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Islam in Expression of God's Love: An American's View

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    Islam in Expression of God's Love: An American's View


    By Patricia Philbin

    I’m an American woman and not affiliated with any religion, but I have always respected people’s right to practice their choice of religion or spiritual belief. After Sept 11, I realized that I knew almost nothing about Islam. I live in France, and as I write this, the neo-Nazi candidate Le Pen is facing an election run-off with Chirac. Much of his campaign is based on people’s fear of rising crime and unemployment, and his hateful rhetoric implies that this is related to Muslim immigrants of North African/Arab origin. Despite negative things I read in the US and French media, I could not believe that Islam was a religion of anger or evil. The Scottish poet Kathleen Raine says that unless you see a thing in the light of love, you really don’t see it at all. I was determined to learn more about Islam. Fortunately I had an experience that enabled me to replace my fear with joy.

    Recently I had an unexpected opportunity to visit Istanbul. French and American friends expressed surprise and concern. ‘This is a Muslim city and there is still a lot of hostility to Americans after Sept 11. Do you want to end up like Daniel Pearl?’ ‘How are you going to walk around by yourself? It could be dangerous!’ ‘Are you nuts?’ Their comments only made me more determined to go. I wanted to see the ty, and I am not a person who is willing to live in fear -- or ignorance.

    It was my first visit, and I was fascinated and delighted by the beauty of Istanbul.

    People’s friendliness, honesty and politeness was incredible. The old area of the city was charming, but I could also appreciate Istanbul as a modern and progressive world-class city. I visited several of the beautiful historic mosques that are popular tourist destinations, but it was impossible to find or speak with anyone working in the mosques. I enjoyed my sightseeing, but I still wanted to better understand Islam.

    On the last day of my trip, I walked around Üsküdar and noticed a smaller mosque in a residential area. It was shortly before the 5 p.m. prayer time. At the other mosques I visited, there were always signs posted that visitors were not allowed to come during the prayer services. But it was only five minutes to 5, and I had a strong feeling that I should go inside the mosque.

    My friend chose to wait outside, but I wanted to have just a quick look inside and then leave before the service.

    I created a reasonable head covering using my sweater, and was wearing a long dress and long sleeved blouse. I probably looked somewhat bizarre with my sweater-turban, but no one said anything. As I entered, an older man rubbed a small tube of scented oil over his hand and the hands of his friends. When he saw me watching them, he smiled and did the same to my hand. After I entered the mosque, the friendly man indicated that I should go into the women’s area, which was separate and enclosed by a wall. In some of the mosques I visited, this area provided a partial view of the mosque interior via slats of wood, but this particular mosque had built a solid high wall, providing no view of the other part of the mosque.

    I was alone in the room, and sat on the carpets for a moment and wondered what I should do next. I felt that I had no business being there and was probably intruding. To exit the mosque, I would have to walk near the main prayer area. Although I could not see what was going on, I could hear that singing had just commenced. And a small but important detail - I had no idea where the man had put my shoes! I debated the best way to gracefully leave the mosque without disrupting the service or making a total spectacle of myself. Then a small group of veiled women entered and stared at me with open curiosity. I experienced irrational feelings of panic -- how would they react to a blonde, blue-eyed American woman who was sitting there with a sweater wrapped around her head? If they had a good sense of humor, we could share a giggle. But what if my presence was offensive -- and their reaction was displeasure, or even anger? I quickly got up to leave, but a woman touched me and pointed to a center area of the carpet. Another woman took my hand and guided me over there. Then the women knelt next to me, each finding their own space. A woman sitting next to me took my hand. I glanced at her face and she had the most gentle expression of warmth. She smiled and held my hand for almost a minute as we listened to the man’s chanting. I relaxed and began to feel welcome.

    Up until then, I had almost no interaction with women on my trip. All the people working in shops or restaurants were men, and women passed by in small groups. Now, I was surrounded by women, and I felt a profound sense of love and community.

    An older woman next to me occasionally whispered in English some translations of what was being said. When they stood, bent at the hip, then dropped down to touch the carpet with their foreheads, I was at a loss of what to do. A phrase came to my mind and I decided to focus on it as my own silent prayer -- “God’s love is in all people, and in all places.” I kept this comforting thought in my mind throughout the service. At the end, my smiling friend took my hand again and squeezed it. I nodded a thank you -- then we spontaneously embraced each other.

    I had tears in my eyes as I left the mosque. This simple but emotional visit convinced me that I was right -- Islam is an expression of God’s love, not hate. My heart felt full of understanding, leaving no room for fear or doubt<--

    Glory of Islam Will Never Be Extinguished

    [This message has been edited by Pakistani Tiger (edited May 19, 2002).]


    wish all muslims could act that nice, i think most of us do. its juts some who ruin the whole impression.

    "Philosopher, Orator, Apostle, Legislator, Conqueror of Ideas, Restorer of Rational beliefs.... The founder of twenty terrestrial empires and of one spiritual empire that is Muhammad. As regards all standards by which human greatness may be measured, we may well ask, is there any man greater than he?"


      We should do more to show people the ways of our faith in it's true light.......


        Thanks for sharing the article, Tiger


          Very nice..
          May Allah Bless us all.. and give guidence to the once who need it.

          "Only for Allah and to gain His pleasure"
          "You are either slave to what made man or u are slave to what man made"