Honoring Ramadan at the Hidden Monastery Dance Chapel with Canan Arikan

-I feel love and peace in mind. I feel like I am standing in front of God and dancing happily…

-I felt light and warm with gratitude.  I felt grace...

On May 20th, 2020, a few days before Ramadan concluded for 2020, the Zoom chat box was filled with comments from 7 women from Turkey, 2 from Iran, 1 from India, several Americans and others – most of us currently living in the United States. 

It was at this moment that I had two InterPlay worlds – Dance Chapel and Sustaining International Sisters(SIS) – collide to honor Ramadan, a deeply religious time period for Muslims, the religion of my Turkish and Iranian friends. 

I began leading the Wednesday night Dance Chapel in Cynthia Winton-Henry’s Hidden Monasteryat the beginning of April because of the Covid-19 Pandemic. There were so many of us sheltering at home, that Cynthia expanded these interfaith dance chapels from only Monday and Thursday to every day of the week. Our Dance Chapels use elements from InterPlay.

Then there is the world of SIS! My InterPlay workshop collaborator and SIS co-founder, Canan Arikan, is both Muslim and an InterPlay Leader-in-Training. I invited Canan into the Dance Chapel to co-facilitate the “Honoring of Ramadan.” Through the strength of her leadership and invitation our Dance Chapel was filled with Muslim SISters. They danced the hour before Iftar (breaking the fast) with us even though they had neither eaten nor had water all day. What grace their presence brought to all of us.

Below are some highlights of what we did during the hour-long chapel and the music to which we moved and prayed.

FIRST, CANAN READ THE FOLLOWING POEM

Ramadan the Blessed Month
Ramadan is here, 
The month that is blessed
Ramadan is here, 
The month we love best.
The month in which the Qur'an was sent
A time of great blessing in which to repent.
Fasting for Allah is a great Muslim deed
Controlling desires and suppressing greed.

Ramadan is coming, Increase your Iman(faith).
Ramadan is coming, Recite the Qur'an.
Take "Suhur" in the dead of the Night
No eating or drinking during the daylight.
Refrain from bad deeds and repent your soul
The pleasure of Allah is our only goal.

Even if there is hunger, remember your Lord
And wait until 'Iftar' to earn your reward.
Fasting is one of the gifts of Allah
Given to believers to increase 'Taqwah' (piety).
We pray to Allah to put right our hearts
Ask for forgiveness from Allah and make a new start.

Raising our hands we ask for his 'Rahmaa'
Hear us our Lord and grant us 'Jannah'.


STATING OUR INTENTIONS DIFFERENTLY
Then we participants were invited to state our intentions in a different way. Usually, in Dance Chapel, we light a candle, state our intention, and raise a hand to connect with each other. 

Instead,to honor Ramadan, we were offered some ways to move in Muslim prayer to state our intentions. Canan explained that:

 Muslims pray five times a day
 Each prayer is different and has movements
 Each movement means something
 Prayer is a complex system

“For us this evening,” Canan offered, “I would like to share some simple movements with their meanings, and you can join me if you’d like. I will go to my prayer rug. You can join me or stay seated. Whatever is more comfortable for you.” 

After Canan was spotlighted in the Zoom Room, we followed along with her as she demonstrated on her prayer rug the following prayer movements:

1.  HANDS UP AND BACK ON OUR CHEST: This means putting all the things related to this world behind you, all the material things so our spirit is free – no title, no car, no house, no worldly things…

Then we would do other movements and pray. At the end of the prayer…

2.  HANDS OPEN TO THE SKY
This means that we only expect and want from God; we don’t expect and want from others like our mothers, and friends, and husbands… 

Then we ask or state our intentions like a wish, health for ourselves and our communities – we can ask for both.

When we Finish our intentions,

3.  COVER OUR FACES WITH OUR HANDS.  This means taking all of the positive things from God and having it in our body and spirit.

As the Dance Chapel Zoom Room opened back up to the participants from Canan’s prayer movement demonstration, I led everyone in stating their intentions first by placing our “hands up and back on our chest,” and the lifting them “open to the sky.” We then moved as a group body to two instrumental songs. 

First, we did the InterPlay warm up to Kalanlarin Ardindan, Yedi Karanfil. Then we continued moving to Gel Gor Beni Ask Neyledi, Yedi Karanfil.
As this instrumental music finished, we did the third movement of prayer that Canan had offered us, we covered our faces with our hands, to take all of the positive things from God and having them in our body and spirit.

WE CONTINUED DANCING OUR PRAYERS
We continued to move to music, this time to “Ramadan” by Maher Zain. Dance Chapel participants were invited to think about and dance with some of the words of the song being lifted by the light, flying, flying, soul thriving, and peace filling the air…

RAMADANMaher Zain 
You lift me up high,
You spread my wings,
And fly me to the sky,
I feel so alive,
It's like my soul thrives in your light,
But how I wish you'd be,
Here with me all year around,
Ramadan Ramadan,
Ramadanu ya habib,
Ramadan Ramadan
Laytaka dawman qareeb,
Love is everywhere,
So much peace fills up the air,
Ramadan month of the Quran
I feel it inside of me,
strengthening my Iman,
But how I wish you'd be Here with me all year around,
Ramadan Ramadan,
Ramadanu ya habib

Ramadan Ramadan
Laytaka dawman qareeb,
I just love the way you make me feel,
Every time you come around you,
breathe life into my soul,
And I promise that,
I'll try throughout the year,

To keep your spirit alive In my heart, it never dies,
Oh Ramadan!,
Ramadan Ramadan,
Ramadanu ya habib,
Ramadan Ramadan

Once again, we covered our faces with our hands to take in all of the positive things from God and the dance to have them in our body and spirit.

WE TOOK TIME FOR NOTICINGS
A part of InterPlay, is to be present to your experience in the moment. This action is calling “noticing.” Dance Chapel participants were invited to share their “noticings” either in the Zoom chat box or by speaking out in the Zoom Room. Here are some of the noticings:

-This song makes me feel like I’m flying in the air.

-My fingers were talking to me... unusual...
-I felt fantastic hearing from you all, thank you, I felt my heart feel with love and joy during this precious time of Ramadan, I think our souls are connected truly in many ways!

I felt grateful for the kindness of my Muslim brothers and sisters. I felt as I danced...I recalled a body memory of acceptance that I always had acceptance from my Muslim brothers and sisters to be myself. Differences were not seen as difference, but I felt space to be me.

MOON AND STARS
Canan shared the image of the Mosque with the moon and stars and briefly explained that the moon symbolizes the Prophet Muhammad and the stars his Disciples and that both are looked at for guidance, love, and strength. 

We then danced to seek love, light, strength of guidance, or whatever else might having coming up for us to the song, “You Came to Me,” by Sami Yusuf.

You Came to Me
Sami Yusuf(Turkish) 
You came to me in that hour of need
When I was so lost, so lonely
You came to me took my breath away
Showed me the right way, the way to lead
You filled my heart with love
Showed me the light above
Now all I want Is to be with you
You are my one true love
Taught me to never judge
Now all I want Is to be with you: ALLAHUMA! Sal 'ala Sayideena Mustafa
'Alaa Habeebika Nabieeka Mustafa
(O God! Send Your Blessings upon our leader, the chosen one (Muhammad (peace upon him))
Upon Your Beloved, Your Prophet, the chosen one)
Showed right from wrong
Taught me to be strong
Need you more than ever
Ya Rasul ALLAH (O Messenger of God (Muhammad (peace be upon him))

NOTICING
-I felt free and loved. Also, it felt like I was traveling to stars…

DANCE-ON-BEHALF-OF
We did a group Dance-on-Behalf-Of (DOBO) because our Muslim participants needed to leave to prepare for Iftar, the breaking of the fast, which was occurring within minutes of the conclusion of our Dance Chapel. This DOBO is an InterPlay form that offers us a way to listen to someone else as they express their prayers and to move in dance for them. As we danced in a group body to Ramadan (Arabic) by Maher Zain, everyone was leaving with some writing messages in the Zoom chat box.

-It’s time to break our fasts here, I’m so grateful to experience this with you all. Thank you for inviting and giving me chance to be part of this. Hope to repeat that very soon…

-Such a beautiful evening is all around you, kind-hearted friends. I am so blessed to have all of you around. I wish you all the best, and please pray for me. 

-Thankyou dear beautiful sisters. Such a blessing to be with you all. 

-It was amazing! Sending my love to all of you! Ramadan Mubarak.



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