by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde
Next week marks the start of Ramadan for Muslim brothers and sisters. As a Spiritual Director at Loyola, this time of prayer and fasting in the world inspires my heart. As a Christian, marking my own holy days of Jesus’ resurrection, I love contemplating another major world religion entering into a solemn period of collective focus, prayer, and communal ritual.
I think of my first experience of the call to prayer in a predominantly Muslim country. I was standing on a rooftop garden in Stone Town, Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania, in my friend Emily’s apartment. As an American dwelling abroad, fully fluent in the culture and customs, Emily made gracious space for me entering in to this experience in her adopted home country.
God is the greatest.
I acknowledge that there is no deity but God
Hasten to the prayer (Salah).
Hasten to the salvation.
God is the greatest.
There is no deity but God.
-Adhan: The call to prayer.
It was a stunningly warm day in early December, the sun was bright above our heads. The Indian Ocean surrounding all sides of this island a short flight from Dar es Salaam. I recall the orange tiles below my feet, the grey and taupe of stone rooves and blues of the painted domes, the green plants adorning her deck. When the sound of the broadcast voice came on over the loud public speakers, it was both alarming and amazing. I was spun around by the male voice singing -chanting the Arabic in every direction while Emily recited the words, and, in the breath between repetition, provided an English translation.
This voice was centering God in the community, proclaiming salvation, inviting all to prayer. It was breathtaking. The sound. The intention. The view. I can still feel the stirring inside me of culture and clash and wonder and discomfort.
God. Allah. God. Allah. God.
On Tuesday evening, my colleague Dan Johnson and I brought closure to an eight-month journey entering into the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. As we concluded this extended retreat time with eight seekers endeavoring daily prayer and contemplation of Love in the world – together, seeking to find God in all things — I’m struck by the beginning of this new season of prayer in Ramadan.
In the spirit of Ignatian Imagination prayer, I’m moved to enter into the holy scene of the prophet Muhammad receiving God’s word. Something deep within me is tickled by a fathomed sensory experience in a desert cave with this descendent of Abraham. I imagine the same angel Gabriel of my own Annunciation encounter, proclaiming good news of God’s promises to my Arab brother. Every part of me delights in this contemplation.
In Louis Savary’s book, The New Spiritual Exercises: in the Spirit of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a resource text for me this past eight months, Savary transposes the classic Spiritual exercises through this lens of the famed Jesuit evolutionary biologist. In doing so, he gives us this language around finding God in all things through the Christ Project. We are all invited to participate in God coming to us through all of creation, fully conscious of our divine origin and divine destiny. From imagined scriptural encounters with Jesus, and experiencing Jesus’ love, our singular and collective invitations to return that love are manifest in the Christ project. We are called to discern our mission and vocation –our participation in the Christ Project.
Simply, the Christ Project states:
1)We humans are not separate from this planet nor from anyone or anything on it or in it;
2)We need to uplift everyone and everything on it or in it.
With this joyful mandate nurturing my personal vocational alignment, I recognize my Muslim brothers and sisters — moving into this time of prayer and fasting, as much a part of the Christ project as me coming out of the Ignatian exercises and celebrating Easter.
Can you imagine? We are all side by side in God’s glorious universe. Christians, Muslims. Jews. Hindus. Buddhists. Non believers. Believers. All one.
Ramadan Kareem. Ramadan Mubarek.
Peace be with all the world over.