Today, I went with a fellow scholar’s family to the mosque for jumu’ah, Friday prayer. Though Muslims are to pray five times a day, Friday is the mandatory day for men to go to the mosque. I was dressed up by the women of the family in a long sleeved blouse with my orna wrapped around my head as a makeshift hijab. It was nice to blend in (for the most part) and not be gawked at for being foreign.
I joined Ms. Ahmed, her mother-in-law and her daughter in the section for women upstairs. It is not mandatory for women to attend Friday prayers at the mosque because Mrs. Ahmed said, "We have so many things to do, like care for the children." The khutba, sermon, was in Bangla mixed with Arabic but I was clued in. A few of the words that I kept picking out was ‘maph koren’ –forgive. The imam was reminding everyone that while asking for forgiveness, to remember to forgive yourself. The Ahmed family shared that this is why they come to mosque: it’s a time of the week to have reminders of what Allah has said. Today was a reminder to forgive yourself for whatever mistakes you made. It was personally a good reminder for me.
I arrived home to realize: it is September 11th. I think it was quite fitting that I spent an amazing afternoon with a beautiful, dedicated, welcoming and compassionate Muslim family. Admittedly, I have my questions and concerns about Islam, which is hard to escape when you read American news.
But the most important thing I learned today is that the Qur’an states that there is no compulsion in Islam: that you do not try to convert people, but let them read the Qur'an themselves. Only this way can you understand the true beauty. Too often are people listening to someone's flawed interpretation. Mrs. Ahmed shared that a lot of the challenges of Islam stem from individual, local cultural practices not the chapters of the Qur'an.
I am still looking for a Qur'an in English because I would like to read it myself. As any religion, it cannot be understood after one prayer session, but I cannot make this more clear: just as the terrorists on 9/11 should not have judged all Americans to be ignorant, immoral, malicious people, we should not judge all Muslims as the same.
**My fellow Scholar, Parvez Ahmed, wrote this article for the Huffington Post the day before we went to the mosque. Please take a look!