"Assalamualaikum!" rang out a Salam as I had just got out of our car after I finished parking at our lot.
Instinctively I replied "Wa'alaikumsalam" as a response to our time honored Muslim way of replying that Prophetic tradition.
I squinted my eyes to see who was wishing me well and it turned out to be the local car washer.
He was a man from India who always raised his hand in greeting as we drove past himself who was always busy washing the apartment dwellers cars who had engaged his services.
I have yet to know him by name but seeing the colored braid he wore on his wrist recognize him to be a Hindu.
Yet this friendly car washer has told me before in Tamil that he had once worked in Dubai and was used to greeting Muslims there with the Salam. He had asked me before if it was alright for him to greet us with the Salam even though he is yet to be a Muslim?
I told him that the meaning of 'Assalamualaikum' is 'Peace be unto you!' which is one of the best ways to greet a fellow being. There is no harm for anyone to do so provided he or she even if not yet be a Muslim says it according to the right pronunciation!
There is a difference however if instead of wishing peace upon another by using the correct word of 'Assalam' which means just that ; one were to erroneously wish upon another 'Assamu' which is 'Cursed be'!
He then told me that he has been going down on his knees before the apartment's surau @ local prayer area and clasped his hands in prayer towards the 'Muslim Saami'. By that he meant that he had paid his respects towards whatever it is that we Muslims prayed to?
I asked him what exactly did he mean by that?
Did he see any object of worship in the surau by doing what he did?
He answered that he figured that there must be a hidden object of worship in the general direction that we Muslims prayed to and that back home in India, he has gone to a place called Nagore and paid some rupees to the local Muslim Imams and offered joss sticks, flowers and other offerings in order to pray to the shrine where those Indian Muslims congregated.
He told me that lots of Hindus in Nagore, India went to the local shrines of the Indian Muslim saints and offered their prayers by giving the shrine custodians money, joss sticks, flowers, milk, etcetera and that the Indian Muslims there welcomed them wholeheartedly.
I've heard of this malpractice before but this is the first time I get to hear about it from someone who has exactly done it and he being a Hindu caps it off with a sigh of utter regret and sadness from me.
I told him that whatever is being done in the shrines of Nagore, Tamil Nadu, South India is nothing but false worship and of committing the major sin of Shirk and blasphemy against Almighty Allah!
He was quite intrigued and asked me further as to how is it that those Indian Muslim holy men have been getting away with their misdeeds if it is forbidden in Islam?
I told him that in Islamic worship there is no need for Allah to receive any material offerings from us when we stand in prayer before Him.
There is no need for us to offer Almighty Allah any flowers, fruit, milk, incense, monetary gifts, joss sticks, etcetera except for us to stand before Him purified both in our body and soul.
All we need to do is to stand before Him as a Muslim, firm in our creed of testifying that we worship none but Allah and that we attest Muhammad as His (Final) Messenger!
We are then to prepare ourselves to be able to offer our prayers by being physically clean and to take our ablution by using clean water as in the case here and to ensure that we remain pure by ensuring that our clothing's are kept free from filth of any kind and that we refrain from breaking wind or emit urine or feces and any other bodily fluids, etc from any of our bodily orifices when intending to carry out our prayers and acts of worship.
He was listening very raptly to all that I was sharing and thanked me for the way I had explained to him about something that has intrigued him all these while.
It was getting dark as Maghrib was already setting in and I had to rush back home to fulfill my obligations.
I promised him that I will share more with him about what Islamic prayer really entails and he just thanked me profusely and asked that I share more with him the next time we meet each other.
I said 'Insya Allah!' and made my way back home.
All I can say is that I feel blessed to be able to help enlighten a fellow human being about what is rightfully his birthright?
To be able to testify that 'There is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His Final Messenger!'.
Insya Allah. I pray that He opens up the humble car washer's heart to receive His Guidance and Blessings.
Ameen. Ya Rabbal Alameen.