Pray in Solitude

This is the story of Imran who can’t pray in a mosque now because his experience at a mosque last Ramadan haunts him.

Inspired by Tamatar1.

Imran2 was not a particularly religious Muslim. Therefore, it was not often that he went to the local mosque. Last Ramadan, he decided to go there for iftar since there used to be free iftar at the mosque daily. It was not that he was fond of free food. He was just a social person and this was the best way to meet his Muslim friends. Although he was not particularly religious at that time, he considered it rude to skip Maghrib prayers and appear at the mosque for the food. So he did his ablutions and joined the others for salat.

After the prayers, Imran was standing around waiting for the food and looking for his friend when the guy who was standing next to him during the prayers said “Assalam o Alaikum.” Imran had no hesitation in replying with “Walaikum Assalam.” To kill time, the two started talking. His name was Amir2 and he was somewhat new to the city. Imran was glad to have someone to chat with to keep his attention away from his starving intestines.

With the food starting to be distributed, Imran spotted some friends and said goodbye to his new acquaintance. “Amir seemed like a good fellow, so when he asked me for my contact info, I readily gave him my phone number,” Imran told me later.

Enjoying the good food and meeting friends Imran forgot about Amir. A week later, Amir called Imran. He wanted to go out with Imran but Imran was busy, so he blew him off. Time passed. Imran went out of town and forgot that he had told Amir that they could meet next month.

When Amir called again, Imran started feeling guilty about not hanging out with Amir. “I was about to tell him to go for coffee at the nearby Starbucks when I got a big jolt,” Imran said. Amir had just told him “I like you.” Imran didn’t want to believe that. He thought may be it was because Amir’s English wasn’t good. “I didn’t want to believe it, so I tried to come up with reasons not to. May be Amir didn’t understand the implications of his statement. May be his knowledge of English was to blame.” But no, Amir had an accent but spoke decent English. While Imran was busy trying to interpret Amir’s words, Amir dropped the bombshell. “I like men,” he said. That was it. Imran’s world was shattered. While he had nothing against gays and could even be said to be in support of gay rights, he had never imagined this. Amir was asking him out on a date.

After what seemed like an eternity of awkward silence on the phone, Imran picked up the courage to say “I don’t.” That was the end of it. Amir hung up and Imran never heard from him again. Imran felt embarrassed and kept this incident to himself.

Then Amina Wadud led a mixed group of men and women at Friday prayers in New York and it became the talk of all MSA’s everywhere. Muslims just couldn’t stop discussing it. During one such discussion, an MSA bigshot started talking of the distraction in prayer for men due to the presence of women. He described the sexual feelings praying shoulder to shoulder with a woman could arouse in men, who are “naturally weak.” There was also talk of having to endure a woman’s behind while praying behind her.

This talk suddenly flipped a switch in Imran. He got red-faced and embarrassingly admitted to the incident with Amir. He wondered what Amir had felt praying right next to him; whether Amir had looked at his backside when he moved to the next row for the Sunnah prayers later. As he thought about it, he felt strange.

That day was the last time Imran prayed in jamaat. When asked why he stopped coming to the mosque, he told me “I just can’t stop wondering whether the guys next to me are thinking sexually about me or if the person praying behind me is staring at me.” Imran wondered “these men are so close to each other during prayer; whenever there is an accidental touch during prayers, I wonder if it was intentional and sexual.” The only way Imran can pray now is in solitude.

1 A weblog named “tomato”? What will we have next: a blog named “aloo” (potato)?

2 Names have been changed to protect the innocent as well as the guilty.

Author: Zack

Dad, gadget guy, bookworm, political animal, global nomad, cyclist, hiker, tennis player, photographer

11 thoughts on “Pray in Solitude”

  1. As a straight male who has been “hit-on” by a homosexual, I can definitely sympathize with this fellow. It’s a disturbing experience. However, paranoia is not a healthy response, regardless of one’s views on the homosexual issue.

  2. The incident reported by Imran is, no doubt, a bad one. This is possible because there is no way to X-ray somebody and find what he / she is and what he / she may be thinking. Possibility of it’s happening being much more where homosexuality (a heinous sin) is not considered an evil. One, in stead of getting discouraged, should be bold to eradicate evil. It is said that there are three categories of belief:

    (1) The strong one – To stop the evil forcefully (through wisdom and perseverance not by bullet and missile).
    (2) The average one – To, spontaneously and openly, pronounce the evil as bad.
    (3) The weak one – To consider evil as bad.

    Young persons like Imran should try to be in the category (1) and not in (3). All my life, I took category (3) as cowardice. I am still alive and strong at over 65 years of age (by the grace of God).

  3. I guess I should have highlighted my byline better.

    Posted by Zack at April 11, 2005 12:15 AM in Humor , Islam and Other Religions

    Another important part of this story is the 3rd paragraph from the end.

  4. In my opinion, the people who say that presence of women in front may cause sexual distraction are missing the spirit of Islam. Essence of all religions of book (Islam, Christianity, Judaism) is love. In our worldly affairs, when a man falls in love with a women, nothing else distracts him. We proudly and emphatically repeat stories of Lyla-Majnoon (Qayis), Sheereen-Farhad, Sohni-Mayinwal, etc. Qayis became Majnoon (mad) for Lyla. Somebody said to him Lyla is black and not beautiful, why are you so mad for her ? Qayis said, “See her through my eyes”. Apart from falling in love between members of opposite sex, everybody knows how much we love over children. We look for their comfort sacrificing our comfort and even try to attempt the impossible for them.

    One Sahabi (companion of Prophet) had some thing pierced and stuck in to his toe. That was to be removed by surgery to save his foot but he didn’t allow due to fear of pain. His wife opined that surgery should be perform when he is praying and that Isha (night prayer) would be better because he used to be in Qyam (standing) for a quite a long period. So that was done. The Sahabi was so absorbed in the prayer that painful surgery did not distract him.

    THIS IS LOVE and GOD IS LOVE as all people say irrespective of their religion.
    Now, when we love Allah (God), how the hell any distraction comes in, especially when we know that Allah (God) is the Knower of the Invisible and the Visible, the Beneficent, the Merciful, the Sovereign, the Source of Peace, the Guardian, the Irresistible, the Supreme, the Evolver, the Bestower of Forms ?

    I have been in co-education for my first 5 years in school and then in F.Sc (Intermediate) at Gordon College, Rawalpindi (then run by an American Christian Missionary). At Gordon College, two girls in our Maths class used to sit in the front on a bench at right angle to the black-board while over 15 girls in all other classes used to sit in the front row of benches. My seat used to be in the front row in Math class and in second row (just behind the girls) in other classes. So far as I remember, nearly all my class-mates were not distracted by any of the girls in or outside the class room. There were a few students who used to be attracted by the girls but not during the lecture.

    When a lecture in college eliminates distraction of any sort, how people are distracted by women in the mosque if they have fear of Lord (Allah) in their heart. So, let us not blame our distraction on women. This, however, does not mean that women should lead the prayer or stand in the front row or stand mixed with men.

    By the way, a man who is distracted by a woman being in the front, will also be distracted when passing near women when women are in the rear rows.

    All Muslims should know that Sura “Tauba” does not start with بسم اللہ الرحمن الرحیم while all other Suras start with it. Why ? The only answer is: “Because Prophet Muhammad (mpbh) didn’t say so” as he was not directed to say so by Allah. No other reason to be coined.

    There is an old story (real one) that a scholar of Islam had written 99 or so forceful arguments of Allah’s existence and as One. Near his death came Satin to him and asked, “How do you know that there is Allah and only one ?” The scholar went on presenting his arguments and all were rejected by Satin. The scholar was in state of confusion when another scholar said loudly, “Say I believe in Allah without any argument”. So the dying Scholar said and died in peace.

    So, we must follow Qur’aan and Hadith/Sunna without questioning if we are Muslims. Qur’aan and Hadith/Sunna does not allow what was done by Amina Wadud and her companions in a New York church.

  5. Danial: Thanks for that link. I have seen similar discussions at other places. I seem to remember Venial Sin saying something similar in a comment somewhere.

    wayfarer: May be he wanted a Muslim boyfriend?

    Ikram: Indeed.

    Dad: Agreed that distraction is a non-issue.

  6. Before Amina Wadud, there was one Asra Nomani edvocating mixed Salaat and Salaat led by woman. Asra had claimed to be grand daughter of Shibli Nomani. Here is revelation by a real grand daughter of Shibli Nomani.

    A letter from MOMNA SOHAIL SULTAN (Karachi) published in Dawn of April 22, 2005.

    We were extremely embarrassed to read in ‘Books & Authors’ (April 17) about Asra Nomani, a controversial personality, who claims to be a direct descendant of Allama Shibli, after whom she has named her son. Asra is in no way connected to the Shibli family.

    We five real granddaughters are the real direct descendants of Maulana Shibli, who had one son and two daughters, Rabia Khatoon and Jannutul Fatima. Both the daughters died in their youth in 1904 and 1909. They were married and their family lived in their ancestral villages in Azamgarh.

    Allama Shibli had only one son, Hamid Hassan Nomani. He was born in 1882 and died in 1942. He had no sons but five daughters. They are: A) Dr Nasim Jehan, retired director of health, Bangladesh, died in Karachi in 1997. She was married to Dr Zafrul Huda of Dhaka University. He died in 1978 at Dhaka. They have one daughter Shahla living in the US.

    B) Shamim Jehan, married to Ehtesham Ahmed, who died in Azamgarh in 1982. They have eight sons and seven daughters all married and living in Pakistan, except one, who is in Kuwait.

    C) Tahsin Jehan, married to Shaukat Sultan, principal of Shibli College, Azamgarh. He died in 1986. They have three sons and four daughters, living in India, the UAE and Karachi. The above three daughters were married in 1940 at Azamgarh.

    D) Mohsina Sultana, married in 1950 to Amanullah Khan, director of industries, India. They have five children, all married, one daughter and three sons living in the US and one son in India.

    E) Momna, the youngest, was born in 1935 and married in 1952 to Capt. Khan Sohail Sultan, who retired as general manager of Pan-Islamic Steamship Co., Karachi in 1993, now living in North Nazimabad.

    They have four sons, all married. Eldest Maj Khalid Sultan, Sitara-i-Jur’at, met ‘Shahadat’ at Siachin in 1992, Capt. Danish Sultan is managing director of Pac Marine Singapore, Wamiq Sultan, MD, living in the US, youngest Capt. Toaha Sultan is serving in the Pakistan Army.

    Considering our sentiments and Maulana Shibli’s fame as writer of Seerat-un-Nabi, we hope you will publish this clarification.

  7. Dad: It is a common tendency to claim descent from famous and important people. But it is definitely stupid to claim it from someone so recent since it can be checked so easily.

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