Leaving Chicago the highway doesn’t change but the atmosphere does. With each mile the tense living of sandwiched human beings in tall high-rises falls away like the dust from the wheels of a moving car.
Wisconsin welcomes us, with fresh air and swathes of green on both sides of the highway. A delicious but heavy lunch at a Pakistani restaurant (Anmol) in Milwaukee, with halal food has lulled all the occupants of the car into a sense of well being. The hum of the car, the smooth road and the warm though pleasant sunlight creates a cocooning effect on all of us. The desire of Qalula (a short afternoon nap), steals in spreading into our being gently but surely. Two things that can fulfill Qalula are missing: a bed and Dhuhr salah, which has to precede the Qalula if we are going to follow the footsteps of our beloved Prophet pbuh.
Soon I see that we are exiting the highway. As we turn right at the fork of the exit of this small town in Wisconsin the immaculately clean streets unfold to welcome us. The crisp fresh air dresses itself in the scintillating sunlight of the late afternoon and curtsies without the heat of the sun of my southern hometown.
We stop for coffee and I ask for a latte to bath my brain cells in the caffeine that they have been so craving even though coffee is not my forte.
The young woman at the counter is intelligent, smart and engaging without the insincerity or fakeness of usual retail workers. She is pretty and efficient and could easily be my daughter from another father.
We have been mulling where to pray, as our destination will not be reached until Maghreb. Though we are traveling and prayers can be shortened but they still need to performed in a timely manner. The least desirable option is to pray in the car where we cannot perform iqamah.
After she hands us our coffee I ask the young woman if there is any place we can pray. “You can pray in the conference room”, she replies without hesitation or making excuses about needing to ask permission from her supervisor or even giving me a second glance. She points to the room behind the Wi-Fi lounge where a couple of men are glued to their laptops. “The conference room is right behind there”
I perform wudu in the generous and immaculately clean restroom, making sure that every drop of extraneous water is wiped down from the sink and the floors before I leave. Muslims are infamous for leaving the bathrooms wet and messy after wudu. A person using the public restroom after a Muslim has done wudu in it usually recoils at the wet floors and sink and wonders at the source of the wetness (urine?)
The conference room becomes our masjid, my brother whips out the pocket musallah he carries at all times and prepares to lead the prayer. I spread my jacket to accommodate the rest of us.
Iqamah resounds in the conference room of a small coffee shop in rural Wisconsin that has morphed into a miniature masjid, belying the islamophobia being spread and advertised across the land by the forces of evil and mischief.
It is a peaceful prayer with no worries of interruption; we make dua for the young woman and thank Allah for providing us a sanctuary to connect with him on our travels.
Wisconsin we love you for nurturing beautiful young people, who are on their fitra.