Tuesday, September 18, 2012
What a tiny few observations can be made after being absorbed into the world, yet never really part of it, for three weeks!
The laws of the country and the tenants of the faith are so interwoven in Morocco. Leaders of the mosques are chosen by the local community but paid by the government as are all the needs of the mosque. One attends whatever mosque is nearby at prayer time so the sense of a faith community as we know it does not exist. Connections are made in the family, the hammam and tea shop. The current legal time zone is adjusted for the fasting of Ramada. The king is a ruler, but many do not like his wife who was the first queen ever seen in public and does not wear a scarf.
I think that is why the powder keg in the Middle East is so hard for Westerners to understand. Issues of power and control and lack become inflamed with religious offense so easily, and what is conveyed via press on both sides is so far from either truth, but accepted as fact on both sides.
Five times a day the call sounds from the minaret: time to pray. Although I see very few people stop at those moments to pray, the calls begin to govern the hours of all who live in Morocco. It is a constant reminder from 4 or 5 directional speakers at once that 98% of those around us are believers in the Koran and the Prophet and the Five Tenants. Intellectual ideas for us; consuming ways of life for them.
There is no way to discuss without defense our different beliefs. We both have answers for each other’s questions which make so much sense as to not be discussable. I suppose I would be as successful explaining the mysteries of real body and blood in Holy Communion as they were initiating me into why Jesus did not die but was replaced in the tomb by someone who looked like him. The Westerners listen without contradiction. The Moroccans do not ask any questions they cannot answer.
The key to the faith as it was explained to me, and as it makes sense now in day to day life in Morocco and world events, is the individual’s relationship to Allah at the center of the faith. One is required to give to charity, to pray, to keep the Ramadan fast, to believe in God and the Prophet, to make a pilgrimage. Having done that, responsibility is fulfilled: one is right with Allah and anticipates heavenly reward. Duty to family is culturally key, as is modesty in women. But central tenants Christians hold close such as forgiveness by God and each other, compassion and gracious giving are just not in the motivating conscious mind of those I met.
Morocco invites one to enter and explore, but not too far. The mosque doors in the medina are unlocked. Visible inside the unmarked door is a pile of shoes and a simple protective wall. In the more spacious areas, the mosques are full of arches and shadows, water pools and tree lined paths. They are clearly oases in the endless brown surroundings. No signs, but for all the invitation to rest and peace that can be glimpsed, it is understood I as a woman, non-Muslim, am not allowed.
The medina beacons with meandering narrow alley-roads that curve tantalizingly, promising a great discovery just around the corner, but a few steps off the path in an unknown direction and the noise of the market disappears. The walls are painted cooling whites or blue and doors are uniquely decorated, but shut tight. Windows are high on the walls and covered with black grill, allowing no casual peek at the life inside. Life and noise are in the walled garden and patio, but only the family enters.
The women chatter and giggle, haggle and shout, link arms and cling close in the market, but most heads are covered, a few even veil faces. Even the young girls cover elbows and legs in the hottest weather. For all the universal female traits, the Westerner gets the sense of not belonging.
It is mysterious and exotic, a little exclusive and off putting, with a touch of dark and frightening. Inviting, curiously compelling, completely unknowable.