by Jeannine Sherman
Thursday July 19, 2022
I arrived at Friday prayers, thirsty. I felt like I was in the desert. People were fighting, including me. Things were falling apart. My heart was so sore; I could feel it aching in my chest. Part of me wanted to hide under a rock, but another part of me knew I should take my sore heart to the masjid.
The imam was telling the story of Hajar in the desert. I could feel her there; I felt like I was there with her. And he talked about how she must have been feeling – her loneliness, her worry for the basic needs of her child. She took action. She did her part to run and run, back and forth, looking for water or help.
Then, right under her child, the water came. Zamzam. When our hearts are broken, we hear the same story differently. I was feeling Hajar’s longing and I reminded myself that what I needed most might be there under my feet all along.
That evening, coming home from work, my mom proudly presented me with a list of furniture to pick up. I was moving out soon, and she had spent the day researching cheap or free furniture for my new place. I was still sore, still hurting. But I couldn’t disrespect her efforts. So I gathered my energy as best I could, kept my pajama pants on, and drove to the fancy suburbs.
The town where I went for furniture was just interlocking, endless neighborhoods with bigger and bigger houses. It was almost maghrib, and I had no idea where to pray. I felt so lost, lost in this strange world of never-ending cul-de-sacs.
I thought about Hajar in the desert. I told myself, this is why I have faith, to access in these moments. I have to use the tools available to me. I started making dhikr, taking the time for each “subhanallah” to think of one amazing or beautiful thing, for each “alhamdulilah” to think of one thing I was grateful for, for each “Allahu akbar” to think of one impossible or worrisome thing that was nothing compared to Allah’s greatness. I worked my way through 33, 33, 34… I could feel the peace and the steadiness starting to settle me.
On the last “Allahu akbar”, I looked to my left as I crossed the intersection. There was a big red sign on the side of the gas station. It said “Zamzam”.
Had I traveled to another dimension? I felt weak in the knees, humbled. I thought, surely this is the place to pray. I discovered a masjid there in the midst of endless housing developments, a beautiful masjid with bright red carpets and a sparkling chandelier. I made conversation with a hijabi at the gas station – the attached restaurant was called Zamzam.
I’m not sure if I would even believe this story, had it not happened to me personally. I wasn’t asking Allah for a sign. But I was thinking about the story and longing for my own spring, my own moment of relief in my desert moment.
“March forward, light or heavy” (Quran 9:41)
Thank you for joining us in this sacred journey to justice. Each of us has something to contribute to the struggle for justice in this country – light or heavy.
We all move through times of “desert” in our lives. May Allah give us Hajar’s courage and her willingness to persevere in the face of overwhelming difficulties.
Insha Allah, our sacrifices this year will lead to new spaces of equality and freedom for generations of Muslims in the United States.