Monday, July 28, 2008

The Iraqi Imam

"I have found out that there ain't no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them." ~Mark Twain

One of my most interesting experiences here has been the opportunity to meet different people, especially Iraqis. This is because we're engaged in this long war in Iraq, yet I feel we know very little about its people and culture, and how they feel about and perceive the war and occupation.

Enter Sheikh Abdullah Al-Jumayli, the very young and energetic Imam at my local mosque here. He's only slightly older than me, married with a 1 year old daughter Maryam, and has come to Jordan to study a masters and afterwards doctorate in Islamic studies.

Sheikh Abdullah is full of energy; he's always joking around, singing, and even wrestling in the mosque sometimes. He has such an amazing voice that, despite his youth, he often leads the large friday congregational prayer because his recital is heavenly.

I asked him where he learned to sing and recite like that, and how he learned all his songs (he has an incredible number of traditional Iraqi and Islamic songs memorized), and to my surprise he replied that Iraqi people love to sing. Wherever you go, he says, you find people singing in the street, singing in the market, singing in their house.

He also went on to describe his village in Iraq. Everyone lives in nice villas, and have yards and fruit trees, and as a child he used to swim in their clean flowing river. Sounds nice, right? He's from Falluja! I'm very intrigued to see what Iraqi is really like, but of course I can't go now, it would practically be suicide (despite being Muslim and speaking Arabic, I am clearly Western and they seem to have a shoot then ask sort of policy on the streets there).

When I discussed with him the issue of Iraq and the violence and instability there, he blamed the continued US military presence. That's emerging as a consensus here amongst Middle Easterners it seems (a recent Al-Jazeera poll found that 90% of its viewers think this way). It makes sense to a degree, as Muslims often don't like people occupying there lands and react rather viciously to it, even if their intentions are sound. However, when I asked what would happen to Iraq after the army leaves (to their credit, they seem to diminish the amount of sectarian bloodshed there), Sheikh Abdullah seemed confident the sunni awakening would take firm control of the country (he's sunni). Alarmed, I asked him wouldn't this just lead to more bloodshed, and he seems confident not, but without any clear justifications.

This is what I've taken away though from getting to know Sheikh Abdullah, who I would consider a personal friend now: he's a normal person. He's a singer, an Imam, a sunni, but above all he's a human being with a family that he's wants to provide for and live in peace with. I think almost all Iraqis are just like that, but haven't yet figured out how to do so given this post-Saddam vacuum. May God grant peace to their land and ours.


Ilana said...


Adeel said...

AR: I am very impressed with your blog. Keep it going. You write well mashAllah. I am sure you will inspire many.

When you get a chance, also write a little about places that you visited in Jordan and share some pictures.