I’ve been avoiding praying at work. Last week, I was lucky and managed to do my afternoon prayer at home due to off-site meetings with clients that allowed me to stop by my apartment for a bit during the day.
Yesterday, I didn’t have that convenience.
At around 1:00 PM, I went to the bathroom to do Wudu. There was someone in one of the stalls, so I was nervous because he might be wondering why I’m spending so much time at the sink washing my hands, face, etc.
Luckily, I finished before he got out of the stall, so I never had to make eye contact.
I booked Conference Room 1 for a half hour so I had some privacy when conducting my prayer.
I grabbed my travel prayer mat, my Salat instructions, and a note-pad and pen to make it look like I was actually on a conference call and headed to the conference room.
When I got there, I closed the door, used my Muslim Pro app on my iPhone to find what direction Mecca is in, and set up my prayer mat.
Our Conference Rooms aren’t sound proof, so I was worried that people would be suspicious if there was no noise coming from the room and they would come in.
So I did what any person who was secretly praying at work would do….
I called my conference line number and put the hold music on speaker phone.
Problem solved. My co-workers would just think I was waiting for the host to arrive.
I was quite distracted during my prayer. I kept worrying my co-workers would walk in and wonder why I was prostrate.
“Uhhhh, Dale, what are you doing?”
“Oh you know, just looking for something on the floor….”
“Why are your shoes off?”
It would be awkward.
So I rushed through the prayer.
I wrapped up my prayer at the same time my conference call line disconnected me, which was good timing.
I put my shoes back on, packed up my mat, and went back to my desk.
The difficulty of doing a single prayer at work without drawing attention made me realize how important it is to be an environment that facilitates rituals that you want to follow.
If I were still teaching English in Egypt and wanted to pray, it would not be weird at all for me to book some time in a conference room to do so. I wouldn’t have to look to my iPhone to remind me to pray, I would hear the call to prayer from the nearest minaret.
However, I think the difficulty of doing Salat in the modern, American workplace is a good metaphor for the tension between the old and the new.
To openly practice an ancient religion, you must accept that you are adopting values that run counter to modern values and as a result, you will sometimes feel anxious and awkward as I did when I was doing my prayer at my work.