By Eileen Moyer
University of Amsterdam (formerly University of Iowa)

Burkina Faso; Fulani peoples. Muslim at prayer. Photo by Christopher D. Roy.

During the month of Ramadan, millions of Muslims throughout Africa fast during daylight hours in remembrance of the time 1,400 years ago when God revealed the Holy Koran to the prophet Mohammed. Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam and is recognized as a form of spiritual purification. Orthodox Islam requires participation in five daily prayers, but in many parts of Africa people only attend Friday mosque. However, it should be noted that it is not necessary to travel to a mosque to pray, and the truly devout create a sacred space for worship wherever they happen to be when the time for prayer arises. During prayer, a Muslim practitioner repeatedly bows toward Mecca, poetically lowering his head and body in the direction of the holiest of cities. Whether in an overcrowded mosque or in an isolated field, those who wish to honor God can redefine their surroundings into a metaphorical mosque-like area simply by unrolling their prayer mats and arranging them in alignment with Mecca.