Last night, I went inside a masjid for the first time since March 2020.
I felt anxious. I thought I might panic if it got crowded as it always did on the 27th night before pandemic times. My mom said if I feel uncomfortable, it’s okay if I hang out in the car. I thought I’d leave if someone tried to stand shoulder to shoulder with me. I tried not to make eye contact because folks might try to hug and kiss me.
I asked myself — why am I so afraid?
And then I told myself —
During pandemic times, I have ridden NYC subways which is way more gross. I volunteered at a large vaccination site in which thousands passed through daily. Everyone currently in my household is vaccinated.
The masjid barely gets full any more. Tanveer Uncle happily does temperature checks. Everyone must wear a mask although some are more fashion forward than others. People stand 6 ft apart although somebody’s (masked) kids still sprint through the lines. There is hand sanitizer in different corners for worshippers to use.
The masjid is still an inconspicuous renovated supermarket in South Florida and not one of the holiest, most precious, most beautiful sanctuaries where Palestinians are currently being evicted from their homes. Soldiers won’t be patrolling the prayer area pointing machine guns and shooting rubber bullets at fellow worshippers. The American flag hoisted on the building after 9/11 to keep racists and xenophobes from breaking windows or spray painting swastikas and other obscenities—although the neighboring church did no such thing—is still waving.
The imam still paused after the fourth rakat of tarawih to fundraise. We learned that the huffaz now own luxury cars and have jobs and can donate their own money. We were assured five times over the span of 30 minutes he would soon wrap up and that we are fantastic people for being so patient. We learned who is ill, including the imam’s mother who used to always hold my hand when she saw me and tell me she prays for me but she wasn’t there last night.
And it is possibly the Night of Power.
I should be okay, right?