Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 June 2019

The horror in New Zealand was a reminder that going to mosque is something to be cherished

The deaths of worshippers in the Christchurch terrorist attack made me reflect on own faith and my relationship with the mosque

Saeed returned to Al Aziz Mosque on Reem Island three days after the New Zealand terror attack Christopher Pike / The National
Saeed returned to Al Aziz Mosque on Reem Island three days after the New Zealand terror attack Christopher Pike / The National

When I landed in Abu Dhabi eight years ago, I had three hopes.

The first was that this move wouldn’t be a mistake, the second was to work with great colleagues and the third was to live next to a mosque.

The reasons for the first two were rather straightforward, but when it came to the third, it was down to my experience living back in Melbourne, Australia.

We lived in a suburb where one of the city’s main mosques was a 15-minute drive away, so the community had to make do with a small room that our local council kindly donated to us for our daily prayers. The room is still used today.

So, you can imagine how pleased I was when I realised I could stroll just 200 metres to my local mosque each day when I first resided in Khalidiyah. I could also hear the call to prayer every morning, something I rarely heard during the nearly two decades I was living Down Under.

But human nature being what it is, we often don’t appreciate blessings that come easy. There is something about our psyche that easily downgrades, or at worse becomes suspicious, when things are presented on a silver platter.

And if I am honest with you, that’s what happened when it came to the practice of my faith.

Where in Australia my spirituality was stimulated by the logistical challenges of fulfilling some of its tenets (such as ensuring I could escape from work each Friday for the Jumaa prayer or to be home on time to break the Ramadan fast with the family), the dilemma of my challenge here was more pervasive – it was one of laziness and apathy.

My enthusiastic walks to the mosque lessened with time, only to be replaced with rushed and unfocused prayers at home. My growing lack of connection with mosques ultimately resulted in an ­untethered spiritual state. My faith was flavourless.

That quest to be spiritually conscious became my new challenge. And my determination to overcome it has now been seared into my psyche following the tragic terror attack that occurred last Friday in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Not only did it leave all of us, of all faiths, devastated, but it particularly shook Muslim residents who come from non-majority Muslim countries. Grieving together during the week, my friends – people of various nationalities ranging from Australian, to British, to French – were at a loss for words in describing how hollow we felt. “It’s like I know these people personally,” one pal, a Pakistani who was born and raised in London, said.

Grieving together during the week, my friends – people of various nationalities ranging from Australian, to British, to French – were at a loss for words in describing how hollow we felt

We knew what he was talking about. Our feelings didn’t only just stem from the Islamic principle of viewing each Muslim as a brother and sister, but from the haunting thought that there is a Masjid Al Noor mosque in all our respective homelands.

We all know the challenges these worshippers undertook to fill up those prayer lines on that faithful day. We also remember the joy they must have felt upon seeing friends and family as they entered the prayer hall. Most poignantly, we all know a man like Daud Nabi – the worshipper who greeted the shooter at the gates with “hello brother”, before he was gunned down.

These realisations came to me with a few tears when I returned to my local mosque – now it’s Masjid Al Aziz on Reem Island – three days after the attack. It was my first time returning in I don’t know how long.

The tears were more than just the regret of my lax approach to my faith in recent times; they were tears for those who perished.

Their deaths in prayer invigorated my spirituality and I suspect that will be the same for many others who may have felt internally aloof.

I’ve been reminded of the fact that going to the mosque is something to be cherished.

I’ve also learnt that instead of it being a box to tick, regular visits are the source of energy I need to continually nourish my faith and keep my heart open.

While these martyrs are being buried, I can think of no greater way to pay my tribute than by standing in line with my brothers and sisters this Friday for the Jumaa prayer.

Updated: March 23, 2019 01:06 PM

SHARE

SHARE