Inner City Muslim
So, it’s Friday today. It’s a day without shadows. The sky crowded with clouds. The light is glare ridden. The sun is high. The corner shop is shut for the hour of devotion.
A young man dressed only in a white thaub is checking his letterbox at the front of the red brick walk-up flat he has just left. Clean pressed brilliant lightning white thaub. He lowers his gaze further today as I am not there, respect for the hour, the day. We will never greet. This is the code here, especially on Friday.
The moment before I was fixated on the footpath. Reflecting upon how I now live in one of the soaring apartments pushing the wall limits higher, trying to pull and claw the sky closer. That I live in a street in a suburb of this city where you cannot smell salt air and be greeted timely by the soothing Southerly. Which may not roll out this far inland to temper and clear the hot breath of humidity. You cannot glimpse ocean views and that brilliant ocean blue, where the sun rises and welcomes the new day. Where you may find sand on the bus seats, see seagulls fussing, rosellas, black cockatoos gliding. I don't see the colours of the birds of paradise here.
Here the grass overgrows the footpath making it appear crooked towards the vanishing point. The green grass creeping up, reclaiming the path. The small pocket park where the council lets the grass grow until it’s waist deep and the park benches can barely be seen. The blonde brick six-pack flats weeping brown stains with the once fun composite coloured staircases chipped like broken fingernails. The once new lurid pink green blue falsetto marble cracked underfoot.
Pigeons that sit on my top floor sill scattering as I shut the window to take wuthu. They flutter, hesitate, then return to their exact positions. I now live in a place where the sun sets, the gift to the west in this limitless city.
The starkness of a white top pushes away all the grey, to summon back the sunlight. His white thaub casts an inverted shadow replacing it with a titanium white silhouette contrasted against a stainless-steel sky. The glare diminishes briefly with the glint of refracted light from a silver ring on his right hand's pinkie finger. A watch with a leather strap on the other, leather sandals, sunglasses positioned, and his short walk to Friday prayers.
He will turn left on this street to go to the grand mosque with tiled mosaics, a garden, palm trees, a fountain and high ceilings. The minarets standing, the green dome waiting. I will not turn left. I will walk the full length and breadth of this street to be greeted by the train station at the end and then onto an 8-carriage train to deliver me to my humble mosque. Where there are hills to climb, stairs to negotiate and children playing, some not so quietly, inside.
There is no place for me Fridays at the grand mosque with the green dome. It does not wait for me and the two minarets don't call me to Friday prayers. There is no space for me, men only on Fridays. Only men may turn left toward the mosque on my street today.
The train is slowing, gliding it rolls along, makes me sleepy. I feel the weariness of the few hours’ sleep I gathered together in the early dark hours of this day, Friday.
Now I am dressed all in black, black silk scarf, black shining glossy Melissa slippers, black Le Spec sunglasses to bide against the grey glare. A gold and turquoise ring upon my right-hand ring finger. I have a black Nike bag with a Fluro pink swoosh, black socks with little white love hearts sprinkled on top, a present from my mother.
I will negotiate a path, longer further, to find the humble back room with stairs to climb. Through inner-city streets I will negotiate past male office workers that touch and push past my arms and graze over my breasts as they walk direct, shoulders firm, lurid and leery. I will make wuthu again in that humble mosque. To wash the journey from that window sill to this staircase where I may find my corner of peace at the top of the stairs. On a Friday afternoon. Where I will be greeted in congregation to a place where I know there is a space made for me.
Waiting for me.
That the women will part to welcome me with their comforting controlled soft shoulders, so we may make our time of reflection, our time offered up on Friday prayer to find peace. Together on Friday in this other metallic grey jungle of concrete render bitumen, the asphalt grey stone, corrugated roofs, where the pigeons peck the ground. Where the shadowless day isn’t from the congregating clouds, it’s from the tall buildings that scratch and scrape at the clouds.
I went to the mosque
I went to the mosque alone
for the first time
as an adult
as a woman
To make tobah
as I did the time I was there before with my mother
In that mosque.
She spoke nothing of this to me.
I went to cleanse my spirit.
The women on either side of me
offer me comfort in this lonesome city.
They part and make a place for me.
We stand together tightly.
We stand shoulder to shoulder as my mother would have.
The tears fall.
The small polite gestures of Jumah جمعة
move in the heart.
As we face quibla face forward,
eyes placed on the carpeted floor before us
no one can see my tears.
The tears made in tobah
The first movement the Rakaha
before the soujut
before we descend to the ground my tears fall before my feet on the carpet.
Two drops one after the other.
The first time I cried in prayer
was after my eldest brother had returned home from the navy.
I was eleven.
My family all seven us stood together.
My mother beside me.
Home from working abroad.
I am not sure thinking back where these rituals came from.
That after we had finished our prayers together I would be the first to greet my father.
At the dinner table I sat on my fathers right hand side my mother on his left closest to his heart.
All unspoken arrangements.
The love of an only daughter to her father.
I was crying that afternoon when greeting my father.
He said, "not to wipe my tears,
Not to be ashamed of my tears,
That Allah loves your tears made in prayer."
I was so happy we were all together.
I recall saying that, "I didn't know when we were going to be together again."
My mother's long absences to work abroad
My brothers voyages at sea.
I went for the second time without my mother to the mosque.
I thought of the tears made in toba and how the same tears did not come.
As I stood for the second movement raquat with those women my mother's words came to me as I had been running late however somehow made it not on time but had arrived early in fact.
My mother always says that, "الله
Allah takes away all the barriers to get you there if you make your niate your intention strong."
Then I thought of the words I had read the day before in the newspaper that, "if you take one step towards الله he takes two steps towards you."
I smiled to myself and then the tears came.
However not the tears of taubah تعبة or tears of regret or mistakes,
Tears of joy.
Tears of belief.
I had forgotten the feeling
The tranquility that descends from the divine.
That can be found when one is at peace.
That can be found in prayer
In the quiet
I wish to know this peace always
To quieten my mind
Steady my hand
Temper my mood
Soften my heart
Cry tears of joy
That there is peace السلام in the divine.
About the author
Fayroze Lutta has many talents. She is a well known Sydney zine maker, writer, designer, artist, aspiring architect and Sydney poet of the former Caravan Slam at Camelot Lounge.
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