Today we visited a Mosque, something that had definitely been on my “to do ” list, especially because Islam has filtered so naturally into our lives with having so many Muslim friends. The girls have quite a lot of curiosity about why some of their friends dress differently and today answered a lot of their questions. They got to see an entirely different place of worship, with completely alien (to them) architecture, introduced to them by a open, friendly and passionate guide who listen to all the kids and tried to answer the (frankly bizarre) questions beautifully. They heard words from the Qur’an, saw beautiful Arabic writing and had it explained them by the painter, touched and felt the clean carpet, watched prayer, watched a person wash in preparation for prayer, listened to the call to prayer, explored a purpose built, lovingly created building during its most precious time of the year. i hope its something that will stay with them for a long time.
Me? In all honesty, it left me with more bewilderment and more questions than i can even begin to articulate. I was clearly listening to a man who has searched hard and found a religion that fulfills him. Almost everything i have heard about Islam in the last year makes me realise that it almost perfectly fulfills many of my wishes for religion, that the people i know who follow it are truly happy and enriched by it. Mostly, the people i have come into contact with are moderate, realistic, practical and at peace. Almost without exception, they are people who have chosen this way, not had it thrust upon them by rite of culture or family. And from the outside looking in, it ought to stricture and inhibit. But quite evidently it doesn’t. Every single Islamic convert i know, is a strong, independent woman who i would have liked in whatever walk of life i met them.
What i want is that version of Christianity. Is that heretical? I find it unutterably frustrating that i seem unable to find a similar approach to religion and life within any form of Christian church; i felt almost stunned by the practicality and honesty of Islam as it was presented today. That clearly women can’t get to the mosque 5 times a day if they have children, so better to pray at home; the refreshing honesty of giving money to the poor to enrich one’s own life and chances hereafter; it’s familiar to me to see passionate young men talk about their church, less familiar to see a young man who seems whole, made whole, by it rather than somehow appearing to have never been out in the sun.
There are things i do not believe i could ever partake of, although my comprehension of such things has changed immensely in the last year. I do not believe i could cover myself up, or ask it of my daughters, i do not believe i could learn to live with segregated prayer and life, though i see that it has it’s positives too, i do not believe i could be as devout as it requires and it seems it’s a religion of the all or nothing. No half measures, you are or you aren’t. Yet much appeals, the continuity and acknowledgement of other religions not least.
And i did write a lot more, but it turned into a current events rant and would probably have got me shot or something, so i deleted it.
Suffice to say, i’m planning on making sure our further delving into the Crusades and Middle Ages has a very thorough balance to it; i don’t want my children growing up unconsciously inbibing the 1000 year old smear campaign that has already been waged against Islam. There is much to do if religion is ever going to include tolerance in this world.