Eid mubarak! — and other thoughts about the mosque — all rolled up into one.

There are many complex variables to worship. Of course, worship should be a time when you do, say or sing to get closer to God/Allah. But, there is a communal part to worship and somehow, (and I think that most people have this expectation or hope) you also want to develop relationships with those who share your spiritual beliefs and are worshipping along side of you. I’ll admit, I was never one for “collective prayer,” it seemed so conscribed. Yet, I do understand the sense of communal oneness in such an act.
I wonder, did I fool myself or is it a myth somewhere: the thought that Muslims are, somehow, quite close knit in their communities and relationships – almost as close as those Amish. (smile) We have attended two different mosques on a regular basis. I wish that I could tell you that I was openly greeted and embraced. I can’t. Now, I need to admit here that I always feel a bit timid and shy and vulnerable when going to the mosque. Sure, you wonderfully assertive people will tell me to get over it and stop being so emotional. Quit whining, you will say. Bla bla bla: it has went through my mind several times. But, it is really a combination of a few things which makes me feel vulnerable.
1. It is still taking me some time to get use to this male/female segregation worship. It is not that I don’t enjoy the company of women. I am “sisterhood,” all the way! It is that I feel that my guide is leaving me at a crucial moment. In churches, I can take his hand, lean over and whisper something in his ear, ask “Tum Theek ho” to gage his comfort level. All this is missing at the mosque. When we have Muslim taxi drivers, they drop me off at the “women’s entrance,” and DH at the Men’s entrance. So, I have to enter alone.
2. All mosques are a bit different and it is hard as a blind person to understand what is expected of me. Where do my shoes actually go? (If I have not taken them off yet, it is not because I am unaware of the rule, it is just that I am not sure where the shoes are being put); I think that the headscarf knows that I am not Muslim, thus, resists my efforts to keep it on; how conservative is the dress of other women in this mosque; during Ramadan, some people are strict about only eating dates and drinking water between the call to prayer and the actual prayer and some include fruit and snacks; someone has to help me with the food because I don’t know “what” is there or “where” it is (consequently, someone always has to serve me which makes me feel a bit uncomfortable);
3. I am not Muslim. I don’t want the sisters to think that I am “playing Muslim” when I am not. Yet, I don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb and/or disrespect anyone in the process. There are some discussions – some acts – that I am precluded from because of my religious affiliation. Yet, I am never quite sure where the line is. And, I wonder, does my Non-muslim-ness make it more difficult for sisters to bond with me? This is not an ethnographic study and I am not an observationist – or at least, I don’t want to be or to be seen that way. There is a certain objectivity that an observationist gives to the experience and I would rather be more participatory than that. Yet, obviously, there is a line to my participation.
4. I have a guide dog. I don’t take him to the mosque, but if the same friends take us places or want to expand our relationship, they have to be comfortable with the dog — — which many are not. Actually, we rarely get that far. But, I know that many are not comfortable with my dog and this causes all of us some discomfort. There is a limit to how much I can leave him at home and honestly, if I leave him at home too much, it kind of defeats the purpose of having one. However, when we have to depend on rides, I have to put their comfort first.
My hope was that we could knit together a community of brothers and sisters (both from the church and the mosque), as well as some work colleagues — maybe — to be like close family. What church, you ask. And, I must agree, because I have not made much headway there, either. While I admit that the mosque is a bit more accepting than most churches that I have attended, there still feels like a disconnect. Sure, men at the mosque are more willing (than men at a church) to drive us to and from the mosque. They do seem to be “more helpful.” But, I was not just looking for “help” I was looking for a community to belong to – a community of interaction and the sharing of ideas and ultimately ourselves.
[side note: I think that is also what my daughter is looking for and one of the reasons (certainly not the only one, because he seems to be a much better guy than the others), that she wants to marry her ex-morman boyfriend who has tons of sibs and cousins]. The “Ex” is on the “mormon” part, not on the “boyfriend” part.
Anyway, at first, We began attending a very small mosque. The Imam would drive us to and from the mosque. Sometimes, I would talk to his wife. I thought that we wre developing a relationship with the couple. The man went off to study Arabic for three months in DC. I called the wife a couple of times to see if she needed anything. I got no response. The imam did not even call us when he returned. We had expressed excitement about his trip and were generally interested in his progress & experiences. Since we were one of the main families who would worship (and I use that term loosely in my case) at the mosque where he gave lectures, I kind of expected a closer relationship with the members. The second mosque is quite a bit larger. The one thing that I do like about this mosque is that there are lots of different nationalities present. We know men from Somalia, Gambia, Senegal, Lebanon, Pakistan, India and some American born&raised Muslims. The men of the mosque are willing to pick up DH and I and return us to our homes. Our Gambian friend has a Christian wife, but she never comes to the Mosque. There is one bright spot. One Auntie, Shaaesta, does sit and talk with me. I realize that she could very well sit and pray/talk with the other Aunties. But, this pashton woman will sit and talk with me every time I see her at the Mosque. Sure, sometimes, she can be opinionated and she usually worries that I will fall down and/or trip over something on the floor. I wonder how much more intense this preoccupation with my falling will become when I have the baby and need to carry him around. ? Yet, she is kind and when we sit and talk, she really listens to what I have to say. I have not seen her outside the Mosque, however. It is a promising start. And, I must understand that *one* person can make a difference.
Now, DH is celebrating Eid with our Gambian friend and his Christian wife. That is where he was invited. And, I am stuck here at work. Dh has many more personal days than I do. When he works over, he gets comp time and he has been working at the company longer. Besides, whenever we have doctor appointments, I have to take off 30mins before my work day ends. He does not because his work starts 30mins before mine does and ends 30mins before mine does. So, He had the time to take off and still get paid. I don’t. and, frankly, I am a bit emotional about not getting to celebrate Eid with him. So, I’ll stop here with the future hope that next year, we all will celebrate Eid together.

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7 Responses to “Eid mubarak! — and other thoughts about the mosque — all rolled up into one.”

  1. Roshni Says:

    For what its worth Jan, I fully understand you being uncomfortable about attending mosque! Heck; many of us converts who have been Muslims for years still get uncomfortable about Islamic Centres we’ve not been to before, or where we don’t feel welcome! I think you are very brave; and I really respect the fact that you make such an effort for your husband; it says allot about both of you. I think it would be better for you both to try and team up with a couple or two, so that the females can act as mentors for you, showing the ropes etc. Your husband has to lead on this as he’ll obviously have more links than you do. If that’s not working out, you might want to look for groups supporting New Muslims/converts in your area. Though I know you are not converting, these groups are used to helping mixed/interfaith couples and will be able to support you through worship and initial trips to the mosque, and even put you in touch with other families like your own!
    I don’t think I know any converts in your area but I’ll put a call out on our website. I hope you had a nice eid when you got home; for what its worth, my husband and I are continents apart on this day; so cherish the time you have and the togetherness you share; and remember, eid is 3 days! So you can make up for that extra time during the rest of the week!

    • jamily5 Says:

      Roshni, I lost your blog address and can’t find it. i want to read…. … something about a lightshade. (smile)

      I am sorry about you being apart. That has to be the hardest thing and i think that you actually have more strength than i do. Were you able to celebrate Eid with friends this year???? I could not handle this separation.

      Hmmm, somehow I did not think of those suggestions. But, they are good ones!!!! And, we will try them! you know, when you are caught up in emotions, you don’t think straight! Thanks!!!

    • jamily5 Says:

      Actually, Eid was a mixed bag. I didn’t get to celebrate with him. we are having probs with paratransit charging us double fair. When one of DH’s friends (whom he spent the Eid day with) pulled up to take me to Dr. apt; he offered a co-worker a ride and the co-worker without hesitation displayed his islamophobia through a couple of inappropriate comments. the friend did not speak much English, so I am not sure if he understood, but I did! Good news: Baby is fine and i am 25w. No sign of early labor. And, Dh did bring me home a plate of food, so i did not have to cook. … … Thai curry rice, chicken and pineapple upside down cake! But, great thinking! We have two more days to make it better. (smile) THX!!!!

      On 8/31/11, jan wright wrote: > Roshni, > I lost your blog address and can’t find it. > i want to read…. … something about a lightshade. > (smile) > > I am sorry about you being apart. That has to be the hardest thing and > i think that you actually have more strength than i do. Were you able > to celebrate Eid with friends this year???? > I could not handle this separation. > > Hmmm, somehow I did not think of those suggestions. But, they are good > ones!!!! > And, we will try them! > you know, when you are caught up in emotions, you don’t think > straight! Thanks!!! > > >

  2. Roshni Says:

    Hi jan, sounds like you did make up for eid a little in the end, though its horrible about the transport issues! I hate the fact that as disabled people, we seem to spend half our life sorting out the red tape required to get the most simple of tasks done or journeys made, but hey; that’s my rant over for today!
    My blog address is: http://www.deadlylightshade.blogspot.com
    Thanks also for your good wishes. I don’t think I have much strength at all (ask my husband!), however we just have to get through this, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger! Its all visa hold-ups right now, keep us in your prayers! My eid wasn’t all that bad either I suppose! I did get to eid prayers, then had eid breakfast with friends. I had to work, but met some other friends after work and ate far too much, I’ve a fridge full of left-over food too, so all is good! Glad the baby is well; send him my love! Oh; and are you guys any further forward with the names debate yet?

    • jamily5 Says:

      Hi Roshni, going to check out that blog. Thanks. you know, people don’t really understand about visas and such. There are so many misconceptions about immigrants and such. nope, no further on the name debate. Well, glad that you could share Eid with friends. But, I know that you would rather spend it with your dh.

      yes, sometimes it does seem like it takes us lots of time and effort to achieve the simplist of tasks. i here that the UK is much better in transportation, though. don’t actually know. Dh and are I are talking about making that particular part of the world our second destination; pakistan being the first. I’ll go now and check out your blog.

  3. Roshni Says:

    Hi again; you are so right about visas! No one understands how complicated it is; even those who are involved! Also, I think you wrote somewhere on your blog about how every one keeps offering advice based on their own experiences, yet most of what they have to say is utter mince; how true that is!
    Transportation here has its good and bad points. The situation for people in-work is easier; we can take our own taxis and we only pay the public transportation equivalent towards it; the government pays the other half! That’s only for work though; and public transport wise, trains are good here; busses are pretty useless for us. If you were going to move here I’d say move to London; its busy, congested etc, but the overall transport situation is way easier than here in Scotland and there are allot of support services around! Would be nice to have you guys here; the disabled movement here is very white, middle class, male etc; so the more diversity the better!
    Hope you like the blog; I’m slightly behind with interesting updates at the moment; so stick with it; lol.

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