blog posts from GYC's participants, alumni, & staff
Being a Muslim Bosniak is considered as an ethnic identity here in Bosnia, but it can also refer to the religion: Islam. Practice is a choice but brings a lot of meanings, and it is in this context that we have experimented the Asr prayer or called the late afternoon prayer.
We were asked obviously to best comply with the believers by not offending them with indecent outfits. So we tried to dress up in the most traditional way possible by wearing long and wide skirts, so as not to attract attention, as well as covering our arms and our head with a scarf that was characteristic of the Islamic veil or more commonly known as hijab.
The mosque in Sanski Most surprised me by its imposing size. Modern and rebuilt after the war, it caught my attention by its dome with amazing proportions and its four minarets.
Our experience began arriving at the mosque, where tradition dictates us to remove our shoes to meet the purity of the praying area. The latter, under the great dome, welcomes men while women, have a mezzanine at their disposal.
Semra and Amila, young bosniaks girls, were our two guides and as I was afraid of some reactions according to the rigidity of the religion (a well-known stereotype), I took refuge behind them hoping that our presence would not cause any problems. What happened next was the exact opposite of what I had imagined: some Bosniaks came to us, asking many questions, obviously translated by our two friends, and then separated us and placed us next to them in order to show us the gesture to perform during the prayer.
The adhan then resounded and made quivered the hearts in the mosque. The 100 faithful stayed suddenly quiet and massed to the imam who struck up the prayer. This is the spirit of the prophetic tradition “sunna”: call and gather the worshipers to prayer.
Not being a believer but having already attended Catholic masses before, I was expecting a new form of individualistic prayer. Yet it is as a community that we prayed with all these women. At that moment, a feeling of peace and serenity submerged me. I did not necessarily understand the meaning of words or even gestures, but I felt that it did not matter: bow, kneel, bow down, get up, it’s the thought that truly count.
After the prayer, the imam of Turkish origin began his speech.
Arabic is a difficult language but the reading of the Koran gave me the desire to pursue further my learning.
The Friday prayer and sermon lasted about 1 hour. We left this sacred place with great humility and respect. I had just had my first religious experience of Islam: a belief that I’ve found opened and shared.