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Location: Minneapolis, MN

Dempsey is a Golden Retriever puppy who is in training to become a Helping Paws service dog for an individual with a physical disability. He lives with his parents Doreen and Paul, and Bailey the cat. None has ever trained a puppy before. These are their adventures. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the blog author. The contents of this blog have not been reviewed or approved by Helping Paws, Inc.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Called to prayer

Sunday was a godly day for us, as we visited one church and three mosques.

Of course, staying in Sultanahmet, every day is a godly day. There is a high concentration of mosques in this neighborhood, each with at least one minaret, each with a horn loaded speaker that plays the adhan, or call to prayer, five times a day, the first one right around sunrise. The times for prayer are published daily in the newspaper, and there are even Websites that will calculate the prayer times based on the day and your latitude and longitude.

I'm not sure how the times are calculated -- the only obvious one to me is the Ögle, which seems to be true solar noon -- but it would be interesting to learn how. Because astronomy is pretty central to some Muslim rituals (Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr are based on sightings of the young moon, for example), Islamic astronomy was quite advanced back in the day. One of the most impressive examples from Turkey is the work of Thabit Ibn Qurra Ibn Marwan al-Sabi al-Harrani who in the late 800s, measured the length of the year to within 2 seconds.

Despite all the mathematical rigor, the adhans never quite seem to be in sync. Some muezzins start chanting a little earlier than others, and the speed seems to vary. The Turks have noticed this too, and there's now an effort apparently to better synchronize everyone. I rather like the variation. It's quite haunting and beautiful to hear the different adhans echoing down the narrow cobblestone streets.

Update: I found how the prayer times are calculated, though frankly I don't remember enough trig to know if the formulas here are right. The Ögle is indeed true solar noon, but I was wrong about the first prayer being at sunrise. Looking at the solar depression angles, the first call to prayer seems to be at astronomical twilight -- i.e., painfully early.