Monday, February 13, 2017

My Muslim Friends And A Story (Warning: long)

I have a story to tell that is 32 years in the making.  That story will start and end after I post a few photos first.  32 years ago, I was living in Colombo, Sri Lanka (11 months), Singapore (1.5 months), and Malaysia (1.5 months).  I began the journey in June of 1983 and ended in November 1984.

First, let me raise my hand high that I have, indeed, talked to a Muslim face to face.  In fact, I've spoken to many, many Muslims and have close friendships with a few.  I have visited their beautiful mosques, seen them pray (at all hours of the day... seven times, in fact).  Imagine ME!  A little Mormon girl from Cardston, Alberta Canada, strolling through a mosque, teaching English to many Islamic people, feeling the reverence as they pray, admiring their dedication to their religion by wearing sacred pieces of clothing that show reverence for their god.  

You may think I was freaked out.  NOT for one second.  I was wide-eyed, yes, to see new culture and religion but... it was the most incredible experience of my young life.  How lucky I am to have had that wonderful experience.  But, my memory is long and keen and I remember how it looked, smelled, and felt to be in the presence of so many different cultural and religious lifestyles.  

Let's take a look, then on with my promised story...

 The most beautiful mosque (and the tallest) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

 Same mosque on the inside.  These halls were silent.  The most silent moments I had ever experienced in my life.  Soft sounds could be heard in the distance of Muslims in prayer to Allah.

The Muslim women pray on long white sheets about 3/4 of the distance from the wall where the men pray. 

When entering a mosque, shoes are left at the door and all women must cover their heads.  Here's proof I obeyed all the rules and felt honored.  It was peaceful and beautiful.

 Outside the mosque with six lovely ladies.  There was a language barrier but the eyes can speak volumes.  I was so blown away to be standing there with them. I wanted to
hear their stories... every one.

 These three school girls were headed to their studies, at the same school.  All were Muslim.  All dressed according to their particular orthodoxy.  They each spoke English and told us about their studies in Malaysia.

Sri Lanka

 This is one of my all-time favorite photos.  This beautiful woman is Zaira!  She was in my 6-month Spoken English class.  She is a Muslim.  Her wedding was incredible. 
 Look at the love.  

This is a page from my scrapbook.  The top left is an actual "Prayer cap" purchased on the street from the men in the photo next to it.
Those cute boys were at the only "hamburger" restaurant in the city! 

I was invited to the wedding of my friends Nuzath and Amal.  It was THE most incredible wedding I have or have to date EVER been to.  They served us an entire meal of chicken biryani (all 400+ of us).  We watched the Muslim wedding rituals (which were beautiful).  So very memorable!

SO... Who is Nuzath?  
Nuzath is a jeweler.
He is the son of Zubair.
They pray in their small closet at their jewelry store SEVEN times a day on their prayer rugs.
They were the jewelers I purchased many beautiful pieces for my mother, my sister-in-law, and her mother.
They were the jewelers I took any couple or tourist stopping through on their way to India. 

They invited us to their home to feed us.
They were kind.
They were extremely warm.
They were generous...

Here they are... son with his father. 
My friends.
My friends who are Muslim.

My friends who, on one of my last days in Sri Lanka, as I was making my rounds and saying my "good-byes", they were at the top of my list.
As I tearfully said goodbye and thanked them for always welcoming me to their shop and taking such good care of my friends I had brought in over the fifteen months I was there...
Zubair asked me to sit down.
He pulled out a large ledger (no computers at this point) and turned to a page
(apparently, my  page)
He ran his finger down the figures then asked me to wait a moment and he disappeared into the back of his shop.

When he returned he had two beautiful Ceylon sapphire gems that were over a carat a piece.  He said:
"THIS is your commission for bringing us so many customers!"

I was shocked!  I had no idea, nor did I expect anything.
Just as I said... generous.
He wouldn't take no for an answer and so I took home the two stones and have looked at them in their little original box for the past 32 years!!!

This past Christmas, I decided to do something with the sapphires.
I have two lovely daughters who are now mothers and I wanted something extra special for them this year.
I searched for a local jeweler and found this guy:

Mr. John Beesly.
I LOVED his small, messy office.
His "cash only" policy.
His advice about life:  "Keep a stash of cash between your mattresses!" 
And, I loved what he did with my precious jewels for 
MY precious jewels. (awwwwwe!)

I decided on pendant necklaces with beautiful gold chains.
I hoped my dear girls understood what a long, long, journey of love these beauties have been through.
The stones traveled over 8,265 miles...
from Sri Lanka to Canada to the US then back to Canada and then back to the US.

I loved them all my life.
But when I found something I loved more, 
Melissa and Erika,
my daughters,
I was finally able to pass them on.

All thanks to my amazing Muslim friends in a little shop, in Colombo, Sri Lanka,
in 1985!


Rachel said...

This is beautiful. All of it.

Rhonda said...

Nice!! Love the story!!

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