[Note: This is the second in a three-part sequence.]
The first thought that came to me was putting God back in the schools. They would have to learn about what He wants from us–being kind to your neighbor, being kind to the earth. I think that would help out a lot with children and with society in general–I feel like there’s not a lot knowing about Him, I think it’s unfortunate that a lot of people don’t know about Him.
It sounds like a big part of how you understand how you want to act comes from your faith. Is that true?
I wasn’t brought up through faith. My main value was like, Family comes first. As I grew up, life happened, and I happened to find faith and I loved it–I was like, Cool, this works, I’m gonna stick with it. It’s not easy, sometimes it’s really hard, but you stick with it ’cause you know the benefits of it and you know the value of it.
Do you do anything where you work with younger kids, maybe do religious education with younger kids who are already interested, or whose families are involved?
At the mosque, I try to go to different groups that we have and stay as active as I can. Whenever there’s any kind of activity I try to go to that too.
The next time N went to the mosque, she looked around at the other women there. Some of them she really liked, and could laugh with after prayers. Some of them were bossy, or two-faced, or suspicious of her as a convert, or withdrawn into their own thoughts. But they shared the same peace, the same devotion and the same praise. Their bodies when praying made similar shapes.
Love is one path to recognition, mutuality and care. Another path, the path N found, is that when you turn, you turn to the same place. When you need to ask, you know Who to ask, and how; you know what is required of you, because it is also required of the people near you.
N wanted to share this certainty, this order, this way of knowing other people and the world at large. It seemed to her that especially with big unfair frightening things, people didn’t have that, and clung to what they knew. They needed a reason to move. But she knew, too, that some of the women she was nodding to or joking with (as she adjusted her hijab and prepared to go back into the heat of the day) saw the plants and air and animals and rocks as fellow worshippers of God, servants and givers of praise, and some saw them only as tools for the use of humankind. If anything, maybe the imam could speak to them about it, or include it in the khutba, but who would listen to her?
N made the dua for leaving the mosque and walked into the pounding sunshine.
At home, she looked online for suggestions. Perform tayammum with clean dust instead of wudu with water, one site suggested, but water for washing before prayers was not a problem where they were. Worship outdoors? Surrounding the masjid was a parking lot. I’m not the one with the big answers, she thought; God is the one with the big answers. That’s how we can hear and understand and measure the little answers.
When N started her weekend class for girls and women, she held it in Roger Williams Park, in a kind of gazebo thing in the rose garden. “Who made the world?” she asked them. “Don’t we believe that He knew what He was doing?” And she waited for their answers.