the issue.

    Umm Sulaim

  15. Farooq

    October 11, 2011 at 2:01 AM

    Salah is the greatest pillar of Islam. A building cannot stand without its pillars.

    My brothers and sisters in Islam…. Stick to your prayers with Ikhlaas.

  16. Ajay Singh

    October 11, 2011 at 9:47 AM

    To Editor

    Hey i guess you removed and edited most of what i had to speak, well i guess u are not open to listen and discuses things in a natural way and i don’t find this forum good to stick with to share my views.

  17. salahu1

    February 26, 2012 at 12:50 PM

    Preventing prayer is an oppression; resisting oppression is a duty BUT, all struggle must be fees-sabeeli Allah or our struggle is not legitimate even if it is against a horrble tyrant.
    Nabi Muhammad(saaws) made it clear to us that a masjid, wonderful as it is, isnot necessary fo salaat–Allah, azza wa jall, has made the whole eart a masjid for Muslims. When Muslims fight and kill because we were prevented from praying in one place we should find another place down the street, around the corner or in another town, state or country instead of being so quick to resort to violence that begat violence. Allah will asked us, on the Day of Judgment about our wrong deeds, why did you do it? The excuse of some will be “We were oppressed in the earth” Then we will be asked, “Is not the earth of Allah wide and spacious?” 

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