Sunday, August 30, 2009

Moroccans Queue up for Ramadan Night Prayers

More Ramadan in Morocco for you. Here is an article on the special night prayers, Taraweeh and how Moroccans come out of the spiritual woodwork to attend them.

Moroccans queue up to hear taraweeh recited by talented imams


By Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat — 28/08/09

[Abdelhak Senna /AFP/Getty Images] The taraweeh prayers are a powerful draw for Moroccans during Ramadan.

Morocco's mosques are packed this Ramadan, particularly for the night-time taraweeh prayers, with some worshippers trekking far to hear the Qur'an recited by imams with the most powerful voices.

Thousands from nearby towns converge after iftar at the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca alone, to hear Omar Qazabri, a young imam known for his recitations' power and precision.

"I feel my whole body vibrating with the power of his voice," said Rabat resident Hakim Bembaroudi, who this year plans to visit Casablanca at least five times to pray at the Hassan II Mosque. "He creates an atmosphere of holiness, while other imams don't manage to create this feeling."

With an eye to the queues of worshippers that turn out for such successes, Lahcen Moudaoui, a lecturer in Islam, said that readings of the Qur'an must be included in the training for imams proposed by the Ministry of Habous and Islamic Affairs.

"I believe that more and more young imams are trying to perfect their skills in all areas," said the professor. "The reason for the massive turn-out for some imams and not for others lies in their voice and their excellent declamation, since there's no preaching during the taraweeh."

Regardless of the presiding imam, the taraweeh itself is especially important to many Moroccans. Even the less devout may show up at the mosque once a year, just for this occasion.

"The taraweeh prayer is highly valued by young people, even those who have never prayed before, because it enables them to attain the spirituality and holiness that Muslims look for during Ramadan," said student Bahja Mouhieddinne, who never misses a single evening.

"I know some young people who only pray during Ramadan," added Mouhieddinne. "They feel an internal sense of satisfaction in an atmosphere of spirituality."

MP Abdelbari Zemzemi weighed in on the Moroccan devotion to taraweeh and the practice of travelling to hear particularly gifted imams.

"Islam does not encourage people to travel to mosques far from home, because all mosques are good," said Zemzemi, also an imam. "However, the phenomenon can be explained by the satisfaction one can find by visiting certain imams who excel at reciting the Qur'an."

While acknowledging that not all imams in Morocco are talented at leading the taraweeh prayers, owing to the nature of their recitations, he is critical of those who only pray during Ramadan.

"That's hypocrisy," Zemzemi said.

But for his part, sociologist Ali Chaâbani told Magharebia that "you cannot brand those who only pray during Ramadan as hypocrites".

"There's no requirement to perform the taraweeh prayer," said Chaâbani. "There's no group calling for this practice, nor are there posters to promote it ... It's a religious and purely voluntary matter, so it's difficult to talk of hypocrisy."

According to Chaâbani, Moroccans typically have a deep-rooted faith, even when it is not readily apparent in their daily lives.

"The atmosphere during Ramadan in Morocco, which also includes prayer, has strong links with social tradition," said the sociologist. "Moroccans are used to the taraweeh prayer … today's adult male is the same person who, a few years ago, was going with his parents to the mosque."

"Most people derive spiritual release from joining the masses of faithful worshippers, and from hearing the Qu'ran being read well," he added.

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