The Human Cohesion Project — 9 Apr 2022
The need for faith often heightens in times of conflicts — it provides a psychological anchor when things outside do not make sense. A few days ago, when a Ukrainian woman who happened to be in Turkey heard the azaan — the Islamic call for prayer — coming from the renowned Hagia Sophia, she felt moved to convert to Islam. Daria Yaroshenko walked into the mosque with her husband, spoke to the muezzin and embraced Islam formally.
The need for religion is often contested, at this stage of human evolution. Could we continue to evolve healthily without it? Yes, it is very plausible. Would the level of conflict and violence in the world reduce if religions fade out? That is likely, too. Having said that, religion serves a huge need: that of being an anchor for all things unexplained about life. The communities and institutions developed around religion are also mechanisms of practical support in times of need. Rituals, such as the azaan, are meaningful too.
The call for prayer is a call for a collective pause. It reminds us, no matter who we are or what we are doing in a given moment, that we have a shared existence. It reminds us of the unity that we may have steered away from in the pursuit of mundane tasks. In challenging times such as war, a pause such as this can lend meaning in deep and powerful ways, and perhaps that is what Daria Yaroshenko touched a few days ago. For her, it happened through the azaan. For another, it may happen through a cup of tea. So long as we reconnect with our shared humanity, even looking into a stranger’s eyes may be an act of religion.
Ramadan Kareem. May we hear the call we are meant to.
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