an ode to joy, a chair, a bus, just another jumu'ah
Context: Been a long time since I’ve written regularly in public in a way that is serious, sincere, and specific. The following blog post is part of a collection in various states of completion called odes of joy. We do a lot of work around the intersection of Islam and other faith. This is part of that.
Consider listening to Inner Horizons by Lu Fuki and Divine Providence.
A short version of this goes:
Jumu’ah is a special time. Even without it being the morning after the elections of the most populous province in Canada in which, at this crucial juncture of so much, for reasons we know if we care to listen, Doug Ford remains Premier.
It was an especially humbling Friday for me because I forgot about the utility of bicycle fenders on rainy days and that if you’re being a masochist in this regard, a spare change of clothes will go a long way. Especially if you’re on your way to the weekly Friday sermon and prayer.
Five years ago, I arrived to Montreal by bicycle rushing there, cycling Westwards, for Eid prayers, the day after the funeral prayers of a friend who died far too young because of a heart attack. I’d borrowed a beater bike, a commuter. There was something peculiar about the seat and I remember arriving to the masjid with my pants ripped in the crotch area. It was an excruciating experience. (This has happened once since but after I was leaving a funeral)
Given the nature of that experience, I was not too embarrassed (relatively speaking, all relativistic now it feels) to show up all drenched. North Vancouver gets about 3x as much rain as Vancouver I’ve been told because of how the mountains make the clouds cry.
There is so much I’d love to write about my relationship and understanding of Islam. What I’d love to write about today, briefly, though this is already quite long is how rooted it is in justice. There is no need to prefix this with social justice. That is a redundancy. Even anti-social justice (?!?!) similar to counter-culture or counter-protests sets as the reference something that is the ‘normative’ position to rebel against.
There is a beautiful poem by my favourite Anis Mojgani which opens with the lines, “Gentlemen, have you forgotten your Gods … “, he goes on to speak of the Torah, Bible, and Qur’an. And in a lot of ways, I believe we have. We have forgotten, that is what ‘whiteness’ is to me. Forgetting. Amnesia. It terrifies me and I’m obsessed with remembering.
What I Will Remember About Today:
What I will remember today are two things: 01. Arriving to the masjid, awaiting my South African brother. Let me say that again, my brother. One of my closest friends anywhere, especially here, I can always lean on his counsel and perspective. On this particular day, broski (brother + ski = broski, a term of endearment because Whistler is close?) was here with an older Uncle. I was pleased to find that the masjid had one of those electric chairs that helps you traverse the wheelchair (and elderly?) inaccessibility that is stairs.
Why anything is designed at this point or not already modified to be wheelchair accessible and easy to clean escapes me. Don’t get me started.
02. The kindness of the bus driver, Jeremy, driving bus #240 for Translink BC.
On point #1, I had no issues beelining to knock on the Imam’s door moments before the khutbah, the sermon, was about to begin to ask about what the ‘knack’ was for operating the chair. Unfortunately I was not surprised that the special key required to operate it was missing. (In his defence, he’d looked for it. No one had needed to use it. Promised to look into it and order a replacement ASAP.) Why are these considerations such after thoughts? Why are we not prepared to be so lucky as to be old? To welcome our seniors and our kids into these spaces in ways that let everyone walk away with their dignity?
Congregation members were very helpful. Easy to flag people down to say, salaam I need you to quickly haul this wheelchair up the ~7 stairs so by the time Uncle makes his s-l-o-w walk up there, aided by the railing and the arms of broski and me, the chair is ready for ‘em.
But even here, it is important to listen to the quiet voice of the person in the chair saying, “hey, the chair is too heavy. I can walk up there slowly.” Rather than making decisions on their behalf and literally manhandling their body. Instead of gap years, mandatory army services, community hours to graduate from high school. Barbaric practices hotlines, I wish we’d integrate intergenerational programming so deeply into our communities that we were prepared when the moment arrived to be both parents, grandparents, grandmothers, uncles, aunties, siblings to strangers whose needs we recognize. Even possibly anticipate without them needing to ask for it.
On Point #2, I was pleasantly surprised that Broski and the uncle had taken public transit from downtown Vancouver to get here. Not the handcart, not his car. But transit. We were waiting for the light to change, not wanting to jaywalk (or jaywheel?) with a wheelchair. I offered to race down and stall the bus driver. I’m more than pleased for an excuse to be dramatic in service for amusement or meaning, if possible both.
It was such a gift, such a treat, to hear from the bus driver that he’d seen Uncle wheeling up. That he’d dropped him off earlier. That he wasn’t going anywhere without him.
The uncle as he rolled on to the bus made a point that I’d earned extra points for the run and stall. Broski messaged me later to say thanks. All part of the deen. We have so much work to do.
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