Tears streamed down her face and fell onto the green carpet as she stood still. Her ears were glued to the beautiful melody of the ayahs being recited. Although she wasn’t Arab, she knew enough Qur’anic Arabic to comprehend the context of the surah. She listened to the verses about the believers who did good deeds and deserved to enter paradise. Paradise where there were gardens underneath which rivers flowed. She loved the word “Jannah” in Arabic, which meant paradise. She imagined what heaven must be like as another tear fell down.
She was only 12. A slim figured, pretty girl wearing a long sleeve tee shirt and jeans with a silk scarf. This was her favorite month out of the whole year. It was Ramadan. Ramadan meant spiritual uplifting to her. She felt more at peace, and more secure when fasting than any other time in her life. It was the sense of a belonging to a higher being that protected her. It was the fact that every time she wanted to diet and tried to prevent herself from eating, she could only think of food and would get enormously hungry. Yet, she spent the hot days of summer fasting for 16 hours straight and she could care less about food. That’s because her sole intention was to please her Lord.
She had many friends, but one in particular stood out. She was 5 years younger, from a very different culture, but they had a lot in common. They became best friends in a short amount of time. The fact that they lived in a non-Muslim country meant that Muslim friends were hard to find. They swam together, they went ice-skating together. Every Ramadan, they stood next to each other while praying taraweeh. Many of their friends would sit out in the hall way and chat. It was often tempting to leave the prayer and join the fun, but they reminded each other that they were there for one reason, to pray. They would keep each other in line, so to speak.
Most ladies would leave the mosque after praying 8 rakahs, but they prayed the whole 20. There were times they were tired and wanted to sit or felt dizzy. But they were there to support each other and gain more reward.
She stood in the same space praying. Years passed. Things changed. She changed. But her space stayed the same. The people around her changed. Just like a chess board. They moved from one square to another. Different people came and left. She and her space stood uninterrupted. She always stayed for the whole taraweeh. She was now 30 something. She was too big to bend and prostrate on to the floor in her 7th month of pregnancy. So she prayed sitting down in a chair. Her friend who was only a few months pregnant prayed next to her. Their friends who used to sit out in the hall talking no longer came to the mosque. They used to be pious hijabis as teenagers. She was saddened when she ran into them at Eid prayer only to find out they had quit wearing hijab in University. She would later on see pictures of them on Facebook. Pictures she wished she could erase from her memory and prevent the whole world from seeing. Pictures that made them unrecognizable, in revealing clothing hanging out with boys in bad places.
As her best friend prayed next to her, she thanked Allah for giving her a righteous friend.
She stood in the same space praying. Years passed. Things changed. She faced tribulations. But her space stayed the same. She was now in her mid 30s. She wore a black abayah with black beaded embroidery. Her black chiffon scarf was wrapped in a stylish updo. Years had matured her both physically and emotionally. The line in between her eyebrows on her forehead was deep. Her face had a few brown spots caused by the sun. The wrinkles around her eyes were now apparent. She stood still in the same mosque with the fan above her spinning rapidly. The skirts of her abayah gently blew from the breeze. The Imam was reading the ayah about paradise underneath which rivers flow. A tear rolled down from her eyes. On one side her best friend was praying next to her. Her best friend was now in her 30s. They were both happily married with two children. In fact, their children were close friends and often played together. On her left her 10 year old daughter stood still, praying taraweeh. Her name was “Jannah”. She had named her daughter after her favorite ayah. She had hoped that Jannah would be her paradise in this world and the reason for her to go to paradise in the next world. She had also named her with the hadith in mind “paradise lies underneath the feet of the mother.”
As she prayed happily next to her daughter and her best friend, listening to the rhythm of the verses, she was on cloud 9. Years had passed but her space had stayed the same. She remembered the past and wondered about the future. She told her daughter the story of how she had been praying there since she was 12. Her daughter listened attentively and waited for her mom to finish her sentence. She then said “Mom, I wish to pray here every year, and maybe one day, I will walk down this same road holding my daughters hand, telling her the legacy of our Ramadans and taraweeh.
Elif Kavakci for HijabiTopia