Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Islamic Center and Mosque Tour



Finally the day came and went and I’m still here to tell about. It was ages ago since I signed up to go on a field trip to an Islamic Center and Mosque as part of the senior hall’s monthly series, How We Worship. It was January 4th to be exact when I put in my RSVP, one month after the San Bernardino rampage leaving fourteen people dead, the victims of radical extremists. I’ve been both looking forward to this trip and slightly apprehensive at the same time, and that latter emotion is one I wish I didn’t have to admit. I’m an open-minded woman after all, nothing to fear. So what if we had to dress conservatively with long sleeves, no shorts and scarves covering our hair. All that meant is I didn’t have to wash my hair on Thursday when we went to learn about Muslims and the Islamic faith and to be served a traditional Mid-Eastern lunch.

Knowing this field trip was on my day planner my feelings of apprehension were heighten last month when a man---not far from the very Center I signed up to tour---made the national news when he was caught on video chanting at the top of his lungs: “Kill the Muslims! Kill them all! Trump! Trump! Trump!” He had taken a swing at a Muslin and was fist-pumping his chant as he walked away. Trump had been in town for a rally not long before this incident which, I’m guessing, emboldened the chanter. I saw the entire rally on TV and it’s not hyperbolic to guess that’s what happened. Watching that news clip, I could visualize that radicalized Trump fan showing up with an assault rifle at the Islamic Center on the day of our tour and opening fire while we all sat eating hummus smothered bread. With our Anglo-American heritage tucked under our head scarves he’d never guess our group was collateral damage. Oops. None of that happened, of course, but we met the Egyptian Muslim leader---I can’t remember his title---who the Trump supporter tried to slug. He was quoted in our local news as saying that he was shocked when it happened and something else about showing patience, ignoring it and that “time would mend it.” 

When we first got to the Center we were served a fantastic lunch of the freshest of fresh salad, rice and almonds, chicken, beef, mixed vegetables, pocket bread and hummus. None of us at my table could identify the favor profile of the meats or the oven baked peppers, carrots and zucchini slices. Coffee and an array of rich, nut-filled desserts came next while a man gave an hour long presentation about Islam. We learned, for example, they believe that Jesus was not crucified on the Cross, that a secret stand-in or swap of some sort took place to protect him. We learned that women wear head scarves to honor Mary, mother of Jesus. “Mary the Blessed” they call her and the Quran has a whole chapter devoted to her. They also believe there is no such thing as original sin. In Islam, everyone is born pure. And if you wrong someone, you must first seek their forgiveness before you can ask God to forgive you.

We were told they believe that God sent the Torah, the Christian Gospels and the Quran to guide humanity through His prophets…Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. To quote the handout we got: “Islam completes the long chain of guidance from God to humanity. Meticulously preserving and thoroughly documenting, Islam’s message has a familiar resonance with other Abrahamic religions, owing to their shared history and common values.” Muslims all keep a ‘family tree chart’ from Adam to Muhammad to honor early prophets including Adam, Moses, Abraham, Jesus, Noah, Jacob and others all Christians would know.

We learned so many interesting things that I couldn’t possibility list like why they’re called to prayer five times a day, what words are actually said during the call and why they separate the sexes while at prayer. Our presentation ended when the call to prayer came---get this---on a cell phone app. It’s not always at the exact, same time because they’re based on the setting and rising sun. At that point we were able to go into the Mosque (worship area) where we sat in back to observe the prayer. But before we could go into the Mosque we had to park our shoes in a large shoe closet or put paper booties over top of our shoes. After it was over we were able to ask questions. Someone asked about the bookcases inside the Mosque that were full of Qurans written in a dozen or so languages and we learned that only the Qurans that are written in the original Arabic are considered to be Holy Books. Once something has been translated it loses its purity and possibly some of its original clarity.

In addition to the theology and history presentation we were all fascinated by the bathrooms. (Not many world travelers in our group, I guess.) They had stations for sitting to wash your feet and an assortment of rubber sandals by the stall doors that you are instructed to wear while inside the stalls. Inside each stall was a small watering can that none of us could figure out what it was for and also a long hose (like a flexible shower sprayer but called a bidet shower) that was to be used to wash your private parts off while on the toilet. Thankfully, they also had toilet paper. There were no mirrors in the bathrooms, either, and talking is forbidden in restrooms. Our male bus driver, on the way back home said the men’s room had individual stalls and no urinals in addition to what was in the woman’s. The senior hall director lead a conversation on the way home and none of us could quit talking (in positive ways) about the things that surprised or impressed us. All in all it was an afternoon well spent and the Muslims we met couldn’t have been nicer or more welcoming. ©

Note: I didn't take the photo above but it is of the Mosque I was in.

22 comments:

  1. Muslims, Jews and through the Jews, Christians are all descended from Abraham. If Sarah, Abraham's wife had listened to God and not made Abraham have sex with her handmaiden Hagar, resulting in a child Ishmael that when Sarah's own son was born, she made Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael back to Egypt, we wouldn't have any problems. Ishmael was Abraham's first born and yet lost his birthright, which really ticked off Hagar's people, the Muslims, so they've hated the Jews ever since. Then the Catholics went into their country, during the Crusades and destroyed their Mosques, so they don't take too kindly to them. I'll bet in your discussion, they didn't tell you where in the Quran, it states, the more infidels a Muslim kills, the higher place he will receive in Paradise. Did they explain that Muslim women have to shave their entire bodies daily? It's all very interesting. I would have liked to go to that. Heck--I'd like to go to a Catholic explanation day. :-) Sorry for the run on. I studied a lot about Islam back in the '70's.

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    1. Actually, our speaker did mention that BOTH sexes are required to remove the hair from naval through to the anus and under their armpits. They consider it to be a hygiene issue...and probably it made sense in ancient, arid places where water was scarce. Had I known that when I was young and still shaving my legs I would never have complained about having to do it. LOL

      As for your other questions about killing to get into paradise, no one asked those kinds of questions but had anyone done so we would have gotten respectful and detailed answer. In my opinion, I'm betting it would have been along the lines of judging all Christian Churches based on what you know about the Westboro Baptist Church's hate based translation of what's in the Bible and how translations of the Quran are miss-read and never accepted by true scholars. You're welcome to poke around the website that was on the handout we received. It's from the Islamic Circle of North America and VERY comprehensive. www.whyislam.org

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    2. At one time, I did that kind of shaving. Loved it because I felt so clean. TMI?

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    3. The things we learn in blogs. I would have felt naked. LOL

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  2. What an excellent experience. Communities need to do more of this. Churches need to invite Muslims to such events. The more we exchange information the less fear we have to deal with. I've visited Mosques several times in Israel and in the states. I've know Muslims like liked much better than some of the Christians I've known of the stripe of one Ted Cruz.

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    1. It was a great experience and I agree that more churches need to do interfaith programs to lessen the fears everyone has of each other. We have at least 3 faith based colleges in town and they do have interfaith programs. Last year I went to a Catholic college to her a Jewish Rabbi speak.

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  3. Your trip sounds fascinating and in line with my interactions with Muslims as well. We are, unfortunately, learning about Islam from the very most Fundamentalist sects of their faith. Many American Christians quake at how their religion is conveyed by their most Fundamentalist followers as well. I'm glad you had a positive experience. I wish others had such an open mind and open heart. And Middle-Eastern food? The best!!!

    At our Unitarian Universalist church when my son was in Middle School, the youth visiting a variety of other faiths (Christian, Jewish, Sihk, maybe Hindu as I recall) and my son came home raving and exclaiming how loving and welcoming the Sihk people were and how they INSISTED on sharing their meal, part of their worship activities, which was delicious!

    Sikhs are not Muslims, yet have been targeted and terrorized by militant groups in the US who don't know the difference and paint anyone with a turban and dark skin as one monolithic people. Tell me who the bad guys are...it gets hard to tell.

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    1. Well said, Donna!

      There were a couple of people at our senior hall who thought it was terrible that the church series tours included the Mosque. But we live in a country where someone recently made a big stink over a school teaching kids how to meditate so nothing surprises me anymore. But it is scary, the ignorance in the world.

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  4. For many years I used to volunteer tutor English to foreigners living in our area (and most of them were post graduates at the local university). I tutored an Iranian woman for a few years. One day we got into a discussion about bathrooms. She started the discussion by expressing surprise that 'we' shower every day in this country. Because she then said that a lot of people seem to shower to clean themselves after using the toilet, she discussed toilets in Iran and surrounding countries. Toilets are all equipped with devices like shower heads to clean. I know from my travels in South Korea that Asian countries have similar devices installed on toilets to clean and dry the body. It is all different from what we, in North America, are accustomed to, but actually very civilized.
    This is a bit of a continuation of your last bathroom discussion!!
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. The Egyptian Muslim we met had three degrees and is working on a doctorate and a year ago he didn't know a word of English. He speaks it quite well now. I find that amazing!

      I had known about bidet toilets before but I had idea about the bidet showers. After googling them it looks like more countries use them than don't. I find that fascinating. LOL

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  5. I know nothing much about ANY religions. Your day sounds so fascinating. When I get more energy, I might take a class on comparative religions. My Portland friend has his degree in that! Now he's a lawyer.

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    1. I've taken a couple of semesters of comparative religion, one at a state college and one at a Catholic college, both in the '60s. They were really interesting and I wouldn't mind taking another one. I'm sure I've forgotten a lot and the do open your mind up to know how they all evolved.

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  6. I knew nothing about Islam before I read this. What a great opportunity to experience the interiors of the Center and Mosque, and watch a prayer service. Now I know almost too much about hygiene, but I'm glad you included it.

    I wonder if they have Quran study groups like Christians have Bible study groups. Did you find that out? I'm guessing that most believers can read the Arabic Quran?

    I like the requirement that first you must ask forgiveness from the person you wronged, before you can ask God for forgiveness. A good bite of humble pie helps us all.

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    1. The speaker said that most Mosques have classes to learn to read the Quran in Arabic, no matter where in the world they're at. No one asked specifically about study groups but I'm betting the language classes turn into them.

      The hygiene thing was interesting to all of us who went on the tour so I couldn't leave it out of the blog, but I know what you mean about knowing too much. LOL I still can't figure out how they manage the logistics of it.

      I liked the seeking forgiveness part too.

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    2. (I just commented, but couldn't sign off as mobile screen closed, and unsure if system sent it.)~ Libby

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    3. It did, Libby. See below.

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  7. (#2, apologies if duplicated)
    I think all religions are similar, except the fundamentalists (and they're all equally awful). A friend once commented that Islam was the youngest religions and that was why they were the 'prickliest' (for want of a better word for quick to take affront). I think the religions are like boys clubs: you have blind loyalty to your own, and thus cannot see the merits of another.

    I did classes in Islam at school and my memory is of guidance on everyday living such as girls not sleeping in the same room as their brothers after adolescence (makes sense), not eating pork because the animal is unclean (again, makes sense(, and tithing (compulsory contribution to the poor, commendable). Polygamy was encouraged because here were so many widows after the wars, and this way widows were not left forsaken (again, makes sense). The treatment of women as chattel is abhorrent, but then think so much like Victorian times when women couldn't vote, hold property, inherit, etc etc. Also, so many religions seem hell bent on conversion as if their 'club' - its culture, religion, cuisine, etc etc - was the BEST. I think inform people, but no pressure - let them decide. Live and let live.

    Re toilet hygiene, my neighbour had to 'go' several times daily, and her tender skin suffered as a result from even the gentlest toilet paper. When she found out about the Asian mode of using water, she thought it was the best thing she'd had ever heard! Apologies for Too Much Information. ~ Libby

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  8. I enjoy people like you sharing your life experiences. No need to apologize!

    What I find interesting about all the major religions is they all started from the same place but ended up with these different versions. Much like gossip passed by whispering around a circle of people. the evolution of their churches change though they swear it didn't. People often don't see the similarities like our Amish women who cover their hair their men wearing beards is the same as Islam and Catholics covering their hair in church used to be a full-out scarf in my life time.

    What I wonder about is with the bidets, how to do get dry afterward.

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  9. What a great educational opportunity! -Jean

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    1. It really was! I would go again just to hear the accent of the Egyptian. He was such an interesting speaker and made sure we that he fully answered questions to our satisfaction before moving to another.

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  10. Wonderful post. My daughter-in-law is from a part of the world where most people are Muslim. I would find such a field trip very interesting. They must wonder what to think of Trump, or maybe they "get" him better than many Americans do. The less we know about others, the easier it is to pass judgement. Lack of familiarity leaves so much room for misunderstanding.

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    1. Lack of familiarity DOES leave too much room for misunderstandings and some people don't even care to learn about other cultures or religions. I've found it interesting to watch people's reactions when I mentioned this tour. Some were more open minded than I thought they'd be about Muslims...others less.

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