Raj

At the mosque, some of the women who entered skipped the socialization and set about praying. They came in with an air of determination and completed a series of rakahs on their own before settling down to listen to the Imam. I noticed on the monitor some of the men doing the same. At first I thought I had missed an instruction to begin but eventually I realized they were either catching up on previous prayers or just doing extras.

Now we stood. A few of the more elderly, including my neighbor, stayed seated but the rest of us came shoulder to shoulder. A couple of women acted as the prayer police and instructed us to fill gaps and move in closer. Everyone, including the seated, arranged and scooted until even the most finicky in the group looked pleased. We were squeezed together too tightly for my papers to be spread in front of me; I gathered, folded, and tucked them away. I’d wing it.

Guided by the Imam’s voice, we went through the rakahs together. The Imam narrated long portions for us and then fell silent so we could recite our own parts. When memory failed me, I repeated my favorite short phrases—“Allah Akbar” and “Bismillah”—again and again or I concentrated on the sound of the suras being whispered all around me. I enjoyed the process of synchronized prayer so much that I was disappointed when it came to an end at the end of the second rakah. We turned our heads to the left, and then to the right. “Thank you,” I whispered in each direction because I felt privileged to have joined this group for worship.

I was in the car about to back out of my parking space when I heard a knock. I turned to see an impressive mustache, handle-bar style, in my passenger side window. It belonged to the face of an older gentleman. I pressed the button to make the glass come down. “My wife tells me you are learning Islam.” Behind him was my prayer neighbor in her sari.

He asked if I had Eid plans and I told him I didn’t know. I wasn’t sure what day Eid was or how it was celebrated.

“Please, may I have your phone number? We would like to invite you.”

I wrote my name and cellphone number on a piece of paper and handed it to him. I explained I was visiting my grandmother in Dallas, that’s why my area code was weird.

I asked his name and he said something I couldn’t quit grasp. I hesitated and he said, “Please, call me Raj.”

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8 thoughts on “Raj

  1. Corinna, you have made some wonderful contacts….perhaps even new friends….through this journey of yours. I find that when you not only have an open-mind, but also an open heart, people will answer in kind. I am so glad that you continue to share that “open heart” part of yourself with the rest of us. Merrill T.

      • Sweet? Not intentionally. Perhaps it is just semantics….word people have such a difficult time with this!!…….it was just my honest perception about how you have gone about this pilgrimage. It just wasn’t intellectual. Your immersion into each set of beliefs has shown an openness beyond the mind…..an open heart, I would call it. You could have kept your posts all about the ideas and the traditions, but instead you have tried them on to see how they fit…..how they made you feel…..and in doing so, you have shown a vulnerability that most of us don’t have the courage to tackle. It has made the On None blog much more interesting and compelling. Thanks. Merrill

  2. I grew up in a Presbyterian church. A regular part of the liturgy was saying the apostles’ creed and the Lord’s prayer together. I can often be recited so automatically and without meaning, but, as I was reading through this post, I was thinking of how much it can also be a heart-felt expression of unity and community. Thanks.

    • Hi Walt, Yes, it seems like even if a person says some of the prayers on auto-pilot, there will be those seconds (maybe even just brief flashes) of feeling and knowing they are a part of something bigger. I think speaking or singing as one can nudge a person toward that insight. And isn’t it really all about working towards that knowing?

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