“Are you hungry, brother?”
I came back to reality after my mind wandered whilst observing the men vacate the room after concluding the afternoon prayer.
It was about 2:30 in the afternoon.
The day began to roll down after the noon hump when I was approached by a diminutive individual.
In front of me stood a petite and gentle spoken imam dressed in white robes.
I was obviously out of place considering that I had never stepped foot in a Mosque before that day.
I was shocked with how the imam treated me.
I had never met this man before and our religious background certainly were not similar; yet he called me “brother” and offered to feed me..
Once again he spoke to me, “Brother…?”
“A little bit.” I replied to him, not wanting to sound greedy or needy even though my tummy has been grumbling for the past twenty minutes or so.
The Imam leads me out of the room and down a narrow corridor, passing various offices, study rooms, washrooms, and places for prayer.
Again, I was surprised with how I was treated.
Women wearing hijabs greeted me as I walked passed them and men proclaimed, “Allahu akbar!” as I stopped to shake their hand.
We entered a dining room at the end of the corridor and I took a seat and observed as the Imam spoke Arabic to several women behind the nearby counter.
When they scrambled into the room to make some food, the Imam then turned his attention towards me.
In the time that transpired over the next half hour, I experienced something that went against all the negativity that has been flooding the recent news and social media platforms.
I experienced love.
This man was not the monster that muslims are portrayed to be on social media.
He exemplified every teaching of love and compassion that I have come across in any Christian Bible or theology class.
In the thirty minute span of time while we waited for food, a sudden realization tore into me.
We’ve got it all wrong.
Muslims aren’t bad people.
They are not monsters.
They are humans, like myself.
We’re just humans, with labels, trying to live our lives.
At once, several women emerged from the back room with three plates piled with food and it is placed in front of me.
The imam and I enjoyed a warm and hearty meal of rice, chicken, curry, and delicious baklava.
Never before have I felt so welcome in a place that I have never visited before.
Just before I left, the Imam stopped me at the front door and gave me a bag full of the leftover food that we were unable to eat including a small container full of Baklava, perfect for the long journey home.
We parted ways and I made my way back to the tube.
I boarded the Hammersmith line, sat down, opened my container of baklava and reflected on what I had experienced.