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Waswasa - Whispers in Prayer

A Soul City Arts Production For the Birmingham 2022 Festival.
with Mohammed Ali MBE and contributions by Dr James Hodkinson.

Waswasa, is a multi-media, immersive arts production aiming to demystify and detoxify the practise of Islamic prayer. It's first season run from 25 August to 3rd September, 2022. It is designed to bolster Muslim communities' pride in their own faith, and educate non-Muslim audiences. Dr James Hodkinson has led on the community engagement wing of the project, gathering testimony from Muslims in the Midlands, which was inscribed in the form of 'duahs' (Muslim prayers) graffitied onto prayer mats (see below).

Audiences have the chance to view the installation of Islamic prayer mats, before entering an intimate theatrical performance featuring music and film further exploring the theme of prayer, the physical act of Islamic prayer, the triumphs, and the struggles. Finally, the audience have time to pause, reflect or pray and to see up close a replica of the famous Birmingham Qur’an, considered to be one of the world’s oldest manuscripts dating back to the 6th or 7th century.

Watch here for recent footage about 'Waswasa' on Channel 4 News.

Below, graffitied prayer mats and the wall of audience responses to Waswasa.

Graffitied prayer mats from Waswasa. Wall of responses to Waswasa
Read and watch more about the project:

SMLC's Dr James Hodkinson has been working with Soul City Arts to co-deliver a series of mini-academies throughout June. Financed by the Enhancing Research Culture Fund (Research England), these events not only gave Warwick researchers a chance to watch community engagement in action, but also helped to build a crucial part of the project.

Members of the public were invited to contribute in the lead-up to the Waswasa by taking part in a series of events at the new Soul City Arts studio space in Sparkbrook, Birmingham. These events placed community voices at the heart of the show and encourage Muslim and non-Muslim groups to share and inscribe real prayers, hopes and dreams on specially provided prayer mats which will then be exhibited in the Waswasa performance space. Hundreds of prayer mats have been created for the lead-up events which will act as a way to create moments of gathering where meaningful conversations will take place, where food will be eaten and where films will be played.

Waswasa is the Arabic word used to describe distractions from prayer. In these busy, tech-driven times many seek that elusive ‘flow state’ in other ways, whether through the gym, mediation, or yoga, but also fail because life is simply too busy. Waswasa will draw parallels between the act of personal faith and the quest to achieve that calm. In this age of distraction, a simple act of worship can become a revolutionary act, a time to let go of ego and clear our minds of ‘waswasa’.

Media footage relating to the project: