There are around 300 hotels in Bukhara. When trying to figure out which one to book, the travel dates get that number down to about 80. How about this? Filters--top reviewed, free wi-fi, free breakfast, free cancellation. Now we're down to 50. Open the map and find the right area, and that cuts the number by another half. Now what? Pictures, price, cross-referenced reviews from other websites. Now we're getting somewhere. Still, it's almost impossible to say how to choose one over the other twenty or so. A choice just has to be made.
Once it's done, it's done. And whew, does that feel good.
Months go by. When the time finally comes to stand inside the hotel, the one selected from 6,700 miles away, the thought is, "Hm. Was this really the right choice?"
There's this mosque next door. It's likely not on anyone's must-see list. A Friday mosque, it's also a working mosque, meaning workers come to pray, and then they leave. They do come, though--Fajr or Isha'a and the times in between. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that by the time of the iqama (the call to say it's time to pray now; it's time to pray now), the mosque is crowded.
In the off-times, it's relatively empty. Today, between Asr and Maghrib, there are only two men still there. One is old and slow to get around. He's stooped over at the waist. His beard is long and white, his prayer coat tattered. He is almost blind. He shambles toward the coat nook at the back, uttering the name of God the whole way.
There is a blanket against the wall. As he struggles to unroll it, the other man, much younger (but not young at all), makes his way to the back to help arrange the bedroll. There is a moment of stillness. The only sound is the older man still uttering the name of God.
The older man may be already halfway to the ground, but it's a struggle for him to make it the rest of the way. The younger man--perhaps more aptly, the lesser--obliges. The two work to arrange the blanket, and the older man--the greater--is already almost asleep. But before he drifts off, he says something to the lesser.
They don't speak the same language, so it's impossible to know what is said. Perhaps it is simply the continued zhikr--nothing really aimed at the lesser after all. Or maybe the lesser has overstepped by thinking he had to "help." But maybe it is, as the lesser likes to hope, a saint's blessing.
The greater settles deeper into stillness. He continues to utter. As the sun drops low against the horizon, supplicants begin to file into the mosque. It's almost time for Maghrib prayer. The greater does not move. He does continue to utter.
The adhan sounds. The greater does not move. He does continue to utter.
The mosque is filled now. The iqama begins. "Allahu Akbar. Allahu Akbar." It's time to pray now. It's time to pray now.
The greater springs up from his bedroll. He continues to utter as he shambles to the back row. He takes his place beside the lesser, and the prayer begins.