Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Inside the mosque, the bare truth

Everything was fine until I looked at my feet.

I was at the Grand Mosque for an iftar dinner with a Muslim friend, and after the meal, which signals the end of the daily fast during Ramadan, he invited me to join him in the mosque for the evening prayer.

This was a pleasant surprise – I had always heard non-Muslims were not welcome inside a mosque during prayers. I knew I would have no idea what was being said, but I figured I could work out my own prayers. He told me not to worry, just follow his lead and it would be OK.

So there I was, in the third-largest mosque in the world, in the holiest month of Islam, smack in the middle of row upon orderly row of praying Muslim men, doing my best to think my own spiritual thoughts and trying to keep up as we bowed and kneeled and touched our foreheads to the cool, hard marble floor ...

And suddenly I noticed all the brown, bare feet in the row in front of me ... and to the left of me ... and to the right of me ... everywhere I looked, bare feet. Hundreds of them, mostly middle aged feet but lots of little boy feet and old man feet, too, every one of them as bare as could be.

And then I noticed my own feet, covered with ... blue and gold argyle socks.

Distracted and alarmed – had I just violated mosque etiquette? – I immediately lost my place in the bowing and kneeling ritual. I was too busy looking left and right to see if anyone was looking at my feet.

I was afraid I had embarrassed my host, and I nervously glanced around, half expecting someone to pull me aside and admonish me, or even banish me from the mosque. But everyone seemed immersed in the prayer ritual, and I made it to the end without incident.

As we shuffled through the crowd toward the exit, where we had left our shoes (well, my shoes, his sandals), I whispered my concern to my friend. My lasting memory of iftar at the Grand Mosque will not be the call to prayer or the meal shared with hundreds of men or the holiday atmosphere or the giving spirit, but rather the overwhelming relief I felt when he laughed and said, "No, no, socks are fine! People just don't wear them much here."

Ramadan kareem.

1 comment:

  1. Almost a year between posts, but that was worth waiting for. Blue and gold argyle socks? Really? Get some sandals, dude!