Salat al-Maghreb (Berbera-Hargeisa Roadside, Somaliland)

The women’s prayer room is in the back of the restaurant, where the men sit and drink tea and soda. Compared to the main mosque, out front by the road, the women’s space is austere. Dirt floor, corrugated iron for walls and roof, tacked onto the building itself. We wash in a small fenced area outside, and then line up along the edge of a straw mat.

Allahu akbar.

When we kneel for the first rakat, I realize that the mat is plastic, not straw. We press our foreheads against it, and repeat three times.

Subhana rabbiyal a’Allah.

Standing for the second rakat, my shoulders touch those on either side of me. I am one of many, and there is a certain peace to it. The darkness of the room becomes a blanket, and I am glad we do not pray in the well-lit mosque, with the doors open to the road. These moments are not for the passer-by.

Wa laa hawla wa laquwwata illa Billaah. There is no strength nor power except with Allah.

Repeat until it is true. Repeat until that is where we find our strength. Repeat until we stop looking under the corners of old rugs, until we stop digging between the cushions, looking for strength like it’s a lost coin. Repeat, and find strength in the consistency. Repeat, and find strength in Allah.

While the first two rakats are spoken, the third rakat is silent. Be lost in yourself, together.

Allahu akbar.

Pause and remind yourself of what is true, and what is a distraction. Remind yourself what is important. Remind yourself five times a day. Remind yourself until you don’t forget, knowing that you will always forget. There is peace in accepting your own fragility.

Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah.

Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah.

The drive, just before we stopped for prayer.

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