Lydia Shippen is a student at University of North Carolina, Wilmington and is an ISA Classmates Connecting Cultures blogger corresponding with her Arabic professor at UNC Wilmington. Lydia is currently studying in Amman, Jordan on a Fall 1 program.
Before arriving in Amman, I had a lot of “book knowledge” about the Arab world but I had not experienced any of it first-hand. It did not take long after my arrival to Amman to experience the importance of Islam in the Jordanian culture. On my first night, I unpacked my bags and collapsed, exhausted and jet lagged, into my new bed. Around five in the morning I was pulled out of my restless sleep by a beautiful and eerie voice floating through window. It was the morning call to prayer, something that I had only read about in books. As I lay there listening to the extraordinary voice singing verses from the Quran, I was struck by the devotion that enables one to wake up early to pray and then to repeat the action four more times during the day.
Below is a video clip of the evening call to prayer. The prayer comes alive as it echoes throughout the neighborhood of cement buildings. I hope that you enjoy it as much as I do! The green light above the center building is the tip of the minaret at the local mosque.
Islam is so intricately woven into the culture and traditions that it is impossible to separate the three. Therefore, religion influences countless aspects of life in Jordan. The many expressions about Allah are a great illustration. One example is the phrase “il-hamdilla” (Shaami/Levantine -local dialects- for “al-hamdu lillaah”), which basically means “Praise be to God.” This expression has a variety of meanings and can be used in many different situations. For example, it can be used to answer friends when they greet you to mean that you are doing well. It can be used as an expression of thanks after a long day has finally come to an end. It can even be used to politely refuse a third serving of a friend’s delightfully creamy hummus and homemade pita because you are simply too full to eat more.
If you have been following the news then you should know about the movie “The Innocence of Muslims” and about the protests and demonstrations that are occurring in many countries in the Middle East in reaction to the video. I get the feeling that the protests are being exaggerated in the United States’ media and that the numbers of the people protesting (maybe around 1000 total in a population of a couple million) are not being told along with the visually striking photos. One example of exaggeration is Newsweek’s recent cover photo titled “Muslim Rage.” I understand that people have died and that protests are still going on, so this is a serious issue, but I want to let you know that the majority of the people here in Jordan are not reacting in this way. Yes, people are offended and confused, but most people that I talk to are asking the same question that I am, which is “Why?” Why was the movie made? Why did some of the protests turn violent? As of this moment, there are very few concrete facts that can answer these questions.
The protests in reaction to “The Innocence of Muslims” have been non-violent; some have even taken place here in Amman. I encourage you to follow the story in the coming weeks because the facts will most likely be uncovered as we get away from the so-called “Muslim Rage.” And please, always question your news and look through a variety of sources before you come to a conclusion.
I hope that I have left you with some new topics to ponder. If you would like further conversation then please leave your questions and/or comments in the comment box. To the students from Dr. Berg’s Arabic class, please feel free to email me or even message me on Skype. I would absolutely love to discuss anything about Arabic and Jordan!