Sheena: Islamic Ambassador

Posted on September 10, 2010


It is a beautiful, sunny, early fall morning, one of my favorite times of year. As I walk down Essex St. with Sheena, I pass the mosque. I can see the adults inside, kneeling in prayer, facing toward Eastern Ave., their shoes arranged neatly on shelves in the foyer. The main hall is packed. Children play outside. They are fascinated with Sheena.

“She looks like a cheetah,” marvels a girl in a sky blue dress.

“Was she expensive?” asks another.

“She was free, from the racetrack,” I inform them.

These kids are of all colors and dressed in their “Sunday best.” Well-groomed. Smiling. Curious. I see pastel frocks and scarves, the purest white kufis, dark blazers, button-down shirts, vibrant patterned African fabrics.

I ask why they are not inside. It’s too full, says one of them. There’s not enough room. Later I learn from my friend Wikipedia that worship is not expected until after puberty. Is it the last day of Ramadan I ask. That was yesterday, one of them volunteers. Today is one of the Eids. One of the edes? Yes, they tell us not to pray to the Creation, but to the Creator.

I continue my walk down Essex with Sheena, take a left on Chatham and go up Williams Ave. Williams Avenue playground is in back of the mosque, and the elders have opened the gate between them. I see some of the same kids playing in the park. A man in a white shirt with black pants, black hair and brown skin stands near the gate. I approach.

What a beautiful day this is. Yes, it is amazing. These are some of the most well-behaved, happy kids I’ve seen. Oh, Thank you very much. So yesterday was the last day of Ramadan? Yes, today is Eid al-Fitr, the festival of breaking the fast. Uncomfortable silence. Hesitation. Before I leave I decide to venture a question: Not being a Muslim myself, is it OK for me to go inside the mosque and pray? Everyone is welcome. It’s a good idea to check with the Iman first.

With a mixture of anxiety and elation I depart.