Roughly half of the city’s 40,000-odd cabbies are Muslims who hail from countries all over the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere — and a great number of the drivers are observant, praying five times a day. Which raises the question: How and where do these men on the move pray?
When you spend your days driving a taxicab, it’s impossible to say where, at any given moment, you might wind up. Followers of Islam can perform their five daily prayers in any relatively clean space, even bowed down on the side of the road. The prayer itself takes only 10 or 15 minutes to complete, but it must be done on time. Otherwise, it expires. This is why religiously-committed cabbies will sometimes stop in front of hydrants, double park, triple park, forfeit fares and risk sizable tickets to stick to the day’s ritual schedule, especially on Fridays, when the most significant prayer of the week takes place.
New York’s Muslim cab drivers have memorized a city-wide circuit of mosques and other, more makeshift, prayer spaces that do the job when one can’t reach a formal house of worship. Basements in South Asian restaurants. Backrooms in gas stations and auto repair shops. Certain parking lots. This way, the driver is prepared no matter where his next destination.