Rasheeda kneeled despite physical pain caused by her exodus from Afghanistan.
Written by Twila Bird
Rasheeda and I had known each other for only a few days but were already soul-sisters. We are both matriarchs of large families — hers recently from Afghanistan, mine in America.
On this day, as our families and friends mingled in a private home in Germany, Rasheeda slipped quietly away. A few minutes later I noticed her through the open door of an upstairs bedroom. Swathed in a deeply hued prayer shawl, she had cleared a space amidst our travel paraphernalia and was paying devotions to Allah. She noticed me and smiled her welcome, a silent invitation for me to stay. I had never watched a Muslim at prayer before and was fascinated, riveted.
When I held up my iPhone for permission to record her worship, Rasheeda nodded. Her humility and submission to deity was evident during her ritual of standing, bowing and prostrating herself on her elegant prayer rug designed in shades of dark green, rich red, and antique gold. I was intrigued and soothed as I watched her whisper rhythmic chants, finger strings of beads, and reverently touch her Koran. To keep count of her recitations she methodically touched the joints on all ten of her fingers three time in succession as she pronounced each required prayer.
Rasheeda’s devotions undoubtedly caused her physical pain for her knees were still swollen following her family’s recent exodus on foot from Afghanistan while fleeing unspeakable persecutions and horrors. At points in their journey, she had literally crawled on her hands and knees up steep mountain terrain. But whatever discomfort she may have felt did not alter her conscious engagement as she supplicated her God that day.
Her entreaties were obviously heartfelt despite the rote nature of her five-times-daily ritual. As a devoted Christian, who feels deeply connected to God, I empathize with Rasheeda’s faith and reliance on Divine power. I am grateful for her example of dignity and spirituality. Mutual respect, friendship, and love are precious in today’s world. They cross all borders and link generations and cultures.
Our team members obtain informed consent from each individual before an interview takes place. Individuals dictate where their stories may be shared and what personal information they wish to keep private. In situations where the individual is at risk and/or wishes to remain anonymous, alias names are used and other identifying information is removed from interviews immediately after they are received by TSOS. We have also committed not to use refugee images or stories for fundraising purposes without explicit permission. Our top priority is to protect and honor the wishes of our interview subjects.