This piece was published on July15 as part of The Hopscotch Hijabi’s 2015 Interfaith Ramadan Series.
I am un-mosqued. Every mosque I’ve ever been in feels like a side entrance. It doesn’t matter if we walk through the same door as the men, or sit directly across the latticework barrier from them. To the non-Muslim parent of Muslim children, the mosque feels unwelcome.
To be fair, I am also un-churched. Every church I’ve been in since entering my interfaith marriage has left me feeling unwelcome. Even when the church is progressive and open and welcoming to people of all walks of life, they don’t recognize Islam as a credible religion. To the Christian mother of Muslim children, the church feels unwelcome.
What do we do when we enter interfaith relationships and build a life with someone who has a different belief system than your own? You could convert. Your spouse could convert. You could recognize both religions, educate and celebrate them equally with your children. You could ignore your religion in an effort to raise your children with once centralized religious practice.
In my life, I chose to have my children grow up with once central religion. I have learned about Islam formally for many years, and continue to learn on my own. But Islam has never called me. I am filled with a strong spiritual connection, but I have no place to worship that fits my life. I have no community with whom I can worship.
For the first 10 years of my life attending the Mosque, I would sit aside trying to decipher the Arabish that was coming through the speakers. Sometimes I would listen from the hallway, and other times I would listen from the balcony. Most of the words were in heavily accented English, with random Arabic words thrown in for clarity to the majority. If you are like me, once an Arabic word is thrown into the lecture, I’m stuck because my brain goes off trying to recall the meaning, or I’m lost because I don’t know the meaning. The lecture looses focus and I never regain the message.
During this time when I was actively searching for Islamic knowledge and guidance, trying to listen and understand if I was being called to become Muslim. I would listen to the Khutbah Kast from the Islamic Center at New York University. Imam Khalid Latif became my Imam. He spoke American English and he grew up in New Jersey. Imam Latif used Quranic scripture and connected it to everyday life in a way that I was used to hearing from attending church and listening to sermons. I learned how Islam could grow and adapt and help the American Muslim community. Then the podcasts ended in favor of YouTube videos I don’t have time to sit and watch.
These days, the mosque I attend has an English Jummah every Friday. When we attend this service, we are allowed to enter the same door that the men use, and we sit at the back of the main prayer hall. Most of the leaders are high school boys who are born American English speakers, Muslim scholars in the making. I am often the only woman there, sitting in the back with my daughters. I can see the speaker and I can sit in the same room as my family. It isn’t ideal but its fine. It’s progress.
In my struggle to discover a religious practice that fits my life, I have studied the major World Religions. I have read about Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and Christianity. While Christianity does not have all of the answers, it does have characteristics that marry well with my Islamic life. There are denominations and churches that recognize that God’s message doesn’t end with Jesus.
Discovering that Unitarianism sees the logic and wisdom of every religious practice has been a revelation and a relief. Through my search, I found The Dublin Unitarian Church Podcast. After listening to the Reverend Bridget Spain talk so eloquently about a central topic and incorporate lessons from Christianity, Islam and Judaism in a single sermon made my heart full. Finally, I found a source of spiritual growth.
I am still un-churched. My approach to my religious practice often feels like I’m going around the side entrance of the restaurant to get the scraps and piece together a meal. Now at least my soul is being fed on a regular basis.
(I edited this post for spelling errors.)