I have completed Day 13 and it was great. Most of the day was “normal”, but this evening I was able to hang out with three friends that I had previously worked with at the local Islamic school. We were meeting at Cami’s house at 4:30 for “coffee and dessert” and I was bringing my kids along. When we arrived I realized that “coffee and dessert” was actually pb & j sandwiches for my kids, tortilla soup, cucumber sandwiches, cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies, and excellent tea….it was delicious!
After getting the kids situated with food and Disney Junior, my friends and I sat at the table to eat and chill out. It was so nice to catch up. My friend Neelam asked about reactions that I’ve gotten, and I responded by saying that mostly it’s been positive, with a few exceptions of course. One of these exceptions being a Christian, who very harshly criticized what I am doing. This person was astonished that I would wear the hijab, as it is, to him, a symbol of 1400 years of oppression of Muslim women. Instead of seeking to understand my purpose in wearing the hijab for Lent, which is to learn new ways to show hospitality to neighbors, strangers, and enemies, all this person saw was me supporting the ideology of Islam. This person even said I was supporting ISIS by wearing the hijab. Completely ridiculous.
In light of talking about hijab with them, I realized that each of my three friends wear hijab, but in different ways. One of the women wears the type of hijab that is a one piece stretchy material that fits tightly around the sides of her face, and she wears it all the time…actually she didn’t even remove it this evening while it was just us girls hanging out. Another wears it all of the time, but a slightly looser version, using a scarf, but still covering most, if not all, of her hair. My last friend (but not least), has actually evolved in her hijab wearing since I met her. When I worked at the school, pretty much the only time she wore hijab was while teaching during the school day. More recently, she has decided that she desires to wear hijab all of the time, as a very loose scarf draped over her head and around her neck. She did tell us that although she has chosen to wear it all of the time, it took her awhile to feel comfortable wearing it while working out at the gym. It was mostly because she already gets hot enough while working out, and she was thinking that this would quite possibly make it unbearable. She talked about how she discussed it with her husband, and he said that it was up to her, stating that her choice to wear it was not for other people, but for herself.
Most of our conversation, while eating, revolved around Islam. One of my friends hopes to embark on the journey of Hajj this year, God willing. If you don’t know what Hajj is, it is a pilgrimage to Mecca that occurs once a year for Muslims. This journey is to be undertaken by Muslims at least once in their life if they are physically and financially capable. Each year over 1.5 million Muslims from outside Saudi Arabia travel to Hajj. Although it is much different, one could compare it to the importance of visiting the holy sites of Jerusalem for a Christian. While talking about Hajj, one of the women mentioned that there is talk about demolishing the Prophet Mohammed’s grave, and this is because many fear it has become a source of “shirq” or idolatry. If you want to read more about that, you can read an article from The Independent from 2014 here. Obviously it is not a subject to be taken lightly, and could lead to tension among Muslims.
After talking for quite awhile, it was time for my friends to partake in their evening prayers, while I tended to the kiddos. After prayers we gathered in the living room and talked for quite awhile, catching up on who still worked at the Islamic school and who didn’t, and how kids from my previous class there had changed over the years. It was a wonderful time and I look forward to hanging out with them again in the future.
It is my hope that, as I continue journaling on this blog, you are able to see people as individuals, break down barriers, and build bridges with others.