THE GEMS IN THE BIBLE BELT: ALABAMA

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It’s Christmas and after many years I am again on the road in the rain with a tornado warning in the offing…….. I am heading south deeper into the Bible belt to study and examine the pearls and diamonds that are studded into it. Small though they are they illuminate what is around them and adorn the Bible belt with their light and purity.

Scattered all through the bible belt from Georgia to the gulf coast are these gems of small mosques. Living in these environs a few men get up from their beds at the crack of dawn and drive or walk to the mosque to give the adhaan and call the iqama for fajr.

While the town sleeps these folks call upon Allah and open their hearts to Him………and He listens and bequeaths them with blessings both in this world and in the next.

Unbeknownst to them His angels shower them with His (Subhanawatala) mercy all day long. At Maghreb the walls of the musallah resound again with the words of Allah. During Salah these Muslims stand in a straight line, and align their thoughts with their Creator and away from material distractions of life that have been the bane of their existence.

While rain batters the windshield and the radio announcer promises a tornado between 7 and nine, I come upon one such place in the heart of Alabama. Earlier in the day I find the phone number of this place on line and call and leave a message .I tell them that my niece and I will be in the surrounding area on Christmas day and need some information regarding prayer timings and a safe place to stay. I do not expect an answer back.

To my intense surprise I hear back from a sister whose voice is warm with hospitality and reassurance. She invites me to the mosque and recommends where to stay the night. Her voice has the warmth of a Muslim household and I feel secure in the feeling that I have a friend in Alabama where before the phone call I did not know a soul.

My niece and I arrive half hour before magrib and enter the wudu area which is spotlessly clean with recycling bins outside and a sign in the corridor which announces the free internet.

We enter the women’s musallah and suddenly like a warm embrace I am enveloped with a deep sense of spirituality. Through an archway I can see the minbar, the warm textures of the walls takes me back to mother earth…….and the sands of the desert of our beloved Prophet pbuh.

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The woman’s musallah has arched open doorways in to the men’s Musallah . A sense of seclusion as well as connectedness is felt with the beautiful but simple see through screens, This prevents the claustrophobia and disconnected ness that one feels in a closed room dedicated to a woman’s musallah in some places.

The Salah begins and the melodious voice of the imam flows with the poignant verses of surah Doha where God himself is putting the hand (metaphorically) of comfort on the cheek of His beloved our Rasool pbuh…….

The silent walls having absorbed so much recitation and remembrance of Allah that as a stranger I can feel them exude sakina.

I sit after Salah and soak in the feeling of this pearl in the Bible belt. A few men standing in Jamaat begging for the salvation of millions with their hands and their hearts….

I am in the heart of the south in the house of Allah where the call for Salah goes out to all and sundry five times a day and some answer it and others do not recognize the pearl in their own back yard and bypass it for the stuff made of paste.

Night falls like the drape of a Muslim woman who prepares to go out with her shawl enveloping her body. People depart one by one dutifully shutting out the extra lights till the next adhaan is called to return in humility and beg for salvation not only for them but also for all of humanity. As I get ready to sit in the car I notice the sign which says “Sandy Hook we grieve with you” for the children of Sandy Hook School…………..

Unbeknownst to the parents in Connecticut, Far away in the heart of Alabama, a few Muslims stand in Maghreb Salah and weep for the parents of children in the north who were wrenched from them prematurely………….and for all the unnamed ones all over the world.

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DUA: May Allah bless those few who pray for all those who are not or cannot be present.

Reluctantly I leave with the reflected light of this gem in the Bible belt illuminating my heart.

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