Chance Encounters"Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious." Noble Qur'ân 16:125
On Friday, one of the Sisters at the masjid mentioned that she was thinking of getting a Christmas tree this year. I said that I didn't see anything wrong with that, not really. It's not about being Christian. It's about a season of togetherness and reaching out to the people around us. And it really makes the place smell incredibly good.
It made me think about my own childhood. My mom, a lapsed Jew, and me, growing up in the Unitarian traditions of tolerance and exploration of the faiths of others. We always had a Christmas tree, although we laughingly called it a Chanukah Bush and put a Star of David on the top, cut from cardboard and carefully covered with tinfoil.
We were about as secular as it got. It wasn't about midnight mass or the miraculous birth of Jesus, although I knew about that part of it, sort of. Our traditions were about Santa Claus coming up the front walk because we didn't have a fireplace, let alone a chimney. It was about leaving cookies for Santa and a carrot or two for Rudolph. Mom always made sure there were oatmeal cookies and tangerines in my stocking so that I'd get something nutritious first thing on Christmas morning.
To this day, whenever I smell evergreen trees, it sends me back to those warm and wonderful days of my youth and the laughter. Always the laughter.
Now, of course, I'm a Muslim and we don't have Christmas. We have the warmth and community of Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr and sometimes it falls in December. That's when the rest of the world thinks Ramadan is our "Winter Holiday".
As my friend Saheed and I were leaving the masjid following Juma'ah prayers last Friday, we were approached by an older man who smiled and asked us if we wouldn't mind his being stupid and asking when Ramadan was and if it was sort of the Muslim Christmas.
I gently explained that Ramadan had ended nearly a month previously and because Muslims follow a true lunar calendar, each year Ramadan falls ten days earlier, so that next year, it would begin in early October. This led into a discussion about the building that houses our masjid. He had heard that it had been built by the daughter of some very rich man who used it for a party house. I told him that I didn't know about that, but I did know that it used to be a Masonic Temple.
I urged him to feel free to visit our Center and see what a beautiful space we have been blessed with. We parted with smiles and I feel good, knowing that someone now has a better understanding of who we are as Muslims.