A Close Encounter

I took my grandson to the library the other day and while I was thumbing through the movies, a boy of eight or so came up to me and solemnly said, “Asalaamu alaikum.” At first I didn’t realize that he was speaking to me, but then my brain put two and two together (me, wearing my hijab; he, speaking Arabic, equals Muslims!) and I answered, “Wa alaikum salaam.” Then I asked him, “Do you speak Arabic?” And he answered, “A little.”

“So you’d know what I’m saying when I say ‘Khayfa haluk?”I said.

He quickly corrected my pronunciation. “It’s ‘Khayfa hallak,'” he said. “But, yes, I know what you mean.”

Then he walked away leaving me with the warm glow I always get when I’m greeted by another Muslim.

Later on, when my grandson and I were using the self-checkout, he approached me again.

“Khayfa hallak?” he asked.

“Ana bikhayr,” I answered. “I suppose I didn’t say that right either.”

He grinned.”That’s okay. Not many people know Arabic.”

I introduced him to my grandson, and he nodded at him and said, “Nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you, too.”

After he left, my grandson asked me how I knew him. “I don’t,” I said.

“Then how does he know you?”

“He doesn’t. He just knows I’m a Muslim because I’m wearing a hijab and he wanted to say hi.”

I wondered what had made a young boy want to approach a strange lady and greet her, Muslim to Muslim. Was he surprised to see me? Feeling a need to connect to another Muslim? Proud of being one?

All of these, I suspect. I’ve had a lot of people ask me if I’m Muslim, even though I’m wearing a hijab, probably because they can’t believe that a Westerner could also be a Muslim. They don’t trust the evidence that they can see right in front of them. I suppose that makes me a curiosity.

But when I tell other Muslims that I am indeed a Muslim, I’m rewarded with a huge smile and a “Mashallah!”

I wish I could tell them that I’m not a very good Muslim, that they shouldn’t be proud of me. But I know it’s not me that they’re proud of. They’re happy—no, thrilled—that a non-Muslim recognizes the beauty of their religion. Our religion.

And I do. Even though I know I need to improve immensely, I am so grateful that Allah guided me to Islam. I’ve never felt so close to Him. I have always believed that He exists, even from childhood. But Islam has made it possible for me to feel my connection to Him more strongly.

Sometimes, however, I don’t feel the same connection to other Muslims. But the other day in the library, I did. I wish I had asked the boy his name. But I will never forget his shy smile and warm greeting.

“Asalaamu alaikum.”

“Wa alaikum salaam.”

2 Replies to “A Close Encounter”

  1. This is a beautiful story :)

    You are right that one of the most beautiful parts of being a Muslim is the community. Hijab is a gift to Muslim women and the good encounters (like yours) definitely outweigh any negative encounters we may face.

  2. Assalamualaikee sister Ellen,

    I liked this story and I am happy that you feel happy when some muslim greets you.It’s an awesome feeling when you find people who you never knew greet you like they knew you from before.May Allah help you to be a better muslim,show you the right as right and make you follow it. ameen

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