I have been close friends with Bakari for about a year. After English club last year, he engaged himself in the Club Success that Tim and I created together at the school, and it certainly would not be as successful without him. During the feast of lamb, I accepted to accompany him to a cultural soiree, when I became curious about the Muslim religion. And since, he has come to my house almost every day to talk about English, or culture or whatever comes up. I am lucky to have such a friend so open and curious.
So last night, he mentioned that he had not prayed three times that day, and I told him that I would pray with him. “Are you ready to become Muslim?” he smiled. “No, but I am ready to pray.” We both stood on my rug barefoot, before he taught me a phrase I wasnt sure would come out of my mouth. “Why do you pray in Arab, not French?” He told me that Muslims believe that God favors those who speak the language.. “oh, you need something to cover your head.”.. “Why?” He responded, “to remove temptation from the devil, because your head is sacred.” His eyes looked up and then said he would fully explain when he found out. I grabbed the small, blue sheet on the chair and put covered my head anyway. He showed me how to sit, with both feet touching the ground; “when you pray, your feet pray too” he said. The next thing he said meant ‘You are the beginning and the end.’ “When you bow, you first look where you will put your forehead, and when you bow, your nose touches the ground too.
Incase you did not know, Muslim means ‘Submission’ in Arab. Submission to God; the goal is to submit yourself completely and unconditionally to God. And I will not ignore the fact that there are many negative ideas and beliefs, as well as acts comitted just like every other group of people, that have created a negative stereotype for Muslims in America, but I will say that all of the Muslims I have met here are wonderful- humble, calm, at peace… something I admire and wish I could eminate from within my own self. And while I disagree with many of the view on females (having to ask permission before leaving the house, unable to pray without when they are on their period, and some believe that women should not look at men in the eyes), I can appreciate the main goal, especially learning from a man who promises to cook for his wife one day, despite the tantrums his conservative grandmother throws when he enters a kitchen. He practices because it helps him reach peace, because he wants to submit himself to peace, service, education and all the other things that should be God’s will. We can all respect that.
So while I didnt understand everything Bakari said in his prayer, I did catch him looking at his hands to then rub on his face and body. When I asked, he explained that the idea is that your prayers become part of you- what God wants for you. He looked to his left and then right. “Its like you have two angels, one on your right who writes down all of the good you do, and to your left, one who records all of the bad. You must ask God to look over them, and after death, prophet Mohammed will look at these and then decide where you will go.” Okay, I said. “What role does this play in your prayer?” I held his beads, threaded together- like a small necklace that I had noticed.. “this isnt necessary to pray, but its like OMO”. “What?” I said. “OMO, the soap. It helps you to keep clean. It reminds me of whats important, what I am praying for.” I liked that thought, and decided at that moment to get my own, and make a list of things I want to constantly pray for and concentrate myself on also.
I dont want to be Muslim, nor Caltholic, nor Protestant nor Buddhist. I just want to know God, which is to know love and to live with a peace inside myself and everything I do.