Meet Me at the Mosque
by, 09-10-2009 at 03:43 PM (2848 Views)
Last night, I was a guest at the mosque I drive by every day on my way to and from work. Long shrouded in mystery, I was able to see and experience what goes on there and – yes – even become a part of it.
My Muslim friend, an RN, had invited me to the religious observance of Iftar, the communal evening meal that occurs after the sunup-to-sundown fast every day during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Gihan did not arrive right away and I was early. Swathed from the top of my head to wrists to floor with yards of fabric to show modesty and respect while in the mosque, I waited awkwardly for her outside the mosque, futilely trying not to call attention to myself.
It turns out it was a good thing she did not come right away. This gave me the unique opportunity to see the Muslim people in my community go about their routines, as they gathered together for socializing, praying, and breaking their day-long fast.
As I waited, I heard children—just like children everywhere-- screeching in delight as they raced around the playground. I listened to boys dressed in their karate outfits talk about playing cops and robbers, a game that brought back memories from my own past. Mothers and fathers tended to their children and women laughed and chatted with one another. Men greeted each other with high fives and joked among themselves.
At last, the sun went down and it was time to break the fast before going into the mosque for a short prayer service before dining.
Seeing I was alone and a stranger, two older women made a point of approaching me and offering dates from their package, traditionally the first thing to be eaten at sundown. Others expressed a friendly welcome and thanked me for visiting their mosque. Several young women wanted to lend me their cell phones when they learned I was waiting for a friend.
Nods and smiles greeted me everywhere I turned. I felt welcomed and nurtured.
I marveled at the previously-unknown, exotic setting that I drove by twice a day and at the exotic group of people in front of me—different clothes, different languages, and different customs. Yet somehow, I had witnessed tonight’s scene hundreds of times before.
Happily, I found Gihan. More important, I found and recognized once again what I have always known as a nurse: No matter the setting or the group, people are people and our similarities are greater than our differences.
My visit to the mosque also gave me a better sense of my own community by allowing me to know more about the Muslims who share it with me.
I hope others will have the same opportunity to discover what I did and to treasure the experience, as I do. It will make us all better citizens, people, and nurses.