Muslims at Prayer – 18 March 2019
Here is ‘A group of Arabs at prayer with distant camels’. Those praying have separated themselves from others in their caravan, and facing Mecca, make their devotions to Allah. The ancient ruins and camels in the background, together with the subjects’ style of dress are interestingly oriental, from a different culture far away. Although the manner of prayer would have been strange to the first viewer, the engagement with God, and the peacefulness of the scene, build a bridge to Western (British) Christian religious practice. The picture intends the viewer to respect and esteem those praying. As Islamic lands opened to Western travellers, pictures like this encouraged understanding and tolerance.
The picture here is a watercolour signed J A Benwell from around 1847. It is a copy of an oil painting by William James Müller, Prayers in the desert, 1843. This image is important as the first British painting to show Islamic religious practice and postures of prayer.
اَلسَّلَامُ عَلَیْکُمْ وَرَحْمَةُ اللہِ وَ بَرَکَاتُہُ
Assalamo alaikum wa rahmatullahe wa barakatohu.
Peace be on you and the mercy and blessings of Allah.
I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.
When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands,
and I would not be comforted.
Psalm 77:1-2, at a time of distress
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer (The Episcopal Church), For the human family