‘Without thinking good or evil, what is your Call to Prayer before the prophet was born?”
~ Gateless Barrier, Case 23
One of the hard bits about this simple koan, which usually asks ‘What is your original face’, is the ‘without thinking good or evil’ part. This koan calls from a place that aks you not put labels on things: good or evil, self or other, Christian, Jewish or Muslim.
I recently returned from visiting my brother in Istanbul, a city and country that is struggling in politics, in religion, and in economics. How can I not think good or evil? And yet the Call to Prayer daily invites the 12 million souls in this city of 3,000 mosques to put that all aside.
The Call is plaintive and sweet, undulating and yearning. For me, it is not so much about the words: Allāhu akbar/Ash-hadu an-lā ilāha illā allāh/Ash-hadu anna Muhammadan-Rasul ullāh (Allah is the greatest/I bear witness that there is no God but Allah/I bear witness that Muhammad is his messanger…). It is about the Call itself, which resounds across the land, without making judgments.
I read the Call when I saw that the English Daily’s editor, joining dozens of others, was arrested and put in jail last Saturday. I met the Call when a man and his young son, begging, held up a sign that they were fleeing Syria, not far to the south. I smelled the Call as I searched for rose tea and saffron in the backstreets of the Spice Market.
Even before all the prophets were born, we have heard the Call. It is indeed the greatest.
Listen to the Call to Prayer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBNUdeWw-wE