I began attending Jumah, Friday prayers. We sat in rows as the Imam spoke:
We do not give the kufar (non-believer) truth in our intentions. You are not obligated to treat the kufar the same as we do our brothers in Islam. The truth of Islam is evident in all the earth. All of nature, the trees, the animals, the sun and moon are in submission to Allah, yet mankind is the one creature that can chose to refuse Allah. The truth is that Islam is all around us, yet the kufar blasphemes in his words and deeds and life. Men choose to deny what is before them. He says, “When is this Day of Judgement?” But his eye will be in shock when the sun and the moon come together and there is nowhere to hide. We are not people who commit shirk (idolatry). On that day they will be told all they have done, from first to last. But he did not believe and he did not pray. He called truth a lie and turned his back. We live in a land that rejects Allah, yet Allah has sent us here.
I tried hard to believe. I attributed any doubt I had to the Shaytan (Satan) and worked to banish sin from my thoughts and actions. I was never truly successful in living a life in accordance with the God of Abraham, but I worked at it daily.
The mosque is a segregated house. Men and women do not interact. They enter through separate doors and women sit behind the men and are separated by a wall, or veil. In Islam, it is prudent for the women to ensure they cover themselves in a way that does not sexually arouse men. And men are expected to lower their gaze when a woman is passing by. Zina means both adultery and fornication, but there is a difference in the punishment between the two offences.
Adultery is established either by proof or by a confession of four men and the confession of the accused. A woman’s punishment could be 100 lashes and banishment from the community for a year (by being restricted to the family home) – or she could be stoned to death. In the event of a stoning, the witnesses throw the first stones, then the judge (Qazi), then the bystanders. A stoning should be held someplace barren. Mohamed ordered that she be buried at least to her waist. This Islamic law is virtually identical to Jewish law (halakha, cf. Deuteronomy 22:23-30, Leviticus 19:20) except that it applies to both the married and unmarried woman.
War in the Middle East raged, and I consumed unhealthy amounts of its news through television and magazines. I visited mosques in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Denver, and while living in India. And I realized that they are far more racially and ethnically diverse than churches. Friday prayers are the same at each mosque. The Q’uran is the same at each mosque, all over the world. This uniformity eliminates many of the unification problems that are prevalent in Christianity. There are 10,000 versions of the Bible and churches are largely segregated by race and economic class. There is one version of the Q’uran, and it is written in Arabic. All men and women line up side by side to pray. There is one God and one mission: to live pure lives, spread Islam all over the planet, and punish those who disobey.