Last Friday I finally made it to Juma at the mosque around the corner from my house. It only took 3 months. This is actually an improvement given that it took me more than a year to make it to the mosque down the street from my old apartment. For the last few years I’ve gone almost exclusively to my tekke or dergah (Sufi meeting house), which I love and which is full of ease and light for me. It’s a joy to go there. I feel perfectly comfortable and always welcome there. In the show I talk about how nervous and dread-inducing the prospect of going to a mosque you know nothing about can be, for queer Muslims especially. In my case, I always have a fear that one of the sisters will comment on one piece of hair showing or something minute like that in a way that feels like shame from the you’re not doing it right posse known to roam through mosques around the world. What will the people be like? Will the imam give an anti-gay kind of talk or a very black & white khutba (sermon) that expresses some rigid interpretation of Quran that has nothing of the mystical spirit in it? Will the women’s space be in a basement with a loud speaker and all the small children or behind some intense partition? This time, with some trepidation, after imagining becoming friendly with folks at the mosque, I considered that it might be quite difficult to invite anyone I met there to my home without having some very awkward conversation beforehand, and then would they still come?
The thing is I really love mosques. I love the deep peace of a space so imbued with the prayers of folks in intimate moments with Allah. That peace is so profound, just entering such a space immediately brushes aside whatever unimportant distractions are running loose in my mind. I believe every space where people pray has this profound quality. Interestingly, there are lots of Muslim student groups for example, who pray in churches because that space is made available to them on campuses. And this works because the sincerity of the prayer and worship there has made it an open door for anybody, regardless of particular faith, who wants to pray and worship.
So, with the mill of questions a-swirl in my head, off I went. I was greeted at the door by a brother who then pointed me to the sister’s area, through a door as opposed to upstairs where the brothers were headed. Uh-oh I thought. It turned out to be a very nice, peaceful space, complete with its own bathroom and a clear…loudspeaker. Ok.
All the sisters who came, less than 10 in all, wore hijabs and jilbabs (long loose dress-type garment). I was the only one in pants but it didn’t feel awkward at all. We were all paying attention to the khutba, which turned out to be quite interesting. The imam spoke about gratitude, that it is incumbent upon us to be grateful all the time to Allah for the constant stream of blessings and for what our ancestors went through for us to be here now. It would actually tarnish their memory to be anything other than grateful. There was a lot to the message, and bones I could pick–how the imam seemed to be addressing brothers, never speaking directly to us women who were out of sight, for example. Nonetheless, I got a lot from his talk. I find in myself a strong desire to go again, to continue to feel out the space. Inshallah it becomes an even better experience, perhaps even one with a bit of healing in it for this queer Muslim? I don’t know about all that yet.
I want to shout out the amazing efforts of folks like the El-Tawhid Juma Circle, an LGBT-inclusive prayer space, and inclusive in a broader sense as well. Check them out http://jumacircle.com/ as well as the amazing inclusive mosque initiative going on in France: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-20547335 . Inshallah some day queer Muslims won’t have to think twice about going to any mosque. Mosques and all spaces of prayer and worship will be safe in the hands of human beings. Amin amin amin.