Indah M Walsh
I grew up traveling and living in many different countries with myfamily. While my upbringing did not entail any religious denomination or teaching, my mother was raised Muslim and I was exposed to the
culture while living in Indonesia and spending time with my mother’s side of the family. I remember being a young girl, living in Pennsylvania, surrounded by Amish and having my Indonesian grandparents visiting and staying with us in our home. I used to watch my grandmother while she prayed because it fascinated me. She always looked so peaceful and beautiful performing her daily prayers. Through my eyes it was a ritualistic dance performed for no one except herself and her God.Last year, my mother and father moved to Saudi Arabia, where I was able to visit with my brothers and husband last December. Being immersed in
a culture where religious laws are enforced with extreme consequences
was a shock to say the least. After my initial discomfort and confusion, I began to experience a shift in perception and saw the beauty in each individual’s devotion and manifestation for connecting with Allah. My visit sparked a lot of curiosity and growth in my thought process surrounding differences in cultures. I believe this experience has left me having more questions than answers, but I am grateful to have this platform through LaGuardia Performing Arts Center to explore these thoughts through my art.
A few moments after I was born, the first clearly audible words I heard were the Islamic Call to Prayer that my father whispered into my ear. My American mother taught me the core values and principles of Islam and my Egyptian father showed me how to pray and recite several Surahs, which are passages from the Qur’an. Even at a young age, I felt a deep connection to my faith that was not defined by specific modes of practice. It was simple – I believed in God not because I was told to believe in God, but because I knew God was *there*, in my soul, communicating with me.
It wasn’t until I attended college and later married a Pakistani man that I truly discovered what it ‘meant’ to be Muslim and observe the five pillars. It was an exciting time for me, but it was also a turbulent one. Like a pendulum, I swang from one belief to the next, but eventually found my way to back to the middle. During that time, of exploring and ‘trying on’ so many ideas, I realized that my beliefs and my ways of practicing Islam are only sincere if they come from that pure inner call to God that I felt so strongly as a child. My soul is shared with God and God only, and it can be difficult to remember that in my daily activities as I jet around the city going to work, dancing, choreographing, and writing. So I strive to keep my ears open to the call to prayer, the call to faith, that God whispers in my ears. It is always there; I just have to listen for it and *hear* it.