Often times, my fajr alarms (note the plural) are not what rouse me from slumber in the morning; it’s the birds that do it. They are nature’s alarm clocks, nature’s muezzins (one who calls the athan, the summons to prayer) with feathers and beaks: they sing every day at about the same time without fail. They are much more reliable, much more beautiful than the mechanical, synthesized “beeps” from my cell phone, and, in truth, I almost prefer their version of the athan (the Muslim call to prayer) to the one performed by a human. (Though, to be sure, the beauty of the athan from a human muezzin is without parallel).
When I hear them in the morning darkness, I’m content to just lay in bed and listen to their recitations. I say recitations because, in traditional Muslim cosmology, everything from the smallest ant scurrying on the ground to the orbiting celestial bodies in the heavens is, in some sense, muslim, as in, an aspect of creation that submits to the will of God. As such, the birds are muslims; and as muslims, they submit themselves unto God simply by being, bird qua bird; and they recite, much like the human should, in jama’ah (congregation) the praises of their Lord but in their own special way of course.
In truth, I must admit I don’t go to the masjid (mosque) to pray the fajr salah (the prayer which takes place near dawn) in jama’ah out of languor: I’m too lazy to drive there so early in the morning. There’s ample hassanat (accumulation of “good deeds” for the Judgment Scales at the end of time) and barakah (“blessings”) for praying in jama’ah, especially during the fajr hours, but I throw these opportunities to the wayside for a few extra minutes of sleep, sometimes restless sleep at that. Wallahi, sloth in matters of salah might just be my cardinal sin, one of the Seven Deadly Sins I’m guilty of committing, the one thing which could prevent me from receiving God’s mercy. It’s something I struggle with, and although I’m sure I’m not alone in this struggle, it nevertheless makes me apprehensive about my own commitment to my Lord. Maybe I’m being honest to a fault here, putting my imperfections out for the world to see, but there you have it: an honest confession from a less than perfect soul. I’m a work in progress, and it definitely shows.
Though I’m generally not in the company of other humans for fajr, I do recite with my feathered brethren during those dark morning hours when the sky is painted with topaz, lavender, and crimson. I supplicate in congregation with them, me with the Qur’an in a corner of my apartment decorated with a janamaz (“prayer rug” in Urdu) and they with their chirping in the verdant trees. I in no way believe this to be a substitute for or tantamount to human company. Yet, marveling at their beauty surely constitutes a blessing in and of itself.
Subhan’Allah, even the birds pray fajr on time, and, masha’Allah, their recitations are far superior to my own: a sign, perhaps, for those who are willing to heed their morning songs, a humble parable for what Muslims can aspire towards.