I know many muslims and I must say that I like and enjoy them alot. When I wanted to learn Turkish I found a teacher and he had a wife and three kids and was working hard to keep a job as a Material Scientist. His wife also had an advanced degree. They were quite religious and every day that i went to study with him, I could not get away in under 4 hours. This started to make me feel bad so I spoke with him about it. He told me that if I wanted to learn that it was his responsiblity to teach me. Never charged me a cent and we always had tea and some munchies.
Later in Istanbul I found another teacher and the same thing happened. Twice a week we met at the University of Istanbul and we would sit outside and work. He learned some English but I got most of the benefit. We estimated that within a month time we had spent 40 hours together. Again, I never gave him a dime. We had alot of fun though. He was also quite religious, but did not like Erdogan. This was during Ramazan 2014. He asked me one day if I would like to go to friday prayer and I jumped at the chance. We were to go to the Suleyman Mosque, not the tourist Blue Mosque. Huge and impressive. He instructed me in the protocol called the abdast (the cleansing at the fountain). Then on the day that we went we went and took seats next to each other at the fountains and I began my abdast. When time came to cleans my mouth I gingerly spit out the water. I fellow tapped me on the shoulder and wagged his finger at me and showed me how. He took a mouth full of water, swooshed it about, and then let her rip. I could see some very friendly smiles in the row of about 40 men. Half way through, something very strange happened. The fountains stopped. The whole place stopped and most looked upward for guidance. After waiting some time we all had to put our shoes back on and do the thing all over again at some nearby smaller mosque. However, as we were leaving many people wanted to talk with me and ask me what I was doing there. Was I a muslim? I said no. Is that ok? They said “This is God’s house and all are welcome” Of course, there were also smiles when we spoke about the fountains and I am sure it was only out of Turkish modesty that nobody said it had something to do with me, but I could see the playful gleams in their eyes. Later that day my friend told me that he has been going to friday prayer there for 15 years and that was the first time that happened. He asked me what I thought it was all about, with a playful smile.
The next friday we were successful in getting into the Suleyman Mosque. It was impressive. A large rug covered open space, without pews. All the men were in socks or barefoot and dressed modestly. The sermon was primarly about Love and responsibility to the poor.
And when we prayed I could feel the brotherhood. From then on I found out that I didnt have to go through the tourist entrance and stand in back. I just went, did my abdast, and prayed to my God along with all these muslims. Everytime it was the same. Are you muslim? No. Welcome! Several times as I roamed through the city someone might hail me down and say,
excuse me sir, are you fasting? I would say , yes, why do you ask? The answer, because we prayed together today.
Why am I telling this story? Because, having grown up catholic in a military family, I was very surprised by the feeling of Brotherhood, a feeling I remember from the military. No fancy dress, just modest clothes and humans. All here for the same purpose it felt. It felt very warm and I thought, I dont remember church like this.
But the Prophet, praise be upon hime, had some tricks and I will tell you two. Duriing Ramazan fasting, you do not eat, drink, or smoke, from about 4am to about 8:30pm every day for a month. When the Iftar meal comes, you do not wolf it down. You eat slowly in small pieces and they were the finest
tasting meals I ever had. Nothing fancy, bread, soup, some dates. Moreover, you can walk down the street and drop into a shop and they will feed you, for free. You then partake together with other people the Iftar meal. Again a feeling of brotherhood.
But the best trick was during the summer of Ramazan, it is a hot long day without food, water and smoke, and when you go to the fountain to perform your abdast and you rinse your very parched mouth out with the water. It is ambrosia! The most lovely tasting water I have ever experienced. I dont remember feeling this with the Eucharist. I can still taste that taste in my mouth today.
To finish, my young teacher from Istanbul came to spend a post doc in North Carolina and he flew to New Mexico to see me. Now it was my turn to show him around. What a time. What a blessing. What a brotherhood.
If you dare, read a book called the Road to Mecca by Mohammad Asad. When he was
Austrian Jew his name was Leopold Weiss. He ended up in the ME and ended up converting to Islam. Knew King Saud personally and spied for him. Fought in
Lybia against the Italians around 1924. He wrote this book specifically to try to describe the appeal of Islam. I must say he does an admiral job. He also wrote a famous annotation of the Quran, which is outlawed in Saudi Arabia today. I know quite a few muslims who say that this Quran is the best. Moreover, the book has some good adventure in it. What a life.
You can call me a muzzy lover if you like. I am. I also love Christians and Jews. I suppose its my Christian upbringing. I dont suppose I ever met a man I didnt like.