Nadeem posted me some videos to watch by a popular Islamic scholar. I heard them over my iPhone he gave me and after the last one Memory came and tapped me on the shoulder.
First I have to say that, in recent events, I now have a cover like others who are also writers and help from an IT guy when I needed it and he was reliable and prompt to answer.
All these people are Pakistani.
People often call the names here having no real knowledge of anything. People from India, Pakistan and Saudia Arabia are all ‘Rag-heads’ but those ‘rag-heads’ are as culturally diverse and different and you can imagine and hardly anyone from Pakistan wears ‘rags’ on their heads. People just see someone brown and assume that shade of brown is the same and do not even bother to notice name, dress, or any other factor that might show there are differences.
As I finished listening to the videos and Memory came I told Nadeem the story from 1991.
I was living with my friends then. I lived with them for six months. During that time I learned so many things. The most important thing being that they loved and accepted me just the way I was and I was a crazy messed up person.
One night at midnight everyone was awake, with the exception of those who had to get up early. We were talking about God and Fahad and Faraz decided they would show me the mosque. I was concerned. I said,
“I am not Muslim. I am not supposed to see the inside of one unless I am Muslim because that is what I have always been told.”
“No no! It is not like that!,” said Fahad, “The imam there he loves all people he will talk with all people or teach anyone who asks and wants to learn. He will not mind.”
Fahad had a key. He was one of those who could recite much of the Quran and maybe even a hafiz, although if he was he never bragged about it. He was a very holy-minded person but not the kind that beat people over the head with it. He was the kind that lived what he believed and smiled and was always happy and peaceful. It was Winter it was and cold out so I was wearing a heavy knitted shawl. Fahad got the key and Faraz drove us both to the mosque.
We pulled into the parking lot and Fahad unlocked the door.
“Do I have to cover my head?”
“No you are not Muslim you do not need to cover.” Fahad smiled at me.
I was going to enter without my head covered but I could not show less respect in a holy building than I had shown in a Catholic Church when I had to wear a ‘mantilla’ to church when I was a child. To the surprise of them both I pulled my heavy shawl over my head….
…and we went in. It was very small and simple. There were notices on the wall and I peeked into the main prayer room where they held Jummah. The carpet was a curious set of lines that automatically oriented the one who would pray in the right direction. Along the tops of the walls was the lovely Arabic Script and Fahad said they were suras.
They showed me the door to where the women prayed because I said I wanted to pray. They did not know what a wreck my life was because, while I was with them, I was so happy to be accepted and a part of their lives. But I had been looking for God and looking for answers and not finding them anywhere. I felt like I had to pray while I was there. If God could not hear me anywhere else maybe God could hear me there?
I knelt on the floor facing the way the carpet lines directed and put the shawl over my body and started to pray. I did not know about looking right or left. I did not know to greet God first I did not know anything about Islam really except what was glossed over in Comparative Religions class or was a part of the history of the Mughal Empire. I prayed out the human wreck of my heart this way,
“God I have no idea what you want from me and no idea what to ask for so just be with me and let Justice happen and let all thing be for all people for the best good.”
That was all I knew to say and I stayed there for some unknown time, in the dark, crying because I had no more words. I was sad that there did not seem to be an answer but, resolved, I got up off the ground and wiped my face on my sleeve and, with the heavy knit shawl over my head went back out to meet them. They were talking in the foyer waiting for me. Faraz said,
“Did God answer you and do you feel better now?”
“I did not hear God answer but I do feel better now.”
“That is good. I feel better after I pray.” said Fahad.
I was to lose them all for 20 years and some of them I was to lose for my life time. The way they were I have never lost the memory. Whatever time has done to them and to me the memories of those days never leave me. But I was so happy to get two of them back 20 years later. You see I was sure it would be only in paradise before I saw them again.
Years later, in 2005, I became Muslim. I would be a liar if I said that my love for my old friends had nothing to do with it. Allah bless them them all for eternity.
(Dedicated to Pasha because he was dissapointed once)