Life in community at the local mosque as a spiritual exercise; day 9 of Ramadan

Earlier this week I found out about a very special Iftar at my local mosque; the Consul Generals of both India and Pakistan were going to attend. And so I made my way there for prayers starting at 6:30 and from there I went to the gym where it was set up for the Consul Generals to talk, meet and greet, and also to end the night with the breaking of the fast (Iftar).

Well…it started later than expected, as the weather and construction and rush hour traffic kept it from starting on time. Still, I made the most of it and struck up a conversation with the guy next to me. O* talked to me about how he was rather new to the area after having moved from New York, but from what he gathered he recognized the strong Muslim community in the area. I inquired from him what being a Muslim means to him, he smiled and talked to me about it making him a better person, he then continued by saying all religions should make their followers into better human beings.

When the Consul Generals arrived, things took off pretty quickly. It was encouraging to hear about where they’ve come from, what they do, and where they are at nowadays. After they spoke it was time to start the prayer time before the fast was broken.
Side note, when I am at a mosque I pray in the ways traditionally associated with Islam; the upward posture, the slightly leaning over posture, the forehead / prostrate posture, the kneeling posture, and repeat. I have no qualms with praying to God in this manner, it is different from my prayer postures but I can still communicate with God in this manner.

When the prayers were over, it was time to eat a little something and so I had dates and watermelon. As I ate I talked to the guy next to me, Z* said his fast had been going good and he was really encouraged by intentionality to participate in Ramadan even though I’m not a Muslim. I shared with him a bit of my experiences thus far with Ramadan and he was greatly encouraged. He did inform me via a Ramadan app on his iPhone that breaking the fast in the morning should start earlier than I have been, he explained the reasons why nicely and without a hint of legalism.

Then came time to interact with Mr. Faisal Niaz Tirmizi (Pakistan) and Dr. Ausaf Sayeed (India) a bit more. There were a lot of people there who wanted to greet them and get in a photo with them, so I took time to pray while I waited to meet them.

When I got to talk to them, I quickly asked them the question that was burning in my mind…how can I pray for you. Both of them were moved by my question and shook my hand warmly and asked for me to keep their countries in prayer. So if you’re the praying type, keep Pakistan and India in your prayers.

From there we collectively ate some more. Chicken Biryani and Basmati Rice! So good, and savory too to boot! As I ate, I talked to to I* about his fast and how it was going. It was going good for him and he started sharing with me about his country of Sri Lanka and it being a country that’s on an island. It was encouraging to hear that most of his family is already state side, but sometimes when he and his wife travel they have to decide to visit his native country or hers which happens to be Morocco. He was encouraged by my fasting and my solidarity to Muslims despite not being one and wished me a successful Ramadan.
Side note, I received a lot of encouragement in my fasting by those whom I talked to. I don’t need praise to get by or do the job at hand, but it was truly encouraging to receive encouragement by those who are also partaking in Ramadan. Praise sometimes means that much MORE when there are others who are partaking in what you’re doing as well.

From there it was dessert time; chai tea with sugar and condensed milk, as well as gulab jamun. This time while eating dessert I found myself talking to D*, an Indian and a father of 3. He and I had a good and lengthy discussion about what Christianity and Islam have in common, life as worship unto God, what makes him a Muslim, what makes me a follower of Christ, practical application of the Bible and the Koran, what his Hajj was like, etc. One thing about our conversation was that it was mutual and hospitable, it was true dialogue and we equally spent time talking as well as listening to the other. Based on what I communicated about my faith he considered me to be more of a Muslim than a Follower Of Christ, but he encouraged me to continue to follow Christ to the best of my ability. There was no debate, no dishonor, no hatred, no putting down the other…just as interfaith dialogue SHOULD be!

So with all that being said, life in community at the local mosque were my keywords on this 9th day of Ramadan. Thanks be to God for being ever present in our places of worship. You who makes himself known in churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, etc. May we strive to make the world a better place by dialoguing amongst one another rather than debate.

Salaam alaikum be yours now and always,

I was a musician (and eventually I will be a musician again) – 16/28

Growing up I played classical piano for 6-7 years, but the thing was, it was more for the normalization/”paying my dues” to my parents than me. At this particular time in my life my youngest sister took up piano as well, and excel…well excelling is an understatement; if my siblings and I are quintessentially The Royal Tenenbaums (Great movie if you haven’t seen it, and if you seen it, see it again!) with me as the writer, H* is the artist, A* is the athlete, K* is the musician.

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, pulling teeth without anesthesia…er…playing classical piano. I probably would have liked it to some degree if I had been allowed to play what I wanted to play; yes Vivaldi, Brahms, Beethoven are my homelads but there’s so much more to play on the piano than the classics and that was never afforded to me.

So I quit, and I haven’t looked back.

Yet when I was taking one of my first college courses, an elective called “Music of the World” taught by an awesome guy who liked his music loud and ripped Christopher Colombus a new one pertaining to colonialism and genocide…well, in that class, apart from it being my first (and not last) A in a college course, I learned about Indian music, I learned in particularly about the sitar.

Now what I like about the Sitar is that George Harrison played it. Not so much my favorite member of The Beatles, but the guy who I appreciate most for his solo career post-Beatles. I liked listening to the music of India in Mr. Becker’s classroom, it stirred my wanderlust, it stirred my desire for more of the world and less of me, a truly musical transcendental moment if there ever was one. 😉
I also liked how there were regular notes, and then notes between the notes! Who’d have thunk it but Indian musicians?!? It kind of reminds me of hidden rooms and easter eggs in a video game, not that I play much of them, but just discovering something that’s there that might be glossed over or just hidden in plain sight…that’s pretty cool.

I haven’t started yet, as the instrument is pretty expensive, but I do know where to get one and I do know someone who teaches the sitar so it’s all a matter of time.

All in due time playing one heck of an instrument, the Sitar.