Had an interesting experience today. Went to pray zuhr in the hospital chapel today and, after finishing, saw an elderly white gentleman walk in and sit down in one of the back pews. I was getting my stuff together, putting my white coat back on, and the man said, "You know, that is really beautiful, the way you pray."
I was silent, sort of shocked, really, that someone, ostensibly a non-Muslim, would say that. I mean usually when I pray in hospital chapels, and there are non-Muslims, they either pretend like I don't exist or have expressions of annoyance. But never did anyone stop me to say what I was doing is beautiful.
At this point, I figured I should say something to this remarkable stranger. I thanked him and told him that I am a Muslim and that the kneeling and bowing help us remember Who is in charge.
He replied, "You know all that kneeling and bowing is really wonderful. The Catholic Church used to have a lot more of that, a long time ago. We've gotten away from that."
I was still somewhat speechless, almost expecting the man to make a joke about Muslims and our way of praying. In the media, the Muslim prayer is almost always depicted in the background of violent images, as if it is the menace from which such violence is born, rather than the ultimate act of submission that it is, an act that when performed sincerely, and consistently, produces people of serenity and peace.
We introduced ourselves and, as I left, the man said, "if I ever switch sides, I'll let you know."
I walked away truly happy. Someone had looked past societal stereotypes, and perhaps even their own prejudice, to see the beauty in an act of worship so intimate as the Muslims. In no other religion will you find a form of worship that, in humbling the servant, also brings him or her so near their Creator. I have heard it said that the believer is never closer to his Lord than when his head is on the ground in prostration. Lowering our heads to the floor in acknowledgement of His Lordship, the Heights of His Majesty, is the very thing that brings us closest to Him. It is beautiful.
May Allah guide my new friend to Him and bring the beauty he sees in others into his own life. Ameen.