Ruqayyah is nearly three. She is named after a daughter of Muhammad. She has dark eyes, long straight hair and a pretty smile. She loves her daddy, imam Wasif. We sat on the floor of the mosque with a Muslim heart doctor.
“Can you say,’hello’?” Wasif asked his daughter. She seemed shy but curious as she stayed close to her father’s side.
The afternoon prayers were about to start. The doctor spoke of patients who had died that week and the suddenness of death. “We had just finished examining her. She was getting her things together, had a heart attack and died.” He spoke of another young friend who had stomach cancer and had been given two months to live. “We just don’t know.” He paused. “I see death all the time. I don’t want to get so used to it that I don’t feel it anymore.” Wasif nodded as he considered what the doctor had said.
Ruqayyah was oblivious to the serious conversation. She climbed on her dad as he tried to pay attention to the conversation. She cupped his face between her palms and kissed his cheek. The father smiled.
The doctor asked, “How old is she?”
I thought of my daughter Hannah. She was nearly three when we first moved our family to Mozambique. It was a special time when Hannah had the love and the trust of a little girl. Ruqayyah peeked at me from behind her father. It is kind of nice that we were sitting on the floor. It made it easy for Ruqayyah to grab her fathers taqiyah (his prayer hat) and throw it across the room. She turned and looked at her father with the teasing smile of a two year old. She knew it was mischievous, but she also knew her father’s love and that she would not be punished.
I had never seen Wasif without his prayer hat. Now the imam sat in his mosque with messed up hair, enjoying his daughter. I think it is what she expected. She ran to get the hat and returned it to her father.
I think my son has hit the “terrible twos” the doctor said. “We even took him to the pediatrician to ask what was going on. He said kids hit a stage where they are thinking much more than they can express. They get frustrated. You can’t really do anything but try to keep them from getting hurt.”
It was time for prayers. Wasif straightened his hair and put on his taqiyah. Ruqayyah settled beside her father at the front of the mosque. “Allah Akbar,” she whispered as she imitated her father. It means “God is great.”
Three men sat on the floor of a mosque talking about their children and sharing in the adventures of a little girl. Somehow she made us feel connected. Once again, I realized I have more in common with these men than I was once aware.