The following log is being presented in a series of weekly installments. To read this document in its entirety, please visit philchurch.substack.com
DAY 15 (FRIDAY, APRIL 15) – Good Friday and Good Food. One of HM’s friends – we’ve now lost record of all their names – comes by to take him shopping and then to dinner. HM returns later that evening laden down with more halal groceries and foods prepared by his friends. Not only is our freezer and fridge full, but we now have a mounting collection of plastic food containers as we go through some of the left-overs and special dishes that HM brings in. We’re not sure to which of HM’s friends to return which food containers. Beyond some banana bread Connie bakes for JN and his family it’s a challenge reciprocate the continuous flow of delicious Afghan dishes into our house.
DAY 16 (SATURDAY, APRIL 16) – Gardening Together. HM has been pressing Phil to let him help around the house. It’s not sufficient for him to just cook and wash dishes, he tells us. So, Phil takes him out into the backyard today to spread mulch from the mountain of 3-cubic-foot bags that the local Boy Scout troop delivered in mid-March. HM is a huge help at carrying, opening and dumping the heavy bags while Phil follows along behind with a garden rake spreading out their contents under the shrubs and around the perennials. Together they get the job done in half the time that it normally takes Phil to do it alone. And that’s with HM fasting. Still Phil and Connie agree that’s enough outdoor exercise for HM for the day.
DAY 17 (SUNDAY, APRIL 17) – Attending Easter Services. HM had earlier expressed an interest in observing our Sunday church services so we take him to our Easter Sunday service. He has to rise much earlier than normal with a long day of fasting ahead of him, but he is awake and ready when we leave the house. Phil and HM sit toward the back of the church while Connie is up front ringing bells. HM observes the service and follows along in the Sunday program. There is only slightly awkward moment during the period of congregational greeting when we all stand for sharing of the peace with those around us. During Ramadan many of the devout abstain from sexual intimacy, even any male/female contact, so when some of our female congregants offer a hand shake, HM instead raises his hand to his heart. Whether folks feel he is doing that because of Ramadan or Covid, Phil does not know. But folks seem to understand.
DAY 18 (MONDAY, APRIL 18) – Trivia Question: In how many places in its written text does the Quran make reference to the Christian Bible? At Iftar dinner this evening, HM, Connie and Phil get into a comparative religion discussion. HM points out that Ramadan is not only a period of fasting but also of sharing. Breaking fast at the end of the day involves sharing of food with the least fortunate as well as with close friends. He asks if we have the same custom at Easter. We explain that our Christmas season focuses more on giving and sharing than Easter, when we celebrate the triumph of good over evil, of eternal life over death.
HM reflects on this and then points to a passage in his copy of the Quran, which makes reference to eternal life. He reads from the English version of the Quran, which we are surprised to hear starts out as: “O People of the Scripture! You have no basis until you uphold the Torah, and the Gospel, and what is revealed to you from your Lord.” [Quran, 5:68]. We express our surprise at the Quran’s reference to the Torah – essentially parts of our Old Testament Bible – and the Gospel – our New Testament Bible. We ask if there are other references to the Gospel in the Quran. “Oh yes,” HM says. “Several.” There is, of course, a Quran chapter, “Mariah” dedicated to Jesus, a major profit in Islam, and his mother, Mary. But more? Together we check how many times the “Gospel” is referenced in the Quran. Not wanting to read the entire Quran we take a high-tech short-cut and go to the website www.clearquran.com to find a full-text English version of the Quran and do a key-word search. “Gospel” comes up 12 times; “Torah” (16 times). We never would have thought …
DAY 19 (TUESDAY, APRIL 19) – What am I in America? HM continues filling out online job applications. One of the questions he is not sure how to answer is about race and ethnicity. The choices offered most job applicants are: White/Caucasian; Black/African American; Hispanic; Asian; and Native American/Pacific Islander. In only a few cases did applications provide ‘Other’ and none provide a “Middle Eastern” among the options. HM indicates he is confused about both the why and the what of the question. As to ‘why’ Phil explains that increasingly American businesses are working to increase the racial and ethnic diversity of their work forces.
The ‘what’ is a bit more challenging. HM explains that Afghans do not consider themselves “Asian,” a racial and ethnic background they view as related to those from the Far East and from South East Asia – e.g., Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Indonesian, etc. Phil tells HM he’s challenged on how to guide him on responding on those job applications; best to indicate the race or ethnicity to which HM personally feels he relates most closely. HM has consulted his Afghan friends and they all agree that they would respond “White.” Phil’s response: Go with it!
DAY 20 (WEDNESDAY, APRIL 20) – Iftar dinner out. Phil has driven many times down Leesburg pike to Bailey’s Crossroads and into Alexandria without realizing that just a few blocks from seven corners is an Islamic Mosque off to the left. Dar Al Hijrah mosque is located in a residential area across from two other houses of worship, a First Christian Church and Church of Christ. In a very ecumenical spirit motivated by pragmatic considerations the two churches offer their parking lots for those attending evening prayers, particularly nightly during Ramadan.
Phil, Connie and HM are driving to the mosque this evening. We are guests of the mosque for an Iftar dinner at which representatives of other local non-Muslim houses of worship have also been invited. We sit at long tables apart from the rest of the several hundred participants in Iftar dinner following evening prayers. During Iftar dinner, we have a presentation of Islam by two of the Dar Al Hijrah imams (Islamic teachers), and a lively discussion ensues covering topics that include the role and treatment of women, differences between cultural and Quranic practices, and the Islamic calendar with its requisite daily rituals. We feel honored to have been invited along with HM; while he participates in prayers, we observe with women out of sight on one side and men on the other. Then we share the evening Iftar meal together.
DAY 21 (THURSDAY, APRIL 21) – In-house resident computer geek to the rescue. After dinner, Phil mentions that he’s somehow lost wireless communications between his laptop computer and our home printer and can’t get them to ‘recognize each other despite rebooting and all the other trouble-shooting steps he has followed earlier. HM asks if he can try and in less than 30 minutes has the problem solved.
Phil asks HM if he could help ‘decommission’ two older but still internet-ready laptops that he and Connie used in the past so that they could be donated to a family with kids needing a computer for school work. Of course, says HM, and the next day he wipes them clean of all personal files. Phil wonders if there are others out there who could benefit from HM’s computer decommissioning talents and other IT skills. HM indicates he has considered starting a computer support business providing system management and cybersecurity services. It’s certainly great to have an in-house computer geek, in addition to a guest with gourmet cooking and gardening talents!
This blog post is the expressed opinion of its writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Tysons Interfaith or its members