In 1998, I had the experience of extensively visiting four countries in two months.  In each of these countries, I encountered the lovable mosques offered to me.  (Some were un-offered as I am female).  This was way before I began blogging and I wrote a whole imaginary post on the unity of the global mosque experience.  And the washroom experiences therein.  (The best was in London, England. The worst was in…I shall not say in order to protect the reputation of that beloved country.)

Yesterday, in the middle of a bustley day, we stopped by a downtown spot to pray.  It had a secluded, alcoved spot for women.  It was lovely.  In the middle of this bustley day, it felt perfect to have a bit of quiet one-on-one time with Allah.

Usually, I’m not the type that gets excited at cordoned-off zones for women.  I love seeing the Imam when I listen to the Khutba – as I get to do at the mosque I attend regularly.  But I also love it when I occasionally get to visit the mosques that separate women so entirely.  I only recently discovered (maybe within the last five years) how much I love them.  Love them occasionally* that is.

The quietude that descends in these places is almost blissful.

Perhaps I see them this way because I visit these mosques on road trips, hectic errand days or while vacationing.  While juggling a happening day, a spot of dedicated prayer space anywhere is just beautiful.

But in almost all these mosques, no matter how different, you will find the following lovableness:

  • a variety of jumbled flip-flops hanging around somewhere – some lonesomely single; others, mismatched but companionably so. No, I wasn’t meaning this to be a metaphor for the state of marriage in the Muslim community – it just ended up being so.
  • an extraordinarily sweet older woman who kindly assists you in some way and then asks you where you’re from and then tells you she is from Bulgaria/Egypt/Pakistan/Somalia/Bosnia and then kisses you so much while asking you to pray for her family and their problems…the ones from Pakistan say all this in urdu but you can string it all together due to past experiences with extraordinarily sweet older women.  The last one I met was from the Ukraine.  She helped me find the women’s washroom – which happened to be situated at the end of a maze.  And I did pray for her family as the imprint of her numerous kisses reminded me right at my nightly dua time.
  • a stinky feet smell permeating the shoe zone and each time you inhale, you berate yourself for not being more active in offering your volunteering services to clean a mosque, any mosque.
  • numerous computer printed signs in the washrooms reminding people to be clean/keep it clean.  Some are misspelt, some don’t make total sense, but alhamdulillah, they all recognize the importance of reminding Muslims multiple times about something.   Nagging works in our community.  At least I think so, judging by the reduction in sopping wet counters and slippery, lawsuit-worthy floors in the mosques I’ve visited recently.
  • a cute jumble of Qur’ans on a shelf/cart/on something more special than its surroundings…sometimes even Qur’ans in a variety of languages.  It just warms your heart so much to see that Cantonese copy of Allah’s words in a predominantly Indo-Pak mosque.  Almost nothing screams  “our global Muslim family” more poignantly.  Or, “I inherited a box of Muslim World League dawah project Qur’ans in all sorts of obscure languages and I am going to do a mosque run around town to dispose of them in a way which warms my heart and yours”.
  • a corkboard overflowing with flyers, ads, that basement apartment Ahmed has available for rent, that apartment Muhammed is looking to rent, that baby-sitting (with free Qur’an recitation classes thrown in) that Safiyyah will provide…and that care-giver Zainab desperately needs…can’t we all just start a Muslim craigslist, people?  Because, while I know it might be working (as evidenced by the number of phone number tear-offs Safiyyah’s ad has received – sort of like an ancient way of gauging the number of hits a web-site’s getting), it just hurts my head to see it all shoved together like that.  But apparently, it doesn’t hurt anyone else’s heads and that is just so heartwarming – that almost every mosque proudly boasts its prized collection of random announcements and offerings/wantings.  The bigger the mosque, the bigger the cork real-estate.  I love it.

What else is there that’s lovably the same between our mosques?  And if anyone knows about a Muslim craigslist, I’d love to learn about it!

These flip-flops are suitable paired, alhamdulillah. (Photo by Paul Keller)

*I say this know quite well that I have a choice in terms of the mosques I experience, whereas many women do not have that luxury and instead deal with always being ushered into dungeon-like premises in order to pray.