As my family and I drove through rural Pennsylvania on a road trip, it was time to pray, but we couldn’t find any mosques nearby. So, we pulled over to a rest stop in the middle of nowhere to pray. With only 2 prayer rugs and 5 people, the rest of us waited on the side for our turn, but were startled by a thin white man who suddenly approached us.
I braced myself for the usual hate-filled “Go back to your country”, or some variant – imagine my surprise when I hear him say “I’m going to keep watch over you all while you pray. If anyone is disrespectful to you, or harasses you, I’ll be right here. I’m heavily armed.”
I looked up almost in disbelief at this man with bright blue eyes, who looked like he was straight out of a wild west movie, and thanked him. He just shook his head, saying “These are bad times we live in”. He then literally stood guard over us while we prayed, firearm bulging from his waist, carefully keeping an eye out in all directions.
We prayed with peace of mind, and as we thanked him again after we all finished, he said “It’s so shameful that I even have to do this. I wish it didn’t have to be this way.”
After the past few weeks of cars driving into groups of pedestrians in front of mosques, acid attacks on Muslims, random killings, you name it, it was an incredibly, incredibly moving encounter. It was also a reminder of why I still have hope in my country, where you can always find good people.
And endless, endless gratitude to a Lord who sends His help down right when you need it. Allah is with you when you continue to practice your faith despite feeling unsafe, despite feeling like a walking target. And your patience will never be wasted.
“Certainly, the help of Allah is near.” [2:214]