PWM – Praying While Muslim
I traveled to South Carolina with a couple of brothers to visit an Imam that we all knew because we loved Masjid hopping. It was just another reason to visit other Muslims in a different area. All went well in South Carolina, however, on the way back it was quite a different story.
We got hungry and stopped at a Cracker Barrel to chow down. It was a restaurant we recognized as we saw their signs one after another while driving on the highway. It was located right outside a strip mall. Maghrib prayer was nearing as the sun was in the process of setting.
We sat in our cars and decided to wait a few minutes for Maghrib to come in so that we could pray, and then eat.
The time for prayer had come in and one of the brothers called the Athaan (Muslim call to prayer). It was a late Sunday afternoon and the strip mall was totally empty. If I recall, even the stores were closed as most Christians in this state do not believe in working on Sundays.
We found a spot to pray at the corner of the strip mall under the canopy of lights that you typically find in strip malls. We all felt good as we were united. The Imam called out, “Allahu Akbar”.
Our prayer began.
We got through the Fatiha when all of a sudden out of the corner of my eye I see cop cars whizzing by. They passed us.
About thirty seconds later, they came back. Now, I’m trying to concentrate, but I know the other brothers were thinking the same thing, “What do they want from us?”
The cops rushed out of their cars and began shouting for us to stop with guns drawn.
The main cop, “Boss Hog” if I may, had his hand on a pistol and a taser in the other. He came between the Imam and the first line, looked right at me and told me to stop whatever is was we were doing. Now, I couldn’t respond because I was simply following the Imam, and the Imam is to be followed. Ok, also, because I’m stubborn. =)
The Imam continued. We actually went into prostration and the cops were stunned. I remember having to move the cop’s legs so I could put my forehead down on the ground. Someone seeing this from the restaurant probably thought we were worshiping the cop if they were to judge a book by its cover!
We are in our second rakah by now and I think the cops were completely baffled because firstly, we weren’t listening, and secondly, they probably didn’t understand how Muslims prayed. Either way, the yelling got louder and the threats of arrest became more prominent.
The wife of one of the brothers was in the car taking a nap. When she heard the shouting and saw the lights, she knew something was about to go down.
I could hear her voice shaking while she pleaded with the cops to just let us finish our prayer. The Imam wasn’t going to budge if it were not for the tears of our sister.
He broke the prayer for her, as he knew it wasn’t going to end well for everyone if we didn’t stop.
Guns went back into their holsters while handcuffs came out. We told the cops that we are fully aware of our rights and that we didn’t do anything wrong. We asked for badge numbers and told them if we were going to get arrested, we’d like to speak to our lawyers. When we brought up lawyers, the handcuffs returned to their belts. An interesting discussion ensued.
We asked, “What did we do wrong?”
Boss Hog’s response was, “Look, we don’t like your religion and you don’t like ours!”
We were taken aback. We began telling all of the cops that we believe and love Jesus (PBUH), and we were simply trying to pray before we ate.
Boss Hog responded with a scholarly response, “Well, how about you all go pray in the middle of the highway?” Not once, but he repeated it twice.
Again, we couldn’t understand where the hatred was coming from. I told the brothers to simply chill. When you deal with ignorant folks, you won’t get very far when attempting to partake in civil discourse when there was nothing civil about this discourse.
I asked Boss Hog, “What do you want from us?”
He said, “Just get out of here and don’t pray in this strip mall because its private property.” We both knew this wasn’t the reason, but I accepted it.
We didn’t argue. We found a small patch of dirt near the highway and that’s where we prayed. This event scarred me for some time as it messed with my psyche. I was paranoid for some time thereafter that anytime I decided to pray outside, that some ignorant fool was going to have the cops arrest me.
Looking back, I am actually very proud of how we handled the situation, and am absolutely dumbfounded at the fact that we were almost arrested for praying while Muslim.
How would you have handled the situation if you were caught in the same predicament?