Mess at First Sight
Walking into the women’s side of my local masjid, or mosque, I saw a sea of blue tarps covering the green carpet, protecting it from the toddlers who would soon be carrying plates of rice, curried goat, and chicken in a red sauce. It was absolute mayhem; kids everywhere, carrying cups of orange punch and bowls of dates, women rushing to the bathroom to cleanse themselves before the maghrib athan, or call to prayer. And when we finally heard the first “Allahu akbar,” we tipped our glasses, downed our water, and stuffed our two dates into our salivating mouths.
We Were Bursting at the Seams
A throng of women of all shapes and sizes, as well as their kids and grandkids, then proceeded to cram themselves into the women’s prayer area, a boxed off room the size of an average bedroom, for salat. Let me tell you, over 100 women in a room this size, in August, in the deep south, in a mosque with a questionable air conditioning unit– NOT the best idea. We all prayed together, as beautiful as it was to be shoulder to shoulder with women of so many ethnicities and cultural backgrounds, I was excited to praise my Creator for giving me the opportunity to live another day, to worship him, to fast and learn the feeling of true hunger.
The Evening Meal
After we did our three rakat for maghrib, it was time for the iftar, or the meal to break the fast, and boy, was I ready! I carried my seven-month-old to the end of the line and waited my turn, which happened to be behind every sister in the mosque that night. As the line shortened, I could see the food in the foil dishes, and the two-liter sodas at the end of the table. It looked delectable and I was starving, but sadly, before I could get to the front of the line, most of the food was gone, and I was left to choose between a few pieces of fatty goat meat in a spicy curry sauce, plain white rice, and a dry iceberg lettuce salad. Whatever, it was food, and I was hungry.
Utter Chaos and Disorganization, Not Necessary
Then I made my way to my designated spot on the blue tarp, between a few women speaking Urdu and about fifteen toddlers and young children whose parents were obviosly letting them run wild. I could barely eat, fearing that one of the raucous kids would trip on the wrinkled tarp and fall on me, or worse, fall on my son. I hurriedly ate my food and moved back to the prayer room to prepare myself for isha, the last “required” prayer of the night, and then the tarawih prayers, the ones where the congregation listens to the sheikh recite 1/30 of the Qur’an every night until the end of Ramadan. Throughout isha, I became increasingly lightheaded and decided to take a breather before starting my tarawih prayers. Once I felt I had enough strength and hydration, I positioned myself between and older Pakastani sister and the wall (where a list of supplications in Arabic hung). About halfway through the prayers, my son started furiously beating on the wall, and I got lightheaded once again. I decided it best for me to go home early that night, before I had a heatstroke!
Allah Knows Best
That night, as I drifted off to sleep, all I could think about was the craziness of the day. Would the Prophet, peace and blessings upon him, smile at our congregation for our disorganization? Would he be proud of the parents who don’t discipline their childen and instead let them run wild and ruin everyone’s dinner? Would he applaud the greediness of the sisters who left only a small portion of barely edibles for me to break my fast? Surely not, I thought, but Allahu Alim. Allah knows best.