Friday, November 03, 2006


Islam: (n) Arabic. 1. Judeo-Christian faith founded in 7th century CE. See
Muhammad. 2. An act of submission.

Our first mission took us to a remote patrol base south of Baghdad. We were
there to collaborate with a small infantry element, who've been providing
security to outlying farming communities. Though Engineers are not the same
as Infantry, we often find ourselves in the same situations, and so the two
groups have a good working relationship.

We worked 12-hour days, from 6 to 6, and slept in what i suspect was an
abandoned schoolhouse. We were just up the road from several Iraqi
farmhouses, and on many occasions, I found myself watching small families
work their tiny plots; picking lettuce or leading scrawny cows through
pasture much as they have for generations. Occasionally, some would look up
at toss us friendly waves. Still others regarded us balefully, or tried to
ignore us.

The living conditions were austere at best, but to be honest, I didn't mind.
We slept on marble floors under a pillared awning--rucksacks were our
pillows, and our lullabies the thump of outgoing mortar rounds. I ate MREs
and pounded dozens of bottles of water. I pulled two-hour guard shifts at
night, on the turret of a Humvee. I didn't shower.

On the third night, a hard thunderstorm hit us, and the rain left many
soldiers soaked to the bone. I pulled up the waterproof cover on my
sleeping bag and went back to sleep. In the morning, amid the cries of
roosters and baying dogs, a staticky voice wailed across the countryside,
tinny and desperate and beautiful:

"Allllaaaaaaaaaaah'u'Akbaaaaaaaar..." God is great. God is merciful.

My buddy Brooks hates the calls to morning prayer. They emanate five times
a day from the mosque up the road, and he says they creep him out more than
anything. I can't say I understand. To me, there is no greater expression
of faith than through a culture's music, and the faith of this culture is so
deeply wrapped in emotion that I can't help but be moved. I may not speak
Arabic; I may never have read the Qu'ran; but when I heard those ululating
songs of devotion, a shiver runs up my spine, and for a moment I, too, felt
compelled to close my eyes,

and Submit.

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Anonymous Cheryl Friend said...


8:32 PM  
Blogger cinnabari said...

The Muslim students on campus sing evening prayers sometimes...a man stands on the wall and faces east and sings out to his God. I shiver, too, when I hear it, because I imagine that I feel somewhere, an Eye cracking open and looking our way.

2:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Milo:
Great to hear from you...Your description are vivid and transport me. If one believes God is everywhere; and in every thing and everyone, then all events and our senses can move us to be closer to him...rather strange...maybe all these events you are experiencing are here to help us remember there is a vast greatness and awe that exists on the planet...and we call that by many names, God, Allah, Buddha, The Self, cosmic consciousness...the name doesn't matter or the is the inner knowing that makes the difference and some people express this divinity in their songs, others in their words, or simply the way the care for their scrawny cows? What do you think?
Great post thank you so much for are making a huge, positive difference.
P.S. This morning I decided I could just feel like God smiles on me...and really likes me...Ha! It made me feel great. Why not?

7:59 PM  
Blogger Hayden said...

beautifully written post. I've always wished to hear the call to prayers, I've heard it described so many times - but to experience it must be profound.

6:38 PM  

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