I see religion as a journey and for this creative project, I decided to explore Islam through the lens of a road trip that I went on with my sister through South Africa.
We started with an end destination in mind: Johannesburg, home. However the other logistics of our route didn’t matter so much, as long as we had our maps, guides and phones to call friends and family for help. What followed was a beautiful adventure that took us through the many differing landscapes of our country.
Like us, Islam has a beginning point. Becoming a Muslim begins with the first pillar of Islam, which is the Shahada, the proclamation of faith:
لا إله إلا الله محمد رسول الله
There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God
Religious maps comes in subtler forms, and one can find direction in the Qur’an and doctrines such as the five pillars of Islam. Institutions like the Ulama, scholars who interpret Islamic law in the ever-changing world, together with religious leaders and sheiks, can be guides to turn to if believers get lost along the way. In many ways spirituality is this voyage of discovery that is going to be different for each individual. Nobody can teach the wisdom of Islam in one day, followers have to go on a journey to discover it for themselves. However, like the beauty of the landscapes we experienced, it is easy to see God in the world around us. The Qu’ran says:
To God belongs the East and the West,
Where so ever you look is the face of God. [Quran 2:115]
My road trip was very much a meditation on the world surrounding me, and I was able to connect through being open to new experiences. As the quotation at the end of my piece states:
There is no deity but God, there are many roads to reach him
Just like the sun that guided my sister and I along our continuing road towards home, religion provides a way to spirituality connect with the world around us. However there are many different paths, and many different experiences. Our discussions of Sufi Muslims and between the Sunni and Shia doctrines, as well as the many different cultural interpretations and integrations, highlight these numerous paths.
I set my video clip to an unusual Adhan, which is the call to prayer answered five times a day for millions of Muslims all round the world,. I wanted this standardized prayer to be seen in a new light, to mirror the diversity of Islam. It includes the Shahada a fundamental pillar of Islam and the declaration of faith, a statement that has begun the journey to Allah for Muslims throughout history.