Friday, January 06, 2006

A Jummah Story

I decided to take a late lunch (and long) lunch today so I could attend the jummah prayer at the IAR. Jummah is the congregational Friday prayer for Muslims. It's a lot like going to church on Sunday for Christians. There is a khutbah, or sermon, followed by the ritual prayer Salat. I went to the same masjid (mosque) I attended last week because it is closest. However, the experience last week was not satisfying. Girls were constantly talking, moving around, and walking around in front of me. And I don't mean little 3, or 4, or 5-yr olds, but teenagers! It was very distracting. Also, from my vantage point I could not see the imam, or whoever it was delivering the khutbah. People kept coming in late, too. Now, the ladies all sit behind the men, and there is this gap in the middle. So men who come late are behind all the other men, and women who come late are in front of the women. Sound silly to anyone else? Yes, because if you get there early, you have to watch all these people come in. And when you come into a masjid you are supposed to do two rakahs of prayer. A rakah involves bowing and prostrating and silently reciting a few things. So I was in the back with people around me talking, and people in front of me praying and coming in. To top it all of, the doors to enter the room were very squeaky!

This week was much better, mashallah. Everybody was quiet and still. People still came in late but there was no big distraction--they were quiet! I didn't know where to sit since I was a little late (oops) and I don't know anyone there, so I sat with the little girls. Maybe they were 8-10 years old. I was at the end of the line and maybe I did something wrong, but this little girl (4, maybe) came up beside me as I was about to start praying and pointed up at me while looking at someone down the row (I didn't follow her gaze.) Nobody said anything to me, though, so I went ahead and did my rakahs and sat down. I also was sitting in such a place that I could see the speaker. Unfortunately, most of the khutbah was in Arabic, so it didn't do me much good.

You know how there is some quality of speakers that makes you want to believe them? You feel sure they are being sincere, and that they are speaking the truth. This imam did not have that quality. Not that I thought he was lying, or didn't know what he was talking about, I just found myself second-guessing everything he said. Perhaps I was just prejudiced against him because 75% of what he said was in a language I don't understand. That must be it.

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