She reads my blog. Sometimes she has sent me private messages, commenting on posts. She has given me lots of support, but chided me at time too. That’s fine, we’re friends and some of the times she’s right. She has told me several times I should come with her to the masjid, listen to the service try to understand and see for myself the beauty of islam.
Finally I said yes. Yesterday I went with her to the masjid. Dressed in a headscarf and a black coat, I tagged along, trying to keep my mind open.
There was a long line of people entering the masjid. Or no, my mistake – a long line of men. They were queueing up to enter the beautiful main hall of the mosque. My friend and I went aroung the corner to a back door where a throng of women were trying to get in through a very narrow doorway. Many wore niqab, a cluster of unidentifiable people. When we finally got in, a narrow flight of stairs led to the first floor. A small room without any kind of beautification was full of women sitting everywhere, most of them on the floor or on folding chairs. My friend took me up front and showed me that through a kind of roster I could see a couple of people below – the imams. We went to the back of the room and sat down. And so the service began. We could herar through loudspeakers what went on downstairs. Still, it was kind of difficult to hear since many women had brought little children who found it very difficult to keep from playing and talking. Some of the women mumbled quietly to themselves, others sometimes clapped their hands. I could hear the man downstairs talking, sometimes in Arabic, sometimes in English. It was on the importance of zakat. When the service was over, the men downstairs crowded around the imam, to discuss religion said my friend. Of course, the women were not allowed downstairs for this. Some of the women handed out bread and candy. A small group of women were sitting around a young woman who was crying. My Arabic is good enough for me to be able to understand that she was sad because her husband doesn’t allow her out of the house except for the occasional visit to the masjid. Another group of women that I had noticed before because they had changed places mid service were talking angrily amongst themselves. My friend explained that the women were angry because a new wife had chosen to come to this masjid, the masjid of the divorced wife who had not wanted a divorce. They were saying she came only to flaunt herself before the first wife.
My friend was very silent. Afterwards, we went for a coffee. We sat silently, drinking bloody expensive Starbuck lattes. Suddenly she looked me in the eyes and I could see she had tears in hers. “Look” she said “I have never before seen my masjid through somebody else’s eyes. I did today because you were with me. And it hurt. I could see us huddling upstairs in that ugly little room, shut out from taking part, shut out from being a part of it. Just a sorry group of malcontent women. I’m sorry I brought you.”
“If that is what you finally were able to see” I answered “I’m very glad you brought me. That’s exactly what I saw too”.