September 12, 2015
[My friend] Adeel said something interesting to me last time I saw him. He spoke about how life was back in Pakistan. Despite his criticisms, he said there was a sense of shared religiosity. People in Muslim countries share the same sacredness of ideals. Here in Medina, it’s easy to see that. Perhaps that’s why it’s always been a sacred place for believers. It’s not out-of-place to say salams to a stranger, or to make wudhu [ablution] in public, or to simply glorify God out loud. And despite what would seem like a homogenous culture, one look at the crowd and you’ll see the spectrum of humanity. I’ve seen jean-and-t-shirt clad North Americans like myself; the marvelous and colourful patterns of thaubs worn by Africans; kurta-wearing Pakistanis and Indians.
And so many hats! I’ve never seen so many different hats in one place. Ball caps, straw hats, kufis, [kefiyehs], square hats, oval hats, berets, turbans and so many others I don’t know the names of. I should have brought a toque to add into the mix and represent (though it would probably be saturated in sweat in an hour).
So many people, so many hats, so many faces, so many clothes. All under the umbrella of Islam.
If you want to see the greatest collection of hats from around the world, go to Medina. Seriously, I saw hats there that I didn’t even know existed. It was my first inkling of something I’d been taught all along, but was only beginning to experience: the global community of Islam—ummah in Arabic.
There were people from all over the world. Even though many were in Middle Eastern dress, I could still see their nationality present in the colour of their skin, the look of their faces, the flags on their bags and, yes, their hats. Though we were all from different places on Earth, there was an immediate familiarity with anyone I met. Anyone could spread the greeting of Salam alaikum (Peace be upon you) without fear of not being understood. I could pray beside anyone from anywhere in the world and know that we were praying the same prayers, with the same movements, in the same language, towards the same God. I experienced this “shared religiosity”, as my friend put it.
As God says in the Qur’an: “…This community of yours is one single community and I am your Lord, so serve Me.” (21:92)