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Shoulder to shoulder original oil painting


Oil on wood, 10 x 10 inches, ready to hang

Why is there a clear exhortation in Islam to pray in congregation? I’ve thought a lot about the significance of the group or the crowd.

You can feel many things in a group: safety, fear, belonging, power etc. Kierkegaard said (perhaps pejoratively) “the crowd is an abstraction,” but to me, this abstraction is necessary for the realization of the ideals by which we live. 

Think of the ummah which is, in and of itself, an idea. What makes it real? It is the act of standing together for a single purpose beyond ourselves, voluntarily moving in unison in a way that doesn’t clearly satisfy any particular motive we may have as isolated egos that gives the ummah an objective quality.

The group which is an abstraction thus becomes something real in the world, so real that it not only exists in the world as a thing but also has an effect on each of us individually.

And so the prayer congregation is an act of actualizing an ideal, of making it real and allowing us to then be dialectically shaped by our deepest beliefs.

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