Sayr wa Suluk | Through Friendship

Thursday night was peaceful. Thinking about it makes me smile.

Forgive the brevity and partially chaotic reflections. This may seem like a laundry list.

After work I went to a knitting shop where I opened my sock book and learned the English cast on method by heart for the Egyptian pair I’m working on. There I tried some new lotion and covered my hands with some chai and green tea scents. So good! The English cast on allows the sock opening to be elastic. It seems sturdy enough too so that it doesn’t over stretch and break. An old couple and their parents sat beside me and had some ice cream – talking about their grandchildren’s sporting games and discussing The Wreck of Edmund Fitzgerald.

“Does anyone know where The love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours?”

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A friend and I had plans to meet at a gym to sign up for a membership. The deal was affordable and we took a tour of the facility which we both admired for its simplicity and creative corners and stations. That took us about half an hour before we both drove to Irshad Learning Center for Dua Kumayl.

Prayer began and we had our noses stuck in the booklets for the 30 page prayer. Hot tea and sweets were served. Three different men passed over the microphone every ten pages and I heard different intonations and pronounciations. It got me thinking about how my Madani Homsi Syrian dialect permeates my understanding of the world around me – and especially God’s word. I’ve been going to the prayer consistently and feel more integrated. The ladies there are incredibly welcoming and even offer me tadig – the crisps from the bottom of a rice or potato dish. This is not only a sign of deep respect but it’s delicious. Keeps me coming.

A few of the brothers and sisters went to the room upstairs to play Taboo because they didn’t understand the lecture in Farsi. It was a good time to bond with the community.

Later, I asked my friend to watch me pray because I worried I was performing it incorrectly before God. As everyone left and people were doing dishes I did a practice prayer. I was doing everything correctly except the dua before rukoo in the second rakaa. And the tahiyat at the end were being said slightly wrong. She watched me make wudu (ablution) and we sat and she said ‘it’s about saving water.’ ‘It makes sense,’ I responded. We discussed wiping vs soaking.

The center was closing so we drove out to her home. There I did more practice prayers. I met her bird, Cutie, who allowed me to rub my finger on her head. She usually doesn’t let people do that when they first meet her apparently. As I practiced more prayers she sang and squeaked. My friend says that Cutie really admires me. We laughed. ‘I admire her too,’ I said.

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We made hot cocoa and ate chocolate covered strawberries. We offered Cutie some tut Farangi too. While she climbed in her large cage we watched a lecture series together. Every five minutes or so we’d pause and discuss our thoughts.

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I realized a friendship like this is vital. I remember my religious youth groups in Chicagoland and Syria and how I used to dress and behave. Skirts, loose shirts, simplicity, and the priority of God first. It comes back easily. Bringing those qualities back is deeply beneficial and noble. Even in simple changes of attire make a large difference. Being with friends who appreciate, understand and even practice these qualities is a blessing.

The night came to a close and it was time to go home. All I can say is that it was a much needed night. Before leaving she ran upstairs to get some books I had asked for and that she wanted to share with me.

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One of the few things we discussed between pausing the lecture series was about how I ended up in this entire world of exploration. ‘I can barely explain it with words, but I feel guided alhamdullilah,’ I said. It was easy to cry.

She looked at me and smiled while Cutie sang her song.

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