Today’s post is by The Chorister. I just read a book called In the land of invisible women: A female doctor’s journey in the Saudi kingdom by Qanta A. Ahmed, M.D. Absolutely amazing read. I’ve been recommending it to everyone I know. Qanta is a British-born Muslim physician, trained in the U.S., who takes a position at a hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. She goes to Saudi Arabia feeling pretty comfortable. Not too worried about how it will feel to live there because, after all, she is a Muslim. However, once she gets there, she quickly discovers that many of the Saudis are practicing a different kind of Islam. She doesn’t fit in. She rubs people the wrong way. She is puzzled by their beliefs, practices, and customs. She feels like she’s suffocating underneath the abbayah.
I feel like that sometimes at church. I’m a Mormon—born and raised—but sometimes I look around and think: “Hey, wait – this is a different brand of Mormonism.” The church I grew up in doesn’t forbid 3-year-old girls to watch “The Little Mermaid” because Ariel dresses immodestly. The church I belong to doesn’t have men in leadership positions pull a woman aside and call her out for wearing a professional pantsuit to church. It doesn’t teach 12-year-old girls that “men are in charge” (and that’s a quote). I sometimes wonder whether there’s a place for me inside this church that I sometimes don’t recognize.
Qanta felt like this, too, during her sojourn in The Kingdom. She tries to fit in; she tries to understand people’s motivations; she tries to live by the “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” adage. It was hard for her and never really got easier—at least I didn’t get that impression. Still, she tried. She decides to go on a hajj. She wants to experience this pinnacle of Muslim worship. Several chapters in the book are devoted to a vivid description of her pilgrimage. It reminded me much of the endowment ceremony—rich with symbolic meaning and ritual. She wants to be a good Muslim. She struggles to keep up, to follow along, to say and do the right things, watching her fellow pilgrims.
At one point, she says: “This was part of Hajj, to be allowed to improve and develop one’s skills of worship.” This really struck me. What kind of skills of worship do we (Mormons) have?? I honestly don’t know what to think of this. What are things that we have to be good at to travel the Mormon road?
What about obedience? Is that a skill? How about acquiescence? Those are both negative things, which is not my intention at all.
How about serving others – is that a skill? Patience (we do have a LOT of long meetings).