As I walk toward the back entrance I look upon a men’s only entrance. Next to it is another entrance with a paper sign. I decide to proceed through the door with the paper sign assuming it must be for everyone.
I’m panicked. I’ve been raised Christian my whole life. I knew very little of the Islamic faith and I’m sweating. It’s the middle of June in Columbia, Missouri.
The Islamic faith is considerably more modest than my own so in response I respectfully dress modestly. When getting ready I look in my closet and realized my options were slim. Finally, I decide on my work pants, a long sleeve sweater with a tank top underneath, my hair put tightly in a bun, and no makeup.
It’s 80 degrees out, yet contrary to the way I thought I would feel, I am feeling empowered. In the past I’ve thought having to cover your shoulders and knees would feel oppressive although to my disbelief I feel comfortable, respectable, a little warm, but at peace.
30 minutes early for the 5:00 prayer, I decide to stride right in. The mosque is a ghost town. No one is here yet. Nevertheless, all the doors are unlocked and open. The trust they have is astounding.
At first glance I see a dark room with stacked chairs, then a kitchen to my right, and a bathroom on my left. The recognizable rooms put me at some ease.
I walk to the bathroom awkwardly looking for people. To my left are bathroom stalls and to my right I see the most interesting washing station. There are stone seats and faucets in front of the seats.
I help myself around the building. Everywhere I look I see beautiful writing in Arabic. Some is accented with gold coloring. There are so many colors. It’s stunning. There are also posters with writing in Arabic that advertises different events their mosque is having.
I then stroll toward the prayer room. There are many signs reminding visitors to turn off their cell phone and to be respectful of their “brothers”.
I nervously peek into the prayer room. It is silent. There are chairs on the side. I stand there in silence and just listen to the sound of peace here. The room is warm and comfortable. There is a small spot in the front of the room for someone to speak and darkly tinted windows in the back of the room.
Finally, I end up at the front entrance. There are some seats and a shoe rack. I sit by the door in the serenity of this holy place listening to cars drive by. A few people walk through to the prayer room, some speaking in Arabic.
What brings this adventure full circle is the person I see in the parking lot as I am leaving.
I walk slowly toward my car now less nervous and just enjoying the serenity of a holy place. When I see one of our regular customers at my place of work running toward me and another man who is getting into his car.
The man getting into his car has a full set of gold teeth. He smiles politely to me. He then sees the man running toward me and kindly waves to him. I relax a little as I realize he wasn’t running to me.
The interesting thing about the running man is that for the longest time he made me feel very uncomfortable. He had a hard time communicating with my coworkers and I. He would often yell when placing an order possibly hoping that if he speaks up we may be better able to understand him.
Seeing this man being casual with one of his fellows brought the whole trip full circle. I had judged a man with a different belief system and language than my own simply because we weren’t the same. However, seeing him in his comfort zone and holy place of worship opened my eyes to the importance of understanding.
With a little over 4,000 people practicing Islam in Columbia I feel like as I leave this place I have collected important thoughtfulness crucial to accepting different practices of other people. Information taken here could be used to shed light on the Islamic faith and maybe open minds of readers to the vast amount of different religions in their town, state, or country.