Christopher Garner, 127 TCCS
Ramadan July 2015.
The first time I have ever participated in the Ramadan fast. The first time I had ever been inside a Mosque. The first time, in a long time, that I was fully immersed in a situation that was completely new to me. I was in a foreign country, in a Muslim majority city, an American, and alone. But, for some reason it all made me feel a calm that I had never felt before.
I met people who I had never met before in my life, but was greeted with open arms, curiosity about where I was from, and questions about how I liked living in their city. We conversed, smiled, laughed, and ate together as I asked questions in my broken Thai mixed with Malayu (Malaysian language) about the things I was observing around me.
I told them I believed in God, but did not claim any religion. I told them that I was only interested in learning about Islam and their way of life. They were totally fine with the fact that I was not Muslim at that time, and they were still accepting of me to learn. At no point as I sat and spoke with these men did I feel like there was any ill intentions behind anything they were doing or saying. It all came to me in a very genuine way. These people were nothing like the images I remembered seeing on TV back at home about Muslims, not saying that I believed those images anyway. These people were peaceful, warm spirited, and inviting. They were kind and willing to help me try to understand their religion, their way of life, Al Islam.
One night after the sunset prayer, I was walking with one friend who I had met a few nights before at the mosque. He could speak a little English and was only a few years older than me, so the elders of the mosque told him to help me with my questions. He had been the main person taking me around the mosque, showing and explaining to me the various aspects of what happens around the time of prayer and about Islam. Then I set out on a walk with him from the mosque to go to his home which was nearby so he could pick up a few things. As we walked down a small pathway off the side of the road cut out of the thick brush, we came to an opening. We walked a little longer then we made it to his home. He walked into his home as I waited outside. He then returned back to where I was, carrying a few things in his hands. We then left the house and began to walk back to the mosque. I followed my friend back down the small path through the brush. As we walked I started to analyze in my mind where I was at that exact moment in my life and really take it all in. The smell of the crisp cool air, the snap of the sticks and leaves cracking under my feet, the stillness of everything other than our footsteps. I looked up into the sky and every star was shining. The full moon glowed so brightly it was easy to see through the darkness of the night.
As I stared up into the sky, something happened that really spoke to my soul. I looked up into the darkness of space and then the Adzan (call to prayer) began in the distance. I slowly looked back down ahead of me at my friend as I followed him down the path, the sound of the Adzan’s soothing melody created an ambient sound as we continued down the path. I felt my heart beating slowly, I realized that I was not simply following a friend to pray, but I was being led down a metaphorical path.
A path that had been calling me, drawing me closer my entire life. The first time I had ever participated in the Ramadan fast. The first time I had ever been inside a Mosque. The first time, in a long time, that I was fully immersed in a situation that was completely new to me. I was in a foreign country, in an all Muslim majority area, an American, and alone. But, for some reason it all made me feel a calm that I had never felt before.