Many years ago, when I lived in Nashville, TN, I worked at WalMart with a significant number of Kurdish people. Nashville, believe it or not, has the largest Kurdish population in the United States next to NYC, or so I have been told. By and large, the Kurdish people I encountered were warm, funny, hard workers. When I first started working at WalMart, some were wary of me, but that is understandable considering some of the verbal abuse they suffered as Muslims at the hands of rude, rowdy customers. Once, someone even spit on the woman who worked in the infants department.
One of the difficulties the Kurdish workers faced was finding a place to pray during their shifts. Even the bathroom isn’t all that private, not to mention filthy. How does one honor Allah with clean hands if one must lay their prayer rug on a floor soiled with urine?
To solve this problem, some of them came to the fitting room, where I worked, and asked to use the handicapped room to pray. I always let them in without hesitation. If I can facilitate someone uplifting their spirit and communicating with their god, I am happy to do it.
One of the women, Zulaihkah, told me that the woman who worked the shift before me wouldn’t let them in to pray. She made no bones about the fact that she didn’t like Muslims and in her small, power-hungry way, was thrilled to do what she could to hinder the practice of their religion.
That is anathema to me. To this day I don’t understand it. What pleasure can one derive from denying someone the practice of their faith? What god would pat you on the back for making another human’s life more difficult? Who would want to serve such a god?
It may be that it wasn’t any kind of religions compunction she had at all. It is entirely possible that she was just mean. It happens.
In relating her trouble with the first shift fitting room lady, Zulaihkah told me that every time I opened the door for her or for anyone else who wanted to pray, Allah blessed me. I smiled the widest smile.
One day we were extremely busy. The fitting room attendant at WalMart also handles the phone which, on that day, was ringing off the hook. People were coming in by the droves and bad attitudes abounded. (Side note: please don’t abuse WalMart employees even if they’re grumpy. You have no idea how many verbal assaults they suffer every day.) In the midst of this chaos Zulaihkah came to me and said, “Just hand me the keys and I will let myself in.”
“Oh no!” I said. “I need all the blessings I can get.” And I meant it. I opened the door for her and soon after everything settled down.
I don’t know Allah at all, but my hope is that Zulaihkah told me true that day and somewhere in his books I’ve got a few ticks in the good column. None of us know what the true religion is, if there is one, so if, upon dying, I find myself facing Allah, I will have at least these little things to show for my life.
When you can be of service to others in the practice of their religion, even if it’s a religion you don’t understand, be of service. Do right. It benefits both them and you immediately and may benefit you again in the great beyond. Plus, it feels good. It plain feels good.