Amin spread his rug on the ground behind the office and then parted his lips to inhale fully. A crippled sparrow stood in stingy bush-shade and watched. Smoke and exhaust threaded through Kabul’s air, and the city’s tensions pressed against the compound walls; nevertheless, nothing matched performing salat under an open sky, even if sometimes the closeness to Allah made him feel that much more ashamed. He raised his hands next to his ears, crossed his arms, paused, and then bent at the waist; he straightened, he bowed, he lowered his forehead to the earth in a dance of sacred ritual by now burrowed deep in muscle memory. He had first prayed as a child beside his father, mimicking the traditional movements in time to words of supplication. These days his own son often stood next to him, and so at its best, prayer connected him not only to his God but to his past, his future, his people.
At its best. When he wasn’t preoccupied, that is. September was his month of regret, the month when his mind willfully wandered.