After I graduated from high school almost twenty years ago, I worked different jobs to finance my studies at the Community College in my home town near the Mexican border. One of the jobs was at a local gas station where I usually worked night shifts.
Musa also worked at the gas station. He worked the afternoon shift from 12:00pm to 8:00pm. I usually took over his shift.
One day he asked me whether I can change shifts with him the next day. The next day was a Friday. I agreed. And Friday at eight he then took over my shift. The same happened the week after.
I did not mind and it seemed that he had some really important thing to take care of during Friday afternoon.
However, when I asked him the following week whether he would like to switch shifts, he declined. I did not suspect anything and just went along with my own schedule.
The following week, Musa took me on the side and explained to me that our supervisor made trouble for him because he switched shifts with me. If he wanted to keep his job, Musa had to comply with the supervisor’s instructions and had to work Fridays during the day. The next few weeks whenever I met Musa he seemed unhappy and was quiet.
Friday – The Special Day of the Week
Then, one Thursday, he told me that he will quit his job because he had to work Fridays and was not able to attend his prayer.
I was shocked. Musa wanted to quit his job because he could not attend a prayer?
“So, why don’t you go to pray another day?”, I asked him.
“That’s not possible”, he explained to me.
I did not understand. He must have noticed my puzzled look and then told me his story and how attending Friday prayer in congregation is an extremely important part of being Muslim.
“Muslim? I didn’t know you were Muslim.”
Musa just smiled. We said good bye and that was the last time I saw Musa for a long time.
Pondering My Own Religiosity
The fact that Musa quit his job to be able to attend his prayer on Friday made me think and reflect a lot. My family was quite religious. I mean, we did not go to church every Sunday but my mom often recited small prayers.
My family was Catholic. My parents came to the US a long time ago. I was born in Chicago and after some time, my parents decided to move closer to their old home. That is why we moved to the border to Mexico.
We celebrated Christmas but I have never seen my parents read in the Bible. So, actually religion did not play a big role in our life.
For Musa, his religion seemed so important. That made me reflect and ponder. How can something be more important than to have a job that helps you pay your bills?
I Wanted to Know More About Islam
I wanted to know more about Musa’s religion. But almost twenty years ago, it was not easy to find information about Islam in my town. One day I went to the downtown area and saw a man that looked just like Musa. I approached him and greeted him before I recognized that it was not him.
“Sorry, Bro”, I said to him.
“I thought you were my old friend Musa”.
The guy smiled and said:
“I know a guy named Musa.”
“Musa, the Muslim?”, I quickly asked.
The guy started laughing: “Yes, Musa – the Muslim”.
He asked me how I know Musa and why I know that he is Muslim. “Are you Muslim?”, he asked.
I denied and told him the whole Friday story. He asked me whether I would like to sit down for tea and continue our talk. I was glad for the invitation because since that Friday story, I actually waited for a chance to find out more about Musa’s religion.
Over the next months, Omar told me everything I wanted to know about Islam. He became my best friend and teacher.
No Compromises on Fridays
One fine Friday, Omar just invited me to join the Friday prayer. I told him that I am not a Muslim. He just smiled and said:
I joined him. I listened to the talk and imitated the prayer positions. After it was all finished, I looked at Omar. I felt very nervous. It was almost as if I had butterflies in my stomach. I said:
“I am ready.”
“Then, let’s start… everybody is waiting.”
Omar accompanied me to the front of the prayer room where the Imam waited. I sat down and repeated the words after him. My Shahadah. My profession of faith.
Many Fridays have passed since that special Friday. And wherever I worked, I made sure that Friday is my day off from work. I don’t make any compromises on my Fridays. That’s what I learned from my friend Musa, the Muslim.
The author told the story of Mario who embraced Islam twenty years ago in El Paso, Texas.